I would put this higher, however given the obvious distances involved to get there, am slotting Argentina in at number 5. The reasons are simple, all your travelling basics are of good quality, and reasonably priced. Your 14 hours bus journeys still take 14 hours, but they don’t stop, you get a wonderful reclining seat, a meal, a drink and a couple of movies, occasionally in English. The level of competition between companies keeps prices down. Secondly, food is excellent and top quality steak and wine (£3 for a decent bottle of Malbec that would cost $20-25 outside of the country) is available and plentiful. If you happen to be on the gringo trail through Malbec country your hostel may even throw daily wine tasting in as included in the price. Finally, many of the best things to do are free. For example in Buenoes Aires Recoleta Cemetery is majestic and home to Eva Peron’s tomb. Similarly the fabulous street art of La Boca neighbourhood is gritty and powerful and world class Museo Natioal de Bellas Artes, that includes works from Van Gogh, Degas and Gauguin also has no admission fee.
Nepal has to be on this list, not only due to its close proximity to travellers favourite India, but because it has the same alluring qualities but is far more laid back. A guesthouse in Kathmandu or Pokhara will cost just $5-8 and while you may be sharing with the occasional friendly gecko, the level of competition keeps prices low. Getting around, whether it be cities by taxi, or longer bus journeys, will also not push your budget too far, just do not expect high quality. Trekking, given the amazing scenery on offer, and relatively off the beaten track trails, is also of excellent value. Expect to spend $20 a day for a good standard trek including guides, food and accommodation.
This old hippi trail favourite seems to have been somewhat neglected in recent years in favour of South-East Asia, perhaps due to its proximity to the Middle East, however Morocco remains a great option for a two – three week visit. Recent investment by the Moroccan government particularly in tourist friendly Marrakesh has seen improved transport links; notably a state of the art rail network that facilitates longer distance journeys to Fez as well as helping to navigate shorter trips to Meknes (from Fez) and more rural areas. Confining yourself to Marrakesh would be an error – a grand taxi up to the Atlas mountains makes for a formidable day trip at a very reasonable cost of 20 Dirhams ($2) per person for a group of six. Centrally located guesthouses throughout Marrakesh of good standard will cost $15-25 per night. Aside from these factors, Morrocco’s attraction as an all round destination, combining historical sites, good transport links, beautiful beaches as well as channelling Middle Eastern, Meditteranean and African cultures into one unique hybrid of a country make it a must.
In global economic terms, due in no small part to the phenomena of outsourcing, India as a developing nation is catching up, and in the pulsing cities of Mumbai and Bangalore this is well reflected. That said, India does and I’m sure always will maintain it’s charm, personality, power and huge variation of sights and cultural activities that are accessible and cost effective. The rail network will not win many awards for punctuality but one can travel a very long way at a very reasonable price, in relative comfort. For example, the overnight sleeper from Jodhpur to Delhi in the highest class of 1AC will not cost more than $30. In traveller friendly Kerala, a short haul from the Ernakulam (transport hub for Cochin) to Alleppey will cost 50Rs (about $1.20) for second class reserved seat, which is all you need. Guesthouses are also of good standard, but can of course be hit and miss. A beachfront room in Varkala can be as little as $10 a nite. Tours are also of excellent value. A day cycling round temple laden Hampi is $10, you can cruise around Alleppey’s backwaters for just $15 including a sumptuous meal of mango chilli on banana leaves.
Cambodia gets my number one spot and it was an easy choice. Much like neighbouring Laos and Vietnam the popularity of the region lends itself to competition among guesthouses and hostels and this helps keep standards reasonable and prices affordable. At the bottom end a hostel bed can be as little as $4 per night while a mid range guesthouse in comparative luxury will be $10-20. The ubiquitous fruit shakes are a meal in themselves and are fresh, filling and $1 each – as are most things. That said, particularly in popular areas during high season, around the southern Islands for example, amenities are stretched and the low costs are as such for a reason. That said, given the manageable journey distances, electric nightlife, world class sights in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, gorgeoues beaches in the south and tranquility as required, Cambodia is every inch the travellers mecca.