K.C. was a featured writer for Yahoo! Travel before joining trips to discover in 2013. She is the author of Best Travel Guide for First Time Visitors to Ireland, an Amazon bestseller every year between 2013 and 2016. She has been a featured expert on Newsweek, Travel + Leisure, Travelocity, among others.
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Want to go on an exotic vacation but think it’s way out of your price range? Think again, these cheap vacations are no doubt exotic, offering breathtaking scenery along with a host of things to see and do. From the Caribbean to Europe, South America, Asia and beyond, these destinations offer some of the cheapest, yet incredibly rewarding vacations you can take.
As the Dominican Republic is home to many luxury beach properties, the result is some of the most competitive rates in the entire Caribbean region. Punta Cana, on the country’s east coast, is renowned for its glorious beaches, outstanding golf and a variety of hotels, from budget-friendly to upscale. A stay here means easy access to water adventures that won’t cost a thing – just grab your snorkeling gear and swim among the colorful fish and coral reefs. Here it’s easy to find the perfect setting for a dream vacation without shelling out an arm and a leg.
While the touristy beach areas in the southern region of Thailand like Krabi and Phuket tend to be expensive, by heading north to Chiang Mai, you’ll not only enjoy a more authentic experience at its top-rated attractions, but cheap accommodation and a more relaxed vibe as well as magnificent mountains and vibrant hill tribes. One of the best travel values around, comfortable and private rooms can be had for less than $10 a night. This historic former capital is also home to many temples, and you can enjoy cheap multi-trips to nearby forests and other temples too.
Panama is one of those less-visited places where you can enjoy plenty of warm weather, sunshine and beaches, yet accommodation can be had for only around $40 a night. It will cost you a bit more to get there due to the lesser demand, but unlike high-traffic, exotic destinations like Cancun, once you’re there, you’ll save big, and you won’t be caught up in thick tourist crowds. Bocas del Toro, located on the northwestern Caribbean coast, is an archipelago of nine tropical islands where you’ll find some of the best scuba diving and surf breaks in the country. The orange-tiled roofs and Spanish colonial architecture of old town Panama City offer a striking contrast to the skyscraper skyline across the bay, and in Casco Viejo, after dark music pours onto the street from every alley and corner.
Located off the northern Honduras coast., Roatan is an affordable slice of heaven in the Bay Islands. It’s possible to find condo and apartment vacation rentals just minutes from the beach for only $300 a week. Surrounded by the world’s second-largest barrier reef, the archipelago is a dream for snorkelers and divers and snorkelers who can swim alongside elegant eagle rays and view the Caribbean’s widest variety of sponges and coral. On land, zipline through a canopy of trees while enjoying a spectacular bird’s-eye view or take advantage of the opportunity to enjoy close encounters with capuchin monkeys and macaws in the jungle.
In Crete, you can snag a vacation rental or hotel room for less than $50 a night while enjoying delicious Cretan cuisine and all sorts of activities at a very low cost. Plus, the island has an extensive bus system that’s cheap and easy to use while many of the attractions can be visited for free, from pink sand beaches for swimming and sunbathing to mountains with scenic trails to hike and historical buildings to marvel at. Samaria Gorge is one of the top sights in Crete and with just a €5 fee, you can explore the entire gorge and park all the way to the sea.
The Bahamas are easily accessible from Florida, making for cheap airfare especially when compared to more far-flung Caribbean destinations. A flight here runs as low as $300 round trip from major east coast airports, making it much easier to put together an affordable trip to an exotic island that’s surrounded by warm, azure waters for snorkeling, fishing sailing, windsurfing and more. In some places like Exuma, you can jump in and swim with adorable pigs.
While airfare may not be cheap, the low cost of accommodation, food, private drivers, and tours more than make up for that. This beautiful country is made up of five major islands and 30 smaller groups with a total of more than 17,500 islands, of which around 6,000 are inhabited. Bali is one of the top picks with its gorgeous beaches and secluded turquoise lagoons, opportunities for surfing and snorkeling, ancient temples, rice terraces, and lush mountains laced with waterfalls. You might start your trip by flying into Bali’s Denpasar airport, enjoying that island’s delights before checking out some of the others like Nusa Penida with its famous Kelingking Beach, Lombok, or even Komodo, home to the Komodo dragon.
