It’s no secret that the best budget destinations offer incredible attractions, eats, and culture — all available at affordable and accessible prices. From a bustling port city in South Korea to an art lover’s oasis in the heart of the American southwest, read on for a few of our favorite cheap places to visit in 2022
Located in both Europe and Asia, Istanbul is celebrated for its storied history. The Turkish capital is also known to be cheaper than other European metropolises, making it a popular travel destination for budget travelers. Istanbul is also home to dozens of museums and architectural wonders. The iconic Hagia Sophia, which dates back thousands of years, and the centuries-old Topkapı Palace, renowned for its Ottoman architecture, are both must-visits. To save money on admission, consider purchasing a Museum Pass and/or Welcome Card, which offers entry into an array of famous attractions at a steep discount. Explore the Grand Bazaar —where you can snap up affordable tokens from more than 4,000 shops — or walk along the pedestrian-friendly İstiklal Avenue, which boasts galleries, eateries, shops, bars, and nightclubs galore.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Arts and culture lovers should add Sante Fe, New Mexico, to their travel bucket list next year. New Mexico’s vibrant capital—which dates all the way back to 1610—is teeming with breathtaking pueblo-inspired architecture and affordable activities. And, the best part? Many of Santa Fe’s most notable attractions can be enjoyed at an ultra-affordable price. The Plaza, a National Historic Landmark, is one of the city’s most famous spots for shopping, people-watching, and dining. While you’re here, be sure to spend some time strolling through the city’s bustling and highly walkable downtown area. You can also wander through a handful of museums, including the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, New Mexico History Museum, and the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture. If you prefer interactive exhibits, head to the famed Meow Wolf, which is renowned for its multimedia offerings and innovative art installations. Lastly, don’t forget to go gallery hopping down Canyon Road in the city’s famed arts district.
Thailand is known for its low cost of living and wallet-friendly lodging options, and Krabi is the place to be if you’re craving a tropical beach vacay. Krabi tends to fly more under-the-radar than Phuket and Koh Samui, which means you’ll enjoy fewer crowds and lower prices. Plus, the destination is nothing short of idyllic with its postcard-worthy white-sand beaches, lush mangroves, and limestone rocks. Phra Nang Beach is one of the destination’s most popular beaches thanks to its picturesque surroundings, while Railay Beach attracts sun-seekers and rock climbers alike. If you need a break from the beach, head to the hilltop Wat Tham Suea (AKA Tiger Cave Temple), where you’ll climb more than 1,700 steps to reach a nearly 60-foot-tall Buddha statue. Meanwhile, Thung Teao Forest Natural Park is famous for its rich biodiversity and sparkling Emerald Pool, which—you guessed it—is known for its clear, jewel-toned waters. Khao Kanab Nam is another highlight, with its limestone cliffs, fairytale-worthy caves, and lush greenery.
Move over, Sydney. Instead, consider visiting Adelaide, which has been named the country’s most affordable capital city. The Southern coastal city is packed with unique food and drink offerings, including Africola (Southern African BBQ) and Osteria Oggi (classic Italian). After your meal, wander your way through the Adelaide Central Market, which dates all the way back to 1870. Meanwhile, wine-lovers can venture out to one (or more!) of the 18 surrounding wine regions, including Adelaide Hills and the Barossa Valley. After you’ve had your fill of fine vintages, head to one of the nearby gardens for some respite. Admire beautiful flora at the Botanic Gardens of South Australia or the Japanese-inspired Himeji Garden. Alternatively, hit up one of the museums, such as the South Australian Museum and the Art Gallery of South Australia, among several others.
Busan, South Korea
South Korea truly offers something for everyone, and, thanks to the excellent exchange rate, it makes a fabulous vacation destination for budget travelers. Busan, Korea’s second largest city, tends to attract fewer tourists than Seoul—making it a perfect option for those in search of a more laid-back locale. There’s plenty to do in this port city, from visiting the centuries-old Beomeosa Temple to exploring the more contemporary Sea Life Aquarium, to checking out the famous Bujeon Market, which is considered one of the country’s best. An abundance of hot springs, beaches, and mountains makes this city a haven for nature-lovers and beach-goers as well. Geumjeong Mountain offers incredible hiking, while Gwangali Beach is renowned for its buzzy bar scene. Gamcheon Culture Village is bursting with colorful houses, murals, shops, and eateries—plus fantastic mountain vistas.
Budapest, one of the largest cities in the European Union (E.U.), is also one of the cheapest thanks to the low exchange rate. Historic attractions abound in this riverfront city, such as the Chain Bridge (which connects the Buda and Pest districts) and Heroes’ Square, which is home to the Millennium Monument. Take a ride up the funicular from Castle Hill to Old Town Buda, where you’ll be treated to amazing city views. Once you arrive in Old Town, check out the Budapest History Museum and the Hungarian National Gallery. Fisherman’s Bastion is an architecture lover’s dream come true, with storybook-worthy Neo-Romanesque courtyards and towers and beautiful views of the Danube River. Speaking of views, you’ll find some of the best along the Danube Promenade. Alternatively, take in the sites from the water via a river cruise. After, make your way to Budapest’s Central Market Hall, which is known for its colorful tilework, and central locale.
The capital of the U.S. is chock-full of free attractions, making it especially ideal for budget travelers and history buffs. Carve out some time to stroll the National Mall before wandering through the Smithsonian (AKA the world’s largest museum complex). DC On Foot offers free guided walking tours of the city, too. Other free must-sees include the Library of Congress, the National Archives Building, and the National Gallery of Art. Afterward, explore the charming neighborhood of Georgetown (stop for coffee and a cupcake at the beloved Baked & Wired which will cost you less than $10) followed by an afternoon at The Wharf, a swanky waterfront complex for shopping, strolling, dining, and kayaking—plus concerts and seasonal activities aplenty.
Romania is one of the cheapest countries to visit in Europe.. The capital city, Bucharest, has been listed among the world’s most affordable cities, as well. The city has been nicknamed “Little Paris” for its stunning architecture. What’s more, the city certainly lives up to its playful moniker. The massive Palatul Parlamentului is an architectural masterpiece with more than 1,000 rooms. Old Town is oozing with historic charm. It’s also home to the National Museum of Romanian History, 19th century-era buildings, and plenty of food and drink options to choose from. The city is best explored on foot, and, fortunately, there are dozens of free walking tours to choose from (see here and here for some inspiration). The best part? Admission to top sites won’t cost more than $15 max.
The Yucatán capital is best known for its vibrant Mayan culture and white limestone buildings, earning it the nickname “The White City.” Mérida is renowned for its incredible (and affordable!) culinary offerings, and it’s even been named a Creative City of Gastronomy by UNESCO. Cheap eats (don’t miss Wayan’e, Maya de Asia, or MUGY) and wallet-friendly lodging options abound. The destination is also celebrated for its centuries-old architecture. The city’s primary hub, Plaza de la Independencia, is flanked by two colonial-era churches. Other landmarks include Casa de Montejo, a 16th century-era mansion-turned-museum, the Mayan World Museum of Mérida, and the mansions lining the Paseo de Montejo. The surrounding area is also home to several Mayan ruins and awe-inspiring cenotes (swimming holes), making Mérida a great jumping-off point.
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