The Runaway Guide Run Away & Travel The World Mon, 31 Aug 2015 08:57:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Runaway Review: July 2015 Sun, 09 Aug 2015 09:36:25 +0000 DSC01688Happy August From Sweden!

Today is the first day of upper 70’s F / 23-25C temperatures. The first day I can actually sit outside without a shirt. Summer has finally arrived in Sweden and it feels good!

As planned, almost all of July took place in my girlfriends quaint apartment in the small student town of Linkoping in central Sweden.

The Best Of July

1) I started drinking coffee and improving my Thai.

2) I seriously took advantage of the 18 hours of daylight and wrote a lots of chapters.

3) I jogged around 2 miles in the forest everyday and felt a significant increase in memory and overall brain power.

4) I BBQ’d deer steak and acquired a taste for it, especially the bone marrow.

5) I went to Stockholm for the weekend and saw a 98% authentic Swedish warship from the early 17th century.

the vasa ship in stockholm sweden

The Worst Of July

1) I gained around 20 pounds!

2) I broke the lid of a toilet seat at a friend’s apartment that we were borrowing and frantically ran through the streets of Stockholm looking for the broken part.


What July Taught Me About Life

Sometimes it’s cheaper and easier to simply buy a brand new toilet seat than desperately search for an obscure part on a Sunday morning in central Stockholm.

What The Future Holds?

I can’t believe it, but the summer’s almost over! In just 1 week I’ll be on a flight to Bangkok for an epic runaway adventure.

Email me ASAP if you want to come with us! TheRunawayGuide (at)

Other News

If you’re interested in moving to or visiting what is arguably the most beautiful place on earth, check out my new destination blog, (still a work in progress but coming along)

Screen Shot 2015-08-09 at 11.41.22

Final Remarks

I’ve been posting more on Instagram & Snapchat these days. You can find me at:
Instagram: TheRunawayGuide
Snapchat: TheRunawayGuide

As always, happy travels,



Possibilities, Travel Deals & News From The Road twice a month.

No spam, just better travel.

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How I Overcame Addiction Fri, 07 Aug 2015 07:44:18 +0000 kid smoking a cigaretteBlack boogers. Cat’s butt breath. Phlegm filled coughs. Overall brain deadness.

Yet every morning I would spark up a lip burning debate with my good friend the cancer stick.

I would smoke two to enhance my coffee buzz, a few to loosen the bowels, and a dozen to write a blog post.

Everyday for over 10 years I got closer and closer to becoming an 85 year old sea captain.

That is until one fateful day in the spring of 2015.

I remember it like it was yesterday. I was at a small pub by the name of Gringos Locos at my port of call in Panajachel, Guatemala. That night I induced enough beer and cigarettes to kill a sea lion. Not one of those baby ones, but one of those big blubbery great white shark lunch ones.

When morning came, I found burns on me legs, bruises on me ribs, and for a good 5 minutes hadn’t the foggiest where I was. With each wheeze my lungs cried out and my liver cringed. I had never felt sicker. I had also never felt more lucky to be alive. It reminded me of that time we were caught in a typhoon…an old norwegian sea captain drinking a beer on a beach

1) I Decided To Choose Life

I couldn’t be a veteran sea captain walking on his last pegged legs any longer. I finally understood that if I was going to lay strong foundations for a successful life, I needed to revive the health and brain power of my 20 year old self. 

I knew I had to quit smoking and embrace life again. 

marlboro label warning

2) I Was Afraid

However, the first few days were brutal. The cigarette monster that now inhabited some place in-between my lungs and stomach needed food and so I fed it. I threw dorritos, gummies, and popcorn at it. I slept as long as could hoping to ignore it. I did everything I could to dissipate the monster but nothing seemed to work.

So I punched the air, I punched the ground and I even punched myself. Eventually I uncovered the source of my anger.

Without tobacco’s artificial highs and prolonged lows, I had forgotten who I really was and I was afraid to find out.


3) I Quit Everything

I was so afraid that I quickly ended up substituting cigarettes with beers. I drank beer everyday, attempting to recreate the emotional haze that tobacco had provided for so many years. But after two weeks and an aching liver, I knew that beer would not be a sustainable substitute.

If I was serious about quitting smoking, then there was no choice but to get rid of tobacco, alcohol and every bad addiction like it.


4) I Found Myself Again

So I quit everything I knew fed my depression and emotional fog, and recalled all those things that would surely make me happy. I started running along mountain ridges, swimming in Lake Atitlan and exploring Maya villages. I began eating lots of papayas, chia seeds and healthy foods. I got addicted to everything that made me high when I was a kid. Natural highs.

After 3 weeks, I remembered who I really was again. I wasn’t a depressed old man whose only happiness lie at the bottom of a bottle or at the end of a cigarette.

I was in my 20’s, eager to satiate my curiosity of the world, to meet new people, to push my body up volcanoes, to live life and be happy.hanging out of a train in budapest

6 Months Later

I’ll admit that I’ve fallen from the top of the mast more than a few times now. But when I do, I hoist myself back up. And each time I do, I can see land clearer and more brightly than before.

