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How Many Countries Can You Travel to With $20,000?

By: Swena Kalra

Edited By: Scott Sidders

Updated on November 5, 2023

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Budget travel has become increasingly popular in recent years, with more and more people seeking to explore the world without breaking the bank. The idea of visiting multiple countries on a limited budget can be both exciting and challenging, offering unique experiences and unforgettable memories. This guide aims to help Americans plan their international adventures while sticking to a $20,000 budget, making the most of their money without sacrificing the quality of their trip.

The guide will cover various aspects of travel, such as accommodation, transportation, food, and activities, offering tips and suggestions on how to make the most of your budget while still enjoying an incredible journey. We'll take a look at some of the most affordable destinations around the world and provide insights into how you can stretch your dollars even further.

Stretching Your Budget Across Multiple Countries

Happy woman with open arms stands on the viewpoint and enjoys the panorama of Kas resort town of the Mediterranean sea in Turkey

With careful planning and a focus on budget-friendly options, visiting numerous countries on a $20,000 budget is possible. The key is to prioritize low-cost destinations, choose affordable accommodations, and be mindful of your spending on food and activities.

One of the most important factors in determining how many countries you can visit on your budget is the cost of living in each destination. Southeast Asia, for example, is known for its affordability, with countries like Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia offering excellent value for money. Similarly, parts of Central and Eastern Europe, such as Poland, Hungary, and Romania, are also known for their low costs.

Accommodation is another area where you can save money. Staying in hostels or budget hotels, using platforms like Airbnb for private rooms, or even participating in Couchsurfing can help you reduce your expenses significantly. When it comes to transportation, consider using local buses and trains, or booking flights with budget airlines to keep costs down.

Food is another area where you can save a substantial amount of money by opting for street food, local markets, or inexpensive restaurants. Additionally, cooking your meals when possible can help you save even more.

When it comes to activities, prioritize free or low-cost attractions like museums, parks, and historical sites. Many cities offer free walking tours, which can be a great way to see the sights without spending a fortune.

By keeping these tips in mind and carefully planning your itinerary, it is possible to visit multiple countries on a $20,000 budget. The exact number will depend on the destinations chosen, the duration of your trip, and your spending habits. However, with some research and creativity, you can enjoy a journey that takes you around the world without breaking the bank.

Part 1: Budgeting and Planning

The first step to planning any international trip is budgeting. Before you start researching destinations and booking flights, it's important to assess your financial resources and determine how much money you have available for the trip.

1. Setting a Daily Budget

Piggy bank drinking cocktail down the palm beach

One of the most crucial aspects of budget travel is setting a daily budget. A daily budget helps you manage your expenses and ensures that you do not overspend, allowing you to make the most of your trip without running out of money. To calculate a daily budget, start by dividing your total budget ($20,000) by the desired length of your trip in days. This will give you an idea of how much you can afford to spend each day on accommodations, food, transportation, and activities.

For example, if you plan to travel for six months (approximately 180 days), your daily budget would be $20,000/180 = $111 per day. Keep in mind that some days may be more expensive than others, such as when you are traveling between destinations or participating in more costly activities. The daily budget is only an average. However, this will help you envision what length of trip you're seeking. For example, $111 per day will get you far in Southeast Asia, but if you're looking to go to New York or Paris, you will need a higher daily budget, so your trip will be much shorter.

2. Prioritizing Travel Experiences

The beautiful twin-waterfall Banyumala in the rainforest in Bali

When working with a budget, it's important to prioritize your travel experiences. This means deciding which countries and activities are most important to you and allocating your funds accordingly. Start by making a list of the places you want to visit and the experiences you wish to have. Then, rank them based on their significance to you and the estimated costs.

To help prioritize your travel experiences, consider factors such as personal interests, cultural opportunities, and unique attractions offered by each destination. Additionally, take into account the overall affordability of each country, as this will impact how much you can see and do with your budget.

3. Researching Costs by Destination

Machu Picchu, Peru

Researching costs for each country on your itinerary is essential for effective budget planning. This information will help you determine how much you can afford to spend at each destination, allowing you to make informed decisions about where to go and what to do.

Numerous resources are available for finding information on travel costs specific to the destinations you're interested in. Travel blogs, forums, and guidebooks are excellent sources of up-to-date, firsthand knowledge from experienced travelers. Websites like Numbeo and Expatistan can provide the cost of living data for various countries, helping you compare expenses between destinations.

When researching costs, be sure to gather information on accommodations, transportation, food, and activities. This will help you develop a comprehensive understanding of the expenses associated with each destination, allowing you to plan your budget accordingly.

