Having the travel bug can be an expensive affliction. As tourist hotspots all over the world gain popularity, so do their prices for accommodations, food and attractions. I’m happy to announce there are still a few amazingly affordable destinations out there.
However, it’s getting hard to decifer some of the information out there. Two major publications put out their 2020 ‘cheapest places’ lists with INSANELY expensive suggestions. Forbes put Miami on their list. Really? Miami (especially beachfront) has some of the most expensive hotels on the planet. The Independant UK put Dubai on their list. They stated £21 for a bunk in a mixed dorm room made it a cheap destination. For that money you can get your own suite in a truly affordable destination.
Here are the actual:
CHEAPEST Places to Travel 2020
10. Cartagena, Colombia
Founded in the 1500’s, but just becoming internationally recognized, is the Colombian port city of Cartagena. This colorful colonial and walled city was given its UNESCO World Heritage status in the 80’s and has been gaining popularity ever since. Colombia has dramatically changed over the last decade, transforming into one of the safest Latin American countries for tourists. Yes, you read that right, Colombia is SAFE.
Cartagena offers the best of both worlds with a gorgeous coast line, mixed with an historical old town. Beach lovers can take a stroll down Bocagrande in search of fresh ceviche, or enjoy the Caribbean breeze under an umbrella. History buffs can tour castle ruins, old cathedrals, or the local gold museum.
Admission prices, restaurants and hotels are still very affordable in Cartagena, but probably not for long. With more tourists coming every year, this won’t be a super cheap place forever.
Cartagena Travel Info:
Food Prices in Cartagena
Weather in Cartagena
All Year Round:
- 30°C Average High
- 25°C Average Low
Daily temperatures are exactly the same all year round. Cartagena is a constant summer climate! Dry season is January to April, with heavy rains happening June to October. If you don’t mind the occasional mid-day downpour, any time of year is great to visit.
How To Get To Cartagena
Direct Flights: from Bogota or Medellin for $30
Direct Flights from North America: from Toronto, New York, Miami, Atlanta for $180-$580
9. Chengdu, China
Always wanted to go to Beijing or Shanghai, but got turned off by busy crowds and high prices? Then Chengdu is the perfect way for you to discover China! Plus, how can you say no to the panda capital of the country?
With 50% of Chengdu’s hotels starting under $60 per night, it’s a very budget friendly cultural gem.
Our friend Aurelia from Daily Travel Pill recently visited Chengdu and put it down as one of her TOP destinations. She loved how affordable Chengdu was especially the transportation. “Buses only cost $0.20 which I find extremely cheap considering that they are new, electric and with great connections. Riding the subway was around $0.50 and tuk-tuk’s ran us around $1 per km.” Check out Daily Travel Pill’s Top 20 Chengdu Attractions.
Eat lip-smacking street food for $1, visit ancient religious temples or gaze upon the tallest Buddha statue in the world.
Chengdu Travel Info:
Food Prices in Chengdu
Chengdu is the perfect city to enjoy cheap 5 star hotels! You can stay at brands like Raffles, Waldorf Astoria, Fairmont and the St. Regis for under up to 60% less than other cities! The ultra-luxurious Ritz Carlton is only $160/n so take advantage of being able to stay in this iconic brand for less.
Weather in Chengdu
- 22°C Average High
- 13°C Average Low
- 21°C Average High
- 15°C Average Low
- 30°C Average High
- 22°C Average Low
- 10°C Average High
- 5°C Average Low
Fall and Spring are the best times to visit Chengdu. Winters can be quite cold, while summers are hot and very rainy. No matter when you visit, bring a jacket, sweater and pants for cooler nights.
How To Get To Chengdu
Direct Flights from USA: from New York or Los Angeles for $450
Direct Flights from Europe: from Madrid, London, Moscow, Paris, Prague for $210-$600
Direct Flights from Asia: from Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Singapore, etc for $60-$180
Train: High Speed trains are available from Beijing and Shanghai.
Trips can take anywhere from 9-24 hours depending on train.
