Thanks to social media, it might feel like everyone you know is constantly jetting around the world and posting envy-inducing photos of their glamorous getaways. If you're gripped by wanderlust but balking at dropping hundreds or thousands on your next big vacation, fear not. With a little planning and flexibility, you can visit popular, jaw-dropping and exciting destinations for a fraction of the cost of what you'd normally expect to spend on vacation.
These 20 affordable destinations for the savvy traveler offer amazing off-season deals, have reasonable rates for accommodations, food and entertainment, or offer the most bang for your buck thanks to a favorable exchange rate with U.S. dollars. Whatever the reason, their low cost can make it possible for you to afford a trip across the country or to the other side of the world. They might have modest costs, but these trips are still rich in fantastic sights and memorable experiences.
Neighboring Maine, this Canadian city that sits on the St. Lawrence River has strong French roots. Because it borders the U.S., flights are modestly priced, and there is currently a strong exchange rate between the U.S. and Canadian dollar, so paying for meals and souvenirs won’t cost as much as they might in Europe. Pack your walking shoes and explore the nearly 3-mile-long Promenade Samuel-de-Champlain. Enjoy the local culture with trips to museums, the Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Quebec or National Battlefield Park, where a 40-minute battle in 1759 changed the fate of the country. Pay less than $5 for a round-trip ferry ride across the river to the neighboring city of Levis.
Although the conversation to join the Eurozone and thus switch currency from the Hungarian forint to the euro has been going on, the transition probably won’t be happening in 2020. Sightseeing in Budapest while the exchange rate between the U.S. dollar and the forint is good will allow you to get the most out of this European vacation. Visit the 13th-century Buda Castle, take an evening cruise on the Danube River and relax in the thermal baths all for under $50.
Steer clear of well-known islands like Santorini and Mykonos, and you could save big on a dreamy Greek getaway. An upscale, serene island vacation is in budget if you travel to a spot like Paros, a top European island destination. Take a ferry a few hours outside of Athens, and you'll avoid crowds and high costs. You can eat luxury seaside meals, enjoy cosmopolitan nightlife and still visit ancient monuments, such as the sanctuary of Delian Apollo and Artemis. This will all come at a reasonable price, especially if you travel between April and June or September and November when prices for hotels and tours can be slashed by half.
Enjoy the beauty of the Rocky Mountains without the strain of going over your budget at Estes Park. Book early to find affordable lodging deals during the summer and winter months. Get a day pass to Rocky Mountain National Park for $25 and enjoy hours of hiking its majestic mountains. Need a day to rest? Visit a local brewery or tour the historic (and famously haunted) Stanley Hotel, which inspired Stephen King’s 1977 novel “The Shining.”
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While Pokhara is the hub for people heading out on mountain treks in the Himalayas, the vastly underrated city of Kathmandu is worth visiting to see its famed stupas and Hindu shrines as well as Swayambhunath, also known as the Monkey Temple.
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Because of the declining strength of the Turkish lira, a getaway trip to this transcontinental country can be the best way to do international travel on a budget. Occupying land in both Europe and Asia, it gives visitors a distinctive and economical trip. Foodies, rejoice, you can get the best of both continents on a 10-stop, six-hour food tour. For local culture, you should take a guided tour of the Hagia Sophia, a grand mosque-turned-museum built in the 6th century. If you want to stay at a luxury hotel, it might only cost you about $112 a night.
Formerly an expensive place to travel, Russia and its major cities have become much more affordable destinations thanks to the devaluation of the ruble. Flights are more moderately priced to encourage tourism to places like St. Petersburg, considered the country's cultural heart and a top destination for any bucket list. St. Petersburg is easy to navigate by public transit, and you can stay in a four-star hotel for around $40 a night. The city is home to the Winter Palace and the Hermitage museum, as well as the iconic Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood.
Many temples, gardens and other attractions are free in New Delhi, making it an ideal getaway for those watching what they spend. It costs about $15 to visit the Taj Mahal, which is a great day trip option while spending time here. An additional fee of just under $3 is charged if you want to see the main mausoleum. Backpacking will get you the most inexpensive lodging rates, but if you prefer a bit more comfort when traveling, opting for a mid-range hotel will be the best bet. Sleep in a private room for just under $50 a night during their winter season from October to March.
