10 Affordable International Summer Destinations For 2016

  Last Updated: August 14, 2016 at 1:12 pm
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10. Prague, Czech Republic

Photo Courtesy of Moyan Brenn.

While not the most affordable place to visit in the summer time, Prague remains one of Europe’s cheapest capitol cities to visit and is definitely more affordable year round than many of the other places around the world we reviewed when considered in conjunction with our general safety and well-being. If you’re looking for an affordable summer destination that’s also friendly to Americans and LGBT people, then Prague is the place for you.

Several things to know before visiting Prague:

  1. Take advantage of Prague’s incredibly affordable public transit system and steer clear of taxis. The taxis in Prague have a long held reputation for ripping off tourists – and you won’t know you’re being ripped off until it’s too late.
  2. Get up early and eat breakfast at your hotel. Most hotels in Prague include a free continental breakfast – if you’re on a budget, the last thing you want to do is miss out on a free meal.
  3. Try to reserve this destination for the cooler fall months. The summers in Prague bring with them a swarm of tourists – which causes hotel prices to climb. If you’re going to visit in the summer, book your hotel room months in advance to make sure you get the best rate.

9. Barcelona, Spain

Photo Courtesy of Moyan Brenn.

This ancient Spanish city by the sea is known for it’s breathtaking architecture and sheer beauty. Barcelona makes our list for several reasons, the first being that this is one of the most affordable flights to Europe you can buy these days from almost anywhere in the United States. We’ve seen round-trip fairs to Barcelona as cheap as $348 and as high as $750 on major airlines like Delta. The hotel prices here are also not as expensive as other large European cities.

Several things to keep in mind when planning your trip to Barcelona:

  1. Always book your tickets ahead of time. This should go without saying for almost any international destination – but especially for flights to both Madrid and Barcelona. Flights to these cities are usually at their lowest about 90 days out from your trip, after which they will begin to climb.
  2. Steer clear of major hotel brands and instead opt for a private rental on sites like AirBnb. While many the hotels aren’t exorbitantly expensive in Barcelona, if you’re hoping to stay in style, prepare to open your pocketbook.
  3. Take advantage of the easy public transit and if you’re planning to travel around the city a lot, make sure to purchase a 10 trip Metro pass. They cost around 10 and will allow you to keep a little more pocket change… in your pocket! Be aware that certain parts of the Barcelona Metro shut down after midnight so if you’re planning on being out late, you’ll want to plan your trips in advance to make sure you’ve got a ride home. Worst case scenario, you can take a cab – they aren’t too terribly expensive.

8. Croatia

Plitvice Lakes National Park. Plitvice, Croatia

Traveling to practically anywhere in eastern Europe is more affordable these days than most places in western Europe. We chose Croatia because of it’s immense natural beauty and history. You’re not likely to find many of the international hotel chains in Croatia, so if you’re hoping to rack up hotel points, you might want to skip this destination. Instead, save yourself a bundle and opt for private rentals in the suburbs of the major metropolitan areas like Dubrovnik Riviera. Try to avoid the high tourist season of July and August as prices tend to skyrocket during these months.

Things to see and places to go while in Croatia:

  1. If you’re traveling through Dubrovnik, go check out the Ancient City Walls. The views the city and the Adriatic sea from atop the wall are absolutely stunning and there are plenty of cafes and shops along the wall to stop for coffee, ice cream or even just a water if you get thirsty.
  2. Plitvice Lakes National Park – This place is a must. It gets a fives across the board on TripAdvisor, so that must mean something right!? If you’ve got the time, check it out. As you can see in the photo above, it’s absolutely stunning.
  3. Diocletian’s Palace – this is another one of those places you just won’t want to miss! This is the world’s most complete remains of a roman palace. If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, well you’re in luck because this is where they filmed it!

7. Cancun, Mexico

Photo Courtesy of Dronepicr.

You can almost always find amazingly cheap all-inclusive deals for Cancun – but do your research before you buy. Cancun is a popular destination for hurricanes and college students on spring break – and some of the cheaper hotels have the bruises to prove it!

Several things to keep in mind when planning your trip to Cancun!

