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The 12 Best Places to Go for Your Money in 2018

As fun and enriching as traveling can be, it can also prove to be very expensive. That's why we've rounded up a list of the best international destinations to go to in 2018 that won't break the bank.

LaosMR.PEERAKA /Shutterstock

Laos

Located in Southeast Asia, Laos is an underrated country with a ton to offer. The Mekong River runs through this mountainous terrain, there is an abundance of French colonial architecture, stunning Buddhist monasteries, tropical jungles, and the nicest locals. The best part is it’s not super touristy, so you won’t be subject to jacked up prices or overwhelming crowds. The result is total immersion in the authentic, Laotian, day-to-day life. For local meals and street eats, you can expect to pay $2 to $4, while a gastronomic meal with drinks will cost you $15 to $50. You can even get a boutique hotel or resort for as low as $50.

PortugalNeirfy /Shutterstock

Portugal

Portugal is certainly having a moment right now, with tourists flocking to the Southern European country that borders Spain. Here you’ll find major cities steeped in culture, stunning beaches, picturesque landscapes, sensational cuisine, and port wine. Consider going to the up-and-coming city of Porto, the karst cliff beaches of the Algarve, or the Atlantic archipelago of the Azores. You can get a basic hotel starting from about $35, or a boutique hotel starting from about $120. As far as food, you can get a lunch special at a family-run restaurant for $8 to $12, and dinner for two in a top restaurant from $92. No surprise, Portugal is also on the list of ten places you need to go in 2018.

NicaraguaKanokratnok /Shutterstock

Nicaragua

Another country where tourism has yet to boom, this Central American country is set between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea and is best known for its dramatic terrain of lakes, volcanoes, and beaches. Because Nicaragua isn’t quite on everyone’s radar just yet, you can expect low prices. Go during the rainy season, and you can expect even cheaper prices. The adventurous will enjoy the colonial town of Granada, where the waves are great for surfing. An hour’s drive from Granada, you can hike Masaya, one of the most active volcanoes in Nicaragua. A typical meal will cost you $4, a gourmet meal $18 to $22, and a double bed in a luxury hotel will cost you between $80 to $120. Find out where you can score the best off-season travel deals.

MoroccoAnibal Trejo /Shutterstock

Morocco

This North African country bordering the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea is just a stone’s throw from Europe and is distinguished by its Berber, Arabian, and European cultural influences. Go to Chefchaouen—situated in the heart of Morocco’s Rif Mountains, it’s a relaxed environment with extremely affordable accommodations. It’s also incredibly beautiful, from the streets and building painted sky blue to the backdrop of the majestic mountains. While you’re in Morocco, be sure to go to The Royal Palaces of Fez and Rabat (check out these photos of other stunning royal gardens around the world, too). Also, be sure to stay a few nights in Morocco’s Sahara desert, taking in the breathtaking Saharan sandscape in Merzouga. You can expect to pay about $40 to $80 for a standard hotel room and enjoy a standard dinner from about $7 to $15.

ColombiaMolly Trerotola /Shutterstock

Colombia

Located at the northern tip of South America, Colombia has both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. It’s known for its rainforests, Andes mountains, and innumerable coffee plantations. If you’re a coffee lover, make a trip to Zona Cafetera. It’s a high-altitude region with terraced plantations, a mild climate, snow-covered mountains, and breathtaking valleys. If you’re in the high-altitude capital of Bogotá, check out the Zona Rosa district, which is best known for its restaurants and shops. Go to the walled colonial Old Town in Cartagena, where you’ll find a 16th-century castle and nearby coral reefs. You can expect to spend about $7 to $10 for a main dish at a decent local restaurant here, and just over $50 for a double room in a top-end hotel from. Find out the four things almost every country in the world is named after.

Havana-CubaJulian Peters Photography /Shutterstock

Cuba

This Caribbean island nation is known for its white sand beaches, tobacco fields that make for legendary cigars, 1950s-era cars, Spanish-colonial architecture, and pastel buildings and homes. You can’t go to Cuba without enjoying Havana, the country’s capital. In Old Havana, salsa music plays in the dance clubs, while cabaret shows are performed at the renowned Tropicana. Be sure to go to the town of Trinidad too. It’s a beautiful Spanish colonial town with the old part of town being a UNESCO world heritage site. While the exchange of Cuban pesos is equal to U.S. dollars, it is very easy to travel cheaply here. Seek out street food vendors and peso restaurants, where you’ll find yourself paying $0.80 instead of $8.00 for a sandwich. The old school Airbnbs, called casa particulars, or private home stays, offer meals big enough for two people to share and are less expensive than touristy restaurants. To enjoy the vibrant nightlife scene on a budget, stick to the local establishments as opposed to any place that charges an entrance fee. You’ll drink for change! (Want to take salsa lessons in Cuba? This is how much they’ll cost you.)

ThailandESB Professional /Shutterstock

Thailand

Thailand has been a hit with tourists for quite some time now. The Southeast Asian country boasts incredible food, royal palaces, ancient ruins, tropical beaches, and even an incredible rooftop pool at the Novotel Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport. If you’re OK with tourists, then you’ll be just fine in Thailand. It’s also one of the cheapest countries to travel—especially in Chiang Mai. This region, located in northern Thailand, is the perfect place to get some culture on a serious budget. Among the rice fields, you’ll find Buddhist temples, hill tribes, and very cheap accommodations all around, like a nice hotel with a swimming pool starting around $30. Generally speaking, in Thailand you can expect to pay $1 to $3 for a street meal, and $10 to $15 for fine dining. Read up on these easy tips for beating jetlag before you go.

