8 Exotic Destinations You Can Afford

242 Comments


(Photo: Stuck in Customs)

This is a guest post by Tim Leffel, a travel destinations expert who has dispatched articles from five continents over a period close to two decades.

Think world travel needs to be expensive? Think again…

Enter Tim Leffel

Like an annoying house guest who keeps packing but doesn’t leave, this recession keeps dragging on. That downsized international vacation can still be exotic though—if you pick the right destination. Or if you really want to alter your finances for the better, move to one of these places as an expat.

The dollar is in healthier shape than it has been many times in the past in relation to the euro and pound sterling, but a trip to one of Western Europe’s capitals still feels like a shopping trip to Tiffany’s. Australia is not much better, and a trip to Japan could drain your whole life savings in a week.

Here’s a better idea: go someplace where your travel dollars are still worth a bundle.

Below are some of the best deals on the planet right now, destinations that are relatively easy for travelers and also easy on the wallet.

1. Egypt


Photo: Jungle_Boy

Despite having some of the world’s best-known monuments, Egypt struggles to fill its abundant hotels. With less-than-wealthy locals far outnumbering the tourists, it’s easy to find a bargain meal or a guide or taxi driver. (They’ll find you whether you need them or not.) Admission prices for the ancient pyramids and temples are reasonable, generally ranging from $3 to $14.

Sample deals: a first-class train ticket from Cairo to Luxor for $17; a Nile-view deluxe double room in Luxor for $60 with breakfast; a private room by the sea in Dahab for under $20; entrance to the Nubia Museum in Aswan for $4; a falafel sandwich at a Cairo street stall for 40 cents. There’s no great independent travel site for the whole country but Egypt’s official tourism site is better than most.

2. Indonesia


Photo: Erik K Veland

This Southeast Asian nation is one of the most diverse and attractive destinations in the world, with a long string of volcanic islands and a range of topography and culture. It could also be the best value on the planet, with cheap hotels going for $5 a night, often right beside great snorkeling spots. Bali is the most developed island, but even there you can find plenty of deals. On Java, Sumatra, and Sulawesi, however, it’s easy to branch out like an intrepid explorer or get pampered on the cheap in the most popular spots.

Sample deals: a double room with pool and breakfast in Yogyakarta, Java for under $20; a five-day small ship cruise between Lombok and Flores islands via Komodo for $200 per person including meals; a first-class train seat from Jakarta to Yogyakarta for $25; an hour-long massage for $8-$15; a day’s motorbike rental on Bali for $10. Indo.com has a good listing of mid-range hotels in Bali and some other areas while the official Indonesia tourism site has travel info and enticing photos of the diverse islands.

3. Mexico


Photo: Tim Leffel

In mid-2008, the peso was at 10 to the dollar. Now it’s close to 13. That’s a discount of more than 25 percent in a country that was already a deal. Plus Swine Flu followed by drug gang violence on the U.S. border has meant that travelers have tremendous bargaining power on hotels and tours. To find the best values, visit the historic colonial cities or beach areas where Americans don’t outnumber the locals. (As in places where there’s no Señor Frog’s in sight.)

Sample deals: a three-course lunch at a market stand for $4; nice hotels in centuries-old colonial buildings for under $75 double with breakfast and Wi-Fi; a round of Negra Modelos for five at nearly any bar, including gratis snacks, for $10; and some of the nicest deluxe buses in the hemisphere for $6 to $8 per hour of travel. It’s a big, diverse country, but here’s an extensive set of links and the best books on one page: Mexico travel resources from Travelers-tool-kit.com.

4. Honduras


Photo: Tim Leffel

Few people knew anything about this country until it was all over the news last year when the president got forced out of office. You can find fabulous deals on scuba diving packages on Roatan Island. This Caribbean island sits next to the second-longest coral reef in the world, and every hotel seems to offer attractive package plans no matter the season. On the mainland you’ve got tropical national parks, the rugged Moskito Coast, and Copán, one of the key Mayan sites in the Americas and a great little colonial town.

Sample deals: $35 white-water rafting trips; weeklong learn-to-dive packages with room, breakfast, and transfers for under $600; a cold coconut with a straw for 40 cents; and admission to the Copán archeological park for $10. For more info, see the Honduras Tips site or Roatan Online, or see more travel prices in Honduras here.

5. Guatemala


Photo: Tim Leffel

This is only a shade farther to fly than Mexico, but it is a truly exotic destination. The descendants of the Mayans still dress in traditional clothing in the villages surrounding stunning Lake Atitlán. The Spanish colonial buildings in the city of Antigua are older than anything left standing in our historic city districts. The sprawling archeological park of Tikal is the granddaddy of Mayan ruins, and still surrounded by jungle.

Sample deals: taxis in Antigua for $4; great hotels with a view on Lake Atitlán for $60 a night; a week of private Spanish lessons including homestay starting at $180; a zipline canopy tour near Tikal for $30; three pounds of bananas or avocados for a dollar. La Ruta Maya Online is the best resource for hotels, tours, and Spanish language schools.

6. Peru


Photo: Tim Leffel

Machu Picchu alone is worth the journey, but it’s just the start in this value-packed country. Inca ruins are scattered all around the Sacred Valley, and Cuzco is one of the most attractive cities in South America. There is also hiking in the Andes, admiring colonial architecture on the streets of Arequipa, trips through the Amazon, boating across the highest lake in the world, and flying over the strange Nazca lines.

Sample deals: Bus from Arequipa to Colca Canyon – $6; a big traditional lunch and a beer for $7; simple restaurant meal in the countryside $6 for two; entrance to the Inca Museum in Cuzco for $1.50; cheap single room or hostel bed $4-$10; airport taxi in Cusco $4. Andean Travel Web is an exhaustive resource site for trekking info, hotels that are a good value, and general travel info.

