For the 6th year in a row, we're pleased to present our list of the best budget destinations for solo travelers.
For most of us, the desire to do a lot of travel means being smart with our travel dollars. This requires choosing the destination carefully.
To create our budget destinations list, we:
- review our favorite trips to budget destinations.
- consult fellow travelers, including members of the Solo Travel Society, our Facebook community to get recommendations from passionate travelers.
- consider suggestions from other publications, eliminating those that do not meet our safety standards. We're a lot more careful when it comes to safety than many other travel publications.
- deselect any on Fodor's No Travel list,
We then put every destination on the list through a solo travel filter to come up with our top 5 budget destinations of the year.
More importantly, we provide a lot of detail with each of our cheap solo vacation destinations. You get:
- why it's a great destination at any price
- the value of US and Canadian currency at the destination
- how expensive the destination is compared to Toronto and New York City
- what it costs to get there from the two cities above
- links to two affordable hotels/hostels
- the safety rating by the US and Canadian governments
- a short list of things to do
It should be noted that we haven’t visited all these destinations so they are not necessarily personal endorsements. Before you get too far in your planning process read Solo Travel Planning Guide with Trends, a Checklist, and Insider Tips. It will help in a variety of ways to make your planning easier and your trip more enjoyable.
- Our Criteria for Cheap Solo Vacation Destinations
- The 2024 Shortlist of Budget Destinations for Solo Travelers
- Top Tools for Planning an Affordable Solo Trip
- Understanding Government Travel Advice and Advisories
- The Shortlist of Destinations for Solo Travelers on a Budget 2023
- The Shortlist of Destinations for Solo Travelers on a Budget 2021/2022
Our Criteria for Cheap Solo Vacation Destinations
To choose our recommended destinations for a cheap solo vacation, we consider the following criteria.
- Affordability at the destination. Naturally, the affordability of a destination depends upon your home currency. Most of the information below is given in US dollars, unless it says otherwise, as most of us know our exchange rates in relation to the US dollar.
- Cost to get there. If the trip is short, the cost to get there is very important. If you’re planning a month or two in a destination, that cost is less significant as it will be prorated over a longer period of time.
- Safety. I’ve listed the US and Canadian government advice as of January 2024 for each destination. Safety is especially important when traveling solo.
- Will it be interesting and fun? A great destination offers access to a new culture, fun things to do, or both. I’ve given you a very brief overview of both for each recommendation.
The 2024 Shortlist of Budget Destinations for Solo Travelers
Note: For consistency, all flight prices listed were found on Google Flights and depart from Toronto or New York during the last week of February, 2024 with a return date two weeks later. Use your own home airport to see what you’d have to pay for flights. The room rates listed are for the same time period and were found on booking.com. All were checked during the week of this post’s publication. The hotels and hostels are not personal recommendations. They were chosen based on their price, review scores, and central location and are intended to give you an idea of what you can get for your money.
Europe's Cheap and Oh So Cheerful Destination is Porto, Portugal
It may be the second largest city in Portugal and also second to Lisbon in terms of fame but Porto surely deserves equal billing for its beauty and culture and as an entrance way to the wonderful Douro Valley.
The city's historic center was recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996. Porto is reputed to be the city from which Portugal got its name and is definitely the city from which Port wine got its name. The beautiful waterfront along the Douro river, the winding streets, and the tiles on the houses and public buildings make the city so amazing.
Affordability: The local currency is the Euro. As of writing, one Euro costs USD$1.10. According to Expatistan, Lisbon (they don't cover Porto, which I suspect to be less expensive than Lisbon) is 33% less expensive than Toronto and 50% less than New York City.
Accommodation: There are many options in affordable hotels in Porto. Here's a centrally located hotel on Booking.com with an overall rating of 8.5 for USD$55. Hostels are even cheaper. The Passenger Hostel has a rating of 9 and starts at USD$26 per night.
Cost to get there: From Toronto, return flights start at CAD$914 with one stop. From New York City, return flights start at USD$727 with one stop and USD$434 with two stops.
