The 38 cheapest places to travel in 2019

The 38 cheapest places to travel in 2019

Want to save money in 2019 and still travel the world? You’re in luck. Every year, I tap into experts and influencers to find out their picks for cheap travel in the upcoming year. For 2019, I convinced a group of travel wizards to open their little black books and recommend their favourite places to travel on a budget.

They also shared the smartest ways to see these places (affordable hotels, bargain restaurants), and they zeroed in on some money-saving ways to visit otherwise expensive locations. While experts like the Global Business Travel Association are predicting that travel prices will rise sharply in 2019, you don’t need to worry. With this list of inexpensive places in hand, you’ll be able to travel for less. See the full list below of the cheapest places to travel in 2019, and compare it to the best budget travel destinations in 2018 and 2017.



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Decatur Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans.PHOTO COURTESY OF ALEXANDRA BAACKES/@ALEXINWANDERLAND INSTAGRAM

Where: New Orleans

Chosen By: Alexandra Baackes is founder of Alex in Wanderland and Wander Women Retreats and the author of the Wanderland Guide to Koh Tao. Baackes has been addicted to storytelling since 2009, sharing the behind-the-scenes of her world travels, adventures in entrepreneurship and experiments in living abroad on her blog and social media channels.

Why: New Orleans is known for colorful nightlife, a bursting festival calendar and a decadent local cuisine — but the Big Easy is also an undercover gem for budget travelers. Let’s start with the basics. Most NOLA must-dos are free: people watching in the French Quarter, house peeping in the Garden District and bar hopping the live music venues on Frenchman Street. But get creative. Need to cool off after all that strolling? Head to fun and flirty The Country Club, where entry to the pool out back costs a reasonable $15 a day and the bar provides a steady stream of frozen cocktails. Worked up an appetite? SoBou and Commander’s Palace are two of many local restaurants keeping the 25 cent martini weekday lunch alive. You read that right. Order lunch, and martinis are a mere quarter — though most enforce a limit of three, because, as the menu states, “that’s enough.” Need to work off all that indulgence? Head to one of the several free weekly fitness events thrown by Move Ya Brass. They have a calendar of running clubs, yoga classes and dance-based workouts heavy on local music and flavor. Need a place to recharge so you can do it all again tomorrow? Check in to the Catahoula Hotel, a chic boutique design hotel in the Central Business District with rooms starting at a mere $100 a night.

A panorama of Ocho Rios in Jamaica.GETTY

Where: Jamaica

Chosen By: Meagan Drillinger is a freelance travel writer and lifestyle writer based in New York City, but if you give her a plane ticket, she’ll be anywhere else. Follow her adventures at @drillinjourneys.

Why: Though Jamaica is a legendary beach destination, 2019 will be the year to discover Kingston, an untapped, culturally rich capital of the Caribbean. Still rough around the edges but with a soul that is impossible to resist, Kingston is the place to experience the heartbeat of Jamaica, in ways simply not possible from within a beach resort — and for a much cheaper price tag. Rhythm rocks the streets from sunup to sundown. In fact, in 2018 Kingston opened the Peter Tosh Museum, which rounds out the city’s musical offerings, in addition to the Bob Marley Museum and the Jamaica Music Museum. Experience the local dance halls, tour the Trench Town Culture Yard and see a side of the country that few Americans take the time to truly experience before they jet off to the beaches of the north. That said, with the recently opened high-speed highway that connects Kingston to Ocho Rios, visitors can easily make the trip north to weave together a city and beach vacation in one trip, especially with the new S Hotel in Montego Bay, a sleek-and-sexy, South Beach-style spot that will open in January. End your jaunt with a ride through reggae music history as you depart from Sangster International Airport. VP Records, the world’s largest independent reggae music label and publisher, is kicking off its 40th anniversary with an installation chronicling its indelible contribution to reggae music. 

A view of Lisbon, Portugal.GETTY

Where: Lisbon, Portugal

Chosen By: Melissa Klurman is a travel expert, writer and editor and contributor at Reader’s Digest, Frommer’s Travel Guides and Parents, among other publications.

