During these difficult times, we’re all dreaming of some much-needed R&R in the sun. While you might not be able to escape to a sun-drenched tropical beach just yet, we’re all hoping the restrictions on international travel will soon be lifted and we can enjoy a getaway. You can get the latest post-pandemic travel advice here, and we’ve also got all the information you need to know about COVID tests for travel.
While you’re waiting, it’s a great time to start planning your dream trip for less. But ticking the budget box is about more than cheap flights. You need to go where you can sleep and eat for as little as possible, too. We can help. Here are 5 of the cheapest countries for post-pandemic travel on the planet, from Caribbean bargain beaches to heavenly street food that’s cheaper than chips.
Top of our list of post-pandemic travel destinations is the largest country in Central America. Nicaragua is known for untouched beaches, wild Pacific waves, beautifully preserved towns, no fewer than 19 volcanoes and idyllic islands galore. Then there are its brilliant hotel bargains, such as Granada’s highly rated El Almirante from £61 a night.
Much of the country’s 550 miles of coastline is delightfully quiet year round and, with the calm Caribbean to the east and the surf waves of the Pacific to the west, there’s something to suit every type of beach dweller. But there’s plenty to see beyond the pristine sandy stretches of this perfect post-lockdown escape.
Discover the immaculate architecture of capital city Granada and the colourful murals of Léon, dive with hammerhead sharks off Little Corn Island and hike up the twin volcanoes of Isla de Ometepe in Lake Cocibolca (its cheeky local name is ‘The Lady’s Breasts’). You can even try a spot of ash surfing down a crater like Cerro Negro. Beat that for a holiday anecdote.
Make sure you check the travel restrictions for Nicaragua before you plan your trip, as well as whether or not you need a negative COVID test to enter the country. You can find out more about the latest restrictions in our handy guide.
Laidback Laos has remained surprisingly untouched by mass tourism, so it’s the perfect place to enjoy some post-pandemic travel isolation as you explore the emerald paddy fields, brooding jungle and remote villages in relative peace. Hotels here are affordable, with a stay in a hotel such as the Khampiane Boutique Hotel in Laos’s largest city Vientiane, costing around £12 a night.
Lustworthy landscapes aside, Laos is paradise for adrenaline junkies, who can get lost in river caves, zip line over the jungle, or tube down the Namsong River. Those in need of some zen can tap into the spiritual life of Laos with a spot of yoga or a spa treatment. Don’t forget to check out the Laos travel restrictions before planning your adventure. Right now, Laos is closed to visitors from the UK, but we’re hopeful it may open to international travellers in the near future.
With the snow-capped Himalayas providing the backdrop to rugged mountain scenery, dense jungle plains, hilltop villages, and 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, it’s hard to believe Nepal is also one of the cheapest countries to visit in the world.
Nepal is brilliantly set up for independent travellers with organised hikes, such as the famous Annapurna Circuit, offering a once-in-a-lifetime adventure alongside hot meals and beds at traditional tea houses, although you may find fewer of these places to choose from due to the pandemic.
Wildlife lovers should head to Chitwan National Park to see tigers and elephants up close, but avoid the luxury lodges and stay at nearby Sauraha where a private double room can cost £5 a night.
The capital Kathmandu can be a shock after the serenity of the countryside, but once you’ve readjusted, stroll around the historic centre with its pavilions and pagodas, feast on delicious street food for about a fiver a day, and stay in perfectly lovely hotels, such as the two-star Famous House for around £11 a night. Don’t mind if we do. Make sure you check the latest advice on our site and the FCDO before planning your escape.
The cheapest country in South America, Bolivia is a budget traveller’s dream and the ideal spot for post-pandemic travel. High-energy capital La Paz is a whirlwind experience. Hop on the ‘subway in the sky’ cable car for dizzying views, then wander along Calle Jaen, home to some of the city’s best-preserved colonial buildings, whitewashed façades, and ornate black-grilled balconettes. You can find good budget accommodation here for around £15 a night, or try something like the cosy four-star Casa Fusion Hotel Boutique which has rooms from £29 a night.
From La Paz, head to Lake Titicaca, where you can dine on the freshest trout cooked however you like by locals in kiosks along the shore on Copacabana for less than £3. Or take a boat to Isla Del Sol and hike across it to admire the views over the lake.
Food in Bolivia costs next to nothing. Look out for almuerzo (set lunch), which includes soup, a main course, and dessert for as little as £1. If you’re going to treat yourself to one more costly excursion, make it a jeep tour of the world’s largest salt flat, Salar de Uyuni. This amazing sight, known as the world’s largest mirror, is not to be missed.
If you’ve always wanted to go to the Maldives but don’t fancy remortgaging, fret not. Honduras has swathes of white sand beaches without the honeymooners’ price hike. In fact, travelling here will set you back less than £25 a day, with mega cheap eats and hotel rooms averaging a measly £10. Consider staying in the capital city of Tegucigalpa, otherwise known as Tegus, and book a room at the two-star Hotel Nan King from £21 a night.
Honduras is a fantastic choice for learning to scuba dive on the cheap, with courses offered at really competitive rates. Head for the pristine beaches along Honduras’s northern coast, splendid for some isolation and ideal for snorkelling, too. On dry land, check out the bustling port at Puerto Cortes, then get out to the picture-postcard seaside town of Omoa and the beautiful colonial city of Comayagua, with its quaint Spanish houses and packed historic town centre plazas. Bag a traditional Honduran baguette or bistek (steak) sandwich from a nearby cafe for less than £4 and picnic in the nearby Parque Central.