7. Thailand


Photo: ccdoh1

As with Honduras and Mexico, visitor numbers plunged when Bangkok was all over the news recently, so there are plenty of deals on airfare, tours, and hotels. This is a popular destination for travelers of all budget levels. Thailand continues to be one of the best bargains in the world in terms of hotel prices, and with a well-developed infrastructure, it’s easy to get around and see what you want to see, be it historic ruins, Buddhist temples, or tropical beaches.

Sample deals: a standard double at a true 5-star hotel in Bangkok for $250 or less per night—or a cheap place to flop down and sleep for 1/20th of that price; admission to the main ruins in Sukothai for under $2; a first-class round-trip sleeper train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai for about $40; a Skytrain ticket across Bangkok for about $1.30. The hands-down best travel resource for Thailand is Travelfish.org. They also put out some great iPhone/iPad apps on specific regions and islands.

8. Czech Republic


Photo: Tim Leffel

In much of Europe, prices in the big cities are often double what you find in the countryside. This is especially true in Eastern European countries like the Czech Republic, where vacationers on quick weekend breaks have driven up hotel and restaurant prices in Prague. In the smaller towns and cities, however, the country is one of Europe’s remaining great values. Castles on hill crests, some of the world’s best beer for a dollar or so in a pub, and winding cobblestone streets without crowds—Ye Olde Europe without the new Europe prices.

Sample deals: a room at the best hotel in town across Moravia for under $100 with breakfast; fully equipped hybrid bike rental for $25 a day; sommelier guided 12-bottle tasting at the Wine Salon of the Czech Republic in Valtice for $19; a train ticket from Prague to anywhere in the country for $12 or less. The official Czech Tourism site is excellent while MyCzechRepublic has good general info on different regions plus a message board. See more Czech prices outside Prague here.

To dive in deeper on any of these cheap destinations and see the current situation on the ground, check the message boards at LonelyPlanet.com and BootsnAll.com.

###

If you’ve ever fantasized about taking time off to globe-trot, I would highly recommend Rolf Pott’s Vagabonding. It is one of only two books I took with me when I traveled the world for 18 months. Outside Magazine founding editor Tim Cahill calls Vagabonding “the most sensible book of travel related advice ever written.”

I recently partnered with Rolf to release the exclusive audiobook for Vagabonding. For more on this incredible book, click here.

Travel writer and website publisher Tim Leffel is author of “The World’s Cheapest Destinations” and runs the Cheapest Destinations blog.

[This post is an updated version of an earlier article that appeared in the Boston Globe travel section.]

Posted on: November 4, 2010.

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242 comments on “8 Exotic Destinations You Can Afford

  1. I just came back from Morocco we did some of the days on 13 euros (less than $20.) Of course you have to stay in cheap hostels but as you’ll probably only spending the night there and asleep it really doesn’t matter. Thanks for this good post as I hope more people will realise how much of the world you can see with a fairly small amount of cash.

    Like

  2. I’ve been to several of these countries already – I was even getting my dive certification in Honduras during all the political fun last summer! And I was in Bangkok this year with all the redshirt stuff. I’m beginning to wonder if I’m a cause of political unrest. Funny that you mention the Czech Republic, I just met a Czech guy and he was raving about $1 beers in the pubs (30 cents at the grocers). Some of these price estimates can be had for even lower if you do a bit of bargaining.

    Big props to Guatemala! I’d also highly recommend Vietnam as a budget traveler’s dream :D

    Hurrah for geoarbitrage!

    Like

    • Czech Republic is great and cheap if you don’t hang around Prague tourist spots. However, just to set the record straight, bargaining is not really the thing there :). Also, taxi prices are very expensive and some shady drivers will stiff you. If you want to get from the airport to the center of Prague, just take a bus 100 from in front of the airport for 1 euro (as oppose to 30 with taxi). The bus will take you to metro Zlicin station and from there you can get to anywhere in the center. Same ticket is for bus/tram/metro. Have fun.

      Like

    • Great guest post! Going to have to pop over to Honduras and Guatemala to learn to dive and brush up on my Spanish!

      Tim

      Do you think I can still get a first edition of your new book if I buy it in stores (I like to do this with books I’m gonna keep although I’ve given three 4HWW’s away to friends!)? I have no idea where I’ll be living so have been hesitant about pre-ordering!

      Thanks!

      CW

      Like

  3. With less-than-wealthy locals far outnumbering the tourists, it’s easy to find a bargain meal or a guide or taxi driver. (They’ll find you whether you need them or not.)

    lol–ain’t that the truth!

    I definitely want to spend some time wandering around Eastern Europe–too cool. Thanks for a great post!

    Like

  4. Thanks guys, this is just what I needed!

    I was thinking about Honduras for the last week or so, thinking about getting some info and maybe going there after the New Year.

    Love the “cold coconut with a straw for 40 cents”! :-)

    cheers,

    Josip

    Like

  5. I am from Czech Republic, description is quite correct, just beer will cost you like $2 in pub.

    Salon of Wine is great, I recommend it a lot, just sommelier guided tasting is probably not a best choice, because I am afraid that sommelier will not speak english very well. I recommend taking 90 min self tasting. If you like wine this might be highlight of your trip.

    If you want to see real gem of Czech Republic go there (Valtice, Lednice, Mikulov). Prague is great, but it is just another big tourist centric city.

    Like

  6. Great list – gets the dreams going (now it’s time to make them into actionable goals).

    I’m especially liking Mexico, because I can reach it on my motorcycle and use it as my transportation. Nothing like close-ish to home and favored convenient transportation!

