The Best Budget Travel Destinations
From Bogotá to Zanzibar, these locales promise an incredible trip for cheap.
Fez (or Fes) reigns as Morocco’s cultural and culinary epicenter. Its UNESCO-listed medina—the largest pedestrian-only urban area in the world—is a warren of narrow alleyways, medieval architecture, and souks. Browse the stalls and haggle for metalwork lanterns, Berber rugs, and argan oil. Of course, it’s also worth shelling out a few coins to see the exquisite tilework at Madrasa Bou Inania and sample traditional tagine.
“Featuring a charming old town and dramatic vistas, Tbilisi is a fantastic introduction to the country of Georgia,” says Christie Hudson, senior communications manager at Expedia. You don’t have to be rolling in dough to appreciate this dynamic destination. Feast on khinkali (dumplings) and qababi (kebabs) for next to nothing. Once you’re sufficiently full, snag a hotel room for $16. To save even more, make sure you know these 11 secrets travel booking companies don’t want you to know.
“Antigua is worth every penny, but that doesn’t mean you’ll have to empty your wallet,” says Hudson. There are plenty of budget-conscious activities in this colonial gem. It won’t cost you a dime to visit Santo Domingo del Cerro, an outdoor sculpture park dedicated to the work of Efraín Recinos. Craving something sweet? Head to ChocoMuseo. Admission is free and so are the samples!
Odessa is having a bit of a domestic tourism boom—not that we’re surprised, given its sandy beaches and pastel-colored buildings—but it’s still fairly under the radar for international audiences. You can also count on this port city for affordable fun. Tickets to the Odessa Opera House start at a mere $2! Pro tip: Be sure you pack some nicer clothes for the occasion, as shorts and beach attire aren’t permitted.
Kathmandu is a bustling metropolis, where centuries-old Hindu sites and traffic jams coexist. The backpacker district of Thamel brims with hostels, bars, and cheap eats. Want to escape chaos? “Nestled in the heart of the action is Swapna Bagaicha, the Garden of Dreams, a bubble of tranquility that’s perfect for kicking back with a good book or savoring a picnic,” says Hudson. Check out these 12 off-season vacation deals you’ll want to book right now.
Luang Prabang, Laos
Seeking a less-touristy alternative to Thailand? Consider Laos. Nestled in a lush valley at the meeting of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, Luang Prabang is praised for its natural beauty and Buddhist temples. Despite an uptick in visitors over the past few years, prices remain steady. Relish the chance to practice your negotiating skills at the largest handicraft market in the country and ride around on tuk-tuks. Before you jet off, make sure to read these 50 packing tips that will safeguard against extra fees and stress.
Brașov is a great place to kick off your Romanian adventure. The city resembles a postcard with cobblestone lanes, Baroque churches, medieval watchtowers, and winsome cafés. For an inexpensive and convenient way to see all the sights, consider a double-decker bus tour. This Transylvanian treasure also makes an excellent home base for day trips to mythical Bran Castle and the nearby brown bear sanctuary.
While growing interest in this long-overlooked locale has started to raise rates, cost-conscious wanders can still enjoy the best of Yerevan for cheap. Many of the museums and monuments don’t charge an entrance fee. To stretch your dollars further, opt for public transit over taxis and skip pricier brews at expat pubs in lieu of draft beers at local hangouts.
While Cartagena is an unabashed hotspot, Bogotá hasn’t quite garnered the same widespread appeal with international crowds. “Thrifty travelers will find Colombia’s sprawling capital far more of a bargain and every bit as fascinating,” says Hudson. “On Sundays, it’s free to visit Museo de Oro and many of the big roads are closed to accommodate food carts, street entertainers, and pedestrians.” Don’t have a passport? Here are 11 affordable U.S. cities for your next getaway.
Zanzibar beckons vacationers with its white sand beaches, turquoise tides, colorful coral reefs, and oceanfront resorts. Of course, hunkering down in historic Stone Town is pretty compelling too. Either way, you won’t have a problem securing something that fits your budget. It’s also worth noting that Jozani Forest is the only place in the world you can see endangered red colobus monkeys.
With the excitement and cosmopolitan charm of Buenos Aires at a fraction of the cost, Chile’s capital has a vibrant gastronomy scene, world-class museums, and a wealth of historical attractions. “One of the best ways to experience it all is on foot, strolling the many diverse neighborhoods,” advises Hudson. Of course, you can’t talk about Santiago without mentioning Cerro San Cristóbal, the hill in the center of the city that features a zoo, wine museum, and arguably the best panoramic view of Santiago. Learn the best secrets for traveling cheap, according to the experts.
Dynamic, bohemian, always delicious—Oaxaca deserves a spot on every foodie’s bucket list. Come hungry and prepare to chow down on gourmet delights, from tamales de frijol to mole negro for just a few pesos. This flavorful locale also serves up a hearty dose of art and indigenous culture. Museo Textil de Oaxaca offers free admission. Get your history fix at pre-Columbian archaeological sites just outside the city. Take a peek at these other top destinations you’ll want to visit in Mexico.
Siem Reap, Cambodia
While most people know Siem Reap as the gateway to Angkor Wat, few are familiar with what lies beyond this awe-inspiring UNESCO World Heritage Site. A mix of cuisines, chic shopping, and adventurous pursuits lures backpackers and well-heeled jetsetters alike. Don’t worry, that hasn’t jacked up prices. In fact, mid-range hotels average a very affordable $33 a night.
La Paz, Bolivia
Perched on the Altiplano plateau, the sky-high capital casts a spell with its unparalleled setting and colorful cultural offerings. Sure, it’s gritty and chaotic, but that’s all just part of La Paz. Haggle for mythical enchantments, folk remedies, and potions at the Witches’ Market. Afterward, soak in the sweeping views with a ride on Mi Teleférico, the aerial cable car network. Next, read up on more unforgettable bucket list trips that won’t break the bank.
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