25 Cheap Places to Visit for an Unforgettable Vacation
Traveling is an experience that should be open to everyone. While going on a trip will always incur some costs, there are numerous destinations out there that cater to visitors on a budget. From backpacker havens to ecotourism hotspots, here are 25 affordable destinations to choose from:
Southeast Asia has been the destination of choice for backpackers for a long time. And there's no country that encapsulates that trend better than Vietnam. Filled with affordable yet rich touristic areas such as Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Hoi An, the country is known for its cheap hostels and easy access to rented motorbikes for transportation. Among the many points of interest you'll want to see in Vietnam, the world cultural heritage site of My Son and the gorgeous Hoan Kiem Lake are not to be missed. Vietnam also boasts one-of-a-kind landmarks such as the Golden Bridge near Da Nang and the wartime Cu Chi Tunnels.
Mexico is the place to be if you're keen on adventures. The country has a little bit of everything going for it, from archeological wonders such as Tulum and Palenque to gorgeous resort cities like Cancun and Acapulco. It's also a country where a few dollars can go a long way, particularly if you avoid tourist hotspots and instead visit slightly more overlooked places like Oaxaca and Mazatlan. The former is known for harboring the historic settlement of Monte Alban and also boasts the ancient Tree of Tule, while the latter provides an affordable way to enjoy Mexico's Pacific coast.
3. Chiang Mai, Thailand
All of Thailand is worth visiting, but if you're trying to save some money it's best to stick to the northern parts of the country, particularly places such as Chiang Mai and Pai. Chiang Mai is an absolute powerhouse of a tourist destination thanks to gorgeous temples like Wat Phra That Doi Suthep and Wat Jedlin that rival the best that Bangkok has to offer. Additionally, the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar is as busy and vibrant a shopping place as you'll encounter, while the Chiang Mai Zoo is filled with exotic creatures such as panda bears and Asian elephants. And if you're eager to witness nocturnal creatures in their natural element, the Chiang Mai Night Safari is there to oblige.
4. Istanbul, Turkey
Formerly known as Constantinople, Istanbul remains one of the world's largest and most populated cities. It is also mercifully affordable as long as you take the time to hunt down good deals and don't mind a little back-and-forth transportation between attractions. On that side the Turkish capital definitely doesn't disappoint. Whether standing in awe of the opulence of the Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace, or admiring the spire-heavy architecture of the Blue Mosque, you'll be spoiled for choices in Istanbul. Add to that the absolute madness of the Grand Bazaar and you have all the makings of an unforgettable destination that's easy on your bank account as well.
The largest Spanish-speaking nation in South America is fairly affordable as long as you forego plush city accommodations and instead focus more on exploring the country's natural assets. Chief among them are the stunning Iguazu Falls along the Brazilian border and the vast yet sparsely populated area known as Patagonia in the south. Among other things, here you'll find the Los Glaciares National Park, where the massive ice formation called the Perito Moreno Glacier is located. What's more, Patagonia also contains the settlement of Ushuaia, the world's southernmost city, home of the aptly-titled End of the World Museum.
6. Zanzibar, Tanzania
Due to their remoteness and luxurious amenities, most exotic islands tend to be on the expensive side. Zanzibar, however, goes easy on the wallet in comparison while still being one of the most beautiful islands in all of Africa. From stellar beaches such as Mnemba and Nungwi to historic landmarks like the Old Fort, there are lots of things to do and see here. As you'd expect for an African hotspot, Zanzibar also has a lot going for it when it comes to nature, with Jozani Forest in particular being a must-visit destination for animal lovers and conservationists.
Thanks to its relatively isolationist policies, Cuba has earned a reputation for being a place out of time. While American travelers can only visit through an organized tour group, the country is accessible to most tourists and quite affordable too. Its capital city of Havana needs no introduction, with a fabled historic quarter and the iconic Malecon being just two of its best highlights. But visiting Cuba on a budget means expanding your sights beyond Havana. The neighboring city of Cienfuegos is a worthy alternative, boasting celebrated attractions like the Jagua Fortress and the Quintero cigar factory, while the beachside town of Varadero stands out for its lush beauty and top-notch amenities.
With its cheap dorm rooms and affordable street food, Cambodia offers tremendous bang for your buck. Backpackers can sometimes stay up to several months in the country with the same amount of money that would last only weeks in Western Europe or America. But that wouldn't mean anything if the place wasn't absolutely gorgeous as well. Angkor Wat has justifiably become known as one of the world's most iconic religious monuments, but Cambodia also has other worthwhile points of interest. The Royal Palace in Phnom Penh for instance, is known for its grandiose design, whereas the Preah Monivong Bokor National Park offers a taste of the nation's wilder side.