Sleeper cars available!
8. Myrtle Beach, USA
Myrtle Beach is a much closer destination to visit for many readers, especially compared to all the international places on this list.
This entertaining resort city shows you don’t have to venture far from home to find a bargain.
Take a ride on the sky wheel, stroll down the boardwalk or hit up the wax museum. There are tons of attractions like Ripley’s, a hands on science exhibit and even a live alligator show. Myrtle Beach is also home to the most lazy rivers in the US, so spend some time floating the day away.
Attractions and accommodations are affordable enough to bring the whole family, without going over budget.
We experienced just how cheap Myrtle Beach can be! This year we spent 30 days over Feb/March at an incredibly low price. The Compass Cove resort has winter rates for $800/m for a base room and $1200/m for a 1 bedroom suite, both OCEANFRONT! In many places you can expect to pay $1200 a week or even per night for oceanfront hotels. Daily highs reached the 18°C mark and each night there was a cotton candy sunset, making a very memorable stay.
Myrtle Beach Travel Info:
Food Prices in Myrtle Beach
Weather in Myrtle Beach
- 17°C-27°C Highs
- 8°C-18°C Lows
- 19°C-29°C Highs
- 10°C-20°C Lows
- 28°C-32°C Highs
- 20°C-24°C Lows
- 13°C-16°C Highs
- 3°C-6°C Lows
Myrtle Beach has 4 distinct seasons and they all have their benefits. Late spring and summer brings the ultimate hot beach weather, but it’s also high season, so expect more crowds. Fall weather is still quite warm, and the crowds thin out as well, making it a great time to go! Winter might be cool, but the daily average highs are still good enough for walks on the beach. Winter prices are rock bottom low!
How To Get To Myrtle Beach
Direct Flight USA: from Orlando, Dallas, Houston, New York, Denver, Chicago, Minneapolis, Detriot for $40-$80
Direct Flight Canada: from Toronto, 2.5 hours, $75
Drive: from NYC, 12 hours,
We rented a car in NYC and drove to Myrtle Beach on the I-95.
7. Campeche, Mexico
Selfishly, I didn’t even want to put Campeche in this list. I don’t want hoards of people heading there and ruining one of the last frontiers of Mexico. But I’ll share my secret with you anyway. Campeche is a city in the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico and it’s also the name of the state it’s located in. It’s closest neighbour is a city called Merida, which has seen it’s popularity with tourists SKYROCKET over the last few years. Many people flock to Merida, but don’t continue the drive down to Campeche, so it’s still the Yucatan’s best kept secret.
This baroque colonial city has a walled ancient town, pastel colored streets and tons of both European and Mayan culture. After the Spanish came in the 1500’s they fortified the city to protect it from pirate invasions, and many of these fortifications have been wonderfully preserved. Just an hour away from town you’ll find ancient Mayan ruins from 400 BC, once lost inside a lush jungle and only re-discovered in 1907.
Campeche has a 17th century European feel, mixed with Caribbean colors and temperatures.
Campeche Travel Info:
Food Prices in Campeche
Weather in Campeche
ALL Year Long:
- 29°C-34°C Highs
- 18°C-25°C Lows
HOT and humid all year round, Campeche is an eternal summer. If you can’t stand the heat, Campeche might not be the city for you. During the hottest months it will usually downpour for a few hours, giving some relief.
How To Get To Campeche
Direct Flight: from Mexico City, 1.45 hours, $100
Bus: from Merida, 3 hours,
6. Antalya, Turkey
Known as the ‘Turquoise Coast’, Antalya is a haven for any sun worshiper. This beachfront resort town is the highlight of Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, with enough rich history to wow any traveller.
The weather is peachy and the prices are rock bottom, so it’s no wonder more visitors came in 2019 than ever before. Antalya should be in your 2020 travel plans while it’s still insanely affordable!
Yacht tours, waterfalls, ancient ruins, white sandy beaches, hidden caves, museums and mosques are all on the agenda in Antalya. This city has at least a dozen free attractions to visit, like Hadrian’s Gate built by the Romans in 130 AD.
