If you’re looking to book an unforgettable vacation, you might be faced with sticker shock when finding out the price tag for popular destinations like Paris, London, Rome or even Dublin, Ireland. The good news is that there are more affordable alternatives – and oftentimes, you’ll enjoy a less crowded, more hassle-free experience too.
Kilkenny, Ireland Instead of Dublin, Ireland (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Kilkenny, located just an hour-and-a-half’s drive southwest of Dublin, is an excellent alternative to the pricier, jam-packed capital city. Ireland’s medieval capital is steeped in heritage, culture and, of course, it’s home to the magnificent 12th-century Kilkenny Castle. Stroll the cobbled lanes lined with all sorts of interesting shops, pubs and eateries, before touring the castle that overlooks the River Nore. Inhabited by the Butler dynasty from 1391 through 1935, you’ll see family portraits that date back to the castle’s earliest years displayed in the Long Gallery, and much more. The “Creative Heart of Ireland,” as Kilkenny is sometimes called, has a large percentage of its population that’s engaged in the arts and crafts, which means it’s an ideal place to discover a more unique, handmade souvenir. It’s also become somewhat of a “foodie” city, with numerous restaurants serving up fantastic eats with dishes featuring lots of local ingredients, though it may best be known for producing some of the country’s finest beers, including Smithwicks. Sample a few at one of the many pubs, like Matt the Millers, spread across five floors, each with its own unique bar and distinct atmosphere.
Naxos, Greece Instead of Santorini, Greece (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Everyone talks about Santorini, but Naxos is often overlooked. The largest of the Cycladic islands, it sits in the Aegean about halfway between Mykonos and Santorini. Here, you’ll not only get a chance to experience authentic Greek village life, but accommodations start at $25 night, whereas you won’t find anything on Santorini for under $90, and most rooms are much higher, some at well over $1,000 a night. Naxos offers a wonderfully different experience, a place where you can still see a donkey making its way down a cobbled street, along with charming white-washed homes, lush mountains, picturesque vineyards, olive groves and beautiful beaches. There are also lots of restaurants serving up farm-to-table delights, as well as interesting historic sites like the collection of kouros statues that date back to the 8th century B.C.
Warsaw, Poland Instead of London, England (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Warsaw offers many things that London has without the high price. You’ll discover an intriguing history, an abundance of fascinating museums, magnificent castles, lush green spaces, diverse architecture and plenty of pubs to pop in and enjoy the local lager for under $2 a pint. The city’s dining and entertainment scene is the best in the country, plus you can eat well and affordably here on cuisines from across the globe. For just a little over a buck, you can visit the Warsaw Fotoplastikon, one of the few turn-of-the-century 3D photo theaters left in the world. Here you can check out historical photos of everything from World War II-era Warsaw to the Radio City Rockettes of the late 1960’s.
Montreal, Quebec Instead of Paris, France (Hotel Prices & Photos)
You probably know that the cost of airfare alone to fly overseas doesn’t come cheap, so if that’s holding you back from visiting Paris, you should know that you can immerse yourself in French culture in Montreal, Quebec, Canada instead. This gorgeous bFrench-speaking city is the second largest in Canada after Toronto, and considered the country’s cultural capital. Take a stroll down Saint-Paul Street in Old Montreal and you might feel as if you really are in Paris, with its famously European atmosphere. Though it’s barely a mile long, its cobblestones are lined with an endless eateries, bars, boutiques and art galleries, nestled within magnificent historic buildings. If you’re looking for French fare, you’ll have lots of opportunities too, including Laloux, L’Express and Decca 77.
Puglia, Italy Instead of Tuscany, Italy (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Located in the “heel of Italy’s boot” in the sunny southern region of the country, surprisingly, Puglia has yet to be spoiled by tourism. Tourism may be on the increase, but you’ll still find far fewer visitors here than in other parts of the country, so you can navigate the streets without fighting through tour groups and you’ll benefit from lower prices too. Puglia has a unique character and charm along with breathtaking scenery that includes glistening turquoise seas, soft golden sands and olive groves. Here things are more relaxed, people are friendlier, and there is little commercialism. Explore hilltop towns like Ostuni, known as “The White City,” and fascinating places like Alberobello with its unique trulli, conical roofed stone dwellings that are unique to Puglia. All of this and you can dine on a whole pizza for about $5, purchase a bottle of wine for less than $3, and discover all sorts of bargains in the local shops.
Portland, Oregon Instead of Seattle, Washington (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Lots of Washington state residents head to Oregon, particularly Portland, to enjoy sales tax-free shopping, and you might want consider doing the same. While Seattle does have the Space Needle, and lots of other iconic attractions, quirky Portland offers lots of delights at a lower cost. This is the city that gave birth to world-famous Voodoo Doughnut, where you can sample sinfully indulgent doughnuts like the Voodoo Doll, filled with raspberry jelly and topped with chocolate frosting and a pretzel stake, or even get married. For Portlandia fans, a visit to Portland is a no-brainer, in fact, it’s difficult not to bump into a location where the TV show has been shot. Other highlights include discovering bargains at the 50+ vintage shops in the city, taking a stroll through the Japanese garden, one of the best in the world outside of Japan, and checking out the incredible live music scene.
Hanoi, Vietnam Instead of Bangkok, Thailand (Hotel Prices & Photos)
This charming Vietnamese capital is different than other Asian capitals – and decidedly less expensive than most. It’s an elegant collage of cultural influences from the French and Chinese, yet it still manages to retain local Vietnamese ways. The bustling city does have its share of skyscrapers and mopeds, but you’ll also discover French-inspired architecture and food in its large Old Quarter, along with picturesque parks, lakes, shady boulevards and over 600 temples and pagodas. Both accommodation and food throughout Vietnam tends to be cheap and very high quality. Dine on a tasty bowl of Pho noodles for under a dollar and stay at Central Hanoi Backpackers Hostel where dorms are just $5 a night – and, that includes breakfast, Internet and free beer in the evening.
Portugal Instead of Spain (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Portugal is one of the most affordable Western European destinations, much less expensive than its neighbor Spain. It’s retained much of its Old World charms, with lots of ancient castles, endless olive groves and lovely fishing villages, and yet a full week’s stay at a five-star hotel in the capital city of Lisbon, runs the same as just a night or two at a luxury hotel in Madrid or Barcelona. Visit one of Europe’s finest palaces, the National Palace of Pena, sample fabulous port wines, cruise the Douro River and watch the sun go down from Cape St. Vincent, located along the most stunning coastline on the continent, famous for some of the most glorious sunsets in all of Europe. There are picture-postcard beaches too, with some 50 stretches of sand found throughout the country, and in Lisbon, you can enjoy listening to the sounds of traditional Fado music, and wandering through historic districts like Alfama, with its alluring maze of narrow cobblestone streets.
Ljubljana, Slovenia Instead of Prague, Czech Republic (Hotel Prices & Photos)
This fairy-tale city has been called “Prague without the tourists,” and it’s a whole lot easier on your wallet. Tucked in an alpine valley along the Ljubljana River, Ljubljana is often said to be Eastern Europe’s most beautiful city, yet here, you can easily get by on less than $40 a day with quality accommodations available for less than $15 a night. A fantastic three-course dinner can be had for under $20, while a liter of local wine at the supermarket runs about $4 to $5. Stroll the cobblestone streets lined with museums and art galleries, gaze up at architecture dating from the Middle Ages, as well as the Renaissance and Baroque periods, and for a fun and scenic road trip, visit Slovenia’s most famous sight, Lake Bled, less than an hour’s drive away.