9. New Orleans, USA
Many US cities can be visited by budget travelers as long as they're willing to get creative with their finances, but perhaps none elevates the art of elegant slumming to the degree that New Orleans does. Letting loose is part of the city's culture, with the massive Mardi Gras festival and the always-full jazz clubs on Bourbon Street showcasing its penchant for a party-like atmosphere. The best part is that you don't have to be a heavy roller to get into the proceedings. You can easily live off quality street food and spend your days exploring the City Park or enjoying the music created by New Orleans' countless street performers.
Inviting yet mysterious, Colombia is a large and varied nation that you can explore at a fraction of the price you'd have to pay in plusher areas of South America. There are history-rich places such as Ciudad Perdida, also known as the Lost City, and Medellin, once fabled for being the world's most dangerous city but now known primarily for its innovative eco parks. Then there are colorful cities such as Cartagena and Guatape, the former impressing with its Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas while the latter boasts the towering La Piedra del Penol, a massive granite rock that can be scaled via a staircase. Finally, Colombia is also a gateway to the Amazon, where brave travelers can embark on wildlife safaris and eco-friendly adventures galore.
A country that's best known for its jagged peaks, including housing the highest point on Earth in Mt. Everest, Nepal is particularly inviting for budget travelers thanks to its low-cost accommodations and affordable street food. What's more, Nepal packs a lot of punch due to its incredible temples, among which Swayambhunath Stupa and the Pashupatinath Temple stand out for their gorgeous architecture and storied history. But Nepal is best experienced while hiking and trekking, with the likes of Manaslu and Machhapuchhare being quite accessible to travelers. Just stay away from Mt. Everest if you're trying to save money, since that particular peak's popularity all but ensures skyrocketing rates.
12. Lombok, Indonesia
Indonesia can veer from affordable to extremely expensive depending on where you go. Bali, for example, has earned quite the reputation for its amazing vistas and unique atmosphere, but those come with an equally hefty price tag. Better to visit Lombok instead, an island whose charms will quickly become apparent. Beach lovers will find a little slice of heaven here, with places like Kuta, Pink Beach and Selong Belanak Beach being especially enticing. Additionally, the nearby Gili Islands will provide you with ample opportunities for diving and snorkeling at a discount, while the Sade Village allows you to explore Indonesia's traditional side at length.
Sometimes standing in the shadow of other Eastern European countries such as Hungary and Poland, Romania is one of the continent's rising stars in terms of tourism. The country is quite large and diverse, with big cities such as Bucharest with its massive Palace of Parliament and the wide-open spaces of Balea Lake and Cheile Turzii on opposite ends of the spectrum. In-between you'll find plenty of interesting places such as Lake Bicaz, the largest artificial lake in the country, and the iconic Merry Cemetery, a final resting place known for its hand-painted epitaphs decked with darkly humorous quotations.
14. Cleveland, USA
An underrated destination within the United States, Cleveland deserves to be on your radar as one of the nation's most accessible Midwestern cities. Among its highlights, the city counts the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, a museum dedicated to preserving and exhibiting memorabilia from rock's greatest artists. It also boasts the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, a family-friendly park with a diverse array of creatures, as well as the Cleveland Museum of Art, which houses works culled from all ages of mankind. And if you're in the mood for shopping, the West Side Market has you covered throughout the year.
A nation as large and diverse as India is bound to have its fair share of opportunities for budget travelers, but even taking that into consideration it's amazing how far you can go with a meager budget. Whether you're planning on seeing the Taj Mahal up close, exploring the vast stronghold known as the Agra Fort or resting on the beaches of Goa, there's a little something for everyone here. Southern India tends to be more affordable than its northern provinces, but as long as you're willing to hunt for deals you can even find cheap accommodation in picturesque places such as Jaipur and Udaipur.
16. The Baltic States
Situated at the middle point between Western and Easter Europe, the Baltic States offer excellent opportunities for travel and recreation at a fraction of the price associated with more expensive destinations. Each of the three Baltic states has something unique to offer. Lithuania houses the Curonian Spit natural wonder and the spectacular Hill of Crosses, while also boasting a scenic capital in Vilnius. Latvia is the home of the Gauja National Park, not to mention the supremely cosmopolitan city of Riga. And Estonia might just be the star of the show, thanks to fairytale cities such as Tallinn and Tartu, as well as the vast Lahemaa National Park.
17. Porto, Portugal
While Lisbon usually grabs all the headlines thanks to its warm climate and wondrous historical landmarks, its northern rival of Porto is less expensive but just as generous with its offerings. Here you can witness attractions as diverse as the Luis I Bridge and the ornate Livraria Lello, the latter of which is famous for its plush interiors and iconic red staircase. Other highlights include Casa da Musica with its almost alien-like architecture and the Porto Cathedral, an important Romanesque landmark that dates back to the 12th century. Families will also appreciate their time at the World of Discoveries, an interactive history museum known especially for its boat tour.
