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What is the real secret to cheap international travel? It is the same as the secret to doing anything for less. Learn to be an opportunist. Opportunistic travelers get to travel more, see more and do more. Of course, you can ignore this advice if you have unlimited funds.
I went to Ecuador because it was cheap. Honestly, aren't there many interesting places in this world? Why not choose one you can travel to inexpensively? The other places will be there in the future, and you may have an opportunity to go to those places cheaply at some point.
Ecuador is my favorite international destination. You can still get a decent meal for two dollars. U.S. dollars, by the way, since that's conveniently the official currency of Ecuador now. From the beautiful snow-capped Andes mountains to the Galapagos Islands, you'll never run out of places to explore in Ecuador. Travel there is safe and inexpensive.
South America in general is inexpensive, and the most affordable countries are, in my opinion, the most beautiful. These are the countries along the Andes mountains; Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. Argentina, thanks to it's recent economic troubles, is once again a cheap place for travelers as well.
In Central America, it costs very little to travel and vacation in both Nicaragua and Guatemala. Nicaragua, in particular, has become more stable and safe for travelers in recent years. Costa Rica is a wonderful too, and though it is one of more expensive counties of Central America, that probably still leaves it cheaper than Europe.
In Asia, India is still low-cost, especially if you stay in the numerous hostels and boarding houses. Thailand and Indonesia are also very cheap. With all international destinations, the plane tickets will be your single biggest travel expense. This is especially true with the asian countries. Being there is cheap, but getting there may not be.
Cheap International Travel Tips
Wherever you go, there are things you can do to keep it cheap. Eat where locals eat, for example, instead of at the tourist restaurants. To keep it really cheap, eat fruit from street markets (wash it well) and packaged snacks from grocery stores.
Visit the free and cheap attractions first. It's possible you'll have so much fun that you'll never get around to doing the expensive things. A higher price means better quality with travel bags, but not with travel experiences.
Busses are cheaper than taxis in any country, but be careful of crowded city busses, where pickpockets hang out. Walking is even cheaper, and it's a great way to learn about a city. Just ask the locals where the dangerous parts are before you wander too far.
For cheap accommodations find out where local visitors from within the country stay. Negotiating room charges is common in some areas. In Banos, Ecuador, we negotiated our room rate down from $12 to $6 per night, by paying for several nights in advance. Consider hostels, if you don't mind sharing a room. They're much more common overseas.
Cheap international travel is often only as cheap as your plane tickets. Use the techniques outlined on our site to save big on tickets, or search the fares to several interesting countries. If one is $500 less than the others, consider going there. $500 can buy a few extra days, or an extra mini-vacation some other time.