Why:  Lisbon is the affordable European city you’ve been dreaming of visiting. It offers a rich history, incredible architecture and delicious local cuisine and wines, all without the high price tag of Paris and London. Bargains abound around every corner. Indulge in the city’s decadent custard-filled pastel de nata for just 1€ at the historic Pasteis de Belém café. A Lisbon city pass is 19€ and gives you 24 hours of admission to everything from modern museums to historic monasteries, as well as all transportation, including rides on the Lisbon’s scenic tram cars and stunning elevators that lift passengers up the steep city hills. Thirsty? Local wine bars charge less than 3€ per glass of wine; even swanky restaurants offer bottles for under 10€ (try that in New York City, where you’ll be lucky to find a glass of wine for that price). Extra bonus: Lisbon is great for families. There’s a fabulous aquarium and science museum on the waterfront, not to mention a real castle to explore. Centrally located, family-friendly Martinhal Chiado offers full-service apartments with kitchens starting at around $150 a night. Included in the reasonable rate are free use of baby equipment, including everything from bottle warmers to strollers; a complimentary kids club that runs late so parents can go out for dinner on their own; and a free breakfast that includes made-to-order pancakes and those amazing nata tarts.

Rachel Martino at Ponce City Market’s rooftop amusement park.PHOTO COURTESY OF RACHEL MARTINO/@RACHMARTINO INSTAGRAM

Where: Atlanta

Chosen By: Rachel Martino is a fashion, beauty and travel blogger based in Brooklyn, New York. Follow her on Instagram @rachmartino.

Why: Don’t sleep on Hotlanta. While Charleston’s charm usually steals the spotlight, Atlanta offers an alternative for Southern hospitality. You don’t have to go wild at Staplehouse for great food. Golden Eagle and Kimball House are personal favorite dinner spots, carving out an accessible middle ground between genteel Southern dining and locals-only joints. This capital city offers plenty to do between meals. I recommend Ponce City Market’s rooftop amusement park, which offers games, mini golf and a stunning view of the city with affordable $10 admission or The High Museum with free admission the second Sunday of each month. To top it all off, finding a cheap flight is easy: Atlanta is Delta’s largest hub.

The rooftops of Tallinn, Estonia.PHOTO COURTESY OF LUCIE JOSMA/@MISSJETSETTER INSTAGRAM

Where: Tallinn, Estonia

Chosen By: Lucie Josma, a native New Yorker, is a world travel photographer and social media manager working with some of the top brands in travel and tourism. Having traveled to over 60 countries, she’s looking forward to focusing on lesser known destinations throughout Africa, Eastern Europe and the Caribbean. Follow her on Instagram @Missjetsetter as she gears up for a busy 2019.

Why: Only a short ferry ride away from Finland, Tallinn is a cheap alternative to visiting Northern European cities such as Helsinki or Stockholm. Accommodations run for a fraction of the price compared to most of Europe, and public transportation is easy to navigate, as well as cost efficient. Make sure to pay a visit to Tallinn’s UNESCO-protected medieval old town, a preserved walled area with many restaurants and shops. For an exceptionally special experience head to the restaurant Olde Hansa, located in the old town’s center. Providing medieval musicians performing nightly, meals prepared using 15th century recipes and authentic medieval attire, this restaurant is reason enough to pay Tallinn a visit. To learn more about Estonian folk culture and art, make sure to add both the Estonian Open Air Museum and Kumu Art Museum to your itinerary.

Main Street in Cooperstown, a charming upstate New York town.GETTY

Where: Cooperstown, New York

Chosen By: Blakely Trettenero is the owner of the popular travel website Hungry for Travels, a freelance travel writer and a social media contributor. With traveling to 45 countries, her travels range from ultra-luxury to off-the-beaten-path locations.

Why: Although this charming town may be internationally known for being home to the iconic National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Cooperstown has more up to bat than just baseball. Strolling down the historic main street you’ll find an array of cute shops, antique stores, cafes and my favorite — the bountiful Cooperstown Farmers Market, where you can find affordable (and incredibly delicious) bites made locally. During the day, you can find plenty of inexpensive fun, like a tasting at Ommegang brewery ($10 for a tour and tasting), a visit to Fly Creek Cider Mill & Orchard (complimentary tastings), a tour of the Farmer’s Museum ($12 entry) or a stroll around the Fenimore Art Museum ($12 daily pass). Even for those who aren’t baseball fans, make sure to visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame this year to celebrate its 80th anniversary. With Cooperstown being situated in prime farming country, this town is home to some very tasty restaurants. Head to the greenhouse-chic Origins Cafe (entrees around $12) or splurge on dinner at the lakeside Blue Mingo Grill (entrees around $30). For an inexpensive yet historical hotel, stay at the Railroad Inn (rates starting at $85 a night).

A view of Barga, Italy, from the Renaissance Tuscany Il Ciocco Resort & Spa.PHOTO COURTESY OF RENAISSANCE TUSCANY IL CIOCCO RESORT & SPA

Where: Barga, Italy

Chosen By: Harmony Walton is writer and founder of The Bridal Bar and host of the talk radio show, Bridal Bar Radio, on America’s Talk and iHeartRadio. She travels the globe working with couples and companies in search of the best destination wedding locations and honeymoon hot spots. Follow her journeys at @bridalbar.