    Like

  7. Thanks so much for the post. This has renewed my desire to visit some exotic places. Typically I stay away from them, because I think that they would be too expensive. This article gave me some ideas of how to be able to visit exotic locales without the high prices. Kudos!

    Ms. Pillowz

    Like

      • That’s just what I needed to see. Have to renew my Visa for Costa Rica soon and kept thinking about Panama. Now that you say it’s amazing, how can I pass it up.

        Like

      • Wow – every country in Central America cracked a mention except Nicaragua….. which is kind of the way we like it here.

        Chris if you need to do a Visa run check out San Juan del Sur in Nica for some great waves, small crowds and cheap prices. Cheaper than the rest of Centro in fact.

        We like to stay out of town where you can get a 5 Star house that sleeps 4 for as little as $80 a night right above the waves.

        Like

      • Does Tim or anyone else know of some other cool wildlife/research spots like you mention in Panama: “….or to live on a private island in Panama, especially a research island, to go snorkeling and scuba diving every day, that cost similarly less than 500 dollars.”

        Like

      • Hey, Tim you need to visit Belize, the second largest Barrier Reef we are proud of….. just recently we captured 3 spaces in the top 25 for Best Hotel in the World on TripAdvisor. Im into Cruise Tourism……here is a warm welcome to visit my Country. Hope to see you soon at the Fort street Tourism Village !!!!!

        Like

  8. If you’re looking for a cheap, off the beaten path in Mexico check out the Chacala/Nayarit area. Check out the link from my profile for good site with a great accommodations listing.

    Like

  9. Hey Tim,

    When I was scolling down, I thought I would find India in the list. It is a nice post tho.

    On a different note, please make sure your new book will be avialable in India. I have mentioned several times in several other comments that ‘No matter how hard I try, there is no way to get your book in India (at least a printed version)’. I am sure you know you have a lot of international readers, so please don’t forget them.

    Cheers,
    Torumoy.

    Like

  10. Most of South East asia, Eastern Europe and South America is a deal these days and will probably remain this way with the press making them seem like death traps (they’re not). Stay away from the tourist traps like Bali and you’ll end up spending very little money on accommodations, food and seeing the sights. Africa is a good deal too but has a greater degree of instability which, unfortunately, is not all scare mongering by the press.

    Like

      • We just got back from a month in Mexico. Our new favorite spot is a small island off the northern coast of the Yucatan peninsula called Holbox. It is extremely affordable, amazing fresh seafood (we found a favorite sushi place called Cariocas Suxi) and unspoiled wildlife including flocks of hundreds of flamingos.

        http://www.holboxisland.com/

        Like

      • I was wondering where was India too. (Though I spent time in Mexico two years ago, after flying into Cancun, we hopped on a bus and left for the rest of the Yucatan Peninsula. Merida is an incredible, less-traveled city.)

        I spent about two months in India in 2005, and found a few great cities that I could easily have spent more time in:

        *Udaipur – way in the north, great winding streets and small, tucked away/rooftop cafes
        *Pune – university town with wonderful markets
        *Varanasi – amazingly poor, amazingly awe-inspiring

        Like

      • Did you go to Varanisi???? Please tell me about your experience. I would love, love, love to go there.

        Like

      • I’ve been to Chiapas, MX and Oaxaca, MX, staying in Oaxaca for over a month. Snorkeled for shrimp in a gorgeous river, hunted iguanas in the mountain forests, stayed in a small village of perhaps 60 individuals – Zapoteco indians. Everything is very inexpensive, like a great meal for around $1.50 or less in Puerto Escondido. I really liked Bahias de Huatulco, a series of 7 bays that are just now getting built up, including tour boats showing up there. Stunning place for sure. Very few outsiders. Oaxaca City is a lovely old place as well, with many interesting sites to see, and great people, and food. Get off the beaten track and see the real Mexico. There is a scenic drive through the mountains between Veracruz on the Caribbean coast and Oaxaca that is stunning, and new. No one for a hundred miles or more. We came to the end of it after a twisting mountain drive and overlooking around 100 miles of coastal plain was a house/store owned by an old Native American gent who could not speak Spanish as well as this Guerro (blonde). Really something to see there!

        Like

    • Visit the Popocatepetl and the Ixtacihuatl, amazing volcanos. Have a tour in Morelos and try “las Haciendas”, like the “Hacienda de Cocoyoc” that Hernan Cortez build as a gift for an Aztec princess, or La “Hacienda de Atlihuayan”.
      The Pyramids list is huge: Teotihuacan, pyramid de la Luna y del Sol.
      Palenque, Xochicalco,Tepoztlan…
      The city of silver “Taxco”
      Oaxaca (incredible)
      San Cristobal de las Casas.
      Mazunte (try Punta Cometa o San Agustinillo)
      Real de Catorce
      Xilitla: The Surreal Gardens of Las Pozas, La Huasteca
      (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dnhtxvGmaI0).
      El Gran Cenote, Tulum…
      if this is not exotic, we should try Mars. :)

      peace
      n

      Like

  11. There are plenty of bargains in these places no matter what budget level you’re at. I’m in Mexico right now and it’s unreal what kinds of goodies hotels are throwing in at the high end and it’s easy to bargain on rates. And it’s a tragedy that tourism in Honduras still hasn’t recovered. They’ll be glad to see you there.

    Like

  12. Hey Tim,

    Are you testing guest posters to see what/who is effective? Regardless, I’ve really enjoyed all guest posts (in addition to your own contributions.) Keep up the good work!