If South America is calling, Quito, Ecuador’s high altitude capital is undeniably easy on the wallet and rather exotic too, with the opportunity to walk the “line.” While it’s a tourist attraction, with the equator line marked in red paint, the city also offers jaw-dropping Gothic architecture to explore, with countless cathedrals, fascinating museums and especially tasty cuisine. Sitting at over 9,000 feet above sea level in a valley framed by volcanic peaks, stunning scenery abounds. Be sure to watch the changing the guards at Plaza Grande and stroll Calle la Ronda, one of the oldest and most artsy streets in the city.
One of the oldest settlements in Baja, Loreto is a small town along the Sea of Cortez in the Sierra de la Giganta Mountains. While it’s in a remote area, it can easily be reached with a flight via Alaska Airlines from LAX and there are some great hotels and resorts for less than $80 a night. Enjoy the beautiful promenade that runs alongside the stunning turquoise waters of Parque Nacional Baha de Loreto on one side and the mountains on the other, with trails that lead to prehistoric cave paintings. There are many unspoiled beaches, bays, and uninhabited islands that are ideal for snorkeling, diving, swimming, kayaking, sailing, or just simply relaxing and soaking up the sunshine.
Montego Bay in Jamaica is one of the few destinations in the Caribbean that’s affordable not only in the off-season but during the high season too, with some of the cheapest airfare from the United States. Come anytime other than mid-December to about mid-January and you can score accommodation that’s as low as $40 a night. There are even multiple quality all-inclusive options that make a great value, but no matter where you stay in Montego Bay, in addition to soaking up the sun and the sand, you’ll find plenty of water sports and other activities to keep you busy.
Colombia has come a long way since the 1980s. Once considered a place too dangerous to visit, today most cities are safe and affordable, allowing travelers to enjoy diverse topography and a wide variety of wildlife, including more bird species than any other single nation. There are white powdery sand beaches and vibrant coral reefs, historic old towns to explore, and plenty of opportunities for cheap places to stay, dine and drink. Cartagena boasts a historic old town surrounded by walls with 500-hundred-year-old coral stone forts. Valle de Cocora is well worth a visit with its brilliant green landscapes dotted with coffee farms open to visitors.
Frequently referred to as the “Paris of the North” and Europe’s “best-kept secret,” Riga is also one of the cheapest destinations for travelers to Europe. No doubt exotic, it was once named a European Capital of Culture, yet hostels are still very inexpensive and so is just about everything else. It’s possible to get by on less than $25 a day in this regal city that hosts some of the largest and most impressive Art Nouveau architecture on the continent, including gargoyles and goddesses that adorn more than 750 buildings found along the stately boulevards. The winding cobblestone lanes of Old Town are especially alluring with all of that gingerbread trim, and at Dome Cathedral, you can ascend the spire of St. Peter’s church to take in amazing views of the city.
Surrounded by three towering volcanoes, German explorer and naturalist Alexander von Humboldt called Lake Atitlan “the most beautiful lake in the world.” Situated in the Guatemalan Highlands of the Sierra Madre mountain range, it’s defined by tranquility and calm, providing an especially inspiring backdrop for meditation, yoga and contemplation, yet you can enjoy very low Central American prices at boutique hotels. Look forward to taking in the breathtaking scenery while hiking, kayaking or biking, and immersing yourself in Mayan culture – residents still wear a signature style of clothing that reveals the town in which they live.
Popular for decades among hippies and others looking to party on the cheap, this picturesque coastal spot in India has grown up quite a bit sense, but it hasn’t lost its very low price tag. The top beach destination in all of India, it’s an ideal place to relax and unwind on unspoiled white sands that edge a sparkling blue expanse of the Arabian Sea. While the central regions tend to be crowded, by venturing further north or south, you’ll find some incredibly tranquil gems, like Agonda and Palolem in the south and Ashwem and Mandrem in the north. You’ll also find an eclectic blend of nature, culture, history and adventure activities.
While Costa Rica is more expensive than other Central American countries like Nicaragua and El Salvador, compared to traveling in the U.S., Canada, the UK, and many other destinations it’s quite affordable. There are hostels and inexpensive dining establishments called sodas that can make it even more budget-friendly too. While you’re here, enjoy exploring lush national parks with waterfalls and tranquil pools for swimming along with abundant jungle wildlife, including sloths. In places like Puerto Viejo, you might spot them in the treetops alongside roads, snoozing in palm trees on the beach, or crossing the road. This town is on the Caribbean side which means you can also enjoy pristine white sandy beaches.