- United States Government: Level 1 Exercise Normal Precautions
- Canadian Government: Level 1 Take normal security precautions
Interesting and Fun
Porto is a small, colorful, seaside city that is also the gateway to the Duoro valley where cruises and wine tours abound. There's the medieval city and the baroque city. Don't miss the Casa da Musica which was conceived to mark 2001, the year in which Porto was Cultural Capital of Europe.
Cheap Caribbean Vacation Solo: Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico is an affordable Caribbean destination with beaches and an interesting history. It's a destination to enjoy and one that would benefit from your travel dollars.
Affordability: The local currency is the US dollar so we don't have a conversion to consider with this destination. San Juan, Puerto Rico is 17% less expensive than Toronto and 38% less than New York City.
Accommodation: There are many options in affordable hotels in San Juan. Here's a guest house with a 9.2 rating about 10 km from the center of San Juan but only 200 meters from the beach for USD$122. Hostels are not that much cheaper in Puerto Rico but you could check them out for their social value.
Cost to get there: From Toronto, return flights start at CAD$575 with one stop. From New York City, return flights start at USD$324 non-stop.
- United States Government: Exercise normal precautions in Puerto Rico.
- Canadian Government: Exercise normal precautions in Puerto Rico.
Interesting and fun: The island has enjoyed Spanish, African, Indian, and USA influence, which, according to Puerto Rico's visitor bureau, is mirrored in the food, music, and architecture of the island. San Juan, Puerto Rico's capital, has a free trolley that will take you around San Juan and its National Historic Sites but you could spend a full day exploring the walled city of Old San Juan alone. Beaches are the ultimate budget travel activity and Puerto Rico has many wonderful beaches to relax on or explore. Puerto Rico is on the migration path of humpback whales. January to the end of March is the best time for whale watching.
Georgia is the Affordable Solo Destination at the Crossroads of Europe and Asia
Georgia is likely the most popular country in the South Caucasus. Travelers enjoy Georgia for its culture, history, and stunningly diverse landscape. It's for hikers, adventure seekers, and urban travelers as well. Tbilisi is the capital and known for its hipster culture, techno scene, and general air of cool.
Affordability: The local currency is the Lari. 1 Lari costs 50 cents Canadian or 37 cents USD. Tbilisi is 51% less expensive than Toronto and 73% less than New York City.
Accommodation: USD$50 per night for hotels is common in Tbilisi. At the top end, you can find some hotels at $200/night. International chains typically run just over $100 per night. With a 9.5 average rating, this hotel is just $36 per night. The Sheraton Grand Tbilisi has an 8.5 rating and is $135 per night. Of course, it has many more amenities than the first hotel.
Cost to get there: From Toronto, return flights start at CAD$1,653 with one stop. From New York City, return flights start at USD$885 with one stop.
- United States Government: Exercise normal precautions in Georgia.
- Canadian Government: Exercise normal precautions in Georgia.
Interesting and Fun
Sea, mountains, and cities in one relatively small country. The big outdoors is truly on a grand scale offering skiing, hiking, rafting, and more. The cuisine combines eastern and western influences as well as unique cultural dishes like ajarian khachapuri. Their wine-making history dates back 8,000 years so a tasting is necessary.
Argentina Number 1 for Cheap Solo Travel Destination in South America
Argentina has spectacular natural wonders including Glaciers National Park, El Chalten, and Iguazu Falls (pictured above), all bucket list destinations for the adventure travelers. But, of course, there's Buenos Aires and the tango! And then there are gauchos, Argentinian cowboys. Yes, there's much to make Argentina an exciting destination for any traveler, budget or otherwise. While other countries in South America may be cheaper, Argentina is one that has the safety rating I was looking for.
Affordability: CAD$1 buys 609 Argentinian pesos. USD$1 buys 815 Argentinian pesos. Buenos Aires is 67% less expensive than Toronto and 75% less than New York City.
There are many options in affordable hotels in Buenos Aires. Here's a centrally located hotel on Booking.com with an overall rating of 8.1 for USD$90 including breakfast. Here's a hostel with a rating of 8.9 for US$31, which also includes breakfast. If you'd like an apartment, I found this fabulous, 5-star unit on VRBO for USD$88/night.