Because ultimately I’ve made up my mind.

I’ve chosen now over later and life over death.

Like Lao Tzu the founder of Taoism so wisely proclaimed, “Only the fool succumbs to addiction”…And I ain’t no fool no more Mr. Tzu!

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Is Auschwitz Worth Visiting? Thu, 16 Jul 2015 20:00:23 +0000 ww2 sign at auschwitzTo be honest, I didn’t really want to visit. I had been to the Holocaust museum in New York many times growing up. I didn’t want to pay 20$ for what I knew would be a depressing 5 hour tour. But my friends wanted to go and so I decided to follow them.

First things first we had to decide whether we were going to take a shuttle/tour or go there on our own and walk around

Although Auschwitz was very sad, sometimes important things are. The whole experience was much more illuminating and intense than I expected. It was more than simply another documentary or a museum. It was a tangible testament to the horrors of the Nazi regime, the dangers of scapegoating minorities, and the evil that can be justified when people are dehumanized. It was definitely worth visiting, and I feel grateful to have witnessed this very important place.

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Run Away To Guatemala Sat, 11 Jul 2015 19:28:33 +0000 hanging from a truck in guatemalaOverview Preparation Budget Travel Guatemala Hideouts


Name: Republic Of Guatemala
Nick-Name: Guate (Guatay)
Population: 16,000,000
Capitol City: Guatemala City
Main Language: Spanish
English Speakers: Low
Main Religion: Christianity
Slogan: Land Of Eternal Spring

Runaway Review

Our Slogan: Land Of Volcanoes
Favorite Destination: Lake Atitlan
Top Experience: Meet The Maya
Safety: 3.7 out of 5.0
Friendliness: 4.1 out of 5.0
Deliciousness: 4.0 out of 5.0
Cheapness: 4.8 out of 5.0
Recommended Budget: 18$/Day

Guatemala is the largest country in Central America. It’s territory extends from the pacific, through highlands home to the modern Maya, across dense jungles filled with ancient ruins, and over to the Rasta rhythms of the Caribbean coast. There are so many different peoples, cultures and epic landscapes that there’s something for every traveler. Not only that, but Guatemala is one of the cheapest countries in Central America and the world.

World Travel Expert Rank:  4.8 out of 5.0


Guatemala isn’t as dangerous as you might think. Neither is El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, or Panama for that matter. Yes gang related violence does exist. Tourist are robbed, rooms are broken into, and violent crime does occur. But Guatemala, like the USA or any country, isn’t dangerous everywhere all the time. In fact, most cities, aside from Guatemala City, have a heavy police presence and are actually pretty safe. You really have to go looking for danger it if you want to experience it.

As long as you take necessary precautions like going out at night with groups, and staying out of bad neighborhoods, chances are you’ll never have a problem. Nevertheless, travel insurance is recommended.


Guatemala is extremely diverse both ethnically and culturally. In the highlands you’ll encounter the Maya. Along the Caribbean coast you’ll find the Garifuna. In large cities you’ll meet people of direct Spanish descent. And everywhere else, you’ll find a beautiful fusion of the three. Despite this cultural melange, or perhaps because of it, most people welcome gringos and other foreign travelers.

The Maya, much like the Japanese, tend to smile politely but are often weary of getting too close to foreigners. The Garifuna, descendants of Brazillian/African slaves, love to share their culture and coast with travelers. And the upper class Spaniards are so astonished you came that they’ll bend over backwards to show you a good time.


Guatemala, like much of Central America, is no culinary hotspot. Chicken with rice, beans and corn tortillas is the most common dish. In terms of street food, it’s all about the fried chicken and tacos. It’s good for what it is, but after a month you’ll wish you had more variety in your diet.

By far the most delicious part of Guatemala is it’s fruit and vegetables. Although you can buy almost any kind of produce, the avocado, papaya and mango really stands out. Remember to buy the fruit whole as opposed to pre-cut (dirty water used to clean fruit knifes = weeks of diarrhea).


Guatemala, along with El Salvador and Nicaragua, is one of the cheapest countries in Central America. Prices from food to accommodation can generally be found for 50-60% less than in the United States or Europe. Even in tourist hotspots, like the ancient Guatemalan capitol of Antigua, you can still find a budget hotel room with breakfast included for around 10$/night.

Top 10 Things To Do & See

1) Sunset On Lake Atitlan
2) Tube Semuc Champey
3) Climb Tikal
4) Thur & Sun at Chichi Market
5) Ruins Of Antigua

6) Hang From A Truck
7) Go Garifuna In Livingston
8) Climb Volcan Pacaya
9) Drink More Coffee
10) Learn From The Maya

Why Guatemala?

Guatemala is extremely cheap, it’s much safer than you think, and the locals, from the Garifuna in the north to the Maya of the highlands, make you feel simply comfortable. For these reasons and more, Guatemala received a score of 4.8 out of 5 from over 25 world travel experts.

Guatemala is my favorite country in the world for taking a short vacation, an extended backpacking adventure or even living longterm.