Antalya Travel Info:
Food Prices in Antalya
Weather in Antalya
- 18°C-26°C Highs
- 31°C-36°C Highs
- 21°C-29°C Highs
- 14°C-17°C Highs
Antalya has four seasons, all of them being pretty idilic, not to mention 300 days of sun a year! Winter can be wet, rainy and chilly, but it’s better than the sub-zero temperatures most of us want to escape. Spring and fall are the best times to go to Anyalya.
How To Get To Antalya
Direct Flight: from Istanbul, 1 hour, $15
International Direct Flights: from London, Moscow, Berlin, Paris, Tel Aviv, etc for under $100
5. Lviv, Ukraine
Lviv has been dubbed the ‘Little Paris’ of Ukraine, and it’s easy to see why. The city is made of charming buildings, cobblestone walkways and picturesque cafes.
Not only is Lviv beautiful, but it’s cheap! How cheap? It’s been named the least expensive country in Europe, as well as one of the Top 10 cheapest places to live worldwide! Visiting Lviv is inexpensive with it’s economical food and accommodation prices.
Lviv is the perfect place to slow down, unwind and live like an Eastern European. You won’t have to look hard for a home-cooked meal, nor an excellent cup of coffee. This region is known for it’s food, coffee and chocolate!
Take in a performance at the stunning opera and ballet house, tour the ancient castle or visit some of the jaw-dropping cathedrals. Time slows down in Lviv, and you should too.
Lviv Travel Info:
Food Prices in Lviv
Weather in Lviv
- 20°C-25°C Highs
- 8°C-14°C Lows
- -1°C to 2°C Highs
- -3°C to -10°C Lows
Head to Lviv during the summer, as winter months have temperatures that drop below freezing. (Unless of course you like the snow!) Summer in Lviv is more like springtime temperature, but is very nice for walking and touring around.
How To Get To Lviv
Direct Flight: from Kiev, 1 hour, $28
Other European Direct Flights: from Berlin, Copenhagen, London, Warsaw, Instanbul and Rome for under $75
Train: from Kiev, 5 hours,
Train: from Krakow, 6 hours, $15
4. Cuenca, Ecuador
Looking at the colored domes and brick buildings, you would almost think it’s a picture of Florence, Italy...but it’s not! It’s in Ecuador.
Cuenca is a posh mountain-top city that has major European flair. Cuenca is 8,400 feet above sea level, it’s cool and temperate, with a constant spring-like climate. Quite the contrast to nearby Guayaquil that has blazing hot temperatures like you’d expect from tropical Ecuador.
One of the most unexpected things about Ecuador is it officially uses the US Dollar, making it easy for American visitors.
We wrote a short guide on our visit to Cuenca in 2016
Visiting Cuenca isn’t complete without touring through its many breathtaking churches. The biggest and most impressive is the The New Cathedral of Cuenca, located in the main square. Being inside it actually brought us to tears!
Other things to do in Cuenca include: strolling through plazas and parks, shopping for panama hats and ponchos, buying roses for 90% less then you pay anywhere else, and visiting the cultural museum.
Cuenca Travel Info:
Food Prices in Cuenca
Weather in Cuenca
ALL Year Long:
- 18°C-23°C Highs
- 8°C-12°C Lows
Cuenca has cool and pleasant daily highs all year round. It’s become a hotspot for retirees because of it’s nice escape from South American heatwaves.
June to January is regarded as the best time to go, as they are typically dryer. Avoid April and May when flooding can be an issue.
How To Get To Cuenca
Direct Flight: from Quito, 1 hour, $50
1-stop Flight: Miami from $260, New York and Madrid from $600
Bus: from Guayaquil, 4 hours,
Private Driver: from Guayaquil, 3 hours, $80
3. Malang, Indonesia
When people hear Indonesia they usually think of Bali, but the country has so much more to offer! Malang is located on the island of Java, which is right next to Bali, but is like a different planet. Bali is Hindu and was never colonized, while Malang is mostly Muslim but was under Dutch control until just after WWII. Because of it’s interesting history, Malang has such a blend of Indonesian, Dutch and ancient Buddhist-Hindu influences.
