5 Cheap International Vacation Destinations

By Camilla Cheung on 8 June 2011 (Updated 29 August 2013) 5 comments

When you're trying to live frugally, plunking down several thousand dollars for a week's holiday is not always possible. A fancy vacation may not be in the cards, but you don't have to spend a lot of money to get away for a week of much-needed R&R. (See also: Best Travel Reward Crdit Cards)

1. Argentina

Buenos Aires' elegant cafés, art galleries, tango, and fine dining are as fascinating as the greatest capitals of the Old World. The U.S. dollar does very well against the Argentine peso, making Argentina an excellent budget destination. There are a multitude of inexpensive hostels and guesthouses, and a stay in one of the nicer hotels is very reasonably priced. You can also eat and drink for cheap, with famous grass-fed Argentine steaks going for a fraction of the price you'd expect in the U.S. or in Europe. A trip to Argentina also offers the opportunity to visit the spectacular Iguazu Falls as well as other natural destinations, which can be accessed by rental car. Look for budget tours of Argentina that may offer better deals on transportation and hotel stays.

2. Mexico

A lot of people are avoiding vacations south of the border these days, as news of drug wars dominates the headlines. In reality, however, resort destinations like Puerto Vallarta or Cancun are far from the chaos and quite safe. Take advantage of the tourism slow-down by snapping up great deals on vacations in these warm and sunny hot spots. You can rent a one-bedroom condo at less than what most hotel rooms cost and self-cater to save money. Or look for promotions at one of the all-inclusive resorts. If you live near LA, Miami, or other major cruise ports, you can get great deals on all-inclusive cruises down to Mexico — many at less than $100 per person per day — and you don't even have to shell out the airfare. (See also: Travel on Rewards Without Using Airline Miles)

3. Ko Pha Ngan, Thailand

If you can manage to find a cheap flight to Thailand, this country is one of the best places for budget travel, and the island of Ko Pha Ngan is one of the best budget destinations in the country. Located close to more heavily developed Ko Samui, Ko Pha Ngan has not yet exploded onto the tourist scene. You'll find the same soft white sand and warm turquoise water as more popular resort destinations in Thailand, with friendlier prices. Travel away from the touristy town of Hat Rin, and you'll find secluded resorts with landscaped gardens, glimmering pools, and Thai massages, all priced at the cost of a cheap hotel elsewhere.

4. Luangprabang, Laos

Luangprabang, Laos is one of those gem-like towns that you'll end up treasuring in your heart for years to come. This UNESCO-protected city is Laos's greatest tourist attraction. Located on the mighty Mekong River and surrounded by jade mountains, the city melds traditional Lao culture with Indochina's colonial French heritage. Wake up early in the morning to see hundreds of saffron-robed monks collecting their alms for the day, and explore dozens of pristine Buddhist temples. Trek or take a boat up the river to one of numerous smaller villages, where you can lie in a hammock overlooking the Mekong for just a few bucks a night. Inns and hotels are extremely cheap, but clean and beautifully decorated with traditional handicrafts.

5. Eastern Europe

Can't afford to travel in Europe? Think again. Eastern Europe may not be as well known as its Western counterpart, but offers fascinating attractions, culture, food, and wine, all at budget-friendly prices. Destinations in the Ukraine and in Estonia have been seeing more tourism in the past couple of years as budget-conscious tourists flock to Eastern Europe. Cheap public transport, reasonably-priced hotels, and excellent dining options are available for travelers looking to make their dollars go further.

Where have you traveled lately? Any more tips on cheap places to travel?

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Meg Favreau's picture

Oh my goodness, I would love to go to Thailand! Beautiful beaches and delicious food. Mmm.

Does anybody else have recommendations for frugal international destinations? One of the most affordable vacations I've taken was to the Dominican Republic.

Guest's picture

You forgot El Salvador! US currency means that there is no beneficial exchange rate but it also means inflation is very low and prices dont jerk up and down.

Camilla Cheung's picture

Cool! I've never been to El Salvador but I bet it's a great trip!

Guest's picture
Guest

I spent 12 days in Nicaragua, food, drinks and transportation are very inexpensive, $38/night for a small hotel in Granada (with a small pool) and $48.00 night (we rented two rooms) in the heart of San Juan del Sur.

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Timothy Hunt

I went to Turkey earlier this year, and it was much cheaper than I expected. Considering the dollar is more of value than the Turkish Lira, I lived like an king while in Istanbul. Also, the city is very historical, cultural, cheap, and has a thriving night life. Not to mention, it's the only city in the world to be placed in two continents (Europe/Asia). My plane ticket was only $500 roundtrip non-stop from NYC to Istanbul.