Why: Tucked within the mountainous Serchio Valley is Tuscany’s best kept secret. Not yet overrun by tourists, Barga is a quiet medieval town that takes you back to old-world Italy where mama cooks for all and wineries are still run by families. The art scene is alive and well, the Duomo di San Cristoforo atop the town is worth the walk and the food, well, that goes without saying. A local highlight is the lunchtime tour at Podere Concori, a biodynamic winery with a passion for cultivating the purest of products. Winter season here is ideal for budget travelers; rates at the Renaissance Tuscany Il Ciocco Resort & Spa are as low as €112 per night. With views of the entire valley from your balcony, you might even catch snow falling as you marvel at the watercolor-like sunsets. Located just over an hour from Florence, you get the best of both worlds when you fly into the city for a stopover before heading to the countryside for mountain biking, hiking and thermal pools, too. 

The Gathering Place, a new park in Tulsa.PHOTO COURTESY OF KAITLIN ORR/@CARNIVORR INSTAGRAM

Where: Tulsa, Oklahoma

Chosen By: A Los Angeles native with a well-stamped passport and an appetite for adventure, Kaitlin Orr (@Carnivorr) provides food and travel inspiration both in the USA and around the globe.

Why: I never thought I’d rave about “the Paris of Oklahoma,” but my trip to Tulsa blew me away. Not only are there lots of innovative yet affordable restaurants in town (shout out to Vintage Wine Bar and Glacier Chocolates), but Tulsa is also home to the Gathering Place, the coolest public park I’ve ever been to. The Gathering Place is more like Disneyland than a normal park — but it’s completely free. There are so many incredible play structures (a castle, a pirate ship, a slide in the shape of a banana), interactive art installations, free concerts and performances, a lake you can take free boat rides on and sports courts and skateparks for every activity you could imagine, bike paths and so much more.

A view of Valparaiso.PHOTO COURTESY OF PATRICIA STONE/@GLOBAL_ADVENTURESS INSTAGRAM

Where: Valparaiso, Chile

Chosen By: Patricia Stone is founder of Global Adventuress. She has traveled to 164 countries, seeking out unique, off-the-beaten path destinations for solo, girlfriends, couples and families. Her site has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Toronto Star and USA Today.

Why: Valparaiso, Chile is known as the “Jewel of the Pacific.” Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this lively city displays street art with a bohemian beat on every corner. Highlights include exploring local life in the lovely parks and plazas, such as Italia, De La Victoria and Sotomayor. After walking a few of the city’s 42 hills, you may want to consider taking one of the eight funiculars to the top, with panoramic views from Pleasant Hills, Cerro Concepcion or Cerro Alegre, where musicians, artists and poets flock. Visit La Sebastiana, the home of legendary Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. Or take a walk — on the Ruben Dario and the Carvallo, you can stroll the beach and see fishermen reel in the catch of the day at the fishing cove Caleta Portales. Hungry or thirsty? The iconic Bar Cinzano offers a fun setting with Latin American music, dancing  porteñas cuecas and Creole food. Where to stay? You can find great deals at inns in Valparaiso for as low as $54 per night. Or drive north along the Pacific Coast to the small beach towns of Concon or Reñaca, where you can find charming inns for as low as $35 per night. There are also wine valleys within a 30-minute drive from town. How to get around? In Valparaiso, you can take the old buses or funiculars or rent a car. If you prefer a tour company, contact South Excursions, which offers day tour of Valparaiso and the nearby Casablanca Valley.

Oh The People You Meet founder Michaela Guzy in Cappadocia, Turkey.PHOTO COURTESY OF OH THE PEOPLE YOU MEET/@OTPYM INSTAGRAM

Where: Turkey

Chosen By: Michaela Guzy is a media executive, entrepreneur and on-air show host. She is the executive producer for two online television shows, Michaela’s Map and OhThePeopleYouMeet. Based in New York City, she is also an adjunct professor at New York University School of Professional Studies, where she teaches a course called “Travel Storytelling: Creating Video Content.”