Step 1: Get Prepared ]]> 0
How Traveling Got Me Into College Thu, 09 Jul 2015 18:22:37 +0000 20140720_163039Everyone always says that going traveling will help you find your purpose. They exclaim that adapting to new environments builds confidence. They claim that the entire experience becomes an asset that you can draw upon for the rest of your life.

Honestly, I couldn’t agree more.

It was because of an understanding of my privileged position in the world that I decided to go to college. It was because of the new perspectives I gained that I knew exactly what I wanted to study. It was because of my travel story that I got in.

Whether you’re trying to illustrate to your parents the value of travel or trying to harness your past travels towards your academic career or a new job, check out my college application essay below.

Application Essay

Prompt #1

What is your intended major? Discuss how your interest in the subject developed and describe any experience you have had in the field – such as volunteer work, internships and employment, participation in student organizations and activities- and what you have gained from your involvement.

First, I would like to say that this program, Global Studies, is tremendous. For the past year I have habitually visited the website and read every aspect of it many times over. As I am reading the course descriptions and what the alumni are now doing, I am filled with excitement and know that this is something I will love and subsequently excel at. Furthermore, as vain as this may sound, I can think of no better candidate for this study then myself. From my multicultural heritage to my unconventional but highly rewarding travels in Europe and the Middle East, I am not only one who is culturally open minded but one who will bring first hand experience into class discussions and add to the global studies community at the University Of California Santa Barbara.

While globalization has reduced the infrequency of multi ethnic offspring, it still remains a unique trait and one which has provided me with a broad humanistic outlook. My Mother was born in Japan, the daughter of an Irish American serving in WWII and a Japanese mother. My Father was born in Norway, son of two Norse parents. Both ended up as leads in A Chorus Line, on Broadway, and created me and my younger sister. A prime example of the “American Melting pot.” The final score, ¼ Irish ¼ Japanese and ½ Norwegian. From Japanese cuisine, the etiquette which I observe through my grandmother Obachan and my random Buddhist lessons departed by my great uncle Bonchan, Japanese culture is an essential part of my life.


On the other hand, I have acquired strong Norsk nationalism through countless holidays with my grandmother Bestamore, snaking on Royk Laks, while she bestowed upon me her Lutheran ideals. All in all, a professional would say I’m an American with an identity crisis. On a serious note, my innate cultural pluralism has enabled me to better understand and see all people as siblings, connected beings, and has left me always searching for new cultures in which to enrich my life.

The multicultural suburban community that I grew up in presented me with an opportunity to indulge my fascination with peoples of different upbringing. In high school I focused most of my attention on world history and was a member of the Multicultural Club. I would often dream away math classes studying the miniature map of the world found in our homework organizer, imagining the different landscapes and peoples. My international heritage and society in which I developed all contributed to my fearless desire to explore and experience the world, just as my countryman and favorite explorer, Leif Erikson had done 1000 years before me.IMG_2831

However, instead of discovering the America, I would discover Europe and later the Middle East. Following High school, I took my backpack, my wits and my spirit and was off on the road less traveled. As I had no money, I hitch hiked, jumped trains and often slept in parks or on benches. Food came from kind restaurant owners throwing out leftovers at closing time and dumpsters behind supermarkets containing goods only a few days past their expiration. I visited nearly every European country over the course of around 6 months. I gained a sort of European perspective few have encountered. Every new country I entered, sublimity crept into my spine creating euphoric goosebumbs. Such different lifestyles and people translated into infinite inner possibility. The more I saw the more I wanted to see and the more I learned, I realized how little I knew. I gained an enormous wealth of experience and knowledge, which has influenced my outlook daily.

When I left the western world and entered the extreme unknowns of the Middle East, theses feelings increased exponentially. Although fears did plague my conscience as the media and western culture had left me confused about what to expect from this region, I entered with an open mind. However, the moment I stepped out of the train station in Istanbul, I fell in love with the place. Countless people offered me tea and asked if I was hungry, a theme which continued throughout my stay in this intriguing land. In Syria, a man named Atif from Canada who was studying Islam in Damascus offered me two weeks lodging in his apartment as well as food. He bought me a haircut, Muslim attire, a prayer mat and beads. It was with him that I experienced and partook in Muslim prayer at a mosque.


Next, I worked in a Hotel in Amman for one month. This job provided further insight into Muslim life and the language of Arabic. Finally, experiencing Ramadan in Cairo was by far the most enlightening. For one month, the entire city including my self would fast during the day. At the moment the sun descended beneath the horizon, the call to prayer would sound and tables and chairs where erected like dominos in reverse. Each day, the richest men of Cairo catered food for the masses, a concept so generous I could hardly believe. I also spent time in Israel, attending temple for the high holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. I heard the views of Israelis towards their Arab neighbors and vice versa. Perspectives and insights such as these gave greater depth to what I had learned in text books and through the news, giving me an understanding few my age could fathom. I was 16.