Mysterious and alluring, Morocco has been attracting travelers for decades thanks to its proximity to Europe and unmistakable air of mystique. The nation is rich in cities that are worth exploring, from the vibrant streets of Marrakech to the cultural hub of Fez. But all of Morocco stands out due to its architecture, a mix of European-inspired colonial buildings and indigenous designs. Some of the best-known points of interest in the country are the Bahia Palace, an ornate 19th century complex, and Jardin Majorelle, a lush garden with many exotic plants and gorgeous courtyard fountains.
19. Las Vegas, USA
While no longer as cheap as it was in the 80s and 90s, Las Vegas still lags behind other major American cities in terms of traveling costs because of its massive casino industry. Since the goal here is to make you feel comfortable and willing to spend big on gambling and entertainment, flights and accommodations to Las Vegas can be quite affordable. So it's worth taking advantage of that to explore the gaudy casinos on the Las Vegas Strip, with the Bellagio and MGM Grand being just two of the major winners here. Or you can choose to forego the city's glitz and glamor entirely and head straight to the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area for a sample of the area's most impressive desert landscapes.
20. Cape Town, South Africa
Perhaps the most engaging city in all of South Africa, Cape Town is a can't-miss proposition. The Victoria & Albert Waterfront alone qualifies as a tourist hub, with various retail outlets and entertainment options available in one place. But then if you add popular relaxation spots such as Boulders Beach and the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden into the mix, you have all the makings of a truly diverse destination. Be sure to cap off your Cape Town adventure with a trip to the Cape of Good Hope, a scenic spot that boasts some of the best sunsets in the world.
Bringing a little bit of European flavor to the South American continent, Curacao is a constituent nation of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Unlike its home country, however, this little island is quite accessible price-wise, at least by the standards of other exotic isles. Scuba-diving and snorkeling are quite popular in the area, with noted spots such as Kleine Knip and Little Curacao deservedly attracting attention. The island also boasts the idyllic Mambo Beach and the floating construction known as Queen Emma Bridge, while also harboring the intricate Hato Caves and the Christoffel National Park.
22. Dominican Republic
The Caribbean is one of the world's most notable hotspots for honeymooners and couples looking for a romantic escapade. But while some of the area's destinations can cost a pretty penny, the Dominican Republic is open to budget travelers as well. And you get quite a lot of bang for your buck, especially in under-the-radar places like Bayahibe, the kind of easygoing resort town where you can lie on the beach all day or go exploring the nearby coral reefs. Perhaps surprisingly, Dominican Republic is a great place for history lovers as well, with the Altos de Chavon village replica and the Gothic Nuestra Senora de la Encarnacion cathedral standing as prime examples.
The large African island known as Madagascar has lots of fans thanks to its varied wildlife and untouched landscapes. But owing to its size, it also presents plenty of opportunities for those traveling on a limited budget. The numerous national parks that deck the island are prime spots for nature lovers, especially the Tsingy De Bemaraha National Park with its striking rock formations and the Masoala National Park, which is known for its expansive rainforest. But even something as small as the Avenue of the Baobabs adds to Madagascar's charm, as do the endemic lemurs that populate the Analamazaotra Special Reserve.
24. Calgary, Canada
Standing in the shadow of other Canadian cities like Toronto and Montreal means that Calgary is willing to go above and beyond to charm its visitors. The Calgary Tower anchors the city's skyline, while the historic Fort Calgary stands proud as the settlement's oldest still-standing building. Meanwhile, Calaway Park delights daredevils and families alike with its show-stopping rides, and the Calgary Zoo stands out both for its animal collection as well as for its spectacular dinosaur displays. And don't forget about Prince's Island Park, where stretches of lush greenery and numerous hiking trails offer a respite from Calgary's busy atmosphere.
25. Detroit, USA
Sometimes derided for having fallen on hard times compared to its manufacturing heyday, Detroit is experiencing a renaissance of sorts, aided by the city's affordable prices and ample tourist attractions. Among the latter, you shouldn't pass up on the chance to visit the Motown Museum, dedicated to the eponymous record label that changed the sound of American music. Nor should you ignore the Detroit Zoo, an acclaimed animal shelter that includes several polar bears amidst its collection. Last but not least, Detroit also houses the Henry Ford Museum, which details the life and times of the nation's premier automaker, replete with an unforgettable collection of classic cars.
All in all, we hope you've enjoyed our rundown of the world's best traveling destinations that won't put a massive dent in your pocket. Almost any destination is accessible on a budget as long as you're sufficiently creative and savvy with your resources, so start viewing the world as your oyster and you'll see that you have more than enough to begin your travels already.