Why: Turkey literally has something for everyone. The country is home to one of the oldest civilizations in the world, if not the oldest. There is so much history, art and culture to soak in, and I was surprised to learn how many adventure activities there are to be had. Now more than ever, it is cheap (and totally safe) to go to Turkey (last I checked, the exchange rate was 8:1). For first-timers, visit the Turkish trifecta: Istanbul, Ephesus and Cappadocia. Start in Istanbul: The largest city in Europe, the city is also half in Asia, divided by the Bosphorus. I took a baklava-making class, visited the Spice Market and did a spice-tasting test with the chef of Fairmont. I also went on an unbelievable behind-the-scenes arts tour with Raffles Istanbul: We explored modern applications of Ottoman influence in people’s homes, visited the Istanbul Modern, saw a famous jeweler’s studio and took a historic walking tour with one of the most famous Turks on Instagram. Want to go beyond the big city? The adventure guide Hike n’ Sail will take you to the ancient Roman ruins of Ephesus. In Cappadocia, I took a pottery-making class, went horseback riding, met a cave dweller and saw the hot-air balloon spectacle at sunrise over this UNESCO World Heritage site. It was simply unbelievable.

La Grande Roue de Montréal.PHOTO COURTESY OF SOHEILA HAKIMI/INSTAGRAM @SOHEILAONLINE

Where: Montreal, Canada

Chosen By: Soheila Hakimi is a lifestyle content creator and international travel writer from

Toronto, Canada. Always exploring and sharing, you can catch up with her via Instagram (@soheilaonline) and YouTube.

Why: From the romantic cobblestone streets of Montreal’s Old Port to its modern downtown core, Montreal is a city caught between two different moments in time. Montrealers are people who love to celebrate and preserve their French heritage while also continuing to welcome immigrants and embrace the youth who contribute to the city’s vibrant tapestry. When it comes to experiencing pure Canadiana, Montreal is where it’s at. With deep roots in rich French cooking, Montreal offers a dynamic culinary scene (their love for foie gras is just as strong as their love of maple syrup). You don’t have to go far to find a great restaurant in Montreal and dining out is surprisingly affordable. Adorned in murals, Montreal also loves to celebrate culture, with numerous art, comedy (the largest in the world) and music festivals happening throughout

the year — most of which offer free activities. With a huge student population, the Airbnb options are a plentiful and cheap. If you are willing to pay slightly more, there are small simple yet stylish boutique hotels like Maison & Co and Boxotel (I’ve seen rooms starting around $75-150 a night). Montreal, most of all, is a city that celebrates all that is good in life and its people sprinkle joie de vivre like fairy dust, captivating the hearts of all who visit.

Orhei Vechi Monastery in Moldova.PHOTO COURTESY OF KRISTIN AMICO

Where: Moldova

Chosen By: Kristin Amico is a travel and food writer who recently spent a year crisscrossing Europe and India on the cheap. Check out her site How To Travel The Globe for practical and budget travel advice.

Why: If you’re looking for quirky, budget adventures in Europe, Moldova is an ideal choice. The small country, wedged between Romania and Ukraine, is one of the least visited places in the world. That’s starting to change, thanks in part to wine tourism. The country boasts a winemaking tradition dating back centuries, and oenophiles can tour Mileștii Mici, the largest wine cellar in the world with more than 120 miles of tunnels holding two million bottles. The best part is the price tag: Most bottles cost less than $10. Food is inexpensive, too. Dinner with wine and dessert in the capital of Chișinău averages $8-10 per person. For history with a view, head to the 13th-century cave monastery, Orhei Vechi, perched high atop a hill. If you want to experience retro Soviet-style life, visit Transnistria, a breakaway region of Moldova that still flies a hammer and sickle flag. The unrecognized city-state has few sights but is home to the award-winning Kvint Brandy distillery — a bottle of this rare stuff is worth the relatively small splurge. For those who prefer budget-friendly group adventures, Intrepid Travel offers a small group tour that includes Moldova, Romania and Ukraine, including a tour of Chernobyl.

A view of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor from Federal Hill.GETTY

Where: Baltimore, Maryland

Chosen By: Samantha Brown is a traveler, giver of great travel tips, an exhausted mom and host of “Places To Love” on PBS. Follow her on Instagram (@samanthabrown), Twitter (@samanthanbrowntravels) and Facebook (@realsamanthabrown).

Why: Baltimore has struggled with a tumultuous reputation, and yet, when you go there, the art is phenomenal, there’a a do-it-yourself energy and there are plenty of reasonably priced gourmet restaurants. It’s inexpensive because it’s not Washington D.C., but it’s right next to it. It’s not New York City, but it still has high-end hotels. We stayed at an amazing, well-priced hotel called the Sagamore Pendry on the main pier, which is like their Ellis Island and later became the shooting studio for Homicide: Life on the Street. It has gorgeous views of the harbor. The place to eat is Ida B’s Table, which is named after the journalist Ida B. Wells and is run by a couple who is elevating soul food and showcasing ingredients from local farms. Another place to check out is the American Visionary Arts Museum (AVAM), the only museum of its kind dedicated to outsider art. There’s a real connection with humanity there that I don’t think you get when you’re seeing a Renoir or a Monet.