Budgeting and planning are essential components of a successful budget travel experience. By setting a daily budget, prioritizing travel experiences, and researching costs by destination, you can make informed decisions about your trip and ensure that you make the most of your $20,000 budget.

Part 2: Affordable Destinations

The type of trip that you can take with $20,000 depends largely on the destinations you choose. Certain countries offer better value for money than others, so it's important to prioritize low-cost options when planning your itinerary.

1. Southeast Asia

Amazing Maya Bay on Phi Phi Islands, Thailand

Southeast Asia has long been a popular destination for budget travelers, offering a unique blend of rich cultural experiences, stunning natural beauty, and exceptional affordability. This region is characterized by its diverse landscapes, ranging from pristine beaches and lush jungles to bustling cities and ancient temples. With countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Indonesia, Southeast Asia provides a wide array of travel opportunities that cater to various interests and budgets.


Bangkok, Thailand at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and Grand Palace

Thailand is often considered the quintessential Southeast Asian destination, attracting millions of tourists each year with its vibrant culture, world-renowned cuisine, and idyllic islands. Despite its popularity, Thailand remains an affordable choice for budget travelers, with low-cost accommodations, inexpensive street food, and affordable transportation options.

The country offers a diverse range of experiences, from exploring the bustling metropolis of Bangkok and discovering ancient temples in Chiang Mai to relaxing on the beautiful beaches of Phuket or Koh Samui.



Tran Quoc Pagoda as seen from Thanh Nien Street in Hanoi, Vietnam

Vietnam is another excellent option for budget-conscious travelers seeking a unique cultural experience. The country boasts a rich history, stunning natural landscapes, and delicious cuisine, all at a fraction of the cost of more expensive destinations.

Highlights include the vibrant city of Hanoi, with its bustling markets and charming old quarter; the picturesque town of Hoi An, known for its well-preserved architecture and colorful lanterns; and the breathtaking beauty of Halong Bay, with its towering limestone karsts and emerald waters.


View over the tropical forest towards the Angkor Thom Temple Complex, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Cambodia is a destination steeped in history and natural beauty, offering budget travelers an opportunity to explore ancient temples, such as the iconic Angkor Wat, and immerse themselves in the country's fascinating culture.

Accommodation and food are very affordable in Cambodia, and transportation costs are also relatively low, making it an attractive option for those looking to stretch their dollars. In addition to Siem Reap, the gateway to Angkor Wat, travelers can also visit the bustling capital city of Phnom Penh or venture off the beaten path to explore the countryside and smaller towns.


Wat Ho Pha Bang, Luang Prabang, Laos

Laos is often overlooked in favor of its more popular neighbors but offers a peaceful, laid-back atmosphere that appeals to many budget travelers. With its lush landscapes, friendly locals, and relatively low costs, Laos provides an excellent opportunity to experience Southeast Asian culture without crowds.

Key attractions include the ancient city of Luang Prabang, with its beautiful temples and French colonial architecture, and the stunning natural beauty of Vang Vieng, a haven for outdoor enthusiasts.


A gate in the Tirta Empul temple, Bali, Indonesia

Indonesia is an archipelago of over 17,000 islands, each with its unique charm and appeal. The most famous destination is Bali, known for its beautiful beaches, lush rice terraces, and vibrant arts scene. However, Indonesia has much more to offer budget travelers, including the cultural hub of Yogyakarta, the wildlife-rich island of Sumatra, and the pristine beaches of Lombok.

With affordable accommodations, inexpensive food, and a wide range of experiences to suit all interests, Indonesia is an ideal choice for those looking to explore Southeast Asia on a budget.

Southeast Asia is a region that offers incredible value for money, making it a top choice for budget travelers seeking a rich and diverse travel experience. By exploring countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Indonesia, you can immerse yourself in fascinating cultures, breathtaking landscapes, and adventures, all without breaking the bank.

2. Eastern Europe

Budapest, Hungarian parliament in sunset

Eastern Europe is another budget-friendly region that offers a wealth of cultural, historical, and natural attractions for travelers seeking a more affordable alternative to Western Europe. Its lower cost of living and burgeoning tourism industry makes it an attractive destination for those looking to explore Europe without breaking the bank.

Countries such as Poland, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria provide a diverse range of experiences, from vibrant cities and charming towns to stunning landscapes and rich cultural heritage.


Old Town in Krakow, Poland

Poland is a country steeped in history, with picturesque cities such as Kraków and Gdańsk offering a glimpse into the country's past through their well-preserved architecture and historic sites. One of the main draws for budget travelers is the affordability of accommodations, food, and transportation in Poland, making it possible to experience the country's rich culture and history without spending a fortune.

