The 14 Best Budget Travel Destinations for 2018
If you are planning a major trip in 2018, here are some epic destinations that will be surprisingly affordable. Check your passport, pack your bags, and save.
A fantastic alternative to its more touristy neighbor Thailand, Malaysia has some of the best street food and night markets in the world. It also happens to be one of the top cheap vacation spots. “Spend some time in Kuala Lumpur, where three-star accommodations start at just $15 per night and $10 will cover three meals in one day,” says Jessica Bisesto, senior editor at the travel deals finder TravelPirates. “Looking for a cheap island destination? Head to beautiful Langkawi after you’ve spent a few days enjoying Penang. Offering the perfect combination of cities, highlands, beaches, and islands, Malaysia is an under-the-radar budget destination that offers something for everyone.”
Argentina is an exciting, versatile country on the best cheap vacation spots list with something to offer for all tastes and travelers. “From wine country in Mendoza to Buenos Aires—which has been called ‘the Paris of South America’—to Patagonia’s gorgeous peaks and valleys, this is a country that’s bouncing back as a top destination for tourism,” says Diana Plazas, VP of branding, marketing, and digital for Marriott International in the Caribbean and Latin America. What’s especially attractive at this point in time is the exchange rate, which at around 17 Argentine pesos to the U.S. dollar, represents a bargain for the U.S. traveler; your money will go a very long way here. “Argentina lifted its VAT tax on hotel stays for international visitors, which represents a savings of 21 percent—that leaves you with more to spend at alluring tango shows, museums, vintage shops, and the country’s famous parrillas for authentic Argentinean barbecue,” says Plazas. You’ll be surprised at how affordable a steak dinner (with wine!) can be. To save even more, make sure you know these 11 secrets travel booking companies don’t want you to know.
With the hospitality of Italy, the gorgeous mountains of Austria, and gourmet delicacies of neighboring Istria, Slovenia has it all for a fraction of the price. “While much of southern Europe can come with tons of tourists and a too high price tag, you can have a five-star trip on a three-star budget in Slovenia,” says Collette Stohler, who runs the travel website Roamaroo. “You can have the elegance and gourmet delicacies of the Mediterranean at an Eastern European price. The best part is—you can visit the capital of Ljubljana, the beautiful lake town of Bled, Piran Beach on the Adriatic, and the Goriška Brda wine region all within two hours of each other.”
A nature lover’s dream come true, Nepal is also an incredible destination for budget travelers looking for cheap vacation spots. “Three-star hotels can be found from as little as $10 per night and three square meals will run visitors less than $9,” says Bisesto. “Explore the many villages or make the trek to Mount Everest basecamp. Famous for its jaw-dropping mountain views and stunning temples, this small country packs a big punch and is a fabulous alternative to its more touristy neighbors such as China and India.”
You can get great value when booking a trip to any of Colombia’s top cities. The destination has seen a significant tourism development boom in the past couple of years, with travelers exploring cities like Cartagena, Medellin, and Bogota—which has a thriving art scene—and you don’t have to spend a lot of money to appreciate its beauty. “The cobble-stoned city center is very walkable, with colonial-era attractions and landmarks, and vibrant murals that are representative of the local art culture,” says Plazas. “While the culinary scene in Bogota is also taking off, there are plenty of local eateries serving delicious, authentic cuisine. A bandeja paisa is a must!” Airlines have begun adding more direct flights from the United States to these cities, which in turn leads to major hotel growth. “As a travel company we see a lot of potential here, and currently have 12 hotels open across eight different brands—think Aloft, Sheraton, Four Points, and W, to name a few—to accommodate travelers at all price points. Not only are the travelers who visit getting a bargain, but they are also becoming part of Colombia’s growth as a highly sophisticated tourism hub in South America, and that’s very exciting,” says Plazas.
“As more under-the-radar countries begin to experience higher levels of tourism, we anticipate prices in those destinations to increase, which is why now is the time to visit beautiful Estonia,” says Biseto. “Castles, palaces, and a beautiful coastline await visitors to this small Baltic country. Accommodations start at about $40 per night for a three-star hotel and meals for one day will run visitors about $18. Tourists should take advantage of the free walking tours and check museums as there are frequently free admission days throughout the year.” Before you head out, make sure to read these 50 packing tips that will save you extra fees and stress.
Known for UNESCO World Heritage cities and Machu Picchu, Peru is a fantastic option for those traveling on a shoestring budget. “Food is delicious and cheap, with three meals costing less than $10 per day. Peru offers stunning beaches, mountains, canyons, and rivers making this country an incredible destination for budget travelers,” says Bisesto. As for a fabulous place to stay, consider the JW Marriott El Convento Cusco, a 16th century convent turned five-star hotel, located just two blocks from Cusco’s Plaza Mayor.
Sharing a border with Greece and a ferry ride away from Italy is the Adriatic country known as Albania. “Home to many castles, jaw-dropping coastlines, and the Albanian Alps, this under-the-radar country is great for shoestring travelers. Three-star accommodations start from $17 per night, hearty meals will set you back just a few dollars, and affordable public transportation options are readily available. Enjoy hiking tours, national parks, fortresses galore, and more in this inexpensive country,” says Bisesto. Don’t miss these other top destinations you need to visit in 2018.
A fantastic backpacking destination, Guatemala deserves to be on every budget traveler’s radar. “Filled with stunning architecture, Mayan ruins, colonial towns, volcanoes, and more, this small Central American country is known for its natural beauty and warm hospitality. Keen travelers can find three-star accommodations and three meals for as little as $25 per day––much cheaper than nearby countries such as Costa Rica or Panama,” says Bisesto. Check out Las Lagunas Boutique Hotel, a 19-bungalow property built in the middle of jungle bliss; it’s a fantastic place to stay, recommends Bisesto. She also likes the luxury boutique hotel Casa Palopo.
Mexico is an incredibly culture-rich destination, known for its bold and vibrant traditions, delicious cuisine, and warm, friendly locals. With an exchange rate that’s currently about 19 pesos to the U.S. dollar and a recent spike in new flight options from key U.S. cities, visiting this cultural paradise is a breeze for travelers coming from America. “Mexico City’s pulsating art scene, great shopping, and amazing restaurants are not to be missed,” says Plazas. “I recommend the Mexico City Marriott Reforma Hotel, which is in a very central location, right on Paseo de la Reforma. You can book a room for less than $200 a night and you have museums at your fingertips. The Sheraton Mexico City Maria Isabel has arguably the best views of the iconic ‘Angel of Independence’ with rates as low as $125/night,” says Plazas.
Beyond the big city, you have Cancun’s gorgeous turquoise beaches and the vivid indigenous history that can be experienced in Pacific coast towns like Puerto Vallarta and Punta de Mita. And that’s just the beginning, as there’s plenty to satisfy culture-seekers while indulging their inner foodie, adventurer, romantic, and so much more. Mexico is also proof you don’t need to spend hours on travel to experience an authentic cultural destination. Great—and surprisingly affordable—places to stay in Cancun include the all-inclusive Moon Palace Cancun and the luxurious JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa. Check out these other 11 popular Mexico destinations you’ll want to visit.