Edna Zhou is a serial expat and sports journalist who has been living abroad since 2008 and sharing her adventures at Expat Edna. When she is not traveling, she is usually inParis, where she’s lived on and off since 2012. Here are her ten best budget travel destinations:
1. George Town, Malaysia
For those who love to try new food but are on a budget, George Town, Malaysia is the place to go. The cuisine is a blend of Malay, Chinese, and Indian specialities, and local hawker centers and street food stalls offer dozens of delicious options for just $2-3. Wash it all down with a fresh fruit juice for $1 and you can easily eat well for under $10 a day. Accommodation is cheap, with an abundance of budget-friendly hostels and Airbnbs. Additionally, the city is a UNESCO World Heritage site, so when not eating you can spend hours walking around the city, visiting temples and taking in the beautiful colonial architecture and colorful street art.
2. Xi’an, China
If you’re interested in history, culture and hearty but cheap food, Xi’an, China should be on your list. While cities like Beijing and Shanghai have become more expensive to match their cosmopolitan status, Xi’an still remains budget-friendly. As a former endpoint of the Silk Road, the city has retained its historic city walls and east-meets-west harmony, the influence of which comes out in the street food. In Xi’an, you can scarf down big bowls of hand-pulled Lanzhou noodles or savor lamb burgers and kebabs in the Muslim Quarter for just $1.50-4. If you want to visit the famous Terra Cotta Warriors, it’s easy to skip the expensive tours and take the local bus there for just $1.
3. Barcelona, Spain
For those traveling on the dollar, the euro is in our favor right now. In Barcelona, Spain you can live the good life with $2 beers, $10 bottles of cava and completely filling $11-13 set lunch menus. In between bar hopping you can spend your day relaxing on the beach in the clear, warm Mediterranean waters or admire Gaudi’s architecture with a walk around the city or up to Park Guell — even if you don’t pay to enter the central part of the park, you can still get a beautiful view over Barcelona completely for free.
Behind the hit website Two Monkey’s Travel are Jonathan Howe and Kach Medina Umandap, two bloggers who have been on the road since 2013. Currently in Florida, they are heading to Colombia this week.
4. Metro Manila, Philippines
The Philippines has long been overlooked as a south-east Asia travel destination, but it’s now starting to attract the attention it deserves.
Most people however, get straight out of congested, polluted and noisy Manila as soon as possible. The problem is they’re wrong! Manila, in particular Metro Manila and surrounding area, has a huge amount to offer, both in and out of the city.
The old colonial walled city of Intramuros can be explored on foot or by horse and carriage, known as Calesa. Only a short boat ride away from Malate, Manila is The Rock, a former World War II fortress and now a haunted ruin, combined with adventure sports like ATV’s, hiking, kayaking and camping. In the province of Laguna, just a couple of hours from Manila, are the seven lakes, underground caves, hot water and mud springs and loads of water sports.
While the Philippines is nowhere near as cheap as its neighbors like Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, the less developed and more unique experience more than makes up for it and it is still just a fraction of the price of traveling in North America or Europe
5. Thrace Region, Turkey
A new discovery for us is the little-explored Thrace region of Turkey, which starts from Istanbul and stretches north-west between the Black and Aegean Seas, absorbing more of the cultures of Bulgaria and Greece, creating a whole other side of Turkey, in complete contrast to the traditional Turkey of the East.
Wine making has been a tradition in this part of Turkey for over a thousand years and mythology has it that the first vines were the product of a love tryst between Zeus, his jealous wife and the goddess Semele. The gently rolling hills of the area are home to thousands of acres of vines, feeding the cellars of dozens of boutique wineries, often paired with 5 star boutique hotels for a fully immersive wine experience at a fraction of the cost of a wine tour in France, Italy, California or South America.
After graduating university, British Katie Dawes wanted to do something different. Landing a job at a hostel in Budapest, her love for travel was born. Documenting her trips on The Hostel Girl, Dawes is a big proponent of hosteling culture.
In recent years, Morocco has become my hideaway and home-away-from-home when I need a break from traveling, as the cost of living there is just so low compared to Western wages. Local apartment rental in seafront villages outside of the big cities can start from $330 a month (although Airbnbs can charge upwards of $600 per month), and traveling around the country is incredibly cheap.
Home to stunning natural landscapes, including beaches, waterfalls, mountains and desert, it’s possible to take a three-hour journey for just $5. If immersing yourself in the nomadic culture aligned with the Sahara Desert is on your bucket list, an all-inclusive two-night trip to the desert from Zagora costs just $102 USD. I’ve done it twice and will definitely be taking a camel trek to sand-board amongst the dunes again in the future!
I first visited Budapest with the intention of staying a month and ended up living and working there for seven months because I could get by on $55 a week without restrictions on what I could see and do there. Entry to most bars is free and with such a thriving hipster culture in the city you’ll want to visit as many of the ruin pubs as possible!
World War II is a big part of the country’s history, and visitors to the Budapest’s museums and memorials will find they can immerse themselves in the country’s heritage for a fraction of the cost of other European cities. But if city life isn’t for you, return train travel to the beautiful landscape of Lake Balaton will take less than $20 out of your budget.
The Benders are an Australian family who has been traveling the world for over three years with their two kids in tow. Sharing their adventures at Travel with Bender, Josh Bender stopped by to share his budget-friendly destinations for 2016.
8. Malaysia offers a lot of bang for your buck. There are plenty of fun activities and attractions for the whole family such as Legoland (our kids’ favorite), water parks, indoor theme parks, tropical beaches and cultural icons like Batu Caves. Traveling via air within the country is ultra cheap thanks to AirAsia. A round-trip flight from the capital, Kuala Lumpur, to the beautiful island of Langkawi can cost as little as US$33. English is widely spoken, local food is cheap and delicious and the weather is warm all year round.
9. Croatia is one of our favorite European countries, and best of all it won’t break the bank. Take a scenic summer break on the Adriatic coast in Split and Dubrovnik. Or catch a ferry to the rustic island of Brac, home to Zlatni Rat, consistently ranked as one of the best beaches in Europe. And the kids will love the shopping center in Split with a slide taking them from one floor to the other or the free indoor playground with attentive staff.
10. Puerto Rico is a little closer to home for Americans; familiar currency and cheaper flights are significant benefits. We spent several weeks exploring the less popular west coast and discovered its picturesque beaches and caves. Guarantee an affordable vacation by staying in an AirBnb property and eating local food. Our kids’ favorite activity was an island hopping and fishing tour. I certainly won’t forget that any time soon as it was my first (and only) “barracuda kiss”.