  1. You don’t have to be fluent in Spanish to get around Cancun. While the official language is Spanish, because this is a popular destination for Americans you should have no problem finding an abundance of people who are fairly fluent in English – especially in the tourism and hospitality industry. It’s common courtesy to at least attempt to start the conversation in Spanish, but then it’s ok to say something along the lines of habla usted Inglés (do you speak English?).
  2. Go all-inclusive. Your pocketbook will thank you! Even if you venture out of the resort to wine and dine like the locals, you’ll probably be spending a majority of your time at the resort, by the pool, or on the beach – and you wont want to pull out your credit card every time you need a drink or a snack.
  3. Use the local buses. They are plentiful, cheap, and they’ll take you basically everywhere you could possibly want to go.

6. Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio National Park. Photo courtesy of Rauldmo.

Costa Rica is one of the more rainy destinations on our list, so make sure you pick the right time to travel to this beautiful place. The dryest months are December and March, so you may want to save this destination for the winter and spring months. But if you don’t mind a little rain, this place is beautiful year round even with the rain.

Several things to keep in mind when planning your visit to Costa Rica:

  1. Bring a rain jacket or a pancho. Seriously, we weren’t kidding when we said it rains a lot in Costa Rica.
  2. Fill up at lunch. Savvy travelers who’ve been to Costa Rica before will all tell you that Lunch is the most affordable meal of the day here.
  3. Watch out for pick pockets and petty criminals who prey on tourists. While they aren’t as rampant as some of the other cities on our list, parts of Costa Rica has been hit by a recent drug epidemic – which partially explains the uptick in petty crimes.
  4. Book your attractions with transport. Sure, you can rent a car in Costa Rica, but it’s probably going to be exorbitantly expensive because of the surcharges and taxes that they place on car rentals – and it might take you hours to get to your destination because many of the roads are unpaved and street signs are few and far between. Fortunately, most of the major attractions will come pick you up at your hotel or wherever you’re staying. Take advantage of this – it’s worth every penny.
  5. If you’re planning to travel around while you’re in Costa Rica, book your domestic flights early. You can usually get domestic flights for dirt cheap if you book them far in advance.

5. Nicaragua

Granada, Nicaragua. Photo courtesy of Milei Vencel.

Nicaragua is one of the cheapest places on our list and if you budget correctly you can make $30 last a full day in this beautiful Central American country. Explore Managua, and then take a few days and escape to the Corn Islands or San Juan del Sur.

Ways to save money while in Nicaragua:

  1. If you’re traveling alone you can get a dorm room in a hostel for $5-12 USD. If you’re traveling with a friend or two you can get a double room in a hostel for upwards of $17 or a room in a local hospedajes somewhere in the range of $19-24 USD.
  2. Use the local buses to get around town, but beware that they tend to be rather crowded and rife with pickpockets. The cabs are actually rather affordable too if you’re not keen on taking a packed bus. If you’re trying to go long distances, steer clear of the tourist buses and take the “Chicken Bus” instead. For few bucks you can crisscross the entire country.
  3. Avoid western food at all cost! Seriously, we aren’t kidding here. Western food is usually about double the cost of the local cuisine. Eat at the local food stalls – they are safe – or find a Fritanga where you can get all you can eat for a nominal cost. Fritangas are a buffet style restaurant, they usually cost about $5 USD, and you’ll find yourself with a table covered in food.

4. Bangkok, Thailand

Photo courtesy of Mathias Krumbholz

If megacities are your thing, then Bangkok is the place for you! Unlike other megacities like New York, Los Angeles, and London, Bangkok has remained relatively affordable over the years. If you look in the right place, you could eat lunch for as little as a buck or two and hotels are likewise quite affordable. Avoid the western chains of hotel and restaurants and your wallet will thank you.