I have since continued to fulfill my wanderlust during breaks in my academic career. The year after, I spent three months discovering Eastern Europe and the year after that, I traveled through India, Nepal and Thailand for six months.

My interest in global studies commenced through my culturally diverse background, and continued through my expeditions of Europe the Middle East and beyond. They will persist as long as my travel bug remains, there is mystery to be uncovered and knowledge to obtain. I see my future as a great opportunity to build on all my experiences so far. I will continue to surround myself with different cultures, and educate myself with the intent on better understanding the world we live in. I greatly desire to continue preparing for my life of travels and studies by attending UCSB’s Global Studies program.

Harness Travel

With this application letter I was accepted to UCSB. There I dedicated myself to the Global Studies major, graduated a year early with a 3.8 GPA, and even got Arnold Schwarzenegger’s autograph. I owe much of this success to myriad life experiences and knowledge gained through travel.


Travel can inspire, build confidence, help you find new purpose, and equip you with some stories that you’re definitely not going to want to tell your parents about. Take a gap year, study abroad in high school, or train through Europe this summer. It’s a decision you won’t regret for the rest of your life, I guarantee it.

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Guatemala Budget Travel Sun, 05 Jul 2015 08:36:59 +0000 one hundred guatemalan quetzalsOverview Preparation Budget Travel Guatemala Hideouts

Budget Travel Index

Currency Name: Quetzales “Q” (GTQ)
Average Rate: 1$ = 7 Q

  • Budget Hotel: 50 Q
  • Dorm Bed: 40 Q
  • 3 Tacos: 15 Q
  • Brahva Beer: 5 Q

Current Rates

Minimum Budget: 14$/Day

Comfortable Budget: 24$/Day

Recommended Budget: 18 USD/Day


How Travel Around Guatemala For Cheap

  • Chicken Bus: is simply a US school bus that has been “pimped-out,” is failing emission standards, and is used to transport everything from chickens to the elderly between towns and across countries. Prices range from 25 cents to 2-4$ depending on the distance.
  • Hitchhiking: varies significantly by region. In the Mayan highlands it’s often very difficult to find someone willing to stop. And those who do are looking for compensation. In the Caribbean north, hitchhiking attempts are often more successful. In general, hitchhiking in Guatemala is not impossible but more times than not you’ll end up paying a few dollars to ride with 40 others in the back of a truck.
  • Shuttle Bus: operators can be found in almost every Guatemalan city. These shuttles are specifically for tourists and have prices to match. However, they’re still pretty cheap and arguably the easiest way to get around the country. For example, from Antigua to Lake Atitlan takes around 3 hours and costs just 10$. For more info about getting around Guatemala , check out

How To Eat Cheap In Guatemala

  • Local Markets: offer the cheapest means of sustenance in Guatemala. 3 Avocados = 1$, 1 big papaya = 1$, 1 pound of Chia seeds = 3$.
  • Local Market Restaurants: Small restaurants located in the market area always serve up authentic local dishes at guaranteed local prices. If lots of locals are eating there, than it’s probably pretty safe to eat. Fried pork chop with rice, salad, tortillas and tamarind juice costs about 2.50$.
  • Street Food: isn’t that great in Guatemala. The friend chicken and french fries are generally soggy and taste of old oil. The tacos wrapped in corn tortillas are pretty sweaty as well. But for 2$, it’s a decent meal in a pinch.

How To Sleep Cheap In Guatemala

  • Sleeping On The Street: is not recommended, especially in cities. If you decide to camp in the countryside, it’s a good idea to find an isolated location. Farmers and land owners generally won’t mind but it’s often better to stay out of sight.
  • Budget Hotels: offer the cheapest accommodation in most destinations. Private rooms are often very basic and average between 8-15$/night. You can search for budget hotels in Antigua and other cities on Agoda.
  • Hostels: Only the biggest cities like Antigua have hostels. Backpacker hostels often cost the same as budget hotels, with dorm beds for around 8$/night. Cheaper hostel dorms can be found for around 4$/night. You can find cool hostels in Antigua and other cities on Hostel World.
  • Couchsurfing: is growing in Guatemala. It’s not a bad way to get to know locals.
  • AirBnb: in Guatemala is filled with vacation rentals. Most listings are gringo owned. Still, it’s not a bad way to find a comfortable room in a private house. Sign up with AirBnb and get 25$ towards your first stay.
Step 4: Find Your Hideout ]]> 0
Guatemala Preparation Guide Sat, 04 Jul 2015 12:30:04 +0000 DSC02126Overview Preparation Budget Travel Guatemala Hideouts

Preparation Overview

Best Time To Go: Oct-Nov
Worst Time To Go: Aug-Sept
Fly To: La Aurora International (GUA)
Visa?: Free 90 days
Cash?: ATM/Exchange On Arrival

Immunizations: Typhoid, Hep A
Tap Water: Bad News
Diarrhea Risk: Fairly High
Travel Insurance: Excellent Idea
Don’t Forget: A Windbreaker

Recommended Resources & Gear

How To Pack For Guatemala

The key to packing for any trip is to pack light. This is especially true if you’re planning on hiking the highlands or taking chicken busses.