In addition to its cities, Poland also boasts beautiful natural landscapes, including the Tatra Mountains and Białowieża Forest.


Chain bridge in Budapest, Hungary

Hungary is another Eastern European gem that offers excellent value for money. The capital city, Budapest, is known for its stunning architecture, thermal baths, and vibrant nightlife, all at a fraction of the cost of more expensive European cities.

Beyond Budapest, Hungary offers picturesque countryside, charming towns, and a rich culinary scene that won't break the bank. Budget travelers can enjoy a variety of experiences in Hungary while keeping their expenses low.


The medieval Castle of Bran, known for the myth of Dracula in Brasov, Transylvania, Romania

Romania is a fascinating destination that combines rich history, diverse landscapes, and unique cultural experiences. The country is home to medieval castles, such as the famous Bran Castle, which is often associated with the legend of Dracula, and beautiful cities like Sibiu and Brasov.

Romania's affordability makes it an attractive option for budget travelers, with inexpensive accommodations, food, and transportation readily available. The country also offers stunning natural beauty, including the Carpathian Mountains and the Danube Delta.


Beautiful drone shot of downtown district of Sofia, Bulgaria

Bulgaria is another Eastern European country that offers great value for budget travelers. Its diverse attractions range from the bustling capital city of Sofia, with its rich cultural heritage and vibrant nightlife, to the picturesque Black Sea coast, known for its beautiful beaches and affordable resorts.

Bulgaria also boasts a wealth of historical sites, such as the ancient city of Plovdiv and the Rila Monastery, as well as stunning natural landscapes like the Pirin and Rila mountains.

3. Central and South America

Beautiful tropical beach on the Caribbean Sea, Nicaragua

Central and South America are regions that offer budget-friendly travel destinations, boasting a mix of rich cultural experiences, stunning natural beauty, and ancient history. The affordability of countries such as Guatemala, Nicaragua, Peru, and Bolivia makes these destinations particularly attractive for travelers looking to explore the Americas without breaking the bank.

In addition to their low costs, these countries provide a diverse range of experiences, from vibrant cities and charming colonial towns to awe-inspiring landscapes and unique wildlife.


Ruins in the Maya City Tikal in Guatemala

Guatemala is a country teeming with history, culture, and natural beauty. Its affordability makes it an ideal destination for budget travelers seeking to immerse themselves in Central American culture. One of the main attractions in Guatemala is the ancient Mayan city of Tikal, which offers a fascinating glimpse into the region's past.

Other highlights include the picturesque city of Antigua, known for its well-preserved colonial architecture, and the stunning Lake Atitlán, surrounded by volcanoes and traditional Mayan villages. Budget travelers can find affordable accommodations, food, and transportation throughout the country, making it easy to explore this captivating destination without overspending.


Island Ometepe with volcano in Nicaragua

Nicaragua is another budget-friendly option in Central America, offering a mix of colonial charm, natural beauty, and outdoor adventure. The country's low costs make it an attractive destination for those looking to experience Central America on a budget.

Highlights include the beautiful colonial city of Granada, the volcanic island of Ometepe, and the stunning beaches along the Pacific coast. Nicaragua also boasts a variety of affordable accommodations, from hostels and guesthouses to budget hotels, as well as inexpensive local cuisine and public transportation options.


Llama in front of ancient Inca town of Machu Picchu, Peru

Peru is a popular South American destination, famous for its rich history, diverse landscapes, and vibrant culture. Despite its popularity, Peru remains an affordable choice for budget travelers, with low-cost accommodations, food, and transportation available throughout the country.

The most famous attraction in Peru is undoubtedly Machu Picchu, the ancient Inca citadel nestled high in the Andes Mountains. However, Peru has much more to offer, including the bustling city of Lima, the colorful traditional markets of Cusco, and the breathtaking beauty of the Sacred Valley.


Sports Utility Vehicle driving in the Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Bolivia is another South American gem that offers excellent value for money. The country's diverse landscapes, from the high-altitude Andean peaks to the vast salt flats of Salar de Uyuni, make it a fascinating destination for adventure seekers and nature lovers alike.

Bolivia's affordability extends to accommodations, food, and transportation, making it an attractive option for budget travelers. Key attractions include the vibrant city of La Paz, with its unique topography and bustling markets; the historic mining town of Potosí; and the otherworldly landscapes of the Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve.

Part 3: Stretching Your Budget

The key to traveling on a budget is making smart decisions about where and how you spend your money.

1. Accommodation

Scenic open window view of the Mediterranean Sea from a luxury resort room along the Amalfi Coast near Sorrento, Italy

Budget accommodation options, such as hostels, budget hotels, and Airbnb, can help you save significantly on travel expenses. Hostels are often the most affordable option, offering dormitory-style rooms and shared facilities, while budget hotels provide private rooms at a lower cost than luxury hotels.

