Travel doesn’t have to break the bank. Exotic locales can offer a lot of bang for your buck, as well as an off-the-beaten-path experience. Travelling on the cheap doesn’t have to be difficult either – the world is full of budget travel destinations if you search hard enough and put your best frugal foot forward.
If you want to go on a vacation without emptying your pockets, or if you want to go on a longer journey and make your money go that extra mile, then read on! Here’s our rundown of the best budget-friendly travel destinations. And don’t forget to book your travel through Splender, and buy any travel accessories from our hundreds of vendors to earn extra savings and cash back on each purchase.
Set between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, you’ll find Nicaragua, a dramatic terrain of volcanoes, lakes and beaches. This budget travel destination is much cheaper than its northern neighbor Costa Rica, which is typically more expensive by Central American standards. The largest country in Central America, Nicaragua boasts a lush and beautiful countryside filled with friendly people and budget-friendly prices. It has traditionally been a less popular destination than Mexico or Costa Rica, but it has recently become an increasingly popular, tourist-friendly destination. Our advice: go there while you can still enjoy the rock-bottom prices!
Find excitement in San Juan, the number one surfer and backpacker party hotspot; surf and swim at the beautiful oasis that is Maderas, which has quite the opposite vibe of San Juan; explore the cobble stone streets of the old city of Grenada, known for its Spanish Colonial architecture; or hike a volcano in Leon—even better, go volcano boarding, a tourist favorite for adrenaline junkies.
According to Lonely Planet, a mid-range hotel could cost anywhere from $20-45 a night, and a luxury hotel room might set you back $80-120. Or if you really want to save, a bed at a hostel can run as little as $9 for a night. Typical Nicaraguan fare from local vendors is often as little as $4, with a gourmet dinner running around $20.
Be sure to pack clothes that are light and breathable for the balmy climate. For sun protection, don’t forget a shade hat that also covers the back of your neck. Breezy layers like these Linen Beach Pants from J. Crew will take you from the beach to the bar. Similarly, a linen shirt like the Bean’s Linen Shirt from L.L. Bean will keep you cool while sheltering you from the sun. (Buy your lightweight apparel from J. Crew for 2% cash back and L.L. Bean to receive 3% cash back.)
Thailand is among the top 10 most-visited countries in the world. This Southeast Asian country is known for its golden Buddhist temples, rice fields, splendid tropical beaches, a burgeoning party scene and some of the most delicious food in the world—and lucky for you, cheap accommodations!
Plan your stay to coincide with one of the country’s many festivals or large-scale parties. Come during the Full Moon Party, which occurs every month on the island of Koh Phangang, or Songkran, the April water festival during which everyone “fights” with water pistols and water balloons. And each November, thousands of lanterns are released into the night sky in Chiang Mai at the Yi Peng festival.
If you’re interested in seeing more than just the parties, visit northern Thailand for more cultural sightseeing and hiking, or experience the craziness of Khao San Road in Bangkok before heading south for the stunning beaches. When you’re ready for some relaxation, head to Koh Phi Phi, the island made famous by the movie The Beach, or the spectacular Phang Nga Bay, also known as “James Bond Island,” off the coast of the city of Phuket.
Although Thailand is exotic and exciting, it’s not too difficult to navigate. Due to its popularity, travelling there is super easy. Plus, if you’ve never travelled solo but you want to give it a try, Thailand is a perfect place to start.
If you look around a bit, it’s easy to find guesthouses and hotels with clean, modern rooms for under $35 a night. Book your room at Hotels.com for great deals on hotels like the Khao Sok Cabana Resort and stay in your own bungalow for as little as $24 a night. These are just a couple of great examples, but there are hundreds more to be found. (Reserve your room at Hotels.com and earn 5% cash back.)
Another one of our favorite cheap travel destinations is Morocco, where there is no shortage of sights to take in. Tour the Sahara Desert on camelback, or explore ancient medinas and the many souks (markets) found in the buzzing cities and the laidback surfer towns on the rugged Atlantic coast.
As the most stable and secure country in the region, Morocco will give you a great taste of northern Africa. If you are travelling from Europe, Morocco is easily reached by budget airline from the continent or via a short ferry ride from Spain.