If you’re on the road and realize there’s something you need, you can almost always buy it in Guatemala and usually for much cheaper than at home.

Below are a few essentials you won’t want to forget!

  • Footware: 1 pair of sandals for the coast and 1 pair of shoes for climbing volcanoes.
  • Bathing suit: for surfing Montericco or swimming in the Caribbean.
  • Wind Breaker: combined with a light sweater is the perfect combination for staying warm on volcano hikes and during the evenings in the highlands.
  • Long Pants: 1 pair of long pants is necessary on cool evenings and when visiting traditional Maya towns.
  • Toiletries: I always recommend that you leave all liquid toiletries like shampoos and creams at home. This way you don’t have to check your bag and can avoid budget airline fees.
  • Documentation: Passport photocopies, passport sized photos, vaccination pappers, travel insurance papers, and ticket information are all good things to carry.
  • Technology: Unless you have to, I would recommend leaving your laptop at home. Almost everyone, aside from bloggers like myself, get by fine with nothing but a smart phone.
  • Comfort: Ear plugs, sleeping mask to block out church bells, dogs, and angry grandmas.

For a more extensive guide to packing, check out How To Pack For Central America.

The Best Time To Visit Guatemala

Guatemala’s climate varies significantly between regions and by altitude. However, much of the country is characterized by two seasons.

  • Summer season:Last from early November and lasts till around late May. This season is characterized by hot and dry weather.
  • Winter/Rainy season: known as Inveirno (winter), lasts from early April and ends around mid October. This season is characterized by afternoon showers and cooler nights.

Although travel in Guatemala is great throughout the year, the best time of year to travel is right after the winter season. During the month of October the landscape is lush and the lack of tourists means it’s easier to bargain down prices for both market textiles and budget hotels.

Do You Need A Visa For Guatemala?

For the latest visa information for all nationalities check out the Ministerio De Relaciones Exteriores.

  • Citizens of US, CA, UK, EU, AU, NZ: receive a free 90 day tourist visa on arrival at Guatemala City International Airport.
  • Guatemala is part of the CA4: which means your tourist visa is valid for travel among Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua for 90 days (Not 90 days within each country). Although the CA4 is akin to the Schengen Zone, most borders do enforce passport control and some will even charge you an extra fee (ex/Guatemala >> Copan Ruins, Honduras).

How To Get To Guatemala

The cheapest airport to fly into is La Aurora International Airport (GUA) located in the heart of Guatemala City. Note that this airport is just a 1 hour shuttle from Antigua.

Additionally, you can also fly into San Salvador, which is a 5 hour shuttle away from Antigua.

For cheap flights from your location you can check out Skyscanner or the individual airlines recommended below.

  • From North America: Spirit Air offers flights a low as 50$ from Ft. Lauderdale to San Salvador and 100$ to Guatemala city.
  • From Europe: Your best option is to fly Norwegian Air from Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm, or Gatwick to Ft. Lauderdale. These flights cost around 250$ on average. Then look for a connecting flight through Spirit air.
  • From Oceania: If you’re coming from New Zealand or Australia, first try and find a cheap flight to Los Angeles. Then search separately for a connecting flight to Guatemala City. Again, check out Spirit Air.
Step 2: Travel Cheap ]]> 0
Guatemala Hideouts Fri, 03 Jul 2015 17:05:06 +0000 DSC01961Overview Preparation Budget Travel Guatemala Hideouts

Runaway Hideouts are both short and long term accommodation options. They’re off the beaten path and always the best value.  All opinions expressed are always 100% my own. 

Vulcano Lodge

Ultimate off the beaten path garden hideout  

Price: 40$ / night
Location: Jaibalito, Lake Atitlan
The Low Down: fast wifi, excellent nachos, high powered showers, flowers and humming birds, traditional Mayan life, eccentric American, German, Israeli, Swedish and Norwegian expats, infinity pool nearby, authentic and cheap German food across the street, relaxation, yoga, writing, hiking, kayaking, living & loving life. Read the full review of Vulcano Lodge.

Check Availability & Reserve

Hostal Posada De San Carlos

Start Guatemala off the right way

hostal-antiguaPrice: 7$ / Dorm | 40$/ private
Location: Antigua
The Low Down: in the heart of Antigua, modern yet charming, class on a budget, a place to ease into hostel life, from backpackers to pensioners, perfect amount of social space, huge terrace with volcano and world heritage site views, fast wifi, unique private rooms, comfortable beds, super relaxed and friendly staff.

Check Availability & Reserve

Find Your Own Hideout On Agoda

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The Best Regions For Budget Travel Tue, 30 Jun 2015 16:50:29 +0000 There’s a lot of debate over which region is the best.

But there are only 3 main contenders;

They are:

Southeast Asia | Eastern Europe | Central America

Screen Shot 2015-07-04 at 21.08.23

So what sets these regions apart from other popular destinations?

1) They’re all composed of unique countries located in close proximity to one another.
2) They’re relatively safe and easy to get around.
3) And most importantly, they’re all budget friendly.