    Like

  13. Hi Tim,

    I live in Guatemala and currently am working on my muse, an ebook due to launch November 17 about Christmas in Guatemala. It’s showing a lot of promise and hopefully will be the launching point for my 4 hour work week lifestyle! Your book has really changed my life.

    Guatemala is really a cheap place to live and beautiful. Now if we can only get ride of the violence.

    Thanks for everything, Tim,

    Benjamin Barnett

    Like

  14. Thanks for the comments everyone!

    I have been to India four times (each time for at least a few weeks) and agree that the country is about as exotic as it gets—and it can be quite cheap at the backpacker level. But it’s also on most long-term travelers’ list as the world’s biggest hassle and it can really grind you down traveling through the country if you’re not staying in luxury palaces every night. The others on this list are better suited for travelers of ALL budget ranges, not just shoestring travelers willing to put up with everything India throws at them because it’s cheap.

    And yes, to elaborate on Mr. Ferriss’ point, parts of the Oaxaca, Chiapas, or Michoacan states feel more exotic than, say, Hyderabad, Chennai, or Bangalore. (And with much cleaner air!)

    Like

      • And here we have the quickest way to start a bar fight in the Czech Republic ^_^

        Dear Czechs: Americans refer to your country as “Eastern Europe” because Eastern Europe is considered a political zone, not a geographic one. All countries formerly under the Soviet Union’s sphere of influence get tagged Eastern Europe… even the ones that are technically in the Baltics or Asia. Many Americans still refer to your country as “Czechoslovakia” which hasn’t even existed for 17 years … let’s focus on one thing at a time here, okay?

        Dear Americans: Czechs prefer the term “Central Europe” because they associate “Eastern Europe” with countries like the Ukraine and Romanian which have been left in a much worse state Post-Communism. They will point out the geographic justifications for this (Vienna is a popular example) and will not accept your Cold War explanations. They live in a nice, stable country. They make really great beer which they serve cheap. Unlike other countries, they will not lecture you about American policy … unless of course it’s about that missile defense system we keep trying to force them to let us build there to shoot nukes up Putin’s nose, so how about we let them have this one? Enjoy the beer. The country side is beautiful. Leave the geography/history lesson alone. It’s only polite.

        Like

      • Hmm I’ll try to out-pedantic you both: Prague is, quite literally, the geographical center of Europe. This makes the Eastern vs Western debate quite inconsequential.

        Like

  15. One more to add to this list is Vietnam. It is truly the most beautiful place I’ve ever been and was not as ‘tourist’ driven as Thailand was. The people are friendly and the prices for nice food and drink is really cheap.

    Also for the ultimate place to chill out, I recommend Laos.

    Like

    • Hi Paul! I’ve been searching for someone who has been to Vietnam and Laos! My boyfriend and I living in China currently, we want to do some low budget travelling to Vietnam or Laos as backpackers (we are new at it), because it’s the closest and we dont have to spend on the airplane tickets. Could you tell me if 1000USD will be enough per person to spend, say, about 3 weeks in one of these countries? We are planning to spend only on accommodation and food but if doing sightseeing which entrance fees fits in the budget, it’d be awesome. Which place would you recommend to go? Is it possible to go to some islands in Vitnam and stay there? The less touristic the better. (our ideal plan was Vietnam – Combodia(Laos) – Thailand, but it seems impossible with the amount of money we have, what do you think?) Hope for your help! :)

      Like

  16. Thanks for sharing Tim. We’re planning a trip driving through Central America from the States and 90% of people advise us to stay away from everything you just suggested. Of course these are the same people who seldom leave their subdivision.

    THANK YOU!

    Like

  17. I would like to see rates on accommodations for extended periods of stay.

    These destinations sound like ultimate spots for mini-retirements.

    Tim, can you provide some broad figures?

    Like

    • Rob – I can only speak for Nicaragua but if you want to live in a bit of style with decent amenities (full size normal kitchen, high speed internet, swimming pool etc) you would be looking at around $1200 a month with no other utility bills.

      As with anywhere you can slum it if you prefer and work backwards from this figure by taking off the things less important and what you’re prepared to compromise on.

      There are plenty of people and surprisingly a large number of people with families in their 30′s and 40′s living and working remotely down in southern Nica – its not really your Florida style retirement village. We spend 6 months a year down here – surfing half the day and working the other half.

      Like

  18. Honduras is amazing. I travel there at least once a year, usually for the month of January. I’m in real estate so it’s my slowest work time, and I swear I actually SAVE money by being in Honduras rather than Minneapolis during that month.

    I highly recommend Trujillo.

    Like

    • Marcus, too right mate! I spent some time living in Thailand and returned to UK one cold, rainy January morning, and boy did that suck! Luckily I can work remotely so I’ve been able to get back to Thailand for my “Thailand fix” every now and again. I’ve written a fair bit about moving to Thailand on one of my other sites – get in touch if you want a link or two. All the best. p.s unless you have some serious commitments in the UK I would suggest making the move, even if only for a year, you won’t regret it.

      Like

  19. Thanks gonna try to visit 3 of these places for 2011 im guessing the how to book a world tour flight post will come in handy :)

    Good post

    Like

  20. Question to the readers/commenters: Are there any families reading this that have done extensive travel with (young) children? I’ve been bit by the bug and want to take off sooner than later but am suffering a little analysis paralysis…

    Like

  21. Love the list, both Tims. I think it’s one of those posts that a lot of people might blow off because it might not be something they’re directly interested in, and it’s not something super new and exciting. But for those of us who might be right in the middle of choosing a new destination, this is golden, a great resource.

    -Marshall Jones Jr.

