2020 was not a great year for travel, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. While some restrictions gradually loosened throughout 2021, some are looking to shake up their travel routines in 2022, and that includes trips abroad.
With help from travel experts, they shared with us their ideas of some of the best-priced places in the world in terms of hotels and food, and GOBankingRates put together a list of 10 international destinations that could provide adventure, ambiance and affordability in the new year.
Destinations range across the globe, and range from relaxing beaches to thriving nightlife, there’s something for everyone on this list. Of course, before and after booking, you’ll want to stay up to date on the COVID-19 protocols and requirements wherever you’re thinking of traveling. Read on to learn more about your potential 2022 vacation.
When it’s winter throughout most of the U.S. in January, the average high in Cancun is 81 degrees. It’s a destination that comes recommended by Jeremy Scott Foster, the CEO and founder of TravelFreak, a professional travel and adventure guide.
“Cancun has everything to offer its visitors; it’s practically a multi-generational destination from luxury resorts, sandy beaches and fantastic nightlife,” Foster said. “Luckily, it’s also incredibly affordable. Where prices are highest during the first week of each month, rates then reduce to approximately $50 [per night] for two people in a three-star resort and $80 in a four-star resort.”
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Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
If you prefer somewhere in Mexico that’s not as much of a tourist destination as Cancun, you might want to check out the Yucatan Peninsula. You’ll enjoy the same warm weather, as well as plenty of spots for swimming and snorkeling, and experience the local food scene at an affordable price.
“Cities just slightly off the path of the tourist mecca of Cancun, including Playa del Carmen, Tulum and Merida, offer an incredible variety of activities, exquisite food, and inexpensive lodging,” said Wes Jacobs, the founder of Apollo Medical Travel. “Young travelers in groups can consider staying in open bunk hostels for $8 USD a night. Airbnb accommodations in a private room or boutique hotel start at around $25 USD per night.”
If you’re looking to head even further south, look to the northeastern coast of Central America, where you’ll find the paradise known as Belize. Chris Atkins, the owner of Central America Fishing, a boutique luxury travel agency, ranks it as one of their “favorite affordable international travel destinations.”
“Central America’s smallest country with a population of just 400,000, this tiny Caribbean paradise is highly dependent on tourism,” Atkins explained. “While Belize now features many high end hotels and luxury fishing lodges, tourism has been popular here for decades so there are tons of affordable boutique hotels that can be found in all of the major beach towns. If you want someplace safe and clean but don’t need to be pampered, three star hotels for $100 per night or less are available. Airbnb rentals have also made their way onto the market in the last few years, so finding a 2-bedroom or 3-bedroom condo or villa is easy and affordable to do as well.”
Atkins also says not to get fooled by the country looking to be on the smaller side. “Despite its size, it packs a punch as it offers visitors rainforest, Mayan ruins, caves, adventure tours, white sand beaches, and of course it’s home to the second-longest barrier reef in the world, the Mesoamerican Reef,” he said. “This living, breathing UNESCO World Heritage site offers some of the best snorkeling, diving, and reef fishing in the world year after year. The locals are extremely friendly and welcoming, and they love food & beer, so it’s a country that is very easy to fall in love with after just one visit.”
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Near the equator on the west coast of South America, the country offers limitless adventure, according to Dan Meyer, founder and director of the experiential travel program BACK&BACK. As far as affordable, he estimates the cost at around $60 a day.
Ecuador is a relatively small country – roughly the size of Colorado – but there’s something for everyone within its borders,” Meyers said. “It’s one of seventeen ‘megadiverse’ countries, so it’s a paradise for outdoor and nature lovers especially.” He also recommends the capital city of Quito, which was the first UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. It boasts 40 churches, 17 plazas, and 16 convents and monasteries, and more.
It’s also close enough to the Amazon rainforest for those feeling extra adventurous. “A short 40-minute flight [roughly $70 to $80 one way] from the urban center will get you to Coca, a great entry point for the Amazon rainforest,” Meyer explained. Though he recommends booking in advance “both for safety reasons and to see the most wildlife.”
Meyer also recommends exploring areas beside the capital. “Costs fall even lower when you head into the rural towns and villages of the central Andes,” Meyer said. “Local markets are a cultural must-see and are a super cheap way to load up on souvenirs. To top it off, the official currency of Ecuador is the U.S. dollar, so American travelers don’t have to worry about currency exchange or money lost in fees!”
While India’s not everyone’s first idea for an international vacation, travel blogger Kevin Mercier is hoping that changes in 2022.
