BreakingModern — Maybe you’ve just finished college and have an uncontrollable urge to finally get out and see the world. Or maybe you spent some time working a horrible job and need some time off to refocus your life.
One problem: your funds are way, way low.
Never fear — despite your dire financial situation, you too can travel the world. If you can scrounge up a couple thousand (flights will be your biggest cash killer) there are several destinations where a dollar goes a long way — and the experiences are priceless.
If when you think Europe, you think “France! Germany! Italy! Spain!” you’re seriously missing out — not just on the best deals, but also on some of the coolest cultural destinations in Europe.
The most inexpensive country? Poland. But it’s no second-rate destination. Its major cities, Krakow and Warsaw, host vibrant nightlife, excellent theatres and museums and colorful city squares straight out of a storybook. Oh, and lots of beer.
Hop over to the Czech Republic, if you can, including capital city Prague. The city wasn’t bombed during WWII, so the old baroque architecture is still everywhere. (But beware the touristy — and pricey — Old Town Square.) When you’re done, explore less well-known parts of the country with a trip to spa town Karlovy Vary, or spend an evening in Ostrava’s wild Stodolní Street visiting its over 100 bars and pubs.
The best part? Eastern Europe is full of history — both ancient and recent. The twisty-turny streets, old-world cathedrals and castles and ancient buildings will take you back to baroque or medieval times, but strike up a conversation with someone over 50 and you could learn what it was like to live under communist rule.
Want something completely different? You’re in luck — Vietnam can be a great bargain. Though technically a communist state, the country is in flux, adopting a free market system and displaying increased differences between the traditional north and the rapidly modernizing south.
For a touch of the old world, Hanoi is a mass of bustling markets, old traditional architecture, and wonderfully cheap food, while the more chaotic Ho Chi Minh City is the vibrant cultural center of Vietnam. (To meet other backpackers, wander toward Ho Chi Minh City’s Bui Vien Street, with its seemingly endless array of shops and restaurants.)
But don’t limit yourself to the major cities. From the mountains to the sea, the cultural landscape is as varied as the terrain. Small yet historically rich towns like Hoi An are visually stunning, and idyllic villages reveal scars left over from the Vietnam War. Give yourself a solid chunk of time to travel the length of the country — you won’t regret it. And if you can, visit Cambodia — also a wonderful yet wonderfully cheap travel destination.
Although India has its pricy spots, it can still be done on the cheap. If you avoid the tourist traps and ultra-rich areas, your experience will not only be less expensive, but also more authentic. Unique flavor-rich meals can be had for a few dollars, and you can spend your days touring grand-scale fortresses and temples for next to nothing. You could take years traveling the country’s cities, each of which offers a unique taste of India.
If you’re more of an outdoorsy type, though, you have your pick of locale. India consists of over one million square miles, in which you’ll find snowy mountains, sprawling jungles, hot and cold deserts, sandy beaches, wetlands, grasslands and mangroves. Want to surf without dipping into your savings? Travel to Kovalam Beach for the decent waves and discount hotels. Love to hike? The Himalayas might be for you.
While you’re searching for deals, however, watch out for scammers. Brush up on common scam tactics and don’t believe everyone who approaches you in the cities’ crowded streets.
Bolivia (and Peru and Ecuador)
Start in Bolivia’s La Paz for its singular mixture of pre- and post-colonial cultures. Visit the Witches Market, run by local witch doctors, for all of your dried frog and potion needs. And for a quick step back in time, stroll along the colonial street of Calle Jaén and visit its museums, such as the Museo de Litoral (about Bolivia’s War of the Pacific with Chile) and the Museo Nacional del Arte (Bolivia’s national art museum). Wander the world’s largest salt flats, Salar de Uyuni, or watch flamingos “dance” in the Laguna Verde below the volcano Licancabur.
In Peru, you’ll have to dish out a bit if you want to see Macchu Picchu, but you can eat for cheap if you follow the locals out of the touristy areas. Without spending too much on accommodation or travel, you can have a beer overlooking the ocean in Lima’s Miraflores district or roam the Incan capital Saksaywaman near Cusco.
Ecuador, too, offers affordable hotel rooms and almost all touristy activities in Quito are free or cheap (if you like majestic cathedrals and tranquil parks, this city is for you). And of course, in this part of South America you can’t escape the looming mountains. Pack some hiking boots.
Fragrant food dished out of large tajine pots and the overwhelmingly colorful souks (large outdoor markets) will occupy much of your time in Morocco. And if you’ve dreamed of making friends on your travels, this is the place to do it — the people of Morocco are notoriously friendly.
Though the bustling cities like Fes and Marrakesh might be overwhelming for some, their lively atmosphere and breathtaking architecture shouldn’t be missed. Mosques, palaces and tombs are almost as awe-inspiring as the Atlas Mountains and the Sahara desert. Almost.
So before you become one of those people who chant, “I’d love to travel … but I can’t afford it,” check your options. There are plenty.
For BMod, I’m Alison Maney.
Featured Image: La