So which one of these regions is the best?

In the guide below we’ll take a look at the most important budget travel indexes. These include Safety, Friendliness, Deliciousness and Daily Budget.

Then we’ll put these regions head to head, and let you decide which region is best for you and your next adventure.

(Certain generalizations have been made out of necessity. These generalizations aspire to reflect the dominant themes of the region. They do not attempt to characterize the countless smaller unique peoples and cultures that compose them.)


Southeast Asia

(Exc. Indian Subcontinent)


I love Southeast Asia. I fell in love with it the first time I visited in 2006 and I fall in love with it every time I return.

It’s got beaches and bungalows, and temples and big Buddha’s. It’s got all the world’s religions and all those crazy wonderful people that come with them. It’s a place where you can both surround yourself with other backpackers on island paradises or immerse yourself in traditional ways of life. It’s also budget backpacker cheap.

Safety: 4.4 out of 5

Southeast Asia is one of the safest regions in the world for travelers.

Although there does exist violent groups in the Philippines and on the border between Thailand and Malaysia to name a few, the vast majority of the region is extremely safe. Governments are relatively stable and the rule of law is strong.

In tourist hotspots, there is always the possibility of pickpockets and bungalow break-ins, but harsh punishments and the law of karma makes petty crime relatively rare.

Perhaps the biggest threat to one’s safety is disease. Although tropical diseases such as Dengue fever, and Malaria exists, you’re far more like to get travelers diarrhea. Fortunately, most pharmacies will prescribe you an Antibiotic course with no hassle, and for around just 15$.

Friendliness: 3.9 out of 5

It’s very hard to generalize, but from Singapore to Thailand and Myanmar to Laos, there’s an exceptional amount of emphasis on being polite, staying calm, smiling before interactions, and maintaining harmony. Most people smile at and will help foreign travelers in need. Even if it’s a fake smile out of politeness, it still feels welcoming.

However, there are always places, especially in Thailand, where locals have been dealing with backpackers for so many years that they’re absolutely sick of us.

Deliciousness: 4.8 out of 5

Don’t even get me started on the food. Mango with sticky rice, Won Ton Soup, Pork Sandwiches, all kinds of BBQ’d things on sticks and coconuts in countless incarnations.

If you’re a spicy food addict, look no further than Thailand. If you’re looking to try authentic Indian, Malay, Chinese or a fusion of all of them, SE Asia is your region.

Daily Budget: 23/Day

Aside from Singapore & Malaysia, prices range between 30%-50% less than Western Europe and the US (and even more if you get off the full moon circuit).

Cheapest countries in SE Asia: Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia
Most expensive countries in SE Asia: Malaysia, Singapore

Price Index
Beach Bungalow: 10 $
Pork On A Stick: 1 $
Wonton Soup: 1.50 $
Sugar Cane Juice: 0.50 $
640ml Beer At 7/11: 1.50$

A comfortable daily budget for travel in tourist areas: 25$/day
A comfortable daily budget for travel in the countryside: 18$/day

Recommended Minimum Budget: 23$/day

*budget is an average based on 3 meals & cheap accommodation across region


SE Asia is safe, definitely the most delicious, friendly enough, and as cheap as they come. In Thailand you can hop skip from one island paradise to the next with a coconut curry in hand. In Cambodia you can explore Angkor Wat like Indiana Jones. In Indonesia and the Phillippines you can surf some sizable and consistent breaks. And in Vietnam, you can overdose on Buddhist temples if you want.

Maybe it’s because my Japanese Grandmother, Haruko, imparted upon me some Asian tastes buds. Or maybe it’s because the cultural mélange of Malaysia and much of the region reminds me of my hometown of New York. Whatever the case, Southeast Asia always feels like a second home and it’s one of my favorite regions to travel through.


Eastern Europe


The very first time I traveled to Eastern Europe, I thought one thing; this region is ghetto and I love it. City blocks were in disrepair, buildings were bombed out, and Soviet era trams ran the streets.

Everyone seemed to be rougher around the edges, yet somehow nicer at the same time. Although I didn’t have any money, the train ticket checkers would let me stay on the train. If I asked politely, restaurant owners would even invite me to eat. Everyone was poorer than in Western Europe but people helped me much more.

This hospitality inspired 3 more adventures that took me through nearly every country in the region. During this time, I furthered my understanding of a diverse mix of people and cultures scattered across an even more diverse and beautiful landscape.

Eastern Europe is much cheaper than, just as naturally beautiful as, and arguably as safe as Western Europe for travelers. Although the region is kind of ghetto, it’s ghetto in the best kind of way, making it one of the best regions for budget travel.

Safety: 3.9 out of 5

Although Eastern Europe has a bad reputation for being dodgier than it’s Western counterparts, it’s really not as dangerous as you might think. I was never once robbed, picked on, or felt threatened throughout two months of hitchhiking.

Different and a bit ghetto yes, more Roma people yes, more traffic law breaking yes, more road side prostitutes yes…more dangerous? not so much as long as you take common sense precautions. Still it’s not a bad idea to buy some travel insurance before you go.

