Cheap Destinations for Your Gap Year

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Vicky Philpott

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Written by: Helen Winter

When it comes to adding up all the costs of your travel itinerary you may be shocked at how much the overall sum is. But don’t let this put you off your grand adventure. With some tips and choice locations you can still have the most amazing gap year for half the price.


£1 = 49 Baht

It’s no surprise to see Thailand on this list as the whole of Asia is fairly cheap, making it a hotspot for younger and less financially blessed backpackers. Food and accommodation is relatively low-cost, the best place to get your food is from street stalls and vendors, they are completely safe and actually offer some better meals than the high-quality restaurant – and more importantly, they only cost about 50p for a meal!

If you fancy sitting down and eating your food, you’re looking at a price of £1, and in tourist cafés, meals are sold from £2. When it comes to resting your head, the most budget locations are guest houses, costing between £2 for a budget room, and £20 for luxury. Transport is unbelievably cheap as well, with local buses coming in at 12-36p and long distant coaches (Bangkok to Chiangmai) priced at £12, with long distant trains not costing much more. You can also treat yourself to a lovely massage for 200baht (£4.00).

Floating Market


£1 = 6,362.77 Riel

The currency in Cambodia is Riel but most places prefer US Dollars so make sure you carry at least $100. A double room for two will set you back a whole £1.50-£4, or you could splash out on a room with air-con for a few pounds more. If you fancy an upper class experience, then a mid-range hotel will cost £6-£12, which is likely to include an ensuite, with a fancy bath! As with most of the Asian countries, sticking to street food will always be the cheaper option, costing £1-£2 for a single meal, which includes rice, and for a restaurant meal you’re still only looking at about £3-£6. Cheaper than a Burger King!


£1 = 16393.44 Indonesian Rupaih

For the cheapest accommodation, stick to guesthouses and hostels where both start from around £3 a night, with private rooms coming to £9. If you really fancy a budget luxury break on your travels, hotel prices start from £10. Street food is the cheapest option costing less than 50p, and only 70p for a full local meal. Transport is just as cheap, with ferries to the different islands priced at £6, 8-hour bus journeys from £3, and the travel-favourite; the overnight bus from £9! If you’re really feeling adventurous you can hire a motorbike for the day for £5. In other words, it’s a pocket-friendly place.


£1 = 32747.49 Vietnamese Dong

Vietnam is one of the cheapest locations around, which you’ll be thankful for after forking all that money out for a visa. In fact, there isn’t much between the cost of a hostel and a hotel. You can have a modern sized mid-range room from £4-£7. Or, if you really are on a strict budget then hostels are still available for as low as £2. The food is just as cheap, for the traditional Vietnamese dish of Pho soup; you’ll only have to dig out about 70p for a whole bowl full. If your feet are tired from all that sightseeing – walking is another great way to cut your costs – then a meal where you can sit down at table doesn’t cost much more.

Drinks are cheap here too so make sure you’re ready to let your inhibitions go and prepare for that hangover. Local beer can cost less than 20p, and bottled beer is about 50p. Even when you move on to luxurious drinks like cocktails, the most you’ll spend is £3. But if that’s a bit over budget then you can easily have a good time on a vodka mixer coming in at less than £1. Although, transport in Vietnam can be more expensive, it is still cheaper than the European equivalent, so don’t worry too much about getting home after your wild night out.

Vietnamese Market


£1 = 95.15 Indian Rupee

India is one of the cheapest places around, and if you do it right you can get away with living on £10 a day. Most gappers making their way to India want to see more than one place and you might as well seeing as you’re there. To fund your journeys, an overnight sleeper train can be less than £5 for a short route. Most hostels, especially those in the more rural areas, will only set you back a few rupees a night.

For the cheapest deals book the hostel on the day of arrival, but if you’re in the big cities it’s probably best to do this beforehand, especially during the high season and when festivals are going on. When it comes to trying the local cuisine, you’re likely to only be charged as little as 20p – £2 for a meal, if you want a luxury meal then splashing out on £10, we’ll get you shiny cutlery, waiters and multiple courses! Another way to cut back the prices is to push those British manners aside and join the old age tradition of haggling, there’s no need to feel guilty or embarrassed about this, it’s just a part of everyday life here.

Indian Market

Mexico and Central America

£1 = 20 Mexican Peso

If you stay out of the tourist zones like Cancun and the Belize islands, Mexico and the rest of Central America can be a great choice for a cheap getaway. When you’re needing a base to call home, hostels start from around £2, or you can get a double for £4 – and mostly that’s for a room, so it’s a good idea to buddy up to cut the costs. If you’re looking at Mexico for a romantic getaway, then mid-range hotels start from only £10 a night. If you’re craving rice and beans, then street food is a cheap choice (£1-£5 off the beaten track). But, Central america is the place to head for an adventure as diving in Honduras has gained a reputation as being the cheapest in the world, so it’s a great place to get your PADI license.


Margarita Island, Venezuela

£1 = 9,833 Venezuelia Bolivar

Who knew that you could enjoy a paradise island at such a low cost without being casted away? On these Margarita Islands – the name itself is appealing – you can get a hostel for as little as £8 a night. When it comes to an inexpensive night out, these islands have it sorted with the beer costing less than £1, and the local rum is just £2 more! And forget about buying all your gifts at the airport, this is a duty free island, cutting that extra bit of cash off.

General tips

Even though some other places maybe more costly, the end result is that any location can be as cheap or as expensive as you make it. In order to opt for the cheaper option, try to stay out of the cities and the tourist areas – or at least shorten your stay, try to go in off-peak season, or if a festival is occuring, it might work out cheaper to bunk up in a nearby location and commute in to the city. As mentioned above, you’ll always find the food from the street stalls unbelievably cheaper – and probably tastier – than the restaurants, especially the western ones as this is especially where the prices are increased. This is the same for western hotels, with chains like the Hilton and Marriot hotel charging customers at a western rate, no matter what the currency or county. Plus, you’re bound to have more of a cultural adventure staying in a Vietnamese family’s B&B or a hostel.

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