College students are usually short on cash and buried in textbooks during the school year. But if you’ve been struck with wanderlust and can’t wait until spring break or the summer to plan a trip, this might be a great time to ditch the all-nighters and dining hall food for a little real-life education and a party scene beyond the frat house. Fortunately, there are some amazing budget-friendly travel destinations around the world that you can visit on a student budget.
Thanks to budget-friendly accommodations like hostels and campgrounds, favorable exchange rates, and cheap tasty eats, there’s no better time to start traveling solo or with friends than your college years. These are some of the most affordable travel destinations for broke college students to start saving up and planning your itinerary for right now.
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Ecuador might not be every traveler’s first pick when planning a South American adventure, but that’s part of why it’s a budget-friendly trip for broke students. This country has some beautiful beaches, sights to see, and is a great place to work on those Spanish skills you’ve been working on in class. Tourist-targeted crime dropped dramatically, and as long as you’re smart about traveling you shouldn’t encounter safety issues. Of course, one of the big draws here is the Galapagos islands, which are totally worth a visit if you can pull it off during your trip.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico is an easy trip for American students because flights usually aren’t too long or expensive and you don’t even need a passport since it’s a U.S. territory. San Juan has lots of student-friendly hostels that have rates as low as $15 per night. You’ll get to meet other students and tourists from around the world and enjoy a fun party scene with local rum-packed mojitos. Make sure to walk over to La Plaza del Mercado in Santurce, a neighborhood with lots of authentic restaurants and bars frequented by locals. It’s an awesome place to try Puerto Rico food, people-watch, and find happy hour specials on drinks.
Arenal Area, Costa Rica
Costa Rica is one of several great Central American destinations for college students because of the prices and adventure opportunities. You can find some really affordable hostels and low-key B&Bs here, and some even serve complimentary breakfast every morning. Airfare has been pretty cheap when traveling from the U.S., and the exchange rate makes this trip a great deal. This is a touristy area, so spend some time getting acquainted with the local businesses so you can spot tourist traps and avoid them. You can find local eating establishments called “sodas,” that serve authentic Costa Rican specialties at a low cost. Visit local grocery stores in the neighborhood you’re staying in to stock up Costa Rican beer to save money at the bars.
Although Bolivia has been growing in popularity among travelers, it continues to be an affordable destination for college students. Depending on where you’re coming from, the plane ticket might set you back, but once you arrive, you’ll discover that you can afford lots of things on a tight budget. Transportation, food, alcohol, and accommodations can be afforded at around $20 per day if you are thrifty and plan your trip in advance.
It’s no secret that traveling to Europe isn’t generally cheap, but Albania is an exception to this rule. The cost of living in Albania is much more affordable than elsewhere in Europe, a fact that helps out travelers on a budget too. There are some amazing beaches to visit in this beautiful Mediterranean country if you’re looking for sunshine and relaxation, and the traditional food here is nothing short of amazing.
Panama City, Florida
Florida has always been a top spot for college spring breakers, but why not visit during the off-season for better prices and fewer crowds? Consider visiting Panama City in the fall, say September or October. The temperatures are warm, the sun is shining brightly, the beaches less annoying, and flight and hotel prices very reasonable. Take a look at vacation rental properties along the beach during the off-season, because you can sometimes find nightly deals as low as about $50 per night and be just steps away from the sand.
Niagara Falls, New York/Canada
If you’re looking for stunning natural beauty that’s not too far from home, then consider a trip to Niagara Falls, which straddles the border between New York and Ontario. There are lots of cheap hotels in the Buffalo area, especially if you don’t travel during the busy summer tourist season. From the U.S. side, walk over to the Canadian side for a fun nightlife scene.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Even if it’s not Mardi Gras, New Year’s Eve, or Halloween, New Orleans is a fun place to party any time of the year. It’s an incredibly unique place in the U.S. that’s full of fascinating history, intriguing culture, delicious food, and a constantly buzzing nightlife scene that encourages cocktail to-go cups. There are actually a couple of hostels in and near the French Quarter that offer very reasonable accommodation rates for students. Hotels in New Orleans can get quite pricey, so look into these hostel options well in advance so they don’t get booked up. Take the streetcar or simply walk to get around instead of driving and paying high parking rates.
Thailand has been an enduring favorite among college travelers due to its long list of alluring destinations. This is a great place to travel in the winter to get a little warmth and sunshine, and there are tons of adventure sport opportunities here with guide companies that offer kayaking, rafting, and other outdoor excursions. Look into hostels with shared rooms and bathrooms for extra savings while traveling around Thailand.
Vietnam is another place in Asia where you can travel on about $20 per day if you play your cards right. Tourism is picking up in Vietnam lately, but it’s still a very affordable destination with lots of student-friendly options for backpacking. Con Dao Island and National Park are great destinations in Vietnam to see sea turtles and other wildlife while exploring the area on foot.
Savannah, Georgia, USA
Savannah might sound like a place where your parents go to celebrate their anniversary, but it’s actually a really fun town to walk around, see the sights, and transform yourself into another time and place. Savannah is another southern city that embraces “to-go cup culture,” so you can explore this southern gem with your favorite cocktail or brew in hand. This is an amazing place to visit if you’re a foodie or just curious about what the hype is over southern cuisine. If the weather is warm, make sure to spend a day on Tybee Island to lounge on the beach and soak up some sunshine.