But where do you start? Sometimes the sheer number of cheap vacations available can be overwhelming. Instead of hitting the beach and letting go of your cares, you can spend hours stressing out about which cheap exotic vacation to choose.
Never fear! Club Thrifty is here to help. Without further ado, here are 8 cheap and beautiful travel destinations that for you to check off your bucket list without breaking the bank!
Cheap and Beautiful Travel Destinations
One of the top destinations in Mexico is the Mayan Riviera, and Playa del Carmen may be it’s crown jewel. Playa has stunningly gorgeous white beaches, and its crystal clear Caribbean water is second to none. The short bus ride from Cancun International Airport is easy on the eyes because the journey follows the coastline. Staying in Playa isn’t as crowded or expensive as Cancun, but it’s also not too far away for a quick visit. While you’re there, be sure to check out the magnificent shopping, dining, and nightlife on 10th Avenue. The energy is intoxicating! Playa del Carmen is also just a short ferry ride away from Cozumel, which offers outstanding diving and snorkeling opportunities.
In addition, Zihuatanejo is a small town on the Pacific coast near Ixtapa. It is a little more sedate than the typical tourist center, but still close to Ixtapa if you want activities like shopping, dining and nightlife. In January, average temperatures are in the low to mid 80s, but winter in the U.S. and Canada is also when the snow birds are in Mexico, so prices are higher. If you’re looking for a great deal, choose to visit during off-peak times when the prices are lower.
2.) Costa Rica
This small but popular Central American country is a nature lover’s paradise. Costa Rica has it all: mountains, jungles, forests, streams, lakes, volcanoes, beaches and throngs of tropical wildlife species. It is also consistently rated as one of the happiest nations in the world.
The country itself is both adorable and afordable. AirBnB has a number of rental opportunities ranging from just $50 – $100 per night.
Because Costa Rican vacations are so popular, there are a large number of reviews for places to stay on sites like AirBnB and TripAdvisor. (Generally speaking, the more ratings there are, the more useful the ratings are.) If it is your first trip to there, it might help to look at travel packages like those on the website called Caravan. Their ten day package features a range of activities and sites to visit. If you want a shorter stay, you could arrange your own travel, but do some of activities they mention on your own. Sometimes Costco Travel and Sun Trips also have packages there as well.
This small, sub-tropical country is becoming more and more popular due to its beautiful natural environment, slow pace, and affordability. When traveling to Belize, like in much of Central and South America, it helps to know some Spanish. However, travelers need not worry. Many of the locals do speak some English.
Belize is best enjoyed by people who like the outdoors, beaches, and water. The Caribbean waters are very warm during the summer season, up to 83 degrees Fahrenheit! So, summer is a great time to enjoy some of Belize’s most popular recreational activities like swimming, diving, snorkeling, and fishing.
If you love beautiful seascapes, Belize has well over 300 kilometers of coastline to explore. Off-peak season here is from May to October, with rains beginning in June, so look for the best travel deals during late spring to early fall. Prices during December, January and February can be very high, unless you plan far in advance and get lucky.
Vancouver has to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world! With a comfortable temperate climate and a breathtaking location between the ocean and mountains, the views of Vancouver are simply spectacular. Just a short drive from the city, you’ll find world-class skiing and snowboarding in winter and beautiful hiking trails and campgrounds in the spring and summer months. Vancouver also has many fine restaurants and hotels, in addition to a zoo, a suspension footbridge, aquarium and art museums. If you are in the mood to explore, jump in your car and drive to either Victoria, the remote areas of British Columbia, or even Seattle.
January and February are the mild, wet times, so there are fewer tourists and better deals. The best weather is in the spring and summer when temperatures range from the 60s to low 80s, but this is also when travel costs tend to be the highest. If you are traveling during the high season, it’s probably a good idea to book flights and accommodations at least three months in advance.
If you’re looking for a quiet place to escape, Banff is a great place for nature lovers. The town has less than 10,000 people and is near the beautiful Banff National Park, which is the main attraction. This park draws hikers from around the world who want to take in spectacular mountain vistas, forests, and lakes. To get there, you’ll need to fly to Calgary and rent a car for a 90-minute drive. You can also opt to take a shuttle.
Cambodia is one of Southeast Asia’s most beautiful travel destinations, and it offers a plethora of low-cost options for transportation once you get there. Large, air-conditioned buses are available, as are share taxis and rentals. Make sure that you don’t rent a car or motorcycle without insurance. If you want to have time to view the scenery, riding a bus – or even a slow-moving train – is better than driving. Plus, it is safer.
Another way to check out Cambodia is to rent a mountain bike. Biking gives you a great way to see the landscape and really interact with the Cambodian people. The roads are rough, but that just adds to the adventure. Travelers will also find water taxis and in-country flights that are available, even though the country is fairly small.
