From Senegal to China to Mexico, this year’s 2018 list of budget travel destinations is better than ever before.
And with an all-star panel of experts, from KAYAK CEO Steve Hafner to TV host Samantha Brown, it’s no wonder.
Luckily for us, this seems to be the year of the island. From budget-friendly islas in Panama to cheap archipelagos in the South Pacific, 2018 is all about getting stranded on an affordable island paradise.Sign us up.
With over 62 countries countries under her belt, television host Samantha Brown has explored the most remote corners of the world to the biggest metropolises. Her new show, “Samantha Brown’s Places to Love” will air on January 6th on PBS. Follow “the girl with the best job in the world” on Instagram.1.Montreal, Canada
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Right now, the dollar has a very favorable exchange rate in Canada. Montreal, with its strong French influence, offers a European fix without the long and expensive flight. In 2017, one of the most ambitious public art works ever was created: Cite Memoire, in which the 375-year history of the city is projected onto the buildings and streets in Old Montreal. It is nothing short of spectacular and all you have to do is download a free app.2. Xian, China
As the ancient capital of China, Xian (unlike Beijing) is easy to get around by foot and it’s smaller population (13 million) makes it a pleasant city to be in. The discovery of the Terracotta Warriors put Xian on the map and visiting one of the world’s most incredible archeological finds is only $23.00.Pro-tip: at night all of Xian’s ancient monuments, of which there are many, are dramatically lit. It costs nothing to walk around and enjoy the atmosphere.3. Houston, Texas, the USA
Being one of the most diverse cities in the U.S., Houston is creating buzz that cities like Miami and Chicago have long enjoyed. It has one of the most exciting food scenes in the country with restaurants owned by three James Beard Award winners. The art scene ranges from well-established institutions like the Menil Collection to local endeavors like Project Row Houses. People’s perception that Harvey destroyed the whole city, which isn’t true, means that hotels are operating below capacity, and might be offering better-than-normal deals.After launching Orbitz in the early internet days to founding millennial darling travel site KAYAK, CEO Steve Hafner knows a thing or two about budget travel. Here are the disrupter’s favorite destinations for an affordable 2018 vacation.4. San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
A small city in the state of Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende is one of my favorite spots in Mexico. Depending on where in the U.S. you’re flying from, it can be a relatively quick flight with top notch hotels, fun nightlife and a great art scene. Flight prices for the first half of 2018 are down 11% compared to the same time last year, plus the Mexican Peso is historically low, making it even easier to explore the city on a budget.5. Barcelona, Spain
This Catalan city is a great choice if you want to get to Europe on a budget in 2018. It offers some of the best museums in the world, the architecture is incredible and you can easily hit the beaches if you need a break from sightseeing. Despite being in the eurozone, it’s still among the more affordable cities in Europe and we are seeing flight prices down 20% for the first half of 2018, when compared to the same time last year.6. Curaçao
This Dutch-Caribbean island was one of the places unscathed by the hurricanes this fall and we’re seeing an 11% dip in hotel prices for 2018 – giving you a few extra dollars to spend on water activities. It has some of the best snorkeling and diving in the Caribbean and unlike some of the other islands where you may be tempted to just stay on hotel property, Willemstad has a charm that’s worth checking out.As the face and voice behind the creative platform Spirited Pursuit, Lee Litumbe‘s mission is to publish inspiring and informative travel content. A Cameroonian by birth, an American by upbringing and a nomad at heart, Litumbe is currently traveling long term throughout Africa. She is passionate about changing the way the world sees Africa, and Africans see themselves. Follow her adventures on Instagram.7. Zanzibar, Tanzania
Pristine white sand beaches, colorful coral reefs, endless spices, a varied culture and name that commands curiosity – Zanzibar is an East African island full of beautiful contrasts. If like me you’re a foodie, culture lover and adventurer but still enjoy beautiful beaches you can relax on, Zanzibar is definitely for you. Although tickets can be expensive, dollars will definitely go far once you’re there.8. Dakar, Senegal