Cost to get there: From Toronto, return flights start at CAD$1655 with one stop. From New York City, return flights start at USD$1144 non-stop.
- United States Government: Exercise normal precautions in Argentina.
- Canadian Government: Exercise normal precautions in Argentina.
Interesting and fun: There are lots of free and cheap things to do in Buenos Aires. There are, of course, free tours to enjoy but plenty more as well. Go to the Mataderos Fair, a gaucho market on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, and see the gauchos show off their skills; take a walk through the 80 hectare woods at the Bosques de Palermo; or explore the graffiti in the northern suburbs. If you're in the neighborhood of Belgrano on a Sunday, go to the bandstand at Barrancas de Belgrano park for the free tango lessons from 7 pm. You can then watch the experts perform for a fee.
Budget Destination for South Korea
With the cost of flights having increased threefold for Seoul, this is an affordable destination as long as you stay in the region for a while. It's a totally worthwhile destination but it's best that you stay more than a week to get good value from your expensive flight.
Affordability: 1 US dollar is about 1,300 South Korean Won (SKW). 1 Canadian dollar is about 1,000 Won. According to Expatistan, Seoul is 31% less expensive than Toronto and 49% less than New York City.
Accommodation: There are many options in affordable hotels in Seoul. Here’s a sample of a 8.4-rated hotel you’d get for about USD$88 that's in the center of the city. Here’s the central hostel with an 8.3 rating for USD$30.
Cost to get there: From Toronto, return flights start at CAD$1,972. From New York City, return flights start at USD$1,279.
- United States Government: Exercise normal precautions in South Korea.
- Canadian Government: Exercise normal precautions in South Korea.
Interesting and fun: While I based the above information on Seoul, there is so much more to South Korea than its capital city. There are mountains and beaches, great diving, and hiking for outdoor enthusiasts. And, of course, there's a fascinating history over many centuries to be found in modern cities and more traditional villages. A little bit of research and you'll know why it's a great destination.
Top Tools for Planning an Affordable Solo Trip
This list includes resources that help plan budget travel regardless of your budget. You might want to read How to Plan Your Travel Budget: Luxury or Frugal.
1. Skyscanner's Everywhere Button
If you have a lot of time for your trip, the cost of the flight is not that signifiant a factor. However, if you only have a week or so, that flight could be the most significant cost. Using Skyscanner's Everywhere Button, you can narrow down destinations that have reasonable airfare by country. Put in your home airport, choose Explore Everywhere in the destination field, add your dates and you'll be served up options by country with the cheapest airfare showing first.
This site/app lets you learn how to get to anywhere from anywhere. Rome2Rio gives you all the options from car rental, flights, bus and train and let's you know the approximate cost you can expect and how long each mode of transport will take. When it comes to planning a trip on the move, this is an indispensable resource.
There are two ways to book accommodation on HomeExchange. You can trade your place for someone else's or you can use points. You start earning points as soon as you sign up. I have booked 4 nights in New York City with points earned during the sign-up process which cost US$175. So, even if you don't intend to have someone stay in your home, by signing up, you can earn enough points for some great accommodation.
4. House Sitters
There are a number of sites that will help you find house sitting gigs. There's also a lot to learn to be truly successful at house sitting. Read this post on Successful Solo House Sitting Tips for Travelers or go directly to International House Sitting Academy to learn about their program.
Understanding Government Travel Advice and Advisories
Governments create travel advice and advisory alerts for the sake of their citizens who are planning to travel to other countries. Both Canada and the United States have a 4-tier rating system. While a country may receive one overall rating, specific areas within it may receive a different rating to indicate regionally specific concerns. These may be related to natural disasters, safety and security, health hazards, etc. This allows you to avoid areas that may pose a higher risk.
While the language varies slightly between the two countries, basically, the four levels are:
- Exercise normal security precautions. There is some inherent risk in any international travel, but there are no significant safety and security concerns here.
