In the Philippines into Armenia, this year’s record of the best budget travel destinations has something for every kind of traveler. Whether you would like to unwind in Zanzibar or sample the cuisine of Malaysia, budget travel in 2019 is about cheap destinations offering an outsized adventure.
I’ve been performing this listing for Forbes for five decades now and in the spirit of keeping things fresh, I changed up the arrangement and requested each of my travel specialists to name two areas: a destination with a nostalgic attraction and somewhere that they visited recently they are telling all their friends about.
The goal is to highlight budget travel destinations that are a bit off-the-beaten route. They do not necessarily need to be cheap destinations but they should be areas where you can vacation without breaking the bank. That could be a country where Americans have a strong buying power or a location that is far away but offers a good value in terms of experience.
So, without further ado, here is the official collection of greatest budget travel destinations for 2019 from a number of my favorite travel experts.
1. San Antonio, Texas, the United States of America
Whether you are craving Tex-Mex or real Mexican food, San Antonio has it. Before my family can afford global destinations, we had a road trip from Houston to San Antonio for the weekend. From drifting across the San Antonio River Walk to chasing thrills at Six Flags Fiesta Texas, we always had a blast. Additionally, there are plenty of historical sites which you can visit like the San Fernando Cathedral, which hosts nightly light shows at no cost.
If you end up seeing San Antonio during the weekend, then be sure to wander through the farmer’s market in the Pearl Brewery.
2. Puebla, Mexico
I spent a month traveling through Mexico past January and that I discovered Puebla to be a nice surprise. The town is a UNESCO heritage site and it’s easy to see why. Architecture fans could spend days researching the historical center and marveling at what seems like an infinite amount of churches.
Regardless of this being Mexico’s fourth biggest town, you will barely see any other tourists. It felt as though I had the place all to myself. It’s one of those cities where you can just soak in the tranquil atmosphere. The region is known for its own Mole sauce, and that you can not miss while visiting.
3. St. Helena
Lee Abbamonte saw St. Helena earlier this year and it blew my head. It is a trek to get there in the center of the South Atlantic Ocean but it is a relatively affordable destination once you arrive. It is very off-the-beaten-path, but with fantastic hiking, interesting English mixed with island culture, good food, and even the world’s most remote golf course. The airport makes it worth a trip as they basically shaved down a mountain to make it feasible. St. Helena is probably not in your shortlist but it should be on your own bucket listing.
4. Hawaii, the USA
I go to Hawaii each year. I’ve been going for many years and love all the islands. Flights to Hawaii in the mainland are generally pretty cheap, especially in the last couple of years. Although it isn’t the least expensive when you arrive, it is well worth it since you get the South Pacific to feel together with the comforts of America… and a briefer plane flight.
I especially suggest Maui, perhaps my favorite places in the world, along with the little-visited island of Lanai. For golf fans, I would recommend the Four Seasons in Lanai.
5. Province of Laguna, the Philippines
I have traveled to 121 nations in the world but I’ll always be proud to mention I grew up here! The Philippines is already popular because of our white sand beaches in Palawan, Cebu or even Boracay; the surfing in Siargao, the hills at the northwest but Laguna Province is less famous.
My favorite lakes to see are Pandin Lake and Yambo Lake. The majority of these attractions are easily accessed by car rental or taking the local public transportation known as a tricycle, which costs less than $10.
You have to experience and revel in the fresh air, the great structures, fantastic delicacies and heat of the people who live in the province.
6. The Balkan Peninsula
We all think Europe is pricey but I beg to disagree. Traveling around Europe does not need to charge you an arm, a leg and perhaps a kidney. If you would like to experience Europe on a budget, then I would recommend exploring the Balkan Peninsula. Croatia is the most popular Balkan country and could be expensive so I’d recommend starting a trip around the Balkan Peninsula in Herceg Novi, Montenegro. From there you can cross the border and travel by bus to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
I spent five days in Montenegro last year and I felt like it was never enough. We went to a boat tour to Perast, Porto Montenegro, Our Lady of the Rocks and wrapped up the trip by kayaking and paddle boarding on the shore nearby. Other fun activities include paragliding and diving. The best part is that all these actions are far cheaper in comparison to other European towns.
7. Agra, India
House to the Taj Mahal, Agra is on several traveler’s lists. And although it costs around $43 to enter, the surrounding area is comparatively inexpensive.
It is definitely a well-known destination, so if you’d like your Taj Mahal shot, then be sure to go in the morning. Regarded as the gem of Islamic art in India, it was built by Emperor Shah Jahan as a mausoleum for his wife — probably one of the greatest declarations of love in the world.
8. Budapest, Hungary
This Eastern European country is home to many travelers and universities may sense that the student atmosphere during. The red-bricked city offers culture, amazing parks, and greenery.
9. Buenos Aires, Argentina
There is not any city in the world as intoxicating as Buenos Aires. The roads are lined with expansive European-style architecture, cozy cafes and endless parks. The principles of life in this budget-friendly town are beef, wine, empanadas, and ice cream.