If you're looking to hit the slopes, the most affordable ski getaway in North America is Bridger Bowl, Montana. With low rates on lodging, equipment rentals and lift tickets, as well as steep chutes and open powder fields that receive an average of 300 inches of snow a year, it makes for an ideal economical winter vacation.
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One of Mexico's most glamorous vacation spots is still quite affordable. On top of the area's many gorgeous free beaches, Tulum offers unique activities that won’t hurt your wallet, such as touring Mayan ruins, snorkeling in the El Gran Cenote sinkhole and seeing amazing wildlife in the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve. You can find hotel deals for under $80 in January and February, and roundtrip flights to nearby airports for around $300.
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While many travelers flock to Beijing and Shanghai when visiting China, the booming city of Xi'an, China's ancient capital, is smaller at a population of 8 million, but it still easily accessible by plane or high-speed train. This makes it less crowded and more affordable. Its biggest claim to fame is its the home of the Terracotta Warriors, but it's home to many other ancient temples and monuments, as well as an evolving restaurant scene.
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One of Africa's most underrated destinations, Namibia offers many of the same amazing adventures and fantastic views as South Africa but for a fraction of the price and with fewer crowds. The exchange rate to the Namibian dollar is favorable, so skydiving over the Namib desert will cost you anywhere from $60 to $195, leaving you extra money to spend sandboarding, hot air ballooning, climbing the world's oldest dunes or going on a safari. Namibia also has the infrastructure for easy and cheap self-drive safaris.
Neighboring Turkey is Bulgaria, so if you’re hoping to do a couple countries on a money-saving trip, these places might be worth bundling into one getaway. Beaches, ruins, churches and mountains make Bulgaria an idyllic destination for those in need of some beauty, nature and architectural splendor. The Sea Garden, the Aladja Monastery and the Stone Forest are just three must-see attractions. For good deals, book hotels in advance if you want to go during high season, which starts in May and peaks in July and August. .
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A destination that many don't think of when looking for vacation spots, Krakow has a mythical feel thanks to its medieval buildings, including Wawel Royal Castle. Poland's second-largest city offers glimpses of Polish history both ancient and modern, as its nearby Wieliczka, a salt mine that's a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as the notorious Nazi concentration camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau. The local food is cheap but filling, and shopping is a fun and affordable activity here, especially around the holidays when the Christmas market comes to town.
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A wonderfully adventurous and affordable destination, northern Thailand's Chiang Mai is a gorgeous place to be. On top of a favorable exchange rate, it has cheaper rates than the capital city Bangkok without lacking food, cultural attractions or outdoor adventures such as riding an elephant. Chiang Mai is home to bustling night markets, ancient temples and modern coffee shops, galleries and restaurants as well as an annual lantern festival.
The breathtaking beaches in Halong Bay are well worth the cost of the trip there, and thanks to a favorable exchange rate, the cost isn’t all that much. Go on a December getaway, when the temperatures are mild and the hotels are reasonable. Check out caves, rest on the islands and kayak through the Gulf of Tonkin, where you’ll see huge limestone karsts jutting out of the crystal blue waters.
The gateway city to the famed ancient Angkor Wat temple complex, Siem Reap is extremely affordable and offers fun and good food, making it popular among solo travelers. Zipline through the jungle, see the local circus, tour the workshops of local artisans and learn to recreate your favorite street food at a cooking class.
An oasis in the desert, Phoenix is home to many resorts that offer steep discounts in the off-season, which is June through August. You can still beat the heat stargazing at night or by hiking, horseback riding or teeing off in the morning hours, then spending the scalding afternoon poolside or at the spa. Phoenix is also within driving distance of jaw-dropping natural beauty at the Grand Canyon, Sonoran Desert National Monument and the Tonto National Forest.
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Another ideal destination for solo travelers, Santiago is a quintessentially South American destination that's also quite affordable. With world-class dining, massive museums, bustling markets, historical sites and nearby mountains, the city has something for everyone.
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Because of the high competition between hotels and casinos, Sin City is one of the most affordable destinations in the country, especially during the winter. With average fall weather in the 60s-80s and winter temperatures in the 50s-60s, Vegas is enjoyable even in the off-season. You'll have plenty of extra cash to spend on gambling, fabulous shows or gourmet meals thanks to the city's many free activities, cheap airfare and hotel deals. Of course if you plan on saving or just have a little more money to burn, you could always book a trip to one of the most expensive travel destinations in the U.S.
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