  1. If the price isn’t marked, it’s negotiable. Seriously! You could potentially save your self up to 50% off the asking price. Not too many years ago nearly everything was negotiable in Thailand, but that’s not so anymore. Many retailers have begun moving to a fixed price concept.
  2. Watch out for pick pockets and scammers. Bangkok is known for it’s scammers and they’re sure to be at nearly every attraction you go to… they are there for a reason – because it’s a tourist attraction – which means there will be plenty of unsuspecting tourists gullible enough to believe that the main attraction is closed for the day. Don’t get in their tuk-tuk heading to another attraction – it’s a scam. They want your money.
  3. Take public transit and taxis and when you get in a taxi make sure that you insist that the driver ride with the meter ON. If the driver refuses, get out and take another taxi. Taxis are a dime a dozen in this bustling mega city so there should no shortage of taxis willing to use the meter. If you have to take a tuk-tuk or just want the once in a lifetime experience of riding in one, insist that the driver take you do the destination you requested BEFORE you pay them.

3. Ecuador

Photo courtesy of Carlos Adampol

Whether you’re planning a trip to the Galapagos Islands, to Baños to see the country’s most active volcano, or to the historical capital city of Quito, you’re sure to have a grand vacation in Ecuador on a budget.

To have a great time on a budget in Ecuador:

  1. If you’re traveling alone you can stay in a shared hostel room for as little as $8 USD or get a private room for as little as $10 USD. If you’re looking for a more quant experience, stay in one of the countries many hospedajes. These family run guesthouses are all over the country and have rooms for just a few dollars per night.
  2. Eat at the markets – and fill up at lunch! You can load up on groceries at the markets for just a few bucks and many of the restaurants offer lunch for just a few bucks as well.
  3. Bring lots of small bills – think $5s, $10s, and $20s. Leave the $50 and $100 bills at home – you won’t find anywhere here to change them and even $20s can be hard to change in some of the smaller towns.
  4. Book your tours last minute. I know this sounds counterintuitive, but seriously, most of the tour companies offer their spare space for dirt cheap a few days before the tour. By booking last minute you can expect to save as much as 40% off the price of the tour.

2. Manila, Philippines

Photo courtesy of Mike Gonzalez.

The Philippines are a beautiful place for a relaxing budget vacation, and with over 7,000 small, remote islands there’s no shortage of sights to see. There’s great scuba diving and snorkeling on just about all of the islands. Make friends with the locals, the Philippine people are known as some of the most friendly and welcoming people in the world.

  1. If you’re planning to travel around the islands, make sure you book your domestic flights early. If you book them early you could pay as little as $30 USD round trip, but if you book late you could be looking at as high as $150 USD roundtrip.
  2. Skip the western food and drinks and go local. The local food and beverage are filling, tasty, and safe to eat. Opt for local food, beer, and rum from street stalls and supermarkets and your wallet will thank you.
  3. Try to stay in hostels and private rentals outside of the city center – and haggle haggle haggle! Where the price ends is often never where it begins.

1. Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, Vietnam

While not exactly the glitziest or most glamorous cities on our list, both Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi are highly affordable and offer lots to do in the way of tourism. A day in either of these cities could cost as little as $20 USD if you budget and truly embrace the local food and drink culture. Hotels are also very affordable here making this our top destination recommendation for budget conscious travelers.

Things to know before you head off to Vietnam:

  1.  Only get in cabs that are clearly marked with the name of one of the local cab companies. Cabs in both of these cities are known for taking advantage of tourists and they do it pretty effectively. One minute you’ll be driving along, and the next minute you’re on the side of the road miles from your destination with a cab driver demanding ransom. Pick your cab wisely and negotiate a price BEFORE you get in the car.
  2. You will need a VISA to visit Vietnam – and no, I don’t mean a credit card! This is important because if you land in Vietnam with no VISA they are likely to send you back. It’s easy to get, just apply here and you should be good to go in a few days to a week. If you forget, there are ways to expedite the process, but of course that costs money… and you’re on a budget!
  3. Eat the local food from the food stalls, but make sure to wait until you see one that is busy which means it’s unlikely to make you sick. If there is more than one thing on the menu, choose what the others are ordering and wash it down with a bottled water or bottled beer.
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Brad Delaney

Brad is the CEO and Editor-in-Chief of The Pacific Tribune. In addition to his work at The Pacific Tribune, he is President of Sound Strategy, a Seattle based creative design agency that builds and maintains websites and advertising for small and medium sized businesses around the world. In his spare time he serves as co-director and Board President of One Million Kids For Equality, a federally recognized 501c3 nonprofit that works to elevate the voices of LGBTQ youth and the children of LGBTQ parents.

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