    Like

  22. I really enjoy these posts but in my case is it possible to mix Exotic, Affordable and Kids? Doesn’t seem likely. I would love to travel internationally with my kids (4 & 1) but I think I should wait several years so that they can really be able to take in the culture and experience. Not to mention leaving them with their Grandparents for several days to a week would be an adventure in itself!

    Back on topic, my dad hasn’t been back to his Peru in 30 years…might be time for a father/son trip. Thanks for all the info!

    Like

    • Hi,
      I just travelled this year for 5 weeks to the US (from Belgium) with my husband a 3 year old son, using home exchange. We stayed 2 weeks in Wash DC and 3 weeks at the beach (N. Carolina), in some amazing houses. We had cars in both places (part of the exchange). We met great people could easily organise baby sitters, etc.
      The only costs involved were: plane tickets, cost of traveling from one location to the other. And of course everyday expenses which you have at home as well. That was it, 5 weeks amazing holiday, with family (we had HUGE homes, we could have brought a family of 7!!).
      I really, highly recommend this kind of travel!

      Like

  23. I myself prefer to go on camping holidays, with a tent, in the Lake District, in the UK, in the summer. I usually camp most nights but sometimes pop into a B&B ( bed & breakfast ) cheap hotel now and then.

    You can get amazing rates from a hotel when they are not busy.

    I like that your blogger is advising people, during a recession, to go on holiday :)

    Having guest bloggers is cool, a nice idea, helps mix things up.

    As a matter of interest, I tried to find negative stuff about you on the web and it was obvious that those people do just not ‘get it’.

    Your the MAN Tim !

    btw, I came up with an idea for something like rescuetime as well, is very effective, just testing it on myself at the moment but works well

    amazing how much time you waste on the web when not focused

    All the best.

    Like

  24. This post is perfectly timed, the way the Simpson’s tv always has the most relevant news to their lives.
    My mother is on a year’s teaching sabbatical and has already been to Mexico, and leaves in a week for Guatemala. I just negotiated a few weeks to meet up with her in Peru in January, and I believe she’s going to the Czech Republic with my brother in the spring!
    Thanks!

    Like

  25. Great list Tim and Tim! :)

    Don’t forget Korea though! Super cheap to stay as a traveller. $30 per night for a hotel room. $6 for a meal that will fill you up delivered to your door. See historical sites like palaces, museums and temples for a few dollars or less. Taxis for as low as $3, buses and subway for mere cents.

    And Japan doesn’t have to bankrupt you! Lol

    Alles liebe!

    Like

  26. I’ve been to Bali (I stayed at Kuta, one of the main hangouts for Australians) and loved it. The people are really nice.

    Java is something else though, the people were always at you trying to sell things. Sometimes to the point of being very rude. In Kuta, everyone was trying to sell you stuff but, they weren’t as aggresive and rude.

    Another place in Indoesia is Ubud. It’s really beautiful. The white water rafting from there is excellent. Some of the hotels look like palaces, but there cheaps as chips.

    Cheers!

    Like

  27. Czech republic is the coolest place to go. I think even Prague is very affordable by Europe standards. The fairs/festivals are the best. In 2008 they had a wonderful Easter festival in Prague along with some delicious food. And the prices are just great. I look forward to going back and seeing more of the country. Some day I’d love to see Turkey. I know its not the cheapest country but that would be a cool trip.

    The only criticism I would give the article is that Peru is still kind of a dangerous country. There is a lot of kidnapping that goes on there. I have a friend who is a pilot and he had to fly someone whose wife was kidnapped in Lima. I would also exercise caution with Egypt and Mexico as well. It never hurts to be a bit cautious.

    Cheers.

    Like

  28. Clearly we need to do more promotion for tourism in Venezuela…rarely do you ever hear somebody going for a trip there. Most of these points: cheap places to stay, dollars are worth more, great places to see….can also be applied to Venezuela.

    Like

    • Alejandro, I’m going to Venezuela & Columbia (I’m from UK) in March for 4 weeks; looks amazing, so much to do and I can’t wait!
      Henri Pittier National Park, Angel Falls, Merida and Coro are all pencilled in…anywhere else you say is unmissable? I’m considering the Roraima trek…

      Like

  29. Tim

    When planning the next vacation, I will be looking into these locations and others from the website your writer provided. It seems even in a recession the best value for North American dollars not western Europe but overseas destinations.

    The value to see your dollar multiply 2 3 4 or more times is encouraging. The challenge may come getting a flight from North America to one of these locations. What air lines do you recommend when flying to any of these great destinations?

    Thanks
    Leonard

    Like

  30. Can anyone recommend any non biase news sources where you can determine what is really going on in places. Most of the best deals are to be had when man stream media portrays a country or place in melt down. Many thanks on advance.

    Like

  31. I would definitely through Brunei Darussalam in there. Right in the middle of the Borneo jungle, cheap, friendly, one hell of an exotic hotel………………it’s a hidden treasure

    Like

  32. Hi Tim,

    This is quite an inspiration. I am reading your book now “The 4-hour Workweek” and decided to visit your blog.

    These places are something that I’m gonna put on top of my list…. =)

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  33. The whole Eastern Europe is worth seeing. This summer I had a two – week hitchhiking trip from Lithuania (where I live) to Croatia (city of Dubrovnik) and back. Sleeping in beaches, train stations and other weird places, eating cheap food from shops and not restaurants costed something like 200 usd for the whole journey. Not to mention all the adventures, unavoidable with such a way of travelling!

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  34. I just got back from Nicaragua. Wonderful people, completely safe, tons of volcanoes to climb and cities to explore, dirt cheap everything. Dinner for four on a balcony overlooking the central park of Granada, including appetizers, two drinks per person, and four meals, was $46. Need more enticement? Go to youtube and search “volcano surfing”.

