We thank Eric for creating this wonderful map of 130 countries that cost less than 500 USD/month budget to live - paradise on $500 per month!
$500 PER MONTH WORLD MAP - 130 COUNTRIES
If you’re a budget traveler wanting to be efficient in your route planning, this colorized map can be the basis upon which you might plan a journey. Most of the below is targeted at budget travelers looking to visit multiple countries over an extended period of time, but tourists on a two week vacation could use it as a general guideline as well.
All information on the map was derived from the HoboTraveler Budgets for Travel page at Hobotraveler.com Budgets.
STRATEGIES BY COLOR
Dark green clusters of countries are your best friends since you can keep your costs under 500 USD a month and NOT have to think about arranging visas in advance. You can see that there are several places on the planet where countries are contiguous, lending themseves to the easiest and cheapest overland travel.
For those going on an extended trip and who want to experience several countries en route, there are five obvious regions where this occurs, and they jump out from the map: Central America, South America (most), Eastern Europe (portions), East/South Africa (Ethiopia to South Africa) and South-East Asia.
Going more slowly among the dark greens will be the most budget-friendly mode to minimize the tab on transportation and possible VOA costs. Just buy a flight into a transport hub in the region, roam around, and enjoy the trip!
Light green indicates that you could also stay for under 500 USD per month. However, you'll need to arrange visas in advance in either your home country or an adjoining country. You might use these in concert with the dark green countries when trip planning, say flying into a dark green (easy) and arranging to get into the light greens from there. Another strategy might be to get all the light green countries-of-interest’s visas, bundling them together in one trip -- if they are clustered and have good transportation links. Obviously, you'll have to do your homework ahead of time to build a strategy.
There are two huge contiguous regions like this: most of Central and Western Africa and a very large swath of Asia and the Middle East. If there are any adjoining dark green or dark gray countries, they can always be used as a sort of "escape" from a light green region if your visas are running out.
Both the dark and light gray areas are more expensive to travel in than the green ones; however, the good news is that you can just arrive with your passport in a dark gray country. If you’re on a budget, you'll need to choose wisely and do some research to see what, where and if it's affordable within your plans.
For instance, a dark gray country might be good for a short visit while maintaining a base in an adjoining green (cheaper) country. Depending on your plans, route and duration, dark gray might also be ok for "visa runs" in and out of green countries. One might decide to see several dark grays that are contiguous at once but move quickly through them to avoid excessive costs (e.g., accommodation or food) and then "escape" to an adjoining dark green country.
The two areas like this that include several contiguous countries are North America and Western Europe.
The light gray countries are the tough ones because your costs will be more than 500 USD per month, and like the light green countries, you'll also need to arrange visas in advance in either your home country or an adjoining country.
Australia might be a mild exception since U.S. Passport holders (and I assume others) can get the visa online/electronically, and the language might make things a bit easier. Luckily, there aren't that many light gray spots on the map.
Special Consideration - Dark Green Visa-Free Islands
Some are actually islands; others are just isolated visa-free countries that don't have an adjoining dark green country.
There is a caveat: While they cost under 500 USD per month, make sure you factor in the potential additional costs of getting in and out, or extending your time there.
A few examples would be many islands in the Pacific, along with Jamaica, Senegal, Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia.
When budgeting, remember to add your airfare and visa costs on top of any projected living costs. I suppose you can always spend MUCH more than 500 USD per month anywhere if you are really determined to.
It's September 2013, and world conditions and rules are always changing, so this information over time will become stale unless updated regularly. The map is only intended to be a general guideline; your mileage WILL vary.
Are you from Australia, U.K. or somewhere else? You could create a similar map for your country’s passport and post it here at hobotraveler.com.
Additional comments below about strategies, scenarios, thoughts, trips and other information or corrections are welcome.