VietnamJohn Bill /Shutterstock

Vietnam

This Southeast Asian country on the South China Sea is best known for its beaches, rivers, Buddhist pagodas, and incredible food. Speaking of the food, take a very affordable food tour in Hanoi with a local guide. With your preferences in mind, they’ll order for you at a variety of cool places. Expect pork with rice noodles, steamed fish, spring rolls, and happy pancakes. (And if you’re looking for a delicious yet extremely healthy breakfast, Vietnam has you covered.) Dai Lanh beach, where the Annamite mountains intersect with the ocean, is another must. You can get a draught beer for $.30, a simple noodle dish for $1.50 to $2.50, a luxury hotel room from $80, and a gourmet dinner from $20.

ChileDavid Ionut /Shutterstock

Chile

This long, narrow country is situated along the western seaboard of South America. The Andes range dominates the landscape, and, due to its incredible length, you can find a variety of climates here, from the coastal desert in the tropical north to cold subantarctic in the southernmost tip. You will find incredible food and wine in Santiago, with various wine bars, tapas restaurants, and hip hotels in the bustling city. If you are looking for something a bit more reclusive, check out the lakeside town of Puerto Varas, the northern start of Patagonia. Around the area, you can explore waterfalls, hike up to the top of a volcano, and find very cheap eats. Also be sure to check out the Volcanic Hot Springs in Araucania. You can eat at a fine dining restaurant for about $22, while a double room in a top-rated hotel will cost you about $126. Brush up on these must-know Spanish phrases before your trip.

BelizeDuarte Dellarole /Shutterstock

Belize

Situated on the eastern coast of Central America, Belize is known for its Caribbean shorelines and contrasting dense jungle on the west. There is also the enormous Belize Barrier Reef offshore, hundreds of islands with rich marine life, and jungle areas offering Mayan ruins. Belize is a great place for a budget romantic vacation, where you can get a low-rate luxury hotel with bicycle rentals. The local wines are incredible, and the meals are delicious and cheap. Go zip lining, leap from six underground waterfalls in 300 feet of darkness among crystal formations at Ian Anderson’s Caves Branch Jun, and stay at the Sleeping Giant Rainforest Lodge, which is located at the foothills of Sibun National Forest Reserve. Here you can soak in your private outdoor Jacuzzi while looking up at the star-studded sky. Want to rent your own island without dishing out serious cash? You can do that in Belize for just $435 a night. You can get street food from $1.50 to $3, dinner and drinks at local restaurants for about $8 to $18, and luxury hotel accommodations per double for $150.

CostaRicaSimon Dannhauer /Shutterstock

Costa Rica

Though much more on the touristy side, Costa Rica is still surely a must-see Central American country. Known for its rich biodiversity, stunning beaches, and volcanoes, you’ll find coastlines on both the Caribbean and Pacific, as well as rainforests, cloud forests, and tropical dry forests. For the outdoorsy, take advantage of the national parks, which cost just a few dollars to enter. Here, you can then enjoy free self-guided walks that will put you in the way of incredible wildlife, like tapirs, monkeys, sloths, and macaws. If you go to Manuel Antonio National Park, head to the town of Quepos, residing on the central Pacific coast. You’ll find great nightlife and activities like sport fishing and the Damas Estuary, which is a maze of wetlands you can explore by boat or kayak to see crocodiles, monkeys, herons, and more. If you want truly unique hotel accommodations, stay in a vintage Boeing 727 that was converted and refurbished into a luxury two-bedroom suite in a tropical jungle between the Manuel Antonio National Park and the Pacific Ocean. You can get luxurious beachside lodges and boutique hotels from $80, a basic meal from $3 to $7, and a meal at an international fusion restaurant from $15.

SpainHomo Cosmicos /Shutterstock

Spain

This may not come up on your immediate list of cheap countries to travel to, but you should highly consider it. The country, situated on Europe’s Iberian Peninsula, has by far some of the most affordable of the popular European cities that include Paris and London. There are various low-cost tapas restaurants and so many free attractions. The Spanish enjoy small breakfasts, big lunches, and small dinners. Lunch in Spain is much cheaper than dinner, so sticking to the country’s eating habits is the best bet for your bank account. Want free food? Head to Granada, where, with every small alcoholic drink you buy in a bar, you’ll get something to eat, like generous portions of paella. If you want a truly enchanting stay in Spain, put Barcelona on your list. (Here’s why it’s so magical.) You can also enjoy a meal of tapas and wine in Barcelona at some spots for around $12 to $18. You can get a luxury hotel for about $160, or a double room in midrange hotel for $75.

 

 

Alexa Erickson
Alexa is an experienced lifestyle and news writer currently working with Reader's Digest, Shape Magazine, and various other publications. She loves writing about her travels, health, wellness, home decor, food and drink, fashion, beauty, and scientific news. Follow her travel adventures on Instagram: @living_by_lex, send her a message: [email protected], and check out her website: livingbylex.com