3 Reasons to Travel to Poor Countries

by STEVE BLOOM

Bayon(巴戎寺)

In less than a week, I’ll be on a plane flying to Ireland. By far, this will be the richest country I’ll have traveled through. Up to this point, I’ve kept to poor and developing countries around the world. It’s not that I’ve been avoiding rich countries; I just haven’t had an opportunity to go to one yet.

The fact that I’m well-traveled and have never been to a rich country before seems to make me somewhat of a curiosity to many people. When I converse about travel, I often get asked what draws me to poorer countries. So I decided that I would make a list of all my reasons. Now the next time I get asked this question, I can just point them to this post.

1. They’re cheaper

Cost is a big factor for most people when deciding where to travel. For me, it’s not so much of an issue. The reason is simple. Poor countries are extremely cheap to travel within.

Traveling doesn’t necessarily need to cost much. I remember spending $5 for a nice room in a hostel for one night in Hanoi in Vietnam. A meal there costs just a couple of dollars. In total, my entire daily expenses there equaled what I would spend for just a place to stay in a richer country.

I’ve had people disbelieve the price I’ve quoted before or argue that the hostel conditions must have been atrocious. But this isn’t the case. The room was far from luxurious, but it wasn’t horrible either. Most rooms are about as basic as you can get. They’re small with one or two beds, no TV, no appliances and no amenities. The rooms are for storing your stuff and sleeping. They are not gross in any way, simply functional and therefore cheap.

I know that you can get rooms in rich countries that are cheap too. But they’re not often as cheap as these places. What hostel in a rich country can offer a place to stay for $5 a night? Plus, for places like this in rich countries you often have to sacrifice cleanliness. This is something I prefer not to do.

The biggest benefit of cheaper travel is you can travel longer. With such low expenses, you burn through your money at a slower pace. This is the big reason why I could travel through Southeast Asia for several months at a time. If I had spent that much time in Western Europe, my savings would have been wiped out.

2. There’s so much to see

One thing people often don’t consider is how much there is to see and do in these countries. Just because a country is poor doesn’t mean there isn’t anything of value there. In fact, I find the opposite is true. Some of the most amazing sites in the world can be found in poorer countries.

Most people seem to know about the pyramids and the Taj Mahal. They’re big names with a lot of attention and popularity attributed to them. They’re well-known to most travelers and non-travelers alike. So if I were to tell someone I’ve been to Egypt, they can relate to it and ask me if I enjoyed seeing the pyramids. The same isn’t true for most countries though.

Most poor countries don’t have a big name tourist attraction everyone has heard of. Many people stare blankly at me when I tell them I traveled through Nicaragua. Their first question is usually to ask why I went there. They’re even further amazed when I tell them how much I loved it there and want to go back.

I understand it takes up a lot of time to study which tourist attractions are in each country. So when some people ask me they genuinely don’t know and are curious. But I feel as if many others assume that unless a third world country has a big name tourist attraction then there isn’t anything worth seeing there.

This is something I feel doesn’t happen in the same way for rich countries. So far I’ve haven’t been asked why I want to travel to Ireland. And I’m sure I wouldn’t be questioned about why I wanted to travel to Australia or Western Europe.

3. Different ways of living

Culture is often said to be a big reason for traveling. You go to another place to meet new people and experience new ways of living. This is probably the biggest reason I travel to poor countries. I find cultures in these countries to be really far removed from my own. I value their differences as being both unique and intriguing to me.

This is something you can experience in richer countries, but to a lesser degree. In the United Kingdom and Australia, they speak English. Many watch similar television shows and our cultures mostly overlap. Since many European cultures immigrated to the US, we’ve become familiar with many of their customs and languages. Of course there are some differences, but not as much as in poor countries.

Exploring a New (Third) World

I don’t want to appear as if I don’t value travel to richer countries. I do. And perhaps my views will change once I start traveling to more of them. But I don’t think I’ll ever stop loving travel through third world countries. Their affordable destinations, unique cultures and sites are not something I want to give up. But travel to those countries will have to wait, for now I’m on my way to Ireland.