- Exercise a high degree of caution. There are identifiable safety and security concerns, or the safety and security situation could change with little notice. (To put this in perspective, Canada currently rates 92 countries as Level 2, and both countries rate the United Kingdom as Level 2.)
- Avoid non-essential travel. There are specific safety and security concerns that could put you at risk.
- Avoid all travel. There is an extreme risk to your personal safety and security.
Levels 1 and 2 are considered travel advice while levels 3 and 4 are considered travel advisories.
This distinction is important as there is a possibility that the validity of your travel insurance could be impacted if your country issues a travel advisory for the country to which you are traveling. Always read the fine print of your insurance policy and check your government’s advice before leaving home. You can easily find this by searching “government of (your home country) travel advice” then searching within that site for your destination country. Also read A Complete Guide to Travel Insurance for Solo Travelers.
The Shortlist of Destinations for Solo Travelers on a Budget 2023
Best Budget Solo Travel Destination for a European Experience: Ljubljana, Slovenia
Ljubljana is a small city, rich with a wide range of architecture that reflects both its current state and its diverse past. It’s a city that is not yet inundated with tourists.
In Ljubljana I felt like I was in Italy 50 years ago. It has all the charm but few of the tourists. The historic center of Ljubljana includes a castle that dates back to the 11th century though the buildings you'll see are more from the 16th century. In the city center is an extensive pedestrian zone that winds through buildings that are hundreds of years old. A walking tour of the city is a must.
There is also the Alternative District that has graffiti everywhere and people just hanging out or playing music. If you want a feel for how some of the youth of Ljubljana live, and where young travelers gravitate, Hostel Celica Art is worth a look, or a stay.
Affordability: A beer in a neighborhood pub will cost about USD$3.15. A 5-mile taxi ride will be roughly $10.00. A basic lunchtime menu (including a drink) in the business district will run about $13.00.
Cost to get there: From Toronto, return flights start at CAD$901.00. From New York City, return flights start at USD$590.00.
- United States Government: Level 1 Exercise Normal Precautions
- Canadian Government: Level 1 Take normal security precautions
Top Budget Solo Travel Destination North America: Savannah, Georgia
I always like to include one North American destination and this year it is Savannah, Georgia.
Savannah’s Historic District is famous, but there is also the architecture in the Victorian District and the hip Starland District, all within the downtown area. Venture a little further to Savannah’s quiet Lowcountry in the Moon River District.
In an exchange with members of the Solo Travel Society about travel inspiration, Christy said: “I read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, set in Savannah, Georgia. I’ve always had an interest in the South. This book was full of eccentric characters. I was so intrigued, by both the people and the town of Savannah, that I went!”
Affordability: It's the low cost of getting to Savannah and the low cost of hotels compared to other US cities that makes Savannah affordable as a destination for solo travelers on a budget. A beer in a neighborhood pub will cost about USD$6.00. A 5-mile taxi ride will be roughly $22.00. A basic lunchtime menu (including a drink) in the business district will run about $18.00.
Accommodation: While the hotels/hostels are more expensive in Savannah than other destinations listed, the cost to get there is much lower for most readers. If you drive, you won't need accommodation as central as I have chosen and can definitely save a lot per night. Here is a hotel in the historic district for USD$140.00. I did not find a hostel in Savannah.
Cost to get there: From Toronto, return flights start at CAD$515.00. From New York City, return flights start at USD$118.00.
- Canadian Government: Level 1 Take normal security precautions
- According to Travellers Worldwide, there are parts of the city to avoid.
Solo Travel Budget Destination for Adventure: Marrakech, Morocco
Marrakech is a perfect launching point for travel in Morocco.
The city itself is both modern and very traditional. The walled medieval city dates to the Berber Empire. There are mosques, palaces, gardens, and, of course, the Medina which is where I bought both a painting and a wall hanging. Don't miss the Majorelle Garden and Yves Saint Laurent Museum.
Once there, it is certainly worth exploring beyond Marrakech. There is an affordable train service to take you far beyond the city limits to the town and beaches of Essaouira as well as all the major cities along the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts.
