The world is full of affordable destinations, and it doesn’t require much effort to find them. While the cost of a trip is normally a big issue, it doesn’t have to stand in the way of your dream trip. I have a major case of wanderlust, with thousands of fabulous destinations on my bucket list to choose from. No matter what continent, there are places you can visit on a budget — even countries we think of as expensive can be budget-friendly if you know a few tips and tricks. Set your sights on Central and South America, Africa or Asia and find incredible adventures (if that’s your thing) at prices to please. Here are a few of my favorites spots in the world to roam with a slim wallet.
You may fall hard for Quebec City and all its charms and perks. A good replica for Europe, you might mistake the Saint Lawrence River for the Seine. In August, this city hosts a five-day festival to celebrate its heritage by donning period costumes and living like its 1699 called the New France Festival. Canadians are warm and welcoming, speaking French or English depending on your reaction to their friendly, “Bonjour, hello!” At times it feels like I’m strolling along a pretty Parisian promenade, but have to remind myself that it’s the Staint Lawrence River I’m fawning over, not the Seine.
Of course, the biggest perks about Quebec City are the prices and the distance. Everything’s a bargain thanks to the strong dollar and the fact that it’s only 90 minutes from New York City to get here gives you no excuse not to make a trip.
Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America, but due to unrests and earthquakes, not the most frequented. However, after years of taking a side seat, this country is now the “it” spot for travelers. Expats are moving in, and properties are getting built up. Leave the tourist traps behind, explore the unknown parts, and you’ll probably meet warm, friendly people that’ll want to grab a beer with you. Having visited Costa Rica a few years ago, and loved it, I definitely recommend adding this country to your bucket list. Activities are quite cheap — see here for a recent list (around $20-30 per day) markets abound, and there are beaches to relax for free.
From the waterfall splendor of Iguazu Falls to Patagonia, the landscapes of Bariloche, the bustle of Buenos Aires, and wine tasting of the Mendoza region, Argentina has it all. Top it off with great food and super-friendly people, it’s hard to find a reason not to go. Take a self-guided hike and splurge on a steak dinner and a bottle of Malbec for only $15. You’re welcome.
Want to experience the best of Austin while keeping your budget in check? No problem. This city is all about eating, drinking and sightseeing your way around town, so you’re in luck. Plus, it’s super hot and humid, therefore flights will be much cheaper than the regular fares.
No trip to Austin would be complete without breakfast tacos. Hit up Torchy’s Tacos for a taste and then, see the city on a Downtown Guided Walking Tour. The fun and informative tours run around $10 and cover local lore, historic sites and new hotspots. Grab a coffee from Jo’s or a cone from Amy’s Ice Creams and window shop along South Congress.
Take a short hike up to Mount Bonnell for stunning sunset views, see the peacocks at Mayfield Park and Preserve, catch free live music at one of these great summer spots and watch the bats emerge from under the Ann Richards Congress Avenue Bridge. If it’s Thursday, stroll South Congress Avenue for First Thursday, a block party where local artists showcase their work, stores stay open late with big specials.
Thailand is the travel hub of Southeast Asia. With its lush jungles, famed beaches, world-class diving, amazing food, friendly people, and cheap prices, Thailand is by far my favorite country in the world. It’s a well-worn destination on the backpacking trail and everything is convenient and easy. However, there are still many off-the-beaten path spots away from the crowds and the prices they bring. And, of course, Thailand is a place of wonderful beaches, jungles, and food.
Oh, yeah, did we mention it’s very cheap? Though the north is far cheaper than Bangkok and the southern islands. You can find cheap guesthouses for as little as 300 THB per night in cities and 200 THB per night in the countryside. Food, transportation, and day tours are budget-friendly, keeping in tact a daily budget of $25-30 per day. My advice? Go local, stay in hostels, and eat street food.
Not all European countries have the charm and budget-friendly options in the region like Portugal. There are beautiful beaches, wine country, stunning cliffs, delicious food, jovial locals, and historic cities at all bargain prices. Sit atop Parques de Sintra and indulge in a liquid lunch or get lost in an old college town. A couple of hours north of Lisbon, sitting above the Mondego River is the white city of Coimbra, Portugal’s version of Oxford, home to one of the oldest university’s in the world. This UNESCO World Heritage Site features a magnificent Baroque library of more than 2 million titles! Portugal, for some reason, seems to avoid the crowds and press other European cities get. It’s a shame but everyone else’s loss is your gain.
If you’re looking for big adventures on a small budget, Morocco is the answer. With a little research, you can get what you want at drastic discount prices. Skip the overnight camel trek in The Sahara tour in Marrakesh and hop on a local bus to the desert where you can pay $40 for the same trip. Forget the luxury hotels and stay in a traditional Moroccan road for as little as $20 per night. Perhaps the most entertaining pastime: people watching — is always free.
Written by Stephanie Unter
Feature image via Conde Nast Traveller