P.S. I have posts scheduled to release for the next few weeks while I am in Ireland.  However, I might miss posting something one week while I am on my trip.  I will get back to my regular posting schedule when I return.
photo credit: 14983

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Comments

  1. #3 is it for me! (Okay, I won’t lie, #1 is pretty sweet also)

    The thing I love about travelling in poorer countries is that their cultures and living situations are SO different from mine. When I travel, I’m hoping to experience new perspectives…not the same, otherwise I’d just stay home.

    In fact, I’d say for that same reason, I really love to travel in countries where English is not widely spoken. Talk about culture shock. And new experiences for sure.

    • I travel mostly for the new perspectives and experiences too. I have traveled within the U.S. before and had a great time though so I can see its allure. But I do love the different cultures and new experiences that come with them. That’s a big draw for me.

  2. i agree with you… a dollar goes a long way in poor countries… :-) i remember when i was in France, i had a lunch with my friend in a streetside cafe and it cost 20 euro… uggghh that 20 euro will surely be enough for my three day stay in other countries :-)

    • The same thing happened to me in Ireland. The amount I paid for in one meal would last me a couple of days in Cambodia. That’s a huge deal if you’re planning on traveling long term or want to conserve your money.

  3. Since there are so many personal reasons to travel to one place or another, I cannot say that I specifically travel to ‘poor’ or ‘rich’ countries – if I had my way I’d visit ALL of them!
    But I agree that the non-English speaking countries are usually more of a contrast to what I am used to and therefore, for me, they are more interesting. Combine this with enormous differences of culture and spice it up with a new language and you usually have a fascinating travel experience!
    Enjoy (‘expensive’) Ireland!

    • If I had my way, I’d visit everywhere too. There’s something good to discover in every country whether rich or poor. I agree too that traveling should be done for personal reasons. It’s good though for people to consider poorer countries since they sometimes get overlooked.

  4. Another reason I prefer to travel in poor(er) countries is because I’ve found the friendliest, happiest and most genuine people in these parts. People who are not burdened by the need to get ahead and acquire more. These are the simplest most content people who are happy as long as they can eat 3 times a day.

    It gives you such a different perspective in life. You realize that people can live on so little and still afford to smile. It’s not that I don’t like developed countries, I just like developing countries way way better!

    • Very well put. Some of the happiest, friendliest people I’ve met were in poorer countries. Of course, these countries have their problems, but it really does show how little you need to be content.

  5. aleksmeister says:

    man i wish i would have time to read all of these entries; they offer a lot of insight and i feel i could learn so much. it’s just that i keep postponing that moment…

  6. I’ll really enjoy poorer countries best. Something about a grittier life makes me feel more alive. I dont know. Perhaps I’m just terribly privileged.

    • I get the same way. There is something about the lifestyle that I find appealing. I guess it makes me feel alive too. It’s good to know that I’m not the only one out there that thinks the same way.

  7. There is another reason too: it benefits the people by bringing dollars into the country. Even renting a room at five dollars is a help to the local economy.

    One thing I really like about living in a poor country is that inside of a week, you know all your neighbors, in contrast to the US where you probably don’t know most of your neighbors after years of living close to them.

    • You remind me of a story about a small town in Cambodia. The young children there crowded our bus to sell soda pop and various items of food. The money they made was small to us, but meant a lot for them.

  8. I have never traveled to a poor country yet but I do like the idea of getting rooms and food for cheap. I went to Ireland back in 1999 and it was awesome. The people were so friendly and Ireland is so small that it is easy to travel around.

    • Getting rooms and food for cheap is great. While I did love Ireland, the prices there were higher than anything I was used to. By the way, I thought the people there were friendly too.