“I believe India is one of the countries more travelers need to start researching in 2022,” Mercier said. “Travelers can find everything from the beautiful mountains, beaches, wildlife tours, to culinary delights and delicious local drinks here. India is also one of the best yet cheapest locations for a romantic vacation.”
How affordable? Right now, very affordable given the favorable currency exchange rate from rupees to dollars.
“Unless you’re looking to stay at a five-star hotel or resort, you’ll find it hard to spend $50 a day here. You can get by on around $30 in most Indian cities by staying at cheap guest houses instead of hotels. The average price for a single person for accommodation in India is around 1,120 rupees ($15 USD).”
Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city in terms of population, and has started to emerged as a destination both for those looking to travel on a budget and for those who have a bit more to spend on vacation, said Sean Lau, a travel expert and travel blogger at LivingOutLau.
“One of the best worldwide travel destinations in 2022 is Istanbul,” he said. “As the value of the Turkish lira continues to drop, Istanbul becomes one of the best value-for-money travel destinations. Learn about the captivating history of one of the most influential cities in the world, indulge in delightful Turkish cuisine and discover the gorgeous Turkish handicrafts.”
Lau said a luxury hotel won’t cost more than $100 a night, with budget hotels available in the $20 range.
If you’ve always dreamed of going on a safari, 2022 might be the year.
“I’d suggest travelers to consider East Africa. You can expect to pay as low as $15 a night for hotel stays and you get so much bang for your buck,” said Will Hatton, the founder of travel blog The Broke Backpacker. “You’d struggle to book a place in a 30-bed dorm in Australia for that kind of money, so take your hard-earned money and spend it where it spreads so much.
“Kenya is a very diverse country with many options to choose from,” hea added. “You’ll find that most places will offer a safari and the beach and be of a reasonable price.”
Lombok is an island in Indonesia for the adventurous, which offers waterfalls in the midst of a jungle, snorkeling, diving, climbing Mount Rinjani, and even an active volcano. When you’re done with your adventures, stop at Air Kalak Hot Springs to enjoy its medicinal properties.
“For those looking for somewhere cheap, well, Lombok offers a broad choice of just about anything,” said James Cutajar, who runs The Travel Deck, a website focusing on Southeast Asia. “Hotels start at around $30 a night and food is just as affordable. For instance, fresh grilled fish including sides won’t set you back more than $10.”
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
“One destination we’re seeing a lot of bookings for 2022 already that is very affordable is Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic,” said Val Streif, the marketing manager at GetMyBoat, a boat rental app similar to Airbnb. “The Dominican Republic is often regarded as one of the most affordable destinations in the Caribbean, offering budget-friendly travel in a region where many islands only offer expensive luxury resorts and pricey hotels.”
The beach destination also “offers a lot of authentic culture and unique experiences, while also providing all the touristy comforts you want on a vacation,” Streif said.
Phuket reopened to visitors who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in July, with some hotel rooms as low as $1 per night to attract tourists. While the prices might not be that low in 2022, it’s still poised to be a bargain, said Luke Charny, the founder of A Chef’s Tour, which organizes culinary tours in Asia and Latin America.
Charny picks Phuket as the place to be in 2022 because of quiet beaches, excellent infrastructure for tourists and “some seriously good discounts.” He said travelers should be able to get rooms overlooking the beach for $20 a night.
Sometimes a destination is so captivating you end up moving there. Henrik Jeppesen, a travel blogger and the founder of Every Country in the World, liked Tallinn so much that he moved there.
“Tallinn has a fantastic old town with well-preserved buildings and it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site,” he said. “The best value is one of the monthlong stays at the beautiful contemporary Citybox Hotel starting at just 350 euros (about $405 USD) per month. “If you are looking for a shorter visit, Hestia Hotel Kentmanni is a fantastic hotel in a great quiet location with great offers including breakfast and spa access. Tallinn is a great place to live and a fantastic place to visit. … Oh by the way, the number one ranked restaurant on TripAdvisor has lunch offers for just 5 euros (about $6) Monday through Friday.”
The Serbian capital city has a mix of historic sites, river views and nightlife. Torben Lonne, the co-founder and chief editor of review guide DiveIn.com, recommends it for its “vibrant atmosphere, friendly people, and cheap food and drinks.”
“You can find very good deals for accommodation and rent entire apartments for $20 or $30 per night,” he said. “Since Belgrade is very well connected with public transport, you don’t have to be located downtown in order to get to all of the attractions easily. Being further away from the city center reduces the prices significantly and allows you to see other parts of the city. When it comes to food and drinks, most of the traditional restaurants are very cheap. … More importantly, the food is delicious and chefs mainly use quality, organic ingredients that you can also find at one of the farmers markets every day.”
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