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  35. I’ve had excellent experiences on Bali and Lombok.

    The values in the Czech Republic (hotels aside) were amazing … and the beer is the nectar of gods!

    Go to the Pilsner Urquell brewery in Pilsen for the most phenomenal, freshest beer you’ve ever tasted.

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  36. I wasn’t kidnapped or tortured in Egypt, but during the 12-hour trip in the first class Cairo-Luxor train I had to avoid going to the bathroom because it was extremely disgusting (as in “I rather not go to the bathroom for 12 hours instead of going and ending throwing up in disgust”). The cabin was extremely filthy, too.

    I’m not saying you shouldn’t go, overall I enjoyed the trip tremendously, but you must know exactly what you’re getting into.

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  37. I’ve been to Honduras, Guatemala and am currently in Thailand.

    Guatemala is AMAZING, I loved Antigua – It’s what people imagine Paris to be like…romantic, beautiful and artsy.

    Honduras was okay, Roatan was okay. I’d skip it.

    Thailand is amazing. Koh Tao is the cheapest place in the world to get your diving certification and life here is top notch.

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    • Thanks Tim ( Ferriss + Leffel),
      Added to my list. It’s amazing to see how that many places can provide the experience of Paris for a fraction of the cost, as Jonny said Antigua, and especially Buenos Aires, looks very similar to Paris. The only issue for me is traveling from the UK, it’s rather difficult to find flights to some of these countries and it’s costly. For example there are no flights from the UK to Panama !
      Has anyone traveled to Latin America from the UK ? if so I would really appreciate some tips.
      Lyon.

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  38. You write of travel as something to be done almost exclusively by air, and for the destinations you feature, one has little choice but to fly. But the last few times I’ve boarded a plane, I’ve wondered about the environmental impact….traveling by jet airliner seems like it a massive waste of resources. This recent article corroborates my concerns (unfortunately…I wish there were better news): http://www.alternet.org/story/148675. I’m surprised there has not been more about this in the press…and I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on the matter and those of your readers. ……..Curtis…….

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  39. First, cracking little article with some awesome pictures – very nice. Thailand: awesome, and definitely a thumbs up, if simply for the gorgeous Thai women (and I don’t mean the ones in the bars), but it’s not the bargain deal it once was, especially with a fistful of dollars. The USD has been hammered by the THB, as has the GBP.

    Back in 2003 I stayed in Kata Beach Resort (Kata beach is one of my favourite beaches ever) for around 30 GBP a night. I also lived in Bangkok for a while and was paying around 250 GBP *a month* for an awesome apartment with pool, security, maid, basically everything you could wish for – very high end (you’d pay 2K to 3K for that in the UK). Sadly, at least for now, those days are over, but you can still get some relatively good deals. Tip: get a Thai friend to negotiate the price for you – as soon as they see a white face the price goes way up – stay well clear until business has been concluded! That’s how I got my apartment for *half* what the advertised price was. I’m off to Philippines in Jan, so it’s going to be interesting to compare the two destinations.

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  40. Going to Guatemala in early December so I loved this post.

    Vietnam and Cambodia are also great bargains. Happy to see at least one European country on the list. It is so difficult to travel there without spending a fortune but I went to Czech Republic in 2007 and was pleasantly surprised.

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  41. colombia is the most under-rated treasure of all! don’t miss la sierra nevada de santa marta- every eco system on the planet and indigenous culture in one mountain!

    cartagena and medellin is fun for nightlife and culture!

    bogota is very urban, cool, and still cheap!

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  42. Loved this post, but I have to say that I’m surprised Costa Rica wasn’t on that list. It’s an incredible country that can be experienced at low cost.

    And although it isn’t exotic in the way most people would interpret the word, Alaska and parts of Northern Canada have to be some of the most interesting and exciting places I’ve visited in the world while spending very little.

    Of the 30+ countries I have been fortunate to visit, Costa Rica and Alaska/Northern Canada are in my top 5.

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  43. Great ideas! I’ve done five of these; I need to get on the others! Guatemala is by far my favorite affordable destination – I went in 2008 and have spent the last two years telling that to anyone who would listen!

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  44. You forgot to mention Nicaragua and Madagascar. These 2 countries are way cheaper & more exotic than any of these countries than you mentioned.

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  45. Egypt and Czech are two countries on the top of my list!

    It’d be interesting to do some research into how much cheaper certain countries can be in the country as opposed to the big cities.

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  46. Guatemala is definitely an awesome budget travel spot. I can’t exactly vouch for the quality of spanish instruction, but that’s a long story. The good thing is that you can get 1-on-1 instruction for a cheap price. The bad news is ron con cola is also dirt cheap, so good luck on your exams. Que horror!

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  47. I appreciate the tips, but have you actually been to Indonesia or Thailand lately?

    I just returned.

    To market these destinations as paradise, which has been what most tourism marketing conforms to, is simply not true.

    Yes it is what everybody else is doing.

    But I expect more of this blog.

    The pictures, they are misleading. The reality, a harsh awakening. (sometimes) (and sometimes indeed a paradise)

    …I think it is high time that when we talk about travel, we tell the truth.

    I’m talking about the poverty. WHAT IT REALLY LOOKS LIKE.

    To talk about staying in beach-side hotels and living the highlife, for cheap, is just promoting a RICH, ignorant, FAT BASTARD way of life.

    Let’s talk about the nitty gritty. The dirty underbelly of these countries.

    Cuz that, that’s honest. And still beautiful.