  9. the culture in 3rd world countries really are so much different and rich in history. i like your view on traveling to poor countries and would like to start traveling employing your tactics.

  10. I agree with this post. I think travelling in third world countries will make you rich in realizations once you go back to your home country

  11. I can totally relate. There’s a big difference between going to Sweden for a week or spending the same money on a month in Vietnam (I’ve done that three times).

  12. I love this post! I’m a huge fan of developing countries. They’re where I have my greatest adventures!

  13. I haven’t traveled to a poor country yet, but I definitely have many on my list. I think a lot of people have a fear about it, but I think once they’re actually in the environment that fear will go away. PS – Have an amazing time in Ireland!

    • I had a lot of fear about my first trip to Thailand. I didn’t know what to expect. But you’re right, once you’re actually there and realize that you don’t have anything to be afraid of, it goes away.

  14. I’ve enjoyed my time in both richer and poorer countries. There’s a lot to be said about both. I guess I feel like I can relax more in richer countries/it takes less energy to travel. But poorer countries are certainly easier on my wallet and can provide a better insight into a culture different from mine. Have fun in Ireland!

    • I can see how it would take a little more energy to travel to poorer countries. When I went to Guatemala, I had to fly into Belize and immediately book a flight on a four seat single engine plane to make the last leg of the journey. It was long and frustrating, but I made it there. I think it was worth it, but I can see how some people wouldn’t like it.

  15. Yes! I am all about visiting less fortunate countries. Two of my favorite places to visit are Honduras and Belize. Both countries are plagued by poverty, yet the people there seem happier than in the more establish countries that I have visited. They find pleasure in the little things in life and are so down to Earth and easy to talk to (if you know the language that is!).

    • I love Belize too. I think there is so much that country has to offer. I agree that the people there are friendly and find pleasure in the little things. I haven’t been to Honduras yet, but I hope to go soon.

  16. I think the only truly poor countries I’ve been to are Mexico and Cambodia. Maybe Vietnam is considered to be poor – I don’t know – but traveling there after I left Cambodia, it seemed to be pretty rich, what with its paved roads and bridges and large buildings and all. I thought Egypt was poor too, but on my last visit there I remarked on all the paved roads even in the middle of the desert, to the owner of the hotel where I was staying at and he pointed out that Egypt is actually a rich country – it’s just its people who are poor. It will be interesting to see what you think of a rich country, Steve :)

    • I can see Vietnam being rich when compared to Vietnam too. I’ve been to both places and there is a noticeable difference in living standards. I like your story about Egypt. The country is rich; it’s just the people who are poor. I guess you just proved that what is considered rich and poor can vary from person to person in many ways.

  17. I’m with you on #2. It’s such a pity that many do not know how beautiful these third world countries are.

  18. Traveling to poor countries (though my country is also poor) makes us realize how lucky we are and humbles us in understanding that there are those who are living a not-so-luxurious life and yet still find happiness in small things.

    • It can be a humbling experience. I remember seeing how people lived in a rural area of Cambodia. They didn’t have all the modern conveniences that I know of back home, but they had enough to be satisfied. It was a remarkable experience.

  19. Steve,

    You used some very specific vocabulary that caught my attention. One of my favorite words was cheap and the other was culture. If there is a way for me to cheaply experience other cultures I would be a really, really happy man. You provided some great reasons to make different travel plans that I ever had in the past. I found this post extremely valuable.

    • Hey Frank, I’m glad you found a lot of value in this post. There are a lot of great experiences to be had for not that much money. I hope you can do some great traveling and experience some unique cultures.

  20. I’ve never really traveled to a country that was poorer, but I think it would certainly be a worthwhile experience. Just traveling to countries in Europe I was fascinated by how differently people lived. Different sites, more positive attitudes, just generally nicer mentalities. I think being in a poorer country would open up a perspective that would prove incredibly enlightening. The true importances of life would shine through then.