Compared to other Indonesian cities, Malang still gets mostly domestic tourists, making visiting as a Westerner a cool experience. Dozens of locals came up to us for pictures and just to ask us why we travelled to their beautiful city. I have to say Malang was one of the most memorable destinations I have ever been.
In and around Malang there are TONS of things to do. So much that if you visit, you might want to stay while. You can visit a safari type zoo, tour through the colorful slums of Jodipan, see waterfalls, walk through tea plantations, or just bike through town. This guide has over 20 suggestions for what to do in Malang.
Malang Travel Info:
Food Prices in Malang
We stayed at Tugu Malang for a truly unique 5-star experience. It’s unlike any hotel we’ve ever stayed in before. Rooms are decorated with antique treasures, local cakes are handmade during high tea, and the staff bends over backwards to make your stay truly unforgettable. Rates from $95/n.
Weather in Malang
ALL Year Long:
- 28°C-31°C Highs
- 19°C-23°C Lows
If you ask someone who is from Java about the weather in Malang, they will tell you: “Oh, it’s so nice and cool!” Compared to nearby scorching Surabaya it is cooler, especially at night, as it’s higher in elevation. However, it’s by no means a ‘chilly’ town, you’ll always be warm enough without a sweater.
June to August will be the coolest time to visit, also the driest!
November to February is going to give the hottest temps and highest chances of downpours.
How To Get To Malang
Direct Flight: from Jakarta or Bali, 1 hour, $60
The airport in Malang is just a small regional airport offering flights from Jakarta or Bali. An international airport is being developed. For now, International visitors fly into Surabaya
Bus: from Surabaya, 2.45 hours,
Train: from Surabaya, 2 hours, $5
Drive/Ferry: From Bali. 10-14 hours (That’s how we got there!)
2. Siem Reap, Cambodia
Siem Reap is the closest city to the ultra famous temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Because of this, many incredible hotels have popped up and the competition has lowered accommodation prices like you wouldn’t believe!
Siem Reap has just started thriving as a tourist city because of the hurdles in it’s past. The Khmer Rouge pushed locals out of the city in 1975 and they didn’t return until just 1998. The airport was only built in 2006!
Even though it’s only recently been developed, it’s still been able to keep much of it’s culture and vibe.
Angkor Wat was awarded the World’s Top Landmark two years in a row, but it’s still a very affordable place to visit. A day pass to the temples will run you $37 a person, or you can get a 3 day pass for $62.
Angkor Wat isn’t the only thing to do in Siem Reap. You can take an off-road Jeep tour, barter in the local markets or visit a floating village. If you are a history buff you can head to the Landmine museum for just $1 or the War Museum for $5.
Siem Reap Travel Info:
Food Prices in Siem Reap
Siem Reap is KING of low cost accommodation. There are over 500 properties UNDER $50/n, with over half of them being under $25/n. Most hotels are newly built and give added perks to stand out from the competition.
Siem Reap has 100 5-Star resorts, so if you love luxury, this is the place for you! One of the top rated places in town is the Metta Residence & Spa. This resort has extra big rooms that overlook the pool and exquisite grounds that scream luxury. All for about $63/n, making it one of the cheapest 5-Star hotel stays in the WORLD.
Weather in Siem Reap
ALL Year Long:
- 30°C-35°C Highs
- 21°C-26°C Lows
Cambodia is very hot all year round. Siem Reap’s daily highs don’t fluctuate more than 5 degrees throughout all seasons!
Spring is actually the hottest time of year, not summer like you might guess. March to June temperatures are at the highest. July to October it cools down (slightly) because of heavy rainfall. The driest and coolest time to go is November to February with highs around 31, but this is also peak season.