Whether traveling via plane or boat, you’ll want to pack light, and a carry-on bag like this Delsey Helium Shadow International Spinner Suiter Trolley from eBags is designed to fit into most international flight overhead compartments and is TSA accepted. Its lightweight, durable design includes an expanding main compartment that is perfect for bringing back souvenirs from the souk. (Purchase from eBags and receive 12% cash back.)
It’s quite easy to travel here on a budget of less than $100 per day – you can stay in some of Morocco’s famous riads, which are courtyard mini-palaces offering wonderful relief from the sun and the buzzing streets. In a traditional Moroccan 18th century building, you’ll find the luxurious Riad Shama Suites & Spa located in Marrakech. The hotel includes a swimming pool, air conditioning, a rooftop terrace overlooking the city’s medina and so much more for around $60 a night. Booking.com is a great site to discover independent hotels, and it also lets you specifically search for riads. (Book your stay at one of Morocco’s many romantic riads at Booking.com with 3% cash back for Splender members.)
You don’t need tons of cash to see the sights in Peru like its capital city, Lima, and Macchu Pichu. Consider beginning your journey in the urban jungle of Lima, then make your way into the Andes to the Sacred Valley surrounding the old city of Cusco and eventually to the rugged peaks overlooking the storied Inca ruins known as Macchu Pichu.
Be sure to check out the San Pedro market in Cusco, which is just a short walk from the main square, with its never-ending stream of traditional gifts, clothing and more to bring home. And if you have additional time to spare, consider hiring a boat to the see the Uros Islands. These are self-fashioned floating islands in Lake Titicaca that date back to pre-Incan times. Today, the Uros people maintain their traditional way of life by welcoming tourists and telling stories about their amazing culture and taking visitors out for rides on their traditional large reed boats.
Macchu Pichu is surely the highest priority on your visit. And the ancient attraction—named both a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World—is as breathtaking as you’d imagine. However, trekking to the site, which is situated atop an 8,000-foot-tall mountain, is no easy feat. Although you could take a 30-minute bus ride from the small town of Calientes directly to the site’s entrance, able-bodied adventurers might prefer to trek through the glaciated peaks and lush jungles of the Andes for an apt Macchu Pichu experience.
If you fit into the latter category, you’ll want to bring along some sturdy hiking boots like these Merrell Women’s Ridgepass Mid WP Hiking Boots or the HI-TEC Men’s Altitude Lite I Hiking Boots. (Purchase your hiking gear from Eastern Mountain Sports and receive 5% cash back.)
In the center of Europe, Hungary is one of the most unique and budget-friendly European destinations. Its capital city, Budapest, has a long, rich history and is famed for its dramatic cityscape studded with architectural landmarks from the medieval period to grand neoclassical buildings. Visitors to Budapest’s museums and memorials can immerse themselves in the country’s heritage at a fraction of the cost of other European cities. But if you need a break from city life, travel by train to the beautiful landscape of Lake Balaton, Central Europe’s largest lake, which will take less than $20 out of your budget. The lake is a favorite vacation destination for Hungarians—the southern shore and the city of Siófok are something of a party spot. The annual Balaton Sound of Summer music festival is held in the nearby town of Zamardi.
There are also more than a thousand natural hot springs in the country and 118 in the city of Budapest alone. The Szechenyi Thermal Baths, for instance, claim to be the biggest thermal bathing complex in Europe and are a must-see. Even in the cold, dark Hungarian winter, you can soothe your muscles in the naturally heated baths. However, summers here are slightly warmer than other European countries, so you shouldn’t be too timid to take the plunge or head to the lake.
Clearly, a swimsuit is a necessary item to pack when visiting Hungary. You won’t want to miss out on the essential Hungarian bathing experience. Suit up in these 9” Board Shorts from the J. Crew men’s collection that features classic nautical stripes. For women, this Bandeau One Piece from Target is perfect for lounging on the Hungarian beaches. (Splender members can get your swimsuits from J. Crew with 2% cash back and Target.com with 1% cash back.)
It’s easy to have an excellent trip—even on a budget. If you’re a savvy adventurer, you’ll have a lot of amazing travel options. When visiting these cheap travel destinations, you’ll be amazed at how much money you save.
So what’s stopping you? Don’t just dream of crossing these amazing places off of your bucket list, grab your gear and get going!
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