A view of St. George, the capital of the Caribbean island of Grenada.GETTY

Where: Grenada

Chosen By: Shnieka Johnson is a freelance writer specializing in family travel. You can follow her on Twitter (@shnieka).

Why: Whether you are seeking adventure travel, family fun, romance or a relaxing spa retreat, Grenada — known as the Spice Island — ticks all the boxes. And because the exchange rate in Grenada is favorable for those using U.S dollars, it is an affordable Caribbean destination. The weather is beautiful year-round, with average temperatures between the low 70s and high 80s, but expect some precipitation during the rainy season (June to November). Peak season runs January to April, but if you plan your trip during an off-peak time, you can find low airfare and luxury accommodations at discounted prices. The island’s culture is a blend of many influences, including African, British, French and, of course, Caribbean. There are a number of beaches, but my favorite is Grand Anse. It is home to several hotels and resorts, like the stunning Mount Cinnamon Grenada Hotel, which offers day passes for those that are not guests but want to enjoy the amenities during a day at the beach. Take a stroll down Grand Anse to find vendors selling cold drinks and souvenirs. For a taste of local fare head to the Dodgy Dock at the True Blue Bay Resort (a family-owned property that offers roomy accommodations, chocolate spa treatments and open-air yoga studio). Wednesday evenings at the Dodgy Dock are lively – locals, tourists and students all come together to try street food from local vendors and listen to live music. The Grenadian Oil Down (slow-cooked stew) cannot be missed. If you want to bring island flavours home with you, head to the House of Chocolate or the Market Square to buy the local spices that give the island its nickname.

Downtown Saskatoon, Canada, with the Bessborough Hotel and Saskatchewan River.GETTY

Where: Saskatoon, Canada

Chosen By: Stefanie Waldek is a New York–based writer and editor covering travel, architecture and design, and space. Follow her adventures on Instagram and Twitter at @stefaniewaldek.

Why: Take advantage of the strong U.S. dollar and head north to Canada for a fun, affordable getaway. But instead of visiting the heavy hitters of Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, make a beeline for the province of Saskatchewan, where the city of Saskatoon is quickly becoming a favorite destination of in-the-know travelers. An urban oasis in the heart of the rolling prairie, Saskatoon is a lively town with plenty of action: Art lovers will delight in the one-year-old Remai Modern, a museum with the largest collection of Picasso linocuts in the world; spirits enthusiasts will enjoy Black Fox Farm & Distillery, which makes award-winning gin, vodka, and liqueurs; and foodies will delight in the booming restaurant scene, with some standouts being the Asian-inspired Odd CoupleThe Hollows, which highlights locally-sourced ingredients, and Italian hotspot Little Grouse on the Prairie by Top Chef Canada’s Dale Mackay. For a great boutique stay at a modest price point, pick the James Hotel, which overlooks the South Saskatchewan River in downtown Saskatoon.

Cruising around Cuba in a vintage car.PHOTO COURTESY OF KELLY LEWIS

Where: Cuba

Chosen By: Kelly Lewis specializes in women’s travel and is the founder of Go! Girl Guides (travel guidebooks for women) and the Women’s Travel Fest. She is also a cofounder of the new women’s travel magazine, Unearth Women. Follow her on Instagram at @gokellylewis.

Why: Yes, Americans can still visit Cuba — and you should! Cuba is an incredible destination for travelers, and it’s also very affordable. Staying in casa particulares (houses where rooms are rented out) is a great way to experience the country and also fulfills the visa requirement for the “support of the Cuban people,” category. Though you can do it for less, budget $100 a day to ensure you have enough for accommodation, transportation and meals (and rum). I also strongly recommend going with a group or hiring a tour guide to better understand the place. Check out Damesly for upcoming tours.

A view at the Hyatt Centric South Beach in Miami.PHOTO COURTESY OF GRACE DOPICO/@GRACEDOPICO INSTAGRAM

Where: Miami

Chosen By: Grace Dopico is a lifestyle blogger, content creator and Miami native. Follow her on Instagram at @gracedopico.

Why: If you’re itching for a Caribbean vacation but want to stay domestic, Miami is the place. But when it comes to where to stay, the costs can easily pile up — especially if you want to be amidst the action of South Beach. One of my favorite hotels right on Collins Ave is the Hyatt Centric South Beach. At an average cost of $150 a night, it’s one of the most affordable places to stay on the beach without sacrificing location or style. Steps from the water, this centrally-located escape is also just a hop and a skip to Lincoln Road, The Fillmore and a host of exotic restaurants and lounges. Can’t travel without your furry friend? No problem. Guests traveling with pets get a complimentary dog bed, water bowl, treats and access to the Wooftop Park, a rooftop dog park where your pup can roam free. Relax and recharge on Saturday mornings with complimentary yoga on the rooftop pool deck and whet your appetite with world-class Mediterranean cuisine and craft cocktails at Deck Sixteen, a rooftop bar and restaurant.

