The problem with cheap places is that it’s all relative to the lifestyle someone chooses. While I do list Xi’an, China as being inexpensive, it’s also quite easy to spend as much as you would in Tokyo, Japan. It also depends on what you’re into. Do you like big cities, beaches, comforts of home, party towns, or jungles?
Here’s a few things I consider when staying in a place for a few weeks or months between traveling around:
- Fast and reliable internet.
- Good selection of food.
- Entertainment such as bars and nightlife. Anything lively.
- Good exchange rate to the US dollar.
- Many places of interest and something to learn.
If you’re looking to take a break and stay somewhere for awhile, here is where I recommend. All prices below are converted to the US dollar.
If you’ve been following Art of Backpacking, you probably expected I would mention this city. After living here for a year, I grew to love the city. While many websites are blocked due The Great Firewall of China, it’s quite easy to get around using a VPN. Still, the internet is quite fast outside of having to do the VPN.
Xi’an is well known to be one of the cheapest big cities in China. A typical meal in middle of downtown local restaurant will cost you around $3.12. A little outside of the downtown area may cost half of that. A 1 liter Tsing Tao beer at a restaurant may cost $.78. At the supermarket, it’s $.31.
At a big fancy nightclub with VIP treatment, a bottle of Absolut, basket of fruits, snacks, and a few sodas cost $47. Split that between four people and you got yourself a serious party. KTV has similar prices and are super fun to do in China.
Apartments in the middle of downtown cost about $300USD although if you’ve been following China’s housing market, it’s quickly becoming more expensive.
Pick up Mandarin classes and go sightseeing in one of China’s oldest and traditional cities. It’s a great place to stay for awhile.
La Paz, Bolivia
With simliar prices as Xi’an, China, you could live here more than comfortably with the US dollar exchange rate.
I LOVED La Paz. The whole city is on slopes between mountains and has a beautiful view when viewed from the top or even the bottom looking up onto the mountains. The streets are small and confusing but taxi’s take you to just about anywhere and it’s inexpensive.
A restaurant that sell perhaps one or two items for the whole day cost between $2 to $3. Chicken and rice is probably the cheapest meal in Bolivia and can cost less than a dollar. It’s filling and found everywhere but I quickly got sick of it.
La Paz surprisingly has a huge expat community. There’s many restaurants to indulge in other international foods as well. I recommend checking out The Star of India restaurant.
The internet was my only complain about La Paz. It was a bit slow at times but it could just have been where I was staying.
I wanted to diversify my list although I haven’t been to Romania. It’s not as cheap as La Paz or Xi’an but still one of the more inexpensive cities within Europe.
An inexpensive meal cost about $6.93 while a one bedroom apartment in the city centre cost $413.56 a month according to Numbeo. Those are some great prices for a major city in Europe and a great way to take a break between all those train rides.
Koh Samui, Thailand
Many people who have heard or been to Thailand think of Koh Samui as a tourist trap. It’s a small island off the coast of Thailand and draws in tourists by large numbers every day for it’s beautiful beaches and crazy nightlife. The tourist mainly go to Chaweng or Lamai beaches and many don’t usually leave that area.
Koh Samui however holds beautiful quiet beaches all around the island outside of the tourist areas.
I recommend checking out the Bang Po area. We paid $20 a night for two people in what was basically a private resort with waterfront views.