Friendliness: 4.0 out of 5

From Poland to Bulgaria I noticed a similar theme. Although at first people had tough shells, after a few minutes or beers, they quickly dissolved into welcoming smiles.

People either ignored me out right or, and most often, tried their best to help. When they found out I was American, they wouldn’t hesitate to break out an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie line.

Deliciousness: 3.4 out of 5

Aside from Greece, Eastern Europe isn’t really known for it’s food, which is a shame because they really do excellent meat, cheese, and stews.

For example, no one can do Goulash better than the Hungarians. And few countries can match Croatia’s wine and seafood.

More, if you’re on a budget, it’s all about the baked goods, most notably the Burek. In almost every country in Eastern Europe you can find some form of Burek. It’s basically a cream and feta cheese filled pastry with yogurt drizzled on top. It’s simple but delicious, and best of all, extremely cheap.

Daily Budget: 26$/day

Aside from most capitol cities, prices are around 15%-25% less than Western Europe.

The Cheapest Countries: Moldova, Albania, Poland
The Most Expensive Countries: Croatia, Hungary, Greece

Price Index
Hostel Dorm: 10-15 $
Budget Hotel Room: 15-20 $
Burek Pastry: 0.50 $
0.5 L Beer: 1$
Mid-range Restaurant Meal: 4-7$

Comfortable daily budget for travel in cities: 33$/day.
Comfortable daily budget for travel in the countryside: 24$/day.

Recommended Minimum Budget: 26$/day

*budget is an average based on 3 meals & cheap accommodation across region



Prices from Poland to Albania tend to be considerably cheaper than Western Europe. The people are poorer on average but often considerably friendlier and welcoming. Everything is generally kind of ghetto, but ghetto in a really good, let’s break the speed limit and paint graffiti, kind of way.

If you’re interested in backpacking Europe but looking for a cheaper experience off the beaten path, Eastern Europe is where it’s at.


Central America


Even while I hitchhiked through Sudan, the thought of traveling through Central America still made me nervous. I always envisioned the whole region being awash with gangsters and wannabe gangsters. I put off visiting for ages.

It wasn’t until Oct 2013, after finding a 79$ flight from NYC to San Salvador, that I finally decided to jump. Not only did a net appear but the net was just a buck and there wasn’t a gangster in sight.

Central America is arguably the cheapest and possibly the best region in the world for budget travel. If you like tacos, you won’t find them more delicious than here. If you got ants in your pants, there’s always a bar where you can dance. If you want to immerse yourself into indigenous culture there’s no better than the Mayan. For all of this and more, Central America is one of the world’s best budget travel regions.

Safety: 3.4 out of 5

Chances are you won’t run into any gangsters unless you venture into ghettos and go looking for them.

In reality, the biggest threat to your safety are thieves that prey on gringos. I myself have even fallen victim to them. The last time I was in Antigua, Guatemala, I was beat up and had my camera stolen from around my neck. Just glad I had travel insurance.

However, situations like these are easily avoided if you take precautions. For example, don’t get too drunk and wander around dark backstreets in the middle of the night. Definitely learned my lesson the hard way.

For the most part, you will feel relatively safe as a traveler in Central America.

Friendliness: 4.6 out of 5

I found the people, especially the indigenous people of the Guatemalan highlands and Nicaraguan jungles, to be the kindest, warmest, and most welcoming people I’ve ever found anywhere.

Although some people are opportunistic and looking to profit from friendships, most people generally want to help you out and then hang out.

Deliciousness: 3.8 out of 5

If Central America was a single country the national dish would be rice, beans, and chicken. Aside from this, the most common budget meals are tacos, corn tortillas, funky sandwiches filled with too much ketchup, Papusas, burritos, and plantains (fried bananas).

Although Central America has cheap and delicious food, unless you’re in Mexico, it’s hit or miss from little town to big city.

Daily Budget: 20$/day 

Prices across Central America tend to be 40%-50% less than the United States.

The Cheapest Countries: Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua
The Most Expensive Countries: Costa Rica, Panama, Mexico

Price Index
Hostel Dorm: 6-12 $
Budget Hotel Room: 14-24 $
3 Tacos: 2.25 $
0.5 L Beer: 0.65$
Mid-range Restaurant Meal: 3-5$

Comfortable daily budget for travel in cities: 22$/day.
Comfortable daily budget for travel in the countryside: 16$/day.

Recommended Minimum Budget: 20$/day

*budget is an average based on 3 simple meals & cheap accommodation across region



Central America is full of quaint colonial cities, sky scraping volcanoes, enticing surf, tasty tacos, diverse cultures, and a wonderful melange of Latin rhythm and local hospitality.

If it’s you’re first time traveling, you can easily make friends and get a taste of the region along the Gringo Trail. If you’re looking to get off the beaten path, you can venture into the Guatemalan highlands for a true Maya experience.

Central America is an excellent region for first time budget travelers, and it’s also my favorite region in the world.


