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.
Sail into the new year with our list of best budget travel destinations for 2018. Photo credit: Spirited Pursuit.
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.
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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
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.
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. More info visit the site forbes.com.