Although Cambodia is a country with significant poverty, that doesn’t mean that you should avoid it. Of course, there is some crime and corruption, so travelers should be cautious about choosing the locations which they want to visit. Meals are relatively cheap and can be had for about $2.50, depending on where you go. Tourists should definitely visit the capital of Phnom Penh and the and the ancient Bayon Temple located at Angkor Thom. There are also sleepy coastal villages like Kep where you can slow down and just enjoy the water.
Related: How to Travel to Europe for $200
If you are already in Phnom Pehn, try hopping on a bus for $10-20 and cross the border to Saigon, Vietnam. Here, you’ll find a country that is wealthier than Cambodia and more developed. Although Vietnam is definitely one of the most budget-friendly travel destinations, you’ll pay a little bit more here for just about everything than in Cambodia. However, like Cambodia, this is a country where you can find low-cost enjoyable food at local markets. You may even find a woman with fresh produce and spices who whips up something right in front of you. Of course, Vietnam also has its share of high-end restaurants and fine dining.
When it comes to Vietnamese activities and attractions, you have a wide array of choices. Doing your research prior to coming can help you save time and money. From an overnight stay on a junk in Halong Bay to taking cooking classes, you’ll find plenty of budget-friendly things to do in Vietnam.
Typically, there are many forms of transportation available for foreign tourists to use. Some of the best options include trains and buses. As on all forms of mass transportation, you’ll want to be careful with your baggage when you’re taking the train or the bus. Thieves tend to roam these units and are looking for unsuspecting targets. In the cities, you should consider using the services of a pedicab driver or taxi. However, please note that the national Tet holiday usually takes place in late January or early February. During the holiday, local people are on the move which could make travel for foreigners difficult. It may be best to avoid Vietnam during this time.
Thailand is also just a bus ride away from Cambodia. Flights to Bangkok can be expensive, but there are several different airline passes that can help you save big bucks if you plan to fly within Southeast Asia. When traveling through Thailand, using trains is also a good option to get you to your destination. Just be aware that they can be very slow. Traveling the country by bus seems to be the preferred method for most budget-conscious tourists, although you can also catch a cab if you want something a little more private (and more expensive).
If you want to come to Southeast Asia but need your modern amenities, Thailand is your spot as it is the most developed country in Southeast Asia. In Thailand, you’ll find such large movie theaters, large shopping malls, and fine dining restaurants – especially in Bangkok.
Looking for a more authentically Thai experience? Chiang Mai is a good place to slow down and immerse yourself in Thai culture. Here, there is a lower cost of living as well as more access to natural habitats. Accommodations can be booked as cheaply as $15 to $60 per night on AirBnB.
The Chiang Mai area is full of places to visit! Some of the activities are touristy – like visiting the Old Moat – while others are more about coming in contact with local culture – like seeing an elephant camp. You may even want to take a visit to the Healing Family Foundation. This foundation teaches disabled children to weave products that can be sold to support themselves. Of course, your trip to Chiang Mai would not be complete without getting at least one massage. One massage may last for an hour or more, and they’re typically so affordable that you might as well get two! Regardless, it helps to know your own tastes before you go so you don’t try to cram too much into one trip.
Laos has a very lengthy border that can be entered from Cambodia, Thailand or Vietnam. It is still relatively undeveloped, so it can be very affordable to travel once you are there. While it is know for being a very relaxed place to visit, Laos is not known for its creature comforts or its cleanliness. Still, it is easily one of the cheapest and most beautiful travel destinations in Asia. Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, Vientiane, and Southern Laos are some of the top places to visit.
Luang Prabang is the former capital city of Laos, and is stocked with scores of Buddhist temples and markets to visit. The total population is only about 25,000 people, so it certainly isn’t a metropolis. A meal of sticky rice and coconut can be purchased for about one US dollar – which is totally affordable in my book! With its natural beauty and peaceful river, Vang Vieng has become a destination for backpackers from around the globe. It is also very affordable.
Vientane is the current capital of Laos and has a population of well over 700,000. Like Luang Prabang there are many Buddhist temples here, including Buddha Park. In a city this size, you will certainly find many excellent restaurants. However, dining at Makphet Restaurant is an unforgettable experience all its own. The restaurant has a program for street kids, training them as chefs and waiters serving traditional Laotian cuisine. Plus, as one of the top-rated restaurants in Vientane, the food is sublime.
Before you travel, remember to do your research. By thinking outside the box, you can save big money while experiencing some of the world’s most famous and beautiful travel destinations. Have fun, and enjoy the ride!
Related: How to Travel for FREE!