I fell so in love with Buenos Aires on my first visit in 2015 that I came back two weeks later. In January 2018, I returned to my favorite city for a month to work in my first book job and escape the American winter.
10. Gobi Desert, Mongolia
My obsession with all the remote corners of the globe led me to Mongolia this year. I spent two glorious weeks bumping around in the back of a grim Russian van named Boris. To cut down the cost of our excursion to $50 a day, I asked my guide to find other travelers to join us and made a fantastic set of new friends!
Through the windshield, we watched as paved streets faded into dirt tracks and the scenery transformed from the barren Gobi Desert to lush green woods. We had the place to ourselves a vast majority of the time even though it was peak tourist season. Mongolia is one of my best five trips ever and despite the distance, cheaper than a summer trip to Europe.
11. South Africa
I had been blown away by the beauty of South Africa. It’s a very diverse place in terms of its character, people and activities. One day we had been hiking up in the mountain and the following day we had been diving with sharks in the Atlantic Ocean.
Coming from Dubai, I was so surprised by the extremely low cost of Uber and transportation there. The food can be fairly inexpensive, in addition to delicious. When I could, I would visit South Africa each year.
I am so in love with the sea there and the people. While there are costly resorts there, it’s still possible to find some cheap bed & breakfasts and hostels in Stone Town which enables you to be right alongside the Indian Ocean, where all of the restaurants and fun is.
Set from the Caucasus Mountains, Armenia is a hidden jewel that’s still untouched by mass tourism, and yet has a lot to offer: abundant history, wineries, impressive landscapes, ancient monasteries, and breathtaking mountains as much as your eyes can see.
Due to my Armenian heritage, I climbed up on delicious Armenian food. For wine lovers, Armenia is the best place to try wines made from various fruits like pomegranate (Armenia’s national symbol), blackberries and cherries.
Outside of the capital is picturesque nature. It is possible to pay a visit to the oldest winery on earth in Arena, stop by stunning monasteries, or have a look at the oldest forts in the world in Etchmiadzin.
Serbia is one of Europe’s best-kept secrets. It is one of the areas that has such amazing energy that it leaves you desiring more.
At the bustling city of Belgrade, there’s something happening every hour of every single day. The roads are full of amazing restaurants, cute bars, pubs, and nightclubs. The friendly natives are constantly out and about. The restaurants have a fantastic mix of both local and global dishes, and so are fantastic for trying new dishes.
The nightlife in Serbia is just one of a kind. You will find floating bars and clubs along the Danube riverbank. Parties go on until the early morning hours.
15. Transylvania, Romania
House to myths and a number of the planet’s most hospitable locals, Transylvania is a budget traveler’s dream destination. The magnificent Carpathian mountains offer the ideal backdrop to one of Europe’s often overlooked regions.
Transylvania was the first real”culture shock” trip for me. While the military ready me for war zones, I wasn’t prepared for roaming packs of sheep, attractively maintained castles, the hospitality of the Roma individuals and some of the most powerful spirits I have ever had. It had been cultural immersion at its greatest.
Being relegated to the substance of legends has enabled Transylvania to develop a unique and authentic culture. Guests can experience Romania’s roots free of their mass commercialization, along with the high rates, that we see in popular European destinations. From sampling local dishes like ciorbă, mice, and palinka, to skiing in Sinaia, you’ll have a wide range of budget-friendly activities to keep you entertained. The country is a yearly destination for me and a part of the reason might just be the food.
16. George Town, Penang, Malaysia
George Town is one of those cities which took me completely by surprise. A last-minute itinerary shift attracted me to George Town for that which I intended for a two-day stopover. It turned into 2 weeks.
A combination of cultures, cuisines, and structure come together to create an atmosphere that on paper should not work but somehow will. Indian, Chinese, Malay and British influences can be observed at every turn you create in this Penang Island UNESCO World Heritage Site. What makes George Town stand out would be the quarters which compose the city, each one boasting a different community and history, all connected together by the beautiful street art found throughout.
Having a diverse population, amazing culture and amazing food, George Town is an ideal addition to anyone’s traveling bucket list.
17. Moscow, Russia
I visited Moscow twice to the World Cup and their supposedly inflated rates for the contest still didn’t warrant it being pricey. The town offers lots to see. Throw in the city’s cover photo (Saint Basil’s Cathedral), along with also the famous Kremlin and you have already got a full day covered.
That is true during the winter months, with temperatures hitting well below zero degrees Celsius. Yet, a winter break is one of the best times to see, thanks to this fairytale setting the laying snow creates. During the summertime, you can anticipate continuous sunshine and clear skies so wear your colors, grab a bliny and ramble around the Red Square effortlessly.
18. Taipei, Taiwan
The capital of Taiwan is increasing in popularity in East Asia but often goes un-noticed from the masses. In comparison to Hong Kong or Tokyo, Japan, consider Taipei as the more silent child on the block. With a few of the best food markets in all of Asia, buzzing shopping districts like Xiamen and the stunning nearby Yangminshan National Park, Taipei offers something for everyone.
Professional tip: Taipei will not break the bank but do not expect this to be as cheap as Vietnam.