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THE BROKE BACKPACKER’S GUIDE TO THE WORLD’S TOP 5 BUDGET DESTINATIONS

From the mountains of Pakistan to Bali's emerald village and Venezuela's waterfalls and jungles

The Broke Backpacker - aka Will Hatton - has spent a decade exploring the world’s most exciting destinations... for many of these years, he achieved this on just $10 a day.


He has trekked deep into the Venezuelan jungle’s belly, herded goats in the Holy Land and conquered the highest navigable pass in the world armed with a poorly drawn map and some beef jerky.

And his passion is to inspire other, budding explorers to ditch their desks and hit the road. With that in mind, he has written us this fascinating guide to the world's top five budget destinations... and some may surprise you. One of them is so extraordinary, the lifelong wanderer decided to stay for good.


So grab your passport and follow him up the majestic mountains of Pakistan, on to Bali's emerald village, Nepal's peaks, around Venezuela's waterfalls and jungles and through the deserts and volcanoes of Iran.


Pakistan

"The world's best mountains, rich history, underground parties and stunning treks"

Pakistan probably isn't top of your list when planning your budget adventures around the world. But think again.


This is where you’ll find the best mountains in the world, rich history, ancient traditions, underground parties, stunning treks and extraordinary hospitality. I couch-surfed my way across Pakistan for many months, and it left an indelible mark on my soul.


The amazing food, the surreal natural beauty, the chaotic traffic, the chai. Pakistan feels like a second home to me and as well as being a budget backpacker's dream, it is one of the premier destinations in the world.


I first visited in 2015 and have returned five times. I’ve taken groups of travellers to the country, and if you’re not comfortable exploring it on your own, I recommend you join my friends on an epic adventure tour over there.


Must-See Places in Pakistan
  • Nanga Parbat/Fairy Meadows: It’s not every day you get to be face to face with the 9th highest mountain on the planet. I first visited this epic mountain oasis in freezing cold temperatures, but it’s best explored in summer or fall. While the actual meadow is quite developed these days, the base camp is still an absolute gem.

  • Hunza Valley: A valley where I spent many nights savouring the beauty of life… Hunza (located in the majestic Gilgit Baltistan territory) is perhaps one of the most beautiful places in the world. What makes it even more epic is that the people are just as fantastic as the rugged peaks of the Karakoram Mountain range. You’ll find a unique culture, alpine lakes, glaciers, remote villages, and more. I promise you that once you visit, you WILL be back.

  • Lahore: Pakistan’s de facto cultural capital can make just about anyone fall in love with history. Think Mughal Era relics ranging from forts, to mausoleums, to gates and beloved masjids that date back more than 400 years. There is no doubt that Lahore has a unique vibe, and it’s also an incredible city for meat-loving foodies. Barely an hour from India, it’s particularly special to begin your Pakistan trip by crossing the nearby Wagah Border between the two countries.



Iran

"The overlooked jewel of the Middle East"

One of the world's most overlooked budget destinations is undoubtedly Iran. But backpacking here is incredible - it's one of the cheapest places to visit, the easiest country to hitch a ride, the couch-surfing scene is fantastic, and you make amazing friends along the way.


With gorgeous Islamic architecture, legendary hospitality and the stunning island of Hormuz, this is a country that will take your breath away.


I’ve camped out all over the country, Couch-surfed with dozens of hosts, hitchhiked thousands of kilometres – the legendary Iranian hospitality means it’s possible to travel on a tight budget.


Iran is an often misunderstood country and frequently slated in the media; something which continues to anger me. I’ve spent nearly six months in Iran, visiting four times across 2016, 2017 and 2018.


Iran, my fellow adventurers, is a true jewel of the Middle East. Embrace the genuine hospitality, savour the flavours of Persian cuisine and let yourself be enchanted by a culture steeped in history and tradition.


Must-See Places in Iran
  • Yazd: The desert city of Yazd springs out of the ground in defiance of its surroundings and wows tourists with its winding lanes, blue-tiled domes and soaring minarets. Most backpackers in Yazd congregate at The Silk Road Hotel but there are much cheaper options around - though sadly, couch-surfing in Yazd is not easy. Yazd is one of the best places in Iran to organise desert adventures and nomad homestays.

  • Varzaneh Desert: A couple of hours from Isfahan lies the mesmerising Varzaneh Desert, which just so happens to be one of the most accessible deserts in Iran. Unless you have your own 4x4, you’ll need to take a (cheap) local tour to get out into the dunes. There’s also a pretty incredible salt lake, along with some awe-inspiring ancient temples.

  • Hormuz: This stunning volcanic island is my favourite place to visit in Iran. There is nowhere quite like this anywhere else on earth and if you’re backpacking around Iran in search of incredible landscapes, this is where you should go. The vibe is surreal, many travellers unsurprisingly get stuck here.



Venezuela

"Endless beaches, steaming forests and towering mountains"

With towering mountains, steaming forests and endless beaches, Venezuela is backpacker's heaven.


Before I went backpacking in Venezuela, I was assailed from all sides by rumours of robberies, murders, kidnaps and corrupt police. Almost everybody I met warned me not to go but, crucially, most of them had not actually been to Venezuela.


Don’t get me wrong, backpacking there CAN be dangerous. This is a country where you need to keep both eyes on your gear, watch who you’re with and be on the lookout for unpleasant situations.


For this reason, I can't encourage you to travel there, but it had to make the list because it is still one of the most beautiful travel experiences I’ve ever had.