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    • They’re no different to anywhere else in the world in that they paradisical elements while simultaneously fighting the challenges of poverty, exploitation and corruption. There’s no denying that there are downsides to tourism in the developing world, but at the same time is has lifted significant portions of the population out of poverty and given them opportunities they would never otherwise have had.

      Regardless of whether one lives in the west or one lives in say Indonesia or Thailand one is still benefiting economically from the exploitation of cheap labour in these countries. Where was that iPhone made? If tourism partly awakens people’s realisation of what their lifestyles are dependent on then I think that is also a good thing.

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  48. Thanks Tim for the post, I’m a high school junior and have been in love with all of your ideas for about 2 years now. Would love to travel to those places as I have been to Hong Kong and a few others, but it has been a bit tough to get started on a muse that could get off of its feet being with limited limited resources. Just a cry for help is all.
    Thanks Tim for all your inspiration

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  49. I have to second (or third or fourth by this stage) Vietnam – incredibly cheap; 15c beers in Hanoi and $3 for a liter bucket of Long Island Ice Tea in Hoi An and you can eat well for dollars a day. Mind you, while we ther we met a lot of tourists coming from Laos and Cambodia who reckoned they were even better!

    I get the people saying Mexico isn’t exotic but get out of places like Cancun (ugh!) and go to Oaxaca or San Cristobal – fantastic. Again, people coming up from Guatemala reckoned it was better.

    @Amy Martin – I’m surprised you were surprised! Getting to see how the majority of people on the planet live is part of the deal. Don’t forget that tourism puts money into the pockets of locals, helping them to get out of poverty. Not going won’t help.

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    • Just got back from Tibet. Pros- can be very cheap if you rough it a bit, and definantly very very beautiful. If you like trekking you can really get away from it all.Cons- lots of red tape. You must have a permit. Its pretty high elevation and their is a risk of altitude sickness.

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  50. Tim,

    Given the extensive traveling you have done, I’m curious to know what your favorite exotic and economical travel destinations are.

    On another note… Thank you! Your book, blog and idea have helped my wife and I design our life in such a way that when our first child arrives in early April, we’ll have the opportunity to move from chilly Canada to Hawaii and live by the ocean for a couple of months. It will be an amazing opportunity for the three of us to bond as a family. Thank you!

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    • Huge congratulations, Jason! Thank you so much for the kind words as well… but I just wrote the stuff. You did it :)

      Here are a few favorites:

      - Buenos Aires
      - Berlin
      - Nagoya and Kyoto, Japan
      - Thailand (I like the islands)
      - Vermont, US in the spring/summer (Yep)

      Have a blast in Hawaii!

      Pura vida,

      Tim

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  51. So, having a problems of any kind is actually good, so yanks can enjoy the “exoticism” for a few dollars!

    Way to go “Americans”!

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  52. Hi Tim,

    Thank you for this article. I did the four-day Inca trail hike and Sacred Valley in Peru a few years ago, and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

    But … recession … what recession? I’m happy to report that I’m quitting my day job shortly to pursue my coaching business full time, and that business is booming :) Inspired in part by your concept of the four hour work week, I am determined to live a life of ease and abundance. By following intuition, I have managed to create a business that is fully portable (nearly all my sessions are via Skype or telephone). That means I can live anywhere I want, and that my clients can come to me from anywhere in the world.

    This is the life I always wanted to live, but I was constrained by my belief system to think that I had to have a regular job and that I needed “security.”

    Now I feel so free letting go of all that … this may mean more travel for me in the near future so I’ll be sure to put some of these destinations on my list.

    Thanks for your inspiration.

    - Erika

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  53. Great post! I am actually going to Egypt next summer 2011. I was told to only stay at the nicest hotels because its super dirty there. Should be an awesome experience though, especially seeing the Pyramids.

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  54. I visited Prague in 2005 when the crown was still the main currency. It was super cheap and the beer was indeed the “nectar of the gods” what an amazing place

    oh yeah, and I am finally enjoying the fruits of my 4HWW labors with a month-long trip to China in Dec. – also ran into your highschool bud Shane here in CO, who confirmed you as a solid person – small world!

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  55. Travel doesn’t have to be expensive. I’ve lived on $20 per day in some parts of the world when I backpacked. In fact, I can live on LESS money traveling than it would to pay to live in the United States… That’s why I’m selling everything I own to travel the world, but this time indefinitely. I depart in January and I’ll likely be hitting up these places at one time or another! I hope more people can realize if you want to live your dreams, you must make a conscious decision to do so, and then work towards that goal. You’ll eventually get it.

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  56. I have to echo some of the Nicaragua sentiments above.

    I conceived, planned and wrote the ebook for my muse while in Nica (All thanks to you, Tim!!!)

    It’s a truly beautiful place and is way cheap when done right.

    This is a snapshot of San Juan Del Sur, which is a touristy (but not too touristy) beach town.

    I lived there almost 2 months.

    My daily costs were something like this (in USD):

    - $7 Hostel dorm bed (very nice with the exception of a toesucker who victimized some girls. My toes were left unsucked.)

    I actually prefer hostels because you meet so many people. (read: hot european chicks who are better educated, more conscientious and lack any American/Canadian “chick” attitude).

    - $10 shuttle to the beach + surfboard rental

    - $10 tête-a-tête Spanish Lesson in the afternoon

    - $5-$30 food/beer/drugs – I’ve been eating paleo since before it was cool and the chicken and eggs are on a different level from this US garbage…succulent pollo a la plancha.

    The beef is chewy. Fruit is dangerously flavorful. Veggies are decent.