Senegal is among the top three African countries I always recommend to both first time visitors of the continent or seasoned travelers looking to experience a modern alternative to the travel possibilities in Africa. I love Dakar in particular because it’s such a modern city and is pretty easy to navigate independently, so long as you speak some French. Although it is a backpacker friendly destination, you can also enjoy the luxe life…for less.9. Port Salut, Haiti
In search of positive travel stories highlighting what was once known as “The Pearl of the Caribbean”, I was extremely disappointed (though hardly surprised) to only find negative articles detailing the catastrophic earthquake of 2010 paired with horrific tales of violence, extreme poverty and tragedy. However, with miles of pristine powder-white sand, cyan blue sea and fringed coconut palm trees found in Port Salut, Les Cayes, I was happy to discover one of several destinations that embodied exactly what I was after: a pleasant alternative to what is typically associated with Haiti. And thanks to cheap lodging and food costs, Port Salut is an affordable destination for 2018.After having travelled the world together, Kach and Jonathan Howe are the writers and online entrepreneurs behind Two Monkeys Travel and Mr and Mrs Howe. Together, they’ve visited 80 countries and seven continents (including Antarctica!), but they are about to embark on their biggest adventure yet: living and exploring the seas on their 37 foot sailboat, SV Empress. Follow their epic journey on Instagram.10. Gaziantep, Turkey
This Turkish city gets less attention from international tourists than other locations further west, but it is even bit as stunning and has just as much if not more to offer. Only a 90 minute flight from Istanbul, Gaziantep is one of eight UNESCO Creative Gastronomy Cities in the world. It is also pistachio capital of Turkey! With Gaziantep, you can find everything you would look for in Istanbul but more authentic interactions at a fraction of the price.11. Herceg Novi, Montenegro
Nestled between the picturesque Adriatic Sea and the impressive backdrop of Mount Orjen, Herceg Novi has one of the most turbulent histories in Europe. For a budget traveler, this means you can see incredibly eclectic architectural styles and enjoy some history, while traveling the more affordable parts of Europe. The area is also famous for hot springs, mud spas and hidden beaches. Many of the beaches are only accessible boat and we’re hoping to make it there in early 2018 ourselves. Maybe you’ll catch us there!12. Zagreb, Croatia
Croatia’s coastal areas and the western region of Istria tend to get most of the attention when tourists visit the country, but on a recent visit we found out that the capital of Zagreb, with its well-preserved Austro-Hungarian architecture and surrounding mountains, offers an entirely different experience. With cheap restaurant meals and nearby mountain wineries, we’d recommend spending a few days in the city.Professional photographer and solo female travel guru Laura Austin took a break from her outdoor adventures recently to release her first book, “SOLO: A Guidebook To Traveling Alone.” The stunning 76-page tome is part-travel diary, part-photo journal, part-ruminations, with a good dash of practical tips. Follow her beautiful adventures on Instagram.13. Yelapa, Mexico
Looking to travel some place that feels exotic on a budget? Look no further than Verana in Yelapa, Mexico. A flight to Puerta Vallarta and a boat ride to Yelapa leads you to this incredible hotel tucked in the jungle of Mexico. After a quick hike up stone steps, the thick jungle opens up into ten unique and beautiful bungalows providing equal parts adventure and luxury…on a budget14. Moab, Utah, USA
Moab provides the most incredible diverse views in a small radius… consisting of two National Parks within 20 minutes of each other. To complete the experience, I highly recommend staying at Moab Under Canvas… which provides the ultimate “glamping” experience. Great for your budget, and your back.15. Anza-Borrego State Park, California, USA
For anyone living on the west coast… Palm Springs and Joshua Tree are pretty obvious instant desert vacations. But have you heard of Anza-Borrego State Park? An hour and a half from Palm Springs you’ll find yourself away from the crowds and in the midst of breathtaking desert landscapes.Hande Cilek is one of Turkey’s biggest travel influencers. From exploring South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope to discovering unknown travel gems in her backyard, Cilek never says no to adventure. The famous blogger behind Gümüş Pusula or silver compass recently moved to California. Follow along her family-friendly explorations on Instagram. 16. Namibia
This West Africa country is a traveller paradise because it offers adventure, beautiful landscape and untouched nature. It receives much less tourists than its popular neighbor South Africa, although it has similar budget-friendly prices. I will never forget climbing to the oldest dunes in the world and doing a jeep safari where the huge sand dunes meet the Atlantic Ocean.17. Bosnia Herzegovina