Airbnb allows you to rent private rooms or entire apartments from local hosts, often at competitive prices. To find the best deals on accommodations, consider booking in advance, using comparison websites, or opting for less touristy areas.

2. Transportation

Bus in Chinatown in Bangkok

Budget transportation options, such as buses, trains, and budget airlines, can help you travel between destinations without spending a fortune. Buses are often the cheapest mode of transport, while trains offer a comfortable and scenic alternative. Budget airlines provide low-cost flights but may have additional fees for luggage and other services. To find the best deals on transportation, book in advance, use fare comparison websites, and be flexible with your travel dates and times.

3. Food

Table top of food spread on table

Eating affordably while traveling is possible by choosing local markets and street food vendors, which often serve delicious and authentic cuisine at a fraction of the cost of restaurants. Additionally, cooking your meals when possible can help you save even more. To save money on food, avoid eating in heavily touristed areas, where prices tend to be higher and opt for smaller, local establishments instead.

4. Activities and Attractions

Senior woman taking selfie of friends traveling on an inflatable boat in remote glacier fed turquoise colored river to go freshwater fishing.

Saving money on activities and attractions is possible by choosing free or low-cost options, taking advantage of discounts, and exploring off-the-beaten-path destinations. Many cities offer free walking tours, while parks, museums, and historical sites often have no or minimal entrance fees.

Discounts may be available for students, seniors, or those visiting multiple attractions within a city. Joining group tours can also help reduce costs, as they often provide transportation and guide services at a lower price per person. Finally, venturing off the beaten path can lead to unique and affordable experiences that may be overlooked by mainstream tourists.

Part 4: Maximizing Your Travel Experiences

The best way to maximize your travel experiences is to immerse yourself in the local culture. By engaging with the locals, trying authentic cuisine, and experiencing traditional customs, you can gain a deeper appreciation for the destination you are visiting.

1. Slow Travel

Woman drinking tea on balcony with view on rice fields in Bali, Indonesia

Slow travel is a concept that encourages travelers to take their time and truly immerse themselves in the destinations they visit. By spending more time in each location, you can gain a deeper understanding of the local culture, customs, and way of life. Slow travel can also help stretch your budget, as staying in one place for an extended period may result in discounted accommodation rates and reduced transportation expenses. Additionally, slow travel allows you to develop a more authentic connection with the destination, leading to a more enriching and memorable experience.

2. Volunteering and Work Exchanges

Woman Visitor Planting Rice, Japanese Farm Homestay

Volunteering or participating in work exchanges while traveling can enhance your overall experience by allowing you to contribute to local communities and learn new skills. These opportunities often provide free or low-cost accommodation and meals in exchange for your time and labor, helping you stretch your budget further. Volunteering and work exchanges can be found across various sectors, such as education, conservation, and hospitality. Resources for finding these opportunities include websites like Workaway, WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), and HelpX.

3. Connecting with Locals

Friends Having an Open Air Vegetarian Dinner in Their Backyard

Connecting with locals while traveling is essential for truly immersing yourself in the local culture. Engaging with local people allows you to gain insights into their customs, traditions, and daily life, enhancing your understanding and appreciation of the destination. To meet locals and immerse yourself in the local culture, consider the following tips:

Attend local events, such as festivals, markets, and cultural performances.

Participate in language exchange programs or conversation clubs.

Stay with local hosts through platforms like Airbnb or Couchsurfing.

Join local interest groups or clubs, such as sports teams or hobby groups.

Dine at local restaurants and cafes, where you can strike up conversations with the staff and patrons.

By embracing slow travel, volunteering or participating in work exchanges, and connecting with locals, you can maximize your travel experiences and gain a deeper appreciation for the destinations you visit. These approaches not only help stretch your budget but also provide unique and enriching experiences that will leave lasting impressions on your journey.


Woman tourist in yellow dress and hat traveling on Railay beach, Krabi, Thailand

Embarking on a budget-friendly adventure with $20,000 is entirely achievable by carefully planning your itinerary, prioritizing experiences, and researching costs by destination. By exploring affordable regions like Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, and Central and South America, you can discover diverse cultures and breathtaking landscapes without breaking the bank.

Stretch your budget further by choosing economical accommodation, transportation, food, and activities, while maximizing your travel experiences through slow travel, volunteering, and connecting with locals. With careful planning and a spirit of adventure, you can embark on an unforgettable journey that allows you to explore the world without exceeding your budget.

We wish you all the best on your journey, have fun, and take care!

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