10. Bentota and Galle, Sri Lanka. Appreciate nature, explore golden beaches, see Dutch influence and simply relax here. Unlike other huge archipelagos or tiny ‘seemingly exclusive’ islands, Sri Lanka’s southern tip is more manageable and cheaper to explore. Bentota and Galle are ideal for a quick getaway that will allow you to enjoy the beach, an activity-filled river cruise, a sea turtle hatchery experience and a historical town.
8. Amman, Jordan. If the Middle East’s ancient history and biblical significance interests you, it’s the perfect choice among your slew of options. With lots of direct flights, it’s easy to reach Amman, the country’s fairly progressive capital. In the middle of the city though are historical ruins, museums, access to Mt. Nebo and the Jordan River. It’s also a window to the fascinating Arab culture that represents the region. Saved a bit more for this trip? Then add Petra to your itinerary, one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world.
3. Kathmandu, Nepal. Immerse yourself in South Asia’s traditional culture here. A humbling place that boasts with beautiful landscapes, historical spots and a refreshing provincial laid back feel. Visit unique temples (my favorite is the monkey one), ride motorcycles to go around town, eat their famous but cheap delicacy “momo” and buy quirky souvenirs at Patan. If you have more time and money, slot-in either a bungee jump or a flight to see the Himalayas.
5. New Orleans, USA. Best described as “cheap and cheerful”, it is raw, full of soul and not your typical US city. Explore the artsy Magazine street and the colorful downtown area. The dishes (jambalaya, gumbo, beignets) aren’t expensive too. And if you’re up for either a crazy street nightlife or just a chilled live jazz, the place won’t disappoint. If on a real tight budget, going during off-peak (not when the Mardi Gras is happening) may also help.
People often ask me, “If money were not an object, where would you go?” – unfortunately, I don’t think that it’s the right question. Money shouldn’t be a deterrent for us to explore, enjoy and embrace lasting money-can’t-buy experiences that traveling provides.
Yes, for practical reasons you would need to shell out some funds. But, to not burn a hole in your pocket or lose your entire savings, you’d need to know the ways around it. Among other things, one of the easiest bits is finding the right destination.
While every place is unique, you can always find cheaper alternatives that offer similar experiences for various types of travel – beaches, outdoor adventures, historical cities, music festivals, cultural immersion, culinary trips, etc. You simply need to know what the options are.
To help inspire and give you some lead to jump start your planning, here’s 10 of my favorite budget-friendly destinations from years of travel. You may want to consider them on your next “el cheapo” vacation.
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7. Kyoto, Japan. Northeast Asian culture at its finest. While Japan may be considered one of the most expensive countries to visit, Kyoto is the best bet if you’re up to see the country’s rich history and trust me, it’s worth it. Unlike Tokyo that’s ultra-modern, you’ll feel that you’re in one of those old Japanese movies while exploring this town. Suggest you plan a visit during the cherry blossom season, it’s definitely a sight to behold and should be added to your travel bucket list.
1. Bangkok, Thailand. If you want to be in a bustling city that literally has everything, it’s the place to be. Prepare to embrace its rich history, beautiful temples, traditional architecture, modern skyscrapers, to-die-for food, big shopping scene, pampering spas, fun nightlife and warm people. You can club-in all these experiences for just 3 days and each would always have cheap options that will surely fit your budget.
6. Budapest, Hungary. If you’re after the glorious European look and feel, consider it. You can save more compared with Paris or Rome but still feel amazed when visiting the Opera House, Parliament and Heroes’ Square along with various churches, bridges, rivers, gardens and fountains. Another experience that’s uniquely Hungarian (aside from its famous sausages that are cheap on the streets) is the outdoor spa resorts. Oh, and you can also bike around – suggest renting one for a full day, it’s cheaper than the per hour rate.
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2. Prague, Czech Republic. For starters, local beer is cheaper than bottled water. And if you’re looking for a quaint, historically rich and beautiful (literally wherever you look) destination in Europe, it should top your list. Join Sandemans New Europe Free Walking Tour to see the city, love the views along Charles Bridge and the old town without spending a penny, go out of the touristy areas for cheap local finds and join an affordable pub crawl.
This is just the tip of the iceberg to whet your wanderlust appetite. Go ahead and do more research on the destination that intrigued you most and find more travel hacks to keep your planned spend in check.
As the saying goes, “travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer”, so why deprive yourself of the opportunity if there are ways to not spend a fortune while bringing it to life? Do yourself a favor and start planning now - trust me, you’ll thank yourself eventually.
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4. Tblisi, Georgia. The perfect place if you want a destination that has a European semblance that’s cheaper and closer to Asia. Find parks, monuments, churches, cobble stone streets, pubs and an old town. It’s compact that you can just walk to see the sights or may opt to use the easy-to-navigate metro lines. Want to see a breathtaking view? Take the funicular (yes, they have one like those in Barcelona, Luzern and Bergen) and be on top of a mountain.
9. St. Petersburg, Russia. If the combination of an epic political history, regal architecture, dreamy atmosphere and an energetic vibe makes you tick, this one’s for you. Being in one of the most renowned cities in the world’s biggest country feels great. Queue up to see The Hermitage and Savior on the Spilled Blood Church (entry tickets are reasonable) and visit other free spots like the Summer Garden, Peter and Paul’s Fortress and the entire Nevsky Prospect strip.