Affordability: A beer in a neighborhood pub will cost about USD$3.79. A 5-mile taxi ride will be roughly $3.92. A basic lunchtime menu (including a drink) in the business district will run about $5.29.
Accommodation: In Marrakech you have a lot of options from affordable stays for golf to more cultural experiences in the city center. Here is a fairly central, modern hotel for USD$68.00 that has an 8.6 rating. Here is a hostel with an 8.8 rating, rooftop dining, and more.
Cost to get there: From Toronto, return flights start at CAD$1,022.00. From New York City, return flights start at USD$668.00.
- United States Government: Level 2 Exercise Increased Caution
- Canadian Government: Level 2 Exercise a high degree of caution
- Both countries advise to avoid travel in border regions of Western Sahara.
Best Southeast Asia Budget Destination for History and Nature: Taipei, Taiwan
Taiwan is one of the few countries in southeast Asia that is safe according to our governments as well as inexpensive. Singapore is actually less expensive than Taiwan and equally safe but does not offer travelers the same diversity of experiences. This is why I went with Taiwan.
A movie, I can't remember which one, turned me on to Taiwan's natural beauty. An article on BBC Travel increased my interest in this island nation. In fact, they wrote “Taiwan's East Coast Highway is easily one of East Asia's most beautiful spots for cycling.” That says a lot! The country also offers Buddhist, Taoist, and Confucian temples, hot springs, and a cuisine influenced by the culinary traditions of Taiwan's aboriginal people, Chinese settlers, and the Japanese who ruled the island for 50 years. The city of Taipei is your point of entry, offering dramatic buildings, amazing shopping, and night markets.
Affordability: A beer in a neighborhood pub will cost about USD$6.00. A 5-mile taxi ride will be roughly $8.00. A basic lunchtime menu (including a drink) in the business district will run about $7.00.
Cost to get there: From Toronto, return flights start at CAD$1,418.00. From New York City, return flights start at USD$1,023.00.
- United States Government: Level 1: Exercise Normal Precautions
- Canadian Government: Level 1 Take normal security precautions
The Shortlist of Destinations for Solo Travelers on a Budget 2021/2022
Top Budget Destination for Solo Travelers Africa: Windhoek, Namibia
I have friends who have fallen so in love with Namibia that they return again and again and now lead tours there for friends and acquaintances.
When asked if Namibia would qualify as a safe, interesting, inexpensive (once you get there) destination for a solo traveler, Jan said, “Absolutely! It has been a democratic country for almost three decades. With high unemployment, there is petty crime in Windhoek and one should exercise caution after dark, take taxis, etc., as in any large city. The country is safe for driving holidays; has a good infrastructure, water as well as roads; and one can drink water from the faucet.”
Affordability: One US dollar will buy you about 11.70 Namibian Dollars. A basic lunchtime menu (including a drink) in the business district will cost approximately $13.00. A beer in a neighborhood pub will set you back roughly $2.25. A 5-mile taxi ride runs about $8.50.
Cost to get there: From Toronto, return flights start at CAD$1,247.00. From New York City, return flights start at USD$1,074.00.
- United States Government: Exercise normal precautions in Namibia.
- Canadian Government: Exercise a high degree of caution in Namibia due to the high level of crime.
Top Budget Destination Asia: Yerevan, Armenia
I have wanted to travel to Armenia for a very long time, ever since falling in love with the films of Atom Egoyan. Armenia has a lengthy, interesting history, incredible landscapes, and delicious cuisine – not to mention being home to the world’s oldest known winery.
Take a walking tour of the city to see and hear about the history, architecture, art and culture of Yerevan, including Republic Square, the Blue Mosque, the Opera House, the National Gallery and the History Museum of Armenia. Climb the stairs of the Cascade for sweeping views of the city. Picnic in Lover’s Park; tour the Ararat distillery and taste the famous brandy; visit the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute; take a day tour to Geghard to see the medieval monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage site; and in warm weather, take a seat on an outdoor patio to enjoy the atmosphere and a delicious dinner.