    Beer is a dollar a piece for local brews (toña or victoria) and more for imports. Doja is OK quality and cheap. Don’t worry – It will find YOU.

    Just be careful, this ain’t the states. They don’t play that junk!

    I just have to mention that this trip (prefaced by hitchhiking across the US and a little time in Costa Rica) was like a vision quest inspire by the 4HWW and it was hands-down, the MOST relaxing, fun, challenging, scary, amazing thing I’ve ever done. (e.g. crossing the Costa Rica/Nica border….bleh!)

    You would think such a vacation hurts productivity but on the contrary, you’ll accomplish more than you dreamed because you are relaxed, active, engaged and in a whole new world.

    Good, good vibes to all~
    See you @playa Madera

    Vic Dorfman

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  57. As an inhabitant of Moravia (and Czech republic), I have to correct some numbers:

    - For $12, you will get a train ticket for a 150 km ride. It may be even three times more expensive to travel from Prague to some other point of interest – not speaking about the low quality and speed of Czech trains. Of course you can get a discount card, but it takes several thousand kilometers until the investment pays off.

    - Moravia is cheap, beautiful and safe. What is more, it is almost unknown to tourists. However that also means that the tourist infrastructure is weak – it is hard to order a food in restaurant or chat with locals in any other language than Czech (although some people know little German or Russian).

    - Brno (the second biggest Czech town) may be a good place to stay if you want to enjoy good meals and excellent beers and wine for very affordable prices (check out this table: http://brnonow.com/2009/06/the-cost-of-living-in-brno-how-much-is/). It may be a good idea to stay in this town for a longer time and use it as a “base” for exploring nearby (but more expensive) Vienna, Prague or Bratislava.

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  58. What about Nepal? Its my nationality but I’ve never lived there for more then a month at a time so I always end up being a tourist in my own country and I love it!

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  59. From my experiences whole Europe is kinda cheap. Just not at the popular places. But even in popular and really expensive citys like London you can find really good deals.

    If you are student and don’t take too much care about comfort, you won’t need to pay more as 30$ average.

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  60. Just spent the summer in Czech wine country and Lednic-Valtice was legit. I had to detox from all the great wine in the area. Definitely a must if you like wine and not paying a lot for good wine.

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  61. Thanks for this post – when I read your title I did not believe it could be done. In fact, Egypt has been on my long list of places I want to visit and perhaps now I can move it to my short list!

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  62. OK, now that we’re past the 100 comments mark (!), I’m chiming back in.

    First, of course there are more than 8 exotic and cheap destinations around the world. That’s why the subtitle of my World’s Cheapest Destinations book is “21 Countries Where Your Money is Worth a Fortune.” But a blog post with 21 destinations would get pretty tedious—and take forever for the photos to load. Vietnam, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and India are all in the book, with detailed prices for budgeting purposes, along with lots of other great places to travel.

    Costa Rica is the most expensive country in Central America by far. Brazil is way more expensive than its neighbors, for reasons I can’t quite figure out.

    Yes, you can hit most of these places with kids. I took my daughter to non-resort Mexico when she was three and Guatemala when she was five. Naturally you need to slow down and spend a little more though than if you’re single and carefree. There are a few good books on the subject, but I especially like the Rough Guide to Travel with Babies and Young Children.

    Amy – yes, there is poverty in these places. If there weren’t the destinations would be priced like Copenhagen or Zurich. But places where everyone is wealthy aren’t normally considered “exotic.” And the fact that a place has problems doesn’t take away from the beauty, which is easy to find (and photograph).

    How much does it cost to travel long-term? The short answer is, “less than you’re spending now just to get by.” A couple being really careful can get by on $1,000 a month after airfare. $1,500 to $2,000 a month is quite easy if you stick to the destinations profiled here and it’s more than enough in India, Nepal, or Indonesia. Living in one place and renting an apartment is often far cheaper than being on the move.

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  63. Don Colacho argues that modernity makes us all travelers. It’s just that some stagnate in a single location while the world travels around them, leaving them just as rootless as those who wander the earth.

    “The facility with which industrial capitalism constructs and destroys—obeying clear precepts of profitability—transforms the average man into an intellectual, moral, and physical nomad.
    Whatever is permanent today is an obstacle.”

    Escolios a un Texto Implícito: Selección, p. 357

    http://don-colacho.blogspot.com/2010/11/2194.html

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  64. I never pay over $3-4/day for a motorbike in Bali. Also be sure to get an international driving permit (or a fake one) and wear your helmet to avoid the local “tax”.

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  65. Awesome list. South/Central America and Southeast Asia are definitely the places to hit up if you want great unique, exotic experience and also will make you feel like a king with all your spending power. Delish food and great beer, at only a few dollars. A great feeling to be able to do, eat and enjoy your time without such a tight budget.

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  66. We have been in Egypt and we are surpised that hotels there are very affordable. You may stay in a five star hotel for 4 days at the price of three star hotel in other country.

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  67. Great list, both Tims! I’ve no experience of the other selections, but I wholeheartedly agree with you with regards to the Czech Republic. It’s a beautiful country, and cheap as hell.

    I visited a friend a few months back while she was working in the town of Usti nad Labem, close to the German border approximately an hour and a half by train from Prague (a train journey that offered utterly spectacular views).
    Upon arrival in Usti she took me to the most expensive restaurant in the town. I began by asking her if she was insane, as we’re both 20-somethings and certainly not big-earners. She insisted she knew what she was doing, so we went inside and… wow. I had the most delicious meal I’d had in a very long time (beef and potato/onion pancakes, all based on traditional Czech recipes. What with beer being approximately a dollar s you mentioned, I was all in for about £4.50 (approx $7.30). Incredible!

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