A gorilla eats leaves in the jungle in Uganda.GETTY

Where: Uganda

Chosen By: Melissa Klurman is a travel expert, writer and editor and contributor at Reader’s Digest, Frommer’s Travel Guides and Parents, among other publications.

Why: There are just 1,000 mountain gorillas in the world, and to see them, intrepid travelers need to journey to the Virunga Mountains that run along the border between Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo or to the aptly named Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda. Rwanda is currently the site of high-end luxury lodge development — we’re talking $1,500 per person per night kind of swanky rooms — and gorilla trekking permits that doubled in price recently from $750 to $1,500. Fabulously low key and friendly Uganda, however, hasn’t seen this influx of luxury tourism yet. Instead, peak season permit are $600, and rainy season permits go for just $450 a day. You’ll still have the same amazing gorilla experience, including well-trained guides who lead you through the dense forest to find the secluded primates. And you don’t need to give up a posh lodge experience to stay in Uganda. At Volcanoes Safaris Bwindi Lodge, you’ll have a private chalet, butler service, a post-trek massage and all meals for $340 per person per night in the off season.

On the beach in Cancun.PHOTO COURTESY OF LOGAN HILL/ @LOGANRAE_HILL INSTAGRAM

Where: Cancun, Mexico

Chosen By: Logan Hill is a lifestyle and travel photographer based out of Los Angeles. Follow her on Instagram @loganrae_hill.

Why: Cancun is the perfect tropical destination on a budget. Whether you’re with your family, on a girl’s trip or on a romantic getaway, there’s something for everyone. The Marriott Cancun is a great affordable spot with a prime location, situated near all the water activities and snorkeling. We did a morning trip on speedboats from the docks that are right by the hotel. The property also features amazing restaurants, my favorite being Mikado Japanese Teppan Yaki, and La Capilla Argentina Steakhouse, where we had an unforgettable steak dinner. The resort is relaxing, with a huge pool and Jacuzzi, as well as beach cabanas that can be rented for even more relaxation. 

A view of Chiang Mai, Thailand.PHOTO COURTESY OF LUKE HILLER/@LAHILLIER INSTAGRAM

Where: Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chosen By: Katie Jackson is a travel writer whose work has been published by The New York Post, USA TODAY, Fox News and The Sunday Times. Cash poor but experience rich, she splits her time between Montana, Chiang Mai and Tenerife. Follow her misadventures on Instagram.

Why: According to the Backpacker Index I follow, Chiang Mai, my adopted hometown, was the fifth cheapest city in the world to visit in 2018. The index quotes the daily cost, including hostel accommodations, three meals and public transportation, as $20.11. While I don’t live that cheaply (I pay about $350 a month to rent a queen room at Vanilla Residence — a cute three-star hotel with AC and fast WiFi), I can still get by on about $20 a day including two meals at sit-down restaurants, snacks throughout the day and a one-hour Thai massage ($6). Although Chiang Mai is home to more than 300 Buddhist temples, the pastoral countryside is also worth exploring. Rent a moped for $6 a day, including insurance, and visit the surrounding elephant sanctuaries, hill tribes and national parks including Mae Taeng National Forest — home to the ridiculously fun and free Bua Tong Waterfall Park. When I really want to treat myself, I go to the rooftop, poolside bar at Akyra Manor, my favorite five-star hotel in Asia. During happy hour, when craft cocktails start at $6 and are buy-one-get-one-free, I watch the sun set behind the city’s sacred mountain, Doi Suthep. It’s home to the royal family’s summer palace, some of the best views in all of Thailand and my favorite fruit stand where $1.22 gets me two fresh mango and kiwi smoothies.

The coastline and coastal road in Lima, Peru.GETTY

Where: Lima, Peru

Chosen By: With nearly 30 years of travel experience, Beth Whitman is known as a women’s travel expert. She’s the Chief Wanderer at Wanderlust and Lipstick and leads tours through its sister company, WanderTours. She’s also the host of the Be Bold Podcast, inspiring and empowering women through, among other things, travel and adventure.