This European country offers history, culture and vibrant green nature full of rivers and waterfalls. The more you travel through Bosnia, the more you want to get to know it. It is less expensive than other European countries, which makes it a steal, in my book.18. Morocco
When you are in Morocco you feel as if you are in another world of colors, smells and tastes. As you wander the streets of Fez or venture into the Sahara, it feels like you are traveling through time. Morocco is extremely budget-friendly so you can splurge out on fancy meals or hammams without breaking the bank.Matt Kepnes made a name for himself in the early days of blogging, and since then his eponymous website, Nomadic Matt, is a hit with travelers around the world. And this year, his book, How to Travel the World on $50 a Day, is publishing its third edition. In celebration, Kepnes is offering one lucky person a free trip around the world. Enter before November 30th and who knows, you you could be the next budget travel guru.19. New Zealand
New Zealand is not a usual budget destination but given that the US dollar is currently very strong and the NZ dollar is at multi-year low, now is an incredible time to visit because you’re getting a lot more value for your money than you have in the past. Sometimes that’s what budget travel is about.20. Fiji
A lot of people think the South Pacific is filled with expensive islands and resorts but Fiji, despite the high cost of the water bottles that bear its name, is actually a backpacker budget paradise filled with hostels, affordable guesthouses, inexpensive cuisine and stunning beaches.21. Santiago, Chile
While neighboring Buenos Aires gets a lot of attention, Santiago is an up-and-coming city with a lot of hip restaurants, start ups, co-working spaces and incredible nightlife. It’s very affordable and you get a great value for your money here with nice accommodation and healthy portions of food at a fraction of the price in Buenos Aires.World traveler, chocolate enthusiast and Sikh activist Harjinder Singh Kukreja jets around the globe with his family of four. Follow his delicious adventures on Instagram.22. Amritsar, India
Home to the Harmandir Sahib, or Golden Temple, Amritsar is an important spiritual and pilgrimage center of the Sikh religion. The north-western Indian city also boasts ornate architecture and a peek into the painful history of British colonization. Although the city welcomes thousands of tourists a day, there are plenty of options for budget-minded travelers.23. Paris, France
Although many travelers consider France to be a not-so cheap country, it is possible to visit the city of lights on a budget. Stick to family-friendly activities like museums and parks – both of which don’t have to break the bank. And consider looking for an airbnb or short-term rental, as oftentimes in Europe you can snag awesome accommodation for the fraction of the cost of a hotel. The Euro is still at an all-time low compared to the dollar, so take advantage and book your French family vacation ASAP.Amirah and Jarrell Cook have been traveling the world for over four years on an indefinite honeymoon. What might make other couples crazy has led the pair to a lifetime of adventures. Amirah has also written a book on excelling at expat life. Follow along their #squadgoals life on Instagram.24. Koh Lanta, Krabi, Thailand
Unlike it’s more popular neighbors, this Thai island is much less visited by tourists, offering empty stretches of white sand beaches and crystal blue water. With easy access from Krabi International airport, Koh Lanta offers all the amenities sought at other Thai islands, from pampering to water sports at a fraction of the price. Visit soon, as an influx of high-end resorts will make this getaway pricerier, and more crowded.25. Granada, Nicaragua
After being added to many top places to retire lists, the number of visitors in this previously well-kept secret has increased dramatically. The colorful, Spanish architecture makes even walking through town an adventure in Granada. Visit sooner rather than later, and enjoy the enchantment of this budget-traveler paradise.26. Koh Dach (Silk Island), Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Earning its name from the considerable production of beautifully colored fabric spun by hand, Silk Island is a hidden gem just outside of Phnom Penh. The small community includes a few temples in addition to the silk production factories, which are open to visit. A bridge and ferry service easily connects you to the busyness of the city, while the island, located along the Mekong River, offers a quiet escape.27. Bastimentos Island, Bocas Del Toro, Panama
Surrounded by the Caribbean Sea, Bastimentos is a bustling backpacker’s dream. Boasting both jungle and water activities, this large island is mostly uninhabited, leaving for much to discover. Travel between Bocas Del Toro archipelago is simple and cheap, making it a great place post up in Panama.