    • I suggest you try it and see just how different it is to travel through Europe. I know that I found my trips enlightening. You really do get a good feel for what is really important in the world. It’s an eye-opening experience.

  21. Visit the Philippines! Most Pinoys speak English & they’re very hospitable :)I recommend Boracay, Donsol (to swim with whalesharks) and Coron, Palawan. Enjoy!

  22. Even I think it is fun to travel in poor countries because a person can really get ‘bang for the buck’. I also believe that you get quality for decent amount of money as you have mentioned.

  23. Traveling to a poor country is a good idea if someone is on a budget. you can see a new culture or a country in less money. Food and accommodation is usually cheap and quality is not that bad as you have mentioned.

  24. It teaches you so much about your own life, I find. When you see how other people in less-privileged countries live, how they often create happiness with what they have rather than wallow in depression from what they don’t have, you realise what is truly important.

  25. Travel to developed countries can also be done on a tight budget – but it much harder and you have to do a lot more pre planning than with developing countries

  26. Good post. Agree with the commenter above who said that #3 is the only reason I need. The less developed nations tend to be more in touch with their indigenous cultures, and therefore tend to offer the travel experiences most different from that of our native homelands. I very rarely travel to metropolis-like cities for that very reason!

  27. All of these reasons are exactly why I enjoy places like this, too!

  28. MizzWillz2U says:

    Somehow this post rubs me the wrong way with the constant repetition of the labels “rich country” and “poor country”. To me, these are very vague. I wish the author would have specified what he meant by that at the beginning of the article. I am from Trinidad and Tobago which is considered a third-world country but we are by no means “poor” in the general sense of the term. What comes to everyone’s minds when they hear of this country? Have you even ever heard of it?

    • I can completely understand, the terminology used is not the most P.C. or culturaly sensitive. However, at the same time statements like, “Just because a country is poor doesn’t mean there isn’t anything of value there,” give you the other side of the coin.

      I’m guessing that the author went with the simplest way to get his message across. It is pretty well understood what is considered a “poor” country we can find a list of countries by GDP (PPP) to evaluate what the author means.

      I have had friends and classmates from Trinidad and Tobago so I am aware of the country, which is ranked much higher than my wife’s homeland of Peru. I think that an opportunity to explore a country for a longer period of time without breaking one’s budget is a perfectly acceptable reason to travel. The difference is if you place yourself above those in the country, don’t value their culture, customs and the people. Which can easily be hidden behind the mask of “pity”.

      You can make up any excuse in order to get you there but hopefully you come out richer in more ways than one.

  29. I agree with you that traveling to poor countries is great, but unfortunately #1 isn’t true always. For example in Papua New Guinea or Haiti… I have no clue why it is sometimes actually more expensive to travel in those countries than in Europe for example.

  30. From what you deduce after visiting those countries you claim to be poor, I think your perception has to change with regards from your experience. Spending 5 dollars for a nice guest house,people living together in harmony amid different culture dynamism can’t be termed as poor.

    Or has richness only got to with how fat ones bank account is or how may coloured papers one is having alone? Even though there is no real happiness?

    • I think the Author meant poor in the material meaning and was not really thinking about the other meaning “poor” could have.
      I totally agree with you, that it seems that most of the “poor” countries in the world have a much, much richer population!

  31. Traveling to other countries is always fun and traveling to third world countries can be an eye-opening experience! Even though you need to be prepared to eat a totally different kind of food, drink water that might not agree with your stomach along with getting proper vaccinations in order not to get sick. But all this is nothing compared to the feeling you have when you experience interaction with local people, discover the beauty of some country which is 10,000 miles away and learn more about the world, different fascinating cultures and traditions!

  32. When I lived in Poland (wow, there is an article – 3 reasons to LIVE in poor countries) I decided to take a trip across the EU border to Ukraine.

    …talk about an adventure. I got off the bus in the middle of nowhere and the only person who spoke English was a car part smuggler. Needless to say he became my friend for the weekend and it was quite a trip :)

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