The Best Region For Budget Travel


#1 SE Asia 4.4
#2 EE 3.9
#3 CA 3.4


#1 CA 4.6
#2 SE Asia 3.9
#3 EE 3.4


#1 SE Asia 4.8
#2 CA 3.8
#3 EE 3.4


#1 CA 20$ (+5)
#2 SEA 23$ (+2.5)
#3 EE 26$ (+0)

So Which Region Wins?

#1 Central America Total Score: 17
#2 Southeast Asia Total Score: 15.6
#3 Eastern Europe Total Score: 11.3

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Krakow: Charming, Cheap, Delicious & Just Ghetto enough Sun, 28 Jun 2015 11:32:15 +0000 brick building in krakow poland“So what will we do with you now?

He said it long and slow, biting into W’s and licking his L’s.

“Are you joking?” I said, my heart racing faster than it should of been.

“Not joking you. You must pay.”

All I could see was his big dumb polished head reflecting the bus stop information screen.

“Ok, ok, look. I tried to buy a ticket but I couldn’t figure out that machine. I just arrived and I’m trying to find my hotel. Can you please cut me a break or at the very least just back off a little bit.”

Only in Eastern Europe would bus ticket checkers resemble some kind of gang. They had no uniforms, piercings in their eyebrows, and seemed to know no other way to converse than by physical intimidation.

As you might expect, I wasn’t thrilled by my first experience in Krakow. I even regretted coming for a few minutes.

But this is the kind of thing that Eastern Europe is all about. It’s rough around the edges. And I was definitely expecting this.

Fortunately, Krakow got better. It got a lot better.

Although Krakow retains a level of Eastern European ghetto-ness, it’s more refined, historic, delicious, and budget friendly than I could have ever imagined.



Krakow Isn’t like The Rest Of Eastern Europe

I was always under the impression that all everybody ever did here was drink vodka. But the very first thing I saw, before I nearly got beat by ticket controllers, were hundreds of fit people jogging along the river in the evening light.

There’s also something very peculiar about the population of Krakow. In all my time here, I never once saw a Roma, an African immigrant, or really anyone foreign who wasn’t a tourist. It was a bit bizarre, and raised a lot of controversial questions for me. At the same time, I have to admit, never once being hassled was really refreshing.

It’s not just the people of Krakow, who seem health conscious, liberal, and ubiquitously Polish, but it’s also the history that sets this city apart. Unlike many European cities that suffered complete destruction during the wars of the 20th century, Krakow was never bombed. This means that all of it’s 150 churches and it’s castles, some of which date back to the 13th century, are all in tact. You can also find Schindler’s factory, along with the whole set of the movie, practically as it was in the 1940’s.

Each block transports one to different eras. It’s nostalgique, melancholic, and simply charming.

fred astaire painting poland

Eastern European Cheap

The architecture is antiquated and prices seem to be too. Everything in Krakow is cheap. The 30 minute bus ride from the Airport to downtown costs just 1$ (Unless you don’t have a ticket and then it’s 35$). And tram and bus tickets around the city go for 50 cents a ride.

Krakow is also full of cheap eats, from 4 and 5 star restaurant dishes for around 10$ to street food for just a buck.

You can sleep cheap too with a dorm bed in a quaint centrally located hostel for just 10$ (Good Bye Lenin Hostel). Or you can splurge a bit and get a private cabin in a boat hotel for 2 for just 26$ – Excellent breakfast spread included. (Hostel On The River Marta)

hostel on a boat poland

Hip & Delicious

The beauty of the cities is only rivaled by it’s traditional fare. In Kazimierz, Krakow’s Jewish quarter, Polish Jew’s are rediscovering their rich traditions and cuisine. At street side cafes you’ll find the most delicious Kosher Polish fusion in the world. Definitely try the Perogies, Polish dumplings filled with cabbage and potatoes.

Just a few blocks away in Ploc Nowy, the ‘hipster’ square, you’ll find vodka bars (aka Bania Luka) and beer gardens with drink and food all for just 75 cents a glass/plate. Be sure to try a Zapoekanka, Krakow’s ultimate drunk people food. It’s basically a huge French oven pizza smothered with mushrooms and cheese, and whole lot of ketchup on top for just 1$.

cheap vodka bar in krakow called bane luka

An Unfortunate Past

Just 60 kilometers away from Krakow lay the largest and most notorious concentration camp of Nazi regime, Auschwitz.

Here, nearly 1,300,000 Jew, Poles, and other enemies of the Reich were murdered. It’s an extremely sobering day trip and something everyone should experience, whether you’re interested in this history or not.

halt sign at auschwitz concentration camp

Eastern European & Ghetto?

Yes, there are some aspects of Krakow that make it unmistakably Eastern European and a bit ghetto.

But the city is ghetto is the best kind of way. Delicious drunk people street food and modern Polish fusion at sidewalk bistros thrive side by side. Everything is remarkably cheap from food and accommodation to transport and attractions, but the city is anything but poor. And crumbling streets aren’t simply in disrepair, they’re just really old and charming.

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