Affordability: One US dollar will buy you about 470 Armenian Drams. A beer in a neighborhood pub will cost about $1.83. A 5-mile taxi ride will be roughly $3.00. A basic lunchtime menu (including a drink) in the business district will run about $3.87.
Here is a hotel for USD$55.00, very close to the center, but set back from the main road, and including breakfast. Here is a hostel with a 9.8/10 rating for $8.00 in an 8-bed dorm or $16.00 for a private room.
Cost to get there: From Toronto, return flights start at CAD$1713.00. From New York City, return flights start at USD$874.00.
- United States Government: Exercise normal precautions in Armenia.
- Canadian Government: Exercise a high degree of caution in Armenia due to occasional demonstrations and protests.
- Both countries advise against travel to the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Top Budget Destination for Solo Travelers Europe: Tirana, Albania
Declared “The City Poised to Become Europe’s Next Affordable Creative Haven” by The New York Times, Tirana is the capital city of Albania. Art galleries and museums, including the intriguing House of Leaves; Ottoman, Fascist and Soviet-era architecture along with modern glass structures; the 289 hectare Grand Park; and bars and restaurants featuring a mixture of Greek, Turkish and Italian along with traditional Albanian cuisine are just some of the reasons to visit this fascinating city surrounded by castles, ruins, and Mount Dajti National Park.
Affordability: One US dollar will buy you about 101 Albanian Leke. A basic lunchtime menu (including a drink) in the business district will cost about $8.92. A cappuccino in an expat area, roughly $1.56. A monthly ticket for public transportation runs around $16.70.
Here is a boutique hotel for USD$43.00, including breakfast, within walking distance of downtown. Here is a hostel for $12.00 in a 4-bed dorm or $43 for a private room, with breakfast available for $3.00.
Cost to get there: From Toronto, return flights start at CAD$1,135.00. From New York City, return flights start at USD$904.00
- US Government: Exercise normal precautions in Albania.
- Canadian Government: Exercise normal precautions in Albania.
- Both countries advise avoiding travel to the southern city of Lazarat due to crime.
Top Budget Destination North America: St. John’s, Canada
Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada’s most easterly province is home to friendly people, rugged coastline, and gorgeous scenery. The capital of St. John’s, one of the oldest cities in North America, is colorful, with its jellybean houses, vibrant arts community, tasty culinary scene, and personality to spare.
Affordability: One US dollar will buy you about $1.27 Canadian Dollars. A beer in a neighborhood pub will cost about $5.50. A 5-mile taxi ride will be roughly $10.20. A basic lunchtime menu (including a drink) in the business district will run about $15.00.
Cost to get there: From Toronto, return flights start at CAD$782.00. From New York City, return flights start at USD$623.00. Note: these prices are almost double last year.
- United States Government: Exercise normal precautions in Canada.
- Canadian Government: Sit yourself down while I make you a cup of tea.
Top Budget Destination South America: La Paz, Bolivia
This description from The Guardian sealed the deal for me in terms of placing La Paz on this year’s shortlist of destinations for solo travelers on a budget.
An amalgam of architectural styles, cultures and beliefs, it has everything from offerings to the goddess Pachamama to incense-filled colonial churches, food stalls to trendy cafes, bowler-hatted cholitas to hipsters among its theatrical street life. It’s frenetic, chaotic, often frustrating but never dull. More than ever, it’s championing its culture, from local artists to age-old crafts. There’s a gastronomic revolution under way, with restaurants that use only Bolivian produce and bars that mix homegrown spirits. And Mi Teleférico, the world’s longest and highest urban cable car network, is making it easier to get around the city.
Affordability: One US dollar will buy you about 5.41 Bolivian Bolivianos. A basic lunchtime menu (including a drink) in the business district will cost about $12.75. A beer in a neighborhood pub will be roughly $3.88, and a 5-mile taxi ride, $17.37.
Cost to get there: From Toronto, return flights start at CAD$1100.00. From New York City, return flights start at USD$845.00.
- United States Government: Exercise increased caution in Bolivia due to civil unrest.
- Canadian Government: Exercise a high degree of caution in Bolivia due to the continuing political and social tensions and frequent illegal roadblocks throughout the country.