Most of us don’t have limitless travel budgets, but that doesn’t mean we want to skimp on the amazing experiences the world has to offer. Regardless of the size of their vacation fund, more travellers are looking for good value for their money.
Need a little help finding it? Every year, the experts at Lonely Planet choose their picks for Best Value Destinations. True, these places aren’t chosen because they’re the cheapest in the world — but you will find your budget well spent.
Here’s a look at this year’s picks from Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2013.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Better scratch this city off your bucket list before 2014! That’s when Rio will be in the world spotlight with the FIFA World Cup before it welcomes the world for the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. You can expect prices will be sky high surrounding these big events, but the newly developed infrastructure and the city’s increasing popularity will bring in the tourists.
Now is your chance to see the sites ahead of the crowds and the higher prices. If you’re travelling after June, Lonely Planet recommends a visit to the recently upgraded Estádio do Maracanã. Then you’ll be able to say “I’ve been there” when you watch the World Cup and the Olympics opening ceremonies.
For more information visit Rio’s official tourism website.
Scandinavia can be a pricy region to visit — unless you know where to find the hidden gems. Known for its cobblestone streets and canal systems, the coastal city of Gothenberg is ready to show off its vibrant culture and green spaces. Here you’ll find Sweden’s largest botanical garden and quaint cafes for people watching — not to mention markets, museums and fine dining.
However, the best deals can be found off the main drag. Get a feel for the city and its unique neighbourhoods such as Haga and Kvarnbyn. Lonely Planet recommends stops to contemporary art space Röda Sten and Keillers Park, whose views make it perfect for a picnic. Another budget-friendly must-do is a ferry or tram tour through the southern archipelago for views of coastal villages and seaside cliffs.
Photo: The Harbour of Gothenberg. Göran Assner/imagebank.sweden.se
While neighbouring Botswana lures the big-budget tourists, Namibia offers tours to top attractions that are well within reach of budget and midrange travellers. Put your photography skills to the test with sleek sand dunes, mountains and gorges, or see the shipwrecks of the Skeleton Coast from the air. Camp out in a private lodge at the vast wildlife sanctuary that is Etosha National Park, one of the country’s many national parks.
If you’re up for a little adventure, Lonely Planet notes that Namibia offers many of the same outdoor activities as other African countries — for a lower price. Many towns and cities offer inexpensive accommodations, and buses and mini-vans make it easy to get around.
For more information, visit the Namibia Tourism website.
Photo: Dune ridge in the last sunlight, Kanaan Farm ©iStockphoto.com/ Wolfgang Steiner
While it’s not quite the bargain destination it once was, Cambodia is still doable on a shoestring budget. More midrange hotels have popped up in places such as Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, but budget accommodations still retain their low rates. (If you don’t mind doing without the air conditioning, that is.)
Many of the country’s top sites and activities such as Angkor Wat and the Angkor Archeological Park may not be a bargain, but Lonely Planet notes there are many less-expensive options to help reign in a tight budget.
For more information and ideas, see Tourism Cambodia.
Lonely Planet calls it “South America’s best-value option” for good reason: cheap, filling food, inexpensive transportation, budget accommodations and good-bang-for-your-buck excursions. From ancient civilizations to indigenous cultures and lush rain forests to soaring mountains, Bolivia’s diversity offers a little something for everyone.
Of course, you can expect to pay more in must-see cities such as La Paz, and Uyuni, neighbour to the Salar de Uyuni — the world’s largest salt plain. But both are worth the cost.
For more information, see LateBolivia.com.
Portland, Oregon, USA
A cheap place to travel in the U.S.? You bet, says Lonely Planet. Think budget-friendly food and drink — including over 40 artisan breweries and thriving markets — and plenty of free and inexpensive things to do. For instance, there’s the International Rose Test Garden that’s as famous for its views as its over 8000 roses. Hike Forest Park, or take in “the Grotto” — a 62-acre Catholic shrine and botanical garden.
And shoppers take note: from the downtown core to trendy boutiques, there are no shortages of places to hunt for gifts and souvenirs. However, you will find one thing missing: the sales tax.
For more information, visit TravelPortland.com.
Surprised to see a mainstream European destination on this list? Lonely Planet notes that currency fluctuations and falling prices are making Spain more favourable for international travellers. With its cuisine, colourful culture, cathedrals, castles, beaches, cities, golf, spas and shopping, there’s a lot to love about this country.
If you want the best value and best prices, Lonely Planet warns to avoid peak tourist season and go easy on the wine and extra courses at dinner. If you can live without a pool, your money will go farther when it comes to accommodations.
For more information, visit Spain.info Canada.
Picture all the beauty of Europe’s alpine countries… but with lower prices. While the country is well known for its wines and thermal spas, it’s also reputed to be one of the prettiest countries in Europe. Of course, the Julian Alps aren’t just for looking at — try hiking, cycling and exploring the parks and natural reserves. Head underground to explore karst phenomenon in caves of the region that gave the shapes their name.
Travelling through this country is cheaper too thanks to its smaller size. While you may want to avoid the pricy summer season, there’s something to love about every season in Slovenia.
For more ideas, visit Slovenia.info.
The “People’s War” is in the past, and tourism is steadily growing in this country nestled in the Himalyas. You likely know it as home to the world’s tallest peak, Mt. Everest, but there’s plenty to do if mountain climbing isn’t your thing. A planned trek with a guide through the national parks won’t put much of a dent in your budget, but you can save some cash going solo and staying in tea houses.
You’ll need to budget some extra cash if you plan to enjoy Kathmandu, says Lonely Planet, but many places offer budget accommodation and you’ll save on food if you stick to local fare.
For more information, see WelcomeNepal.com.
Like other countries in the Caucasus region, Georgia is just being discovered by travellers — thanks in part to tourism development. There are more budget accommodations such as hostels and homestays, and meager fares for transportation result in spectacular views. The security situation is more stable than it has been in the past, and experts say most travellers to their country don’t experience any troubles.
Aside from jaw-dropping mountain views, the country boasts a three millennia old history and culture. It’s the land of Greek legend and one of the oldest Christian countries — complete with stunning examples of churches and cathedrals from as early as the 6th century. Georgia has a lot to offer, and travellers can still visit before the secret gets out.
For more information, see Visit Georgia.
Photo: Ananuri Castle and Church, Georgia ©iStockphoto.com/ Isaac Santillan
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