Must-See Places in Venezuela
  • Mount Roraima: Sitting at 2,810 m (9,220 ft), Roraima is an epic hike through steaming, dense jungle. The trek isn’t just about conquering the summit, but it also has one of the oldest rock formations in the world. Once at the top, you will enjoy incredible views over three countries; Guyana, Brazil and of course, Venezuela. For keen hikers, explorers and fit people this is too tempting a mountain not to climb. But be warned, the climb is hard, even for avid adventurers.

  • San Cristobal: The city is a bit of a tinderbox, I was caught up in a few road-blocks whilst there but there are still some really interesting sites to see. The cathedral is particularly impressive. Escape the city and drive 30 minutes to “Chorro del Indio“, a remote mountain waterfall that’s worth the effort. Chill with a couple of beers in the cool water while watching the blue butterflies flit around the cascading falls.

  • Angel Falls: Standing at 979 meters, this is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world–as well as the highest. Put back on the map by the Disney movie Up, this is an explorer's wonder. Angel Falls is best visited in the rainy season (June – December) when the falls are fully pumping with water. Otherwise, you may be grandly disappointed.


Nepal

"The greatest adventure at the mysterious gateway to Mount Everest"

Fascinated by the mysterious country that serves as a gateway to Mount Everest? I was, too.


Lured here by the promise of raw adventure, towering Himalayan peaks, rare wildlife and ancient culture, I spent a couple of months backpacking Nepal. I hitchhiked in some of the world’s most pimped out lorries, ate and drank the local delicacies, went rafting in the wilderness, and explored the Annapurna Circuit.


My experience in Nepal blew me away. Backpacker bargains are everywhere and the locals are keen to ensure you have a good time. The landscapes are some of the most striking in the world, and if you make the effort to get off the beaten track, backpacking Nepal is a one of a kind adventure.


My research for the trip consisted of binge-watching Planet Earth and reading tales of adventurers trekking Nepal. It was one of the greatest adventures I’ve had in 14 years travelling the world… that’s gotta mean something!

Must-See Places in Nepal
  • The Annapurna Region: Home to some of the finest treks in Nepal, the Annapurna region is where you should focus your itinerary. I highly recommend the Annapurna Circuit. Catch a bus to Besisahar and just start walking. The hike takes a minimum of 14 days if you are just catching a bus from the Jomson area, as many hikers do. If you hike the entire circuit, it will take up to 22 days. Another popular alternative is the Annapurna Base Camp, which takes 7-10 days, but most people complete it in 9. This hike requires scaling a lot of stairs, but it takes you directly into the Annapurna Mountain amphitheatre; whereas, the circuit takes you around the range.

  • Pokhara: Often described as ‘Goa in the Mountains’, it is easy to fall in love with this small town surrounded by mountainous scenery. Escape the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu and take some downtime to chill out and relax before venturing into the mountains. I would recommend spending around four days exploring Pokhara. It’s also important to note that most Nepal trekking adventures start here, including Annapurna. At the local bars, you’ll bump into plenty of backpackers finishing or starting the trek.


  • Kathmandu Valley: Most visitors start their travels in Nepal by backpacking through Kathmandu. While not nearly as mental as the streets of Delhi or other major cities in India, Kathmandu can be pretty intense. Get ready for the organised chaos and sensory overload! To take a break from the city life, you’ll find a number of epic hikes spread throughout the valley.

Bali

"So extraordinary, I decided to live here for good"

Bali is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, which is why I was unsure I would EVER visit. Hadn’t I already seen the whole place on Instagram?


But I did. And I stayed. I’ve been here for five years, and I don’t plan on ever leaving. It’s just that magical, and I can assure you that no amount of content can ever do it justice.


Speeding down a road surrounded by rice fields, shimmering in the most intense green you've ever seen. Sipping an ice cold coconut with sand between your toes and watching the skies change from pink and purple to baby blue.


These are completely normal, everyday experiences in Bali. They’re not even up top in what this little island has to offer.

Must-See Places in Bali
  • Sidemen: Immersive travellers, this one is absolutely for you. Perhaps my favourite place in all of Bali, this emerald green village will give you a chance to experience the “real Bali” long before it became a digital nomad hotspot. Get to know locals, experience real daily life, and simply be. Far away from the hustle of the island’s hippest neighborhoods, you should secure a spot for Sidemen on your itinerary.

  • Monkey Forest: A classic Bali must-see, this natural forest is overflowing with cheeky monkeys. Sacred Hindu temples are scattered throughout the forest, and there are many interesting statues and sculptures throughout. Although generally well preserved, many of the old relics are covered in moss and slightly overgrown, adding to the wild and mysterious atmosphere. You can explore the site independently or walk around with a guide to learn more about the monkeys and the forest’s significance. Tribal Bali: In 2022, I co-founded Tribal, the FIRST EVER custom-designed and painstakingly built digital nomad co-working hostel in Bali. Whether you are already a successful online entrepreneur or simply starting your journey and looking for inspiration, this is the place to be. And hell, if you’re a broke backpacker like myself there’s a place for you here at Tribal… if you want to have the freedom to travel forever, Tribal is where you can find inspiration, amigos and strategies to get started on that journey.


So there you have it, my fellow adventurers - the crème de la crème of destinations that have captured my heart and left me forever changed.


The beauty of travel lies not only in its transformational power, but also on how individual these journeys can be. Nobody else will experience the world for you.


Seek the extraordinary. Travel far, and let that spirit take you outside your comfort zone to places way beyond your wildest dreams.







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