How To Get To Siem Reap
Direct Flight: from Phnom Penh, 45 mins, $80
Interntional Direct Flights: From Hanoi, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Bangkok, Manila and Hong Kong for under $90
Bus: from Phnom Penh, 6 hours,
River Ferry: from Phnom Penh, 4-6 hours, $22
1. Hoi An, Vietnam
Hoi An is a gorgeous ancient colonial town. It has insanely cheap food, super friendly locals and it’s a UNESCO heritage site. It is the perfect mix of town and beach for the traveller who wants it all. You can stay in the ancient town near the river for culture and history, or choose a place on the beach for a sandy getaway. The beach is only a few miles from the downtown and is easily accessible by cheap taxis, a scooter or a bicycle.
We wanted to settle down in one place for a few months during our 7 month Asia tour, and we picked Hoi An on purpose! The hotels are very affordable, with the ability to negotiate in person on the rates. We can stay in a nice newly built 4 star hotel with a pool for less than $250 a week.
Things to do in Hoi An:
- It’s the tailor capital of South East Asia, so get anything from dresses, suits or shoes custom made.
- Cooking classes are all the rage here. For a small fee you can learn to cook amazing Vietnamese meals and eat your creations afterwards
- At night the ancient town comes alive with river boats and floating lanterns. You can buy one for $1 to make a wish on and send it downstream.
Hoi An Travel Info:
Hoi An has the cheapest food we’ve ever encountered in all our travels. It’s our new world record. Eating out for every meal is so affordable, it doesn’t even make sense to cook for yourself.
Western: A homemade veggie burger with fries is $2.15. A super instagram-able smoothie bowl is $2.85
Local: Bahn Mi (pork Sandwich) $0.80, Cau Lao (pork noodle soup) $1.20, Pho $1.10
Local beers can be as low as $0.20!
Summer: 30-35 highs
Winter: 18-25 highs
Fall: Rainy season
Spring: Awesome weather. Best time to go!
One of the only places in South East Asia with actual seasons! Super hot and humid summers with highs of 30-35. Avoid rainy season from October to December due to potential flooding.
Winter is very temperate feeling like springtime each day with highs of 19-25 and mix of sun and clouds. Lows can get to 15 during the winter here, so bring a light sweater.
How To Get To Hoi An
Hoi An doesn’t have an airport, but nearby Da Nang has one, and it’s only 45 minutes away by car. Hiring a private driver to Hoi An from Da Nang will only cost around $10.
Direct Flights to Da Nang:
You can fly from Ho Chi Minh or Hanoi for $20. International direct flights are available from Seoul, Singapore, Taipei, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur for under $80.
Feeling adventurous? You can take an overnight sleeper train from both Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh.
Hoi An is For…
UNESCO heritage lovers, budget conscious travellers and people who love a smaller town vibe.
Hoi An is great for both a sun and sand seeker, or an ‘architecture and cafe’ kind of person.
If you like shopping malls, mini-marts, and being busy 24/7, Hoi An is not for you. It quiet, quaint and void of all chain stores/brand names.
Staying a while? You can find a 2-3 bedroom house in town from as low as $250/m. Housekeepers and cooks are insanely affordable at just dollars a day. You could relocate to Hoi An and easily live on a $700-$900 per month budget, stretching those dollars further than you ever thought. Luxury lifestyles can be supported in Hoi An on just $500/week.
You can order an online 3 month Visa On Arrival for $35 for your extended stay.
Cheapest Places to Travel 2020 - Honourable Mentions
If the above Top Ten list wasn’t enough to spark your wanderlust, here are some more destinations that are also wonderfully inexpensive for 2020:
- Alexandria, Egypt
- Kotor, Montenegro
- Bali, Indonesia
- Koh Samui, Thailand
- Sarande, Albania
- Sarajevo, Bosnia
- Bucharest, Romania
- Tbilisi, Georgia
- Oaxaca, Mexico
*I used various dates in Spring and Fall 2020 for the hotel prices. All costs are in USD.