Too many people say they can’t afford to travel, but the truth is, if you’re willing to get a little off the beaten path, there are plenty of exotic destinations out there just waiting to be discovered. Best of all, they aren’t overrun with tourists. From Asia to south American to eastern Europe, here are a few suggestions for exotic places you can afford to visit. You might be surprised at just how far your dollar will stretch.Nepal
Nepal tops this year’s Backpacker Index with a daily travel total of only US$14.75 in Pokhara, its second-largest city (that includes a dorm bed, three meals, two public transport rides, one paid cultural attraction, and three cheap beers). This landlocked country is home to eight of the world’s top 10 highest peaks, and is a magnet for the outdoorsy and adventurous. You’ll find great bargains on food, not to mention a wide variety of cuisines. Odds are you’ll want to fit in some trekking while you’re in Nepal; this can be pricey, but shop around for the best deals. Good quality gear can also be bought for a song if you need to kit up there.
Sandwiched between Thailand and Vietnam, Cambodia should definitely not be overlooked by the budget traveler. Rich in history, its temples are not to be missed, and if you want to relax in the sun after soaking up the culture, it’s easy to get away to one of the picturesque islands or beaches down south. While it’s less developed than surrounding countries, Cambodia offers rock-bottom prices on everything from accommodation to drinks – just watch out for possible scams.
Colorful, lively, spiritual, and affordable, India ticks all the boxes. It’s a diverse country, one of extremes – the rural and scenic south, and the historic, cultural north – one that deserves weeks, if not months, to explore in its entirety. Even so, it’s bound to be a frugal trip. Prices vary widely across the country; they are higher in the larger cities and tourist hotspots, and during festival seasons, but overall, accommodation and meals clock in at top notch value. Getting around can be done on a shoestring, too, as India has an extensive transport network.
Small yet dripping in heritage, the landlocked Czech Republic has a lot going for it. Prague is the jewel in its crown, but for those with time to spare, getting further out into the country is well worth the effort. There’s beautiful architecture, hiking and swimming opportunities, and of course, cheap beer, beds, and bus tickets for budget backpackers.
This former Soviet country is actually the second largest in all of Europe, and makes for a unique destination that won’t break the bank. From mountains to beaches to fortresses, you’ll find Ukraine spans a variety of architecture, language and culture. Costs are lower away from the capital of Kiev and towards the Russian end of the country. The food is hearty and filling, the people generous and warm, but be prepared to encounter language barriers and facilities of dubious quality from time to time.
Another country outside of the euro zone that’s surprisingly affordable – at least for now – is Croatia. It boasts a stunning coastline, albeit one that’s more rocky than sandy, and is bursting with quaint old towns just crying out for you to lose yourself in. Charming churches and zig-zagging alleyways are remnants of the past that remain, even as the country continues to develop. For lower prices, head inland to continental Croatia and get off the tourist circuit.
East meets west in Turkey, where regions range from European-flavored to areas with more of a Middle Eastern tinge. The coastal Mediterranean areas are stunning, and offer plenty of opportunities for sailing, hiking, and cruising. You’ll enjoy many of the comforts of western Europe, as the infrastructure is of high standards, yet Turkey is far less expensive than some of its neighbors. Food is reasonably cheap and there are plenty of street stands; buses are also an economical way of getting around, although they aren’t the most comfortable option.
Nicaragua remains one of the lesser-known destinations in Central America, but that’s part of its appeal. Because it’s yet to be discovered by the masses, you can stretch a dollar further than you could in other nearby locations, such as Costa Rica. If you’re into the outdoors, there’s plenty of lakes and waterfalls to explore and beaches to surf; culture vultures can soak up the history and architecture in colonial Granada and elsewhere. Look out for the famous intercity ‘chicken buses’, used by locals and tourists alike – you may well find yourself sitting alongside some livestock for the duration of the ride.
Diverse in geography and population, Bolivia is one of the most remote countries in the world, where traditions and beliefs date back to the days of the Inca kings. It’s a little rough around the edges; simply navigating around can be a challenge, and it’s not for the faint of heart. But as your reward, you’ll experience views and landscapes unlike anything you’ve seen before, from sparkling lakes to volcanoes, geysers, and of course, the famous salt desert – to say nothing of the thousands of wildlife species that Bolivia is home to.
Peru is growing in popularity as a destination, but for now, there are still many affordable options for the budget traveler. Try staying in in hospedajes, which are small family-owned hotels, and visiting during spring or fall, when prices are lower. Be sure to visit more than just Machu Picchu and you’ll enjoy a much more satisfying journey – there’s a reasonably extensive bus network in most cities. There are ancient ruins, museums to ogle, and vast varieties of delicacies to sample. If you’re planning to book a trek, shop around, ask plenty of questions, confirm what is included in the cost, and don’t commit if you’re not entirely comfortable.