There are many people who want to travel abroad but never do because they feel visiting exotic destinations is simply too cost prohibitive. However, there are many desirable destinations outside of the U.S. that can be incredibly affordable — with a little careful planning.
If you’re itching to experience a beautiful international adventure on a budget, keep reading.
1. Xi’an, China
Uncover the wonders of China’s Silk Road in Xi’an at its eastern end. The UNESCO World Heritage site is famous for its 8,000 terracotta warriors and 10,000 bronze weapons, but that’s not all there is to this exotic destination.
Take in a view of the city from the top of the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, possibly the world’s first “skyscraper.” Seven stories tall, the pagoda was built 1,300 years ago when Xi’an was the capital of the prosperous Tang Dynasty.
The opulence of the city doesn’t have to drain your wallet. A stay at the Hang Tang House begins at just $1.31 a night and offers the feel of a four-star hotel melded with the ambiance of a hostel hospitality.
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2. Sihanoukville, Cambodia
Located on the southwest peninsula area on the Gulf of Thailand, Sihanoukville — also known as Kampong Som — is almost entirely surrounded by miles of uninterrupted beach. Wiggle your toes in the sand or strap on your hiking shoes to explore coastal marshlands, mangroves and forests at Ream National Park, located approximately 11 miles from Sihanoukville City.
For $2.50 a night, you can stay in a hostel bungalow just 200 yards from an exotic beach. Budget vacations in Sihanoukville include eating out. Fill up on an inexpensive meal for $2 to $5 and wash it down with a domestic beer for a buck.
3. Lisbon, Portugal
In Lisbon, Portugal’s ancient capital city, there’s plenty to do for less than $15 per day. Wander through the Moorish Alfama district’s winding streets to uncover taverns alive with the soulful sounds of Fado singers. Or stroll through the graceful ruins of Carmo Convent and enjoy panoramic views over Old Town.
At day’s end, tuck into a hostel bed that costs just more than $6 per night.
4. Kuta, Bali, Indonesia
Does sitting in the shade of a tiki hut and surfing the waves off a tree-lined Bali beach sound like your ideal exotic vacation? Then head to the sandy beaches of Kuta.
Nothing says you have to drop a lot of dough to head to this vacation spot. An inexpensive meal goes for less than $2, and you can wash it down with a pint of beer for approximately $1.50. The same goes for spending the night. Tuck into a hostel near the beach for less than $7. You’ll be positioned to build your surfing skills at Old Man Beach or sit back and relax at Canggu Beach.
5. Phuket, Thailand
Shimmering turquoise waters set against a backdrop of jungle-covered cliffs set the stage for a picturesque vacation in Phuket. The exotic flair comes with a low price tag.
Enjoy walk-to-the-beach hostels filled with modern conveniences, including pools and WiFi, that cost as low as $6.67 per night. Eat an inexpensive meal out for about $1.75, or indulge your taste buds with street food at the Phuket Weekend Market, where you can also find deals on souvenirs.
6. Nadi, Fiji
In Nadi, you can spend your day alternating between soaking up the sun on the sandy beach and kicking back in a hammock underneath swaying palm trees. If you’re looking for more activity, check out traditional Dravidian architecture at the Sri Siva Subramaniya Swami Temple, pick up locally made souvenirs at the Nadi Handicraft Market or dance the night away at the popular nightclub Ice Bar.
Choose to stay at the Bamboo Beach hostel for just $8 per night, and you’ll be able to feel the sea breeze while you sleep.
7. Mandalay, Myanmar
Mandalay is the capital city where the last Burmese monarch ruled. At just $5 admission, you don’t want to miss strolling through the Royal Mandalay Palace when you visit the city. An inexpensive local meal costs about $10, but you can also purchase groceries for cheap if you prefer to prepare your own food.
Check out hostels in the heart of the city where you can rest for as little as $8 per night after soaking in Mandalay’s culture.
8. Budapest, Hungary
Straddling the scenic Danube River, Hungary’s capital city rolls out history dating back to the Stone Age. The city is ideal for cheap vacations, as many of Budapest’s best sights are free. Check out Roman, Turkish and Gothic architecture with breathtaking structures ranging from castles to synagogues.
Grab an inexpensive meal for as little as $5.34, and share a dorm in one of the city’s top-notch hostels for as little as $8.69 per night.
9. Montego Bay, Jamaica
Jamaica is a sweet destination whether you’re looking for a summer getaway or want to head to an affordable romantic hot spot. It’s not typical to find accommodations in Jamaica for less than $15 per day, but you can do it — if you’re willing to sleep in a tent.
For $10, you can set up a tent under a shady tree at the Bird’s Nest hostel and enjoy a pool overlooking the Caribbean Sea. Treat yourself to Caribbean cuisine during your cheap vacation. An inexpensive meal costs as little as $4.25.
10. San Juan, Puerto Rico
You might not ever want to leave the beauty of Condado beach when you stay in San Juan, but know there are plenty of other free things to do. During the day, stroll through Old San Juan’s cobblestone streets, and check out Spanish colonial buildings and 16th-century fortresses. At night, take in the blue glow from Mosquito Bay, which is made by bioluminescent dinoflagellates.
Save a little in your budget to savor local cuisine like lechón asado (roast pork). An inexpensive meal averages $12. One night at a hostel can be had for as little as $10.
11. Edinburgh, Scotland
Edinburgh brims with ways to explore the city’s ancient sights on the cheap. Head to the Royal Botanic Garden, St. Giles’ Cathedral or the National Museum of Scotland for starters.
While sightseeing is budget friendly in Edinburgh, eating out is not. Expect a cheap meal to average $14.20 per person. Groceries in the city, however, are about 15 percent less expensive than in Los Angeles, so you can cook up a gourmet meal in your hostel kitchen. A short walk from Edinburgh Castle is The Hostel in Edinburgh, which costs approximately $10.40 per night.
12. Canary Islands, Spain
Stay on the beach on the mountainous island of Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands, where you can check out low-cost surfboard, kayak, snorkeling and mountain bike rentals at Big Fish Las Palmas Hostel. If you prefer to relax than to sweat, kick back and enjoy a sea view from the rooftop terrace.
For dinner, head out to enjoy a meal for around $8.50. Then sleep easy back at the hostel knowing you are paying just $12 for a bed.
13. Mykonos, Greece
You usually won’t find Mykonos on a list of cheap vacations, but the island brims with free and low-cost activities. Spend your days working on your tan at Paradise Beach, check out the seaside architecture of the town of Little Venice, or capture pictures of the iconic windmills that overlook the neighborhood.
Add in a budget-friendly hostel for less than $13 per night, and you’re set for a vacation that won’t break the bank.
14. Córdoba, Spain
Córdoba’s multicultural flair dates back to the 8th century when Muslims, Christians and Jews all lived side by side in the city. Take in the Córdoba’s culture at the Mezquita, a Catholic church that was purchased and rebuilt as a mosque and reverted back to a Catholic church over the course of centuries. Outside of the Mezquita, you can marvel at astounding arches, gardens and Baroque architecture in the city.
Stay at Funky Córdoba hostel for less than $13 per night. Low grocery prices make Córdoba a cheap place to visit, but if you want to go out, you can nosh inexpensively for under $10.
15. Venice, Italy
Wrap yourself up in the romance of Venice on a shoestring budget. Enjoy watching gondolas from the Rialto Bridge for free, or get an early start to beat tourist throngs to Piazza San Marco for people watching. Get a Venezia Unica City Pass while you’re visiting to use public transportation and get admission into tourist attractions.
While it is possible to find them, hostels below $15 per night are very limited. Book your time as far in advance as possible to make sure you get your spot.