Why: Peru has become a huge draw for hikers, adventurers and foodies. Most arrive in the country’s capital, Lima, but few stop long enough to explore all the city has to offer. Spend more than a couple of nights and you’ll find free museums, beautiful architecture and restaurants serving up traditional and very affordable set-menu meals. Start with a free walking tour to get your bearings. These tours are indeed free (though you’re encouraged to tip) and are led by local English-speaking guides eager to share their knowledge and insider tips. There are free and inexpensive museums near the city’s main square and a countless number of restaurants from which to choose — many with menus featuring photos, in case your Spanish is a bit rusty. Head to Barranco, arguably Lima’s funkiest district, to check out the street art and to grab a coffee or meal at one of the many hip cafes in this part of town. While taking a taxi in Lima is relatively inexpensive, consider taking a Metropolitano bus, which is downright cheap (approximately 60 cents across town) and might even be faster as it uses dedicated bus lanes.

Merry Lerner in Chennai, India.PHOTO COURTESY OF PRASHANTH SRINIVASAN

Where: Chennai, India

Chosen By: Merry Lerner is an award-winning TV producer and director, and the creator of Let’s Be Merry, a lifestyle blog and brand that focuses on travel and wellness. Follow her on Instagram (@lets_be_merry) for her latest travel adventures and wellness tips.

Why: When people talk about traveling to India, Chennai (formerly known as Madras) doesn’t often make it to the top of the list. But this seaside city on the southeast coast of India is worth checking out, and it’s amazingly affordable. Chennai has a rich culture and past that is best explored on foot. Try one of Storytrails‘ many walking tours including the Bazaar Trail and British Blueprints, to see the city’s history firsthand ($20 per person, per tour). Wander through Mylapore, the city’s oldest neighborhood, and take in the splendid Hindu Kapaleeshwarar Temple. If you’re a history buff, you’ll want to visit Fort St. George, the first British fort in India, built in 1644. The city also boasts an array of dining options. Feast on traditional dosas at Nithya Amirtham or try the Indian version of Tapas at Sera TapasNasi and Mee offers up delicious Southeast Asian food, and The Marina has sustainably sourced seafood. For a respite from the crowds, head to Amethyst, a charming café in a colonial mansion with a garden oasis or Fisherman’s Cove, a resort with a relaxing spa and laid back beach vibes. Time to get some sleep? The Raintree Hotel has two locations in Chennai with Western style amenities and rooms starting at $59 a night — it’s a steal.

Skyline of Mexico City, including the tops of the old Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the modern Basílica de Santa María de Guadalupe.GETTY

Where: Mexico City

Chosen By: Brooke Porter Katz is a freelance writer and former editor at Travel + Leisure and Martha Stewart Living who spent the last year living in Mexico City. Her work has appeared in publications like The New York Times, WSJ. Magazine, AFAR, Sunset and Bloomberg Pursuits. You can follow her on Instagram at @brookeporterkatz.

Why: Over the last few years, this high-energy metropolis has sky rocketed to the top of many travel lists — and for good reason. The exchange rate work in our favor (currently 20 pesos for every U.S. dollar), and most things you’ll spend money on, like food and Uber rides, cost less. But affordability is almost beside the point when you consider the city’s other qualities: rich history (including ancient Aztec ruins smack in the middle of downtown), world-class museums like the National Museum of Anthropology, a vibrant creative scene and — of course, the best food. Make your base in either Condesa — the stylish, 40-room Condesa DF is a classic, perfectly located choice — or artsy La Roma, where Ignacia Guest House is my favorite boutique property. (The homemade breakfast and proximity to chef Eduardo García’s Máximo Bistrot is worth the room rate alone.) Both areas are home to picturesque streets lined with parks, boutiques, cafés and restaurants. Design buffs should make reservations to tour Casa Gilardi, a private home built by modernist architect Luis Barragán. Advance tickets are also required to visit the Frida Kahlo Museum in the southern neighborhood of Coyoacán; after, grab some chicken mole tostadas at Mercado Coyoacán. If you’re a creative-minded woman and want to leave the planning to someone else, consider the new travel company Wild Terrains. Each five-day itinerary supports women-owned hotels, restaurants, and businesses through insider experiences like mescal tastings, jewelry-making classes and market tours.

Flagstaff mountain in Arizona.GETTY

Where: Flagstaff, Arizona

Chosen By: After many years with NatGeo Travel, Barbara Noe Kennedy left in 2015 to fly solo as a freelance writer for a variety of national outlets, focusing on destinations, art, culture, food, and adventure around the world.

Why: Sometimes you can’t afford to jet set off to fabulous destinations across the ocean. Sometimes, you need to stay stateside. And there’s nothing wrong with that, especially if you’re exploring a place like Flagstaff, Arizona. This laid-back, historic town just 80 miles south of the Grand Canyon has amazing winter skiing and summer hiking in the surrounding San Francisco peaks, making it an underrated, super affordable outdoorsy paradise. But there’s more to it than that. A little-known fact is that before making a giant step for mankind, every single astronaut underwent critical training in the otherworldly geography of Flagstaff’s Meteor and Sunset Craters, including testing equipment, spacesuits, gear and rover prototypes. At Cinder Lake, Apollo’s exact projected lunar landing was created in 1:1 scale. 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the July 16, 1969, landing on the moon, and there are all kinds of events going on in town throughout the year, including lectures, exhibits and guided hikes — and most of them are free. Even the restaurants and bakeries are getting into the act with moon-themed dishes and pastries. How many people can say they’ve traveled to the moon and back?

Olivia Balsinger, shopping at the Souq Waqif in Qatar.PHOTO COURTESY OF OLIVIA BALSINGER/@OHLIVITUP INSTAGRAM

Where: Doha, Qatar

Chosen By: Olivia Balsinger has utilized her global perspective to manifest her career as a travel and broadcast journalist. Olivia has visited 96 countries, has been published in multiple international print and online outlets for travel and lifestyle, was honored as InterContinental Group’s Latin America “Journalist of the Year” (2017) and has been a panelist or host for major travel conferences like New York TravFest. She is also a matchmaker/relationship coach and can be seen on Bravo.

Why: You’re thinking, “How did Qatar, which ranks year after year as the richest country on Earth per capita, make this list?” The reason is rather ironic, as it is the excess of wealth here that makes Qatar affordable to visitors, if you do it right. Until the discovery of oil in 1939, Qatar cultivated its greatest profit and recognition from pearl diving. But it has since grown, flourished and made its own substantial mark on the tourism map. Typically, accommodation is a significant cost on vacation. However, travelers alleviate this cost when they transit through Doha for a few days with Qatar Airway’s Stopover Program. This generous program waives visa fees from 80 countries and provides accommodation at luxury hotels such as InterContinental Doha or Souq Waqif Boutique Hotel for two nights — for a mere $100 booking fee. And once you’re here, prepare to be amazed by the unparalleled dichotomies: old versus new, tradition versus innovation, religion versus modernity. Cosmopolitan Doha is brimming with museums, nightlife and unrivaled architecture like the the falcon-shaped Mondrain Doha luxury hotel. In contrast, the boggling landscapes of the deserts invite you to dune bash and overnight in a Bedouin camp, like the Regency Sealine Camp, under an array of constellations. In Qatar, you’ll experience Arabian hospitality, adrenaline pumping sports and world-class amenities for a surprisingly affordable price tag.

A view of the Casco Viejo (old town) in Panama City, Panama.GETTY

Where: Panama City, Panama

Chosen By: Wendy Altschuler is a seasoned and curious travel and lifestyle freelance writer who covers adventures across the globe. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook @wendyaltschuler and visit her website.

Why: Panama, the crossroads to the Americas, is one of those indelible places that cuts to the quick and offers meaty cultural and ecological experiences. You’ll learn right away that the influences of Spain, France and the U.S. have extended to more than just the Panama Canal — an incredible feat of strength, ingenuity, engineering and courage. Stroll through Casco Viejo, the historic district of Panama City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and you’ll be rewarded with the sounds of kids kicking soccer balls down cobblestone alleys, cats yawning and stretching on the steps of churches built in French and Spanish colonial architecture — many of which have sealed-shut trap doors leading to 16th century tunnel systems — and the taste of passion fruit raspados (shaved ice), handmade at one of the historic plazas. Not to be missed is a trek to the Gamboa Sloth Sanctuary and Wildlife Rescue Center, where you can “oooh” and “ahhhh” while the sluggish and adorable vegetarians nosh on hibiscus flowers and carrots. All of these adventures are located near the Westin Playa Bonita (an Uber is under $10 from Casco Viejo to the Westin), a beach resort that has an all-inclusive option, rooms for $175 per night and views of the container and cargo ships that are waiting to enter the Panama Canal. Families can also take advantage of the Westin Executive Club Lounge, which includes free breakfast, snacks and drinks. Beach vibes, timeworn towns, syrupy treats, sloths…what’s not to love?

Monks in Laos.PHOTO COURTESY OF PATRICIA STONE/@GLOBAL_ADVENTURESS INSTAGRAM

Where: Luang Prabang, Laos

Chosen By: Patricia Stone is founder of Global Adventuress. She has traveled to 164 countries, seeking out unique, off-the-beaten path destinations for solo, girlfriends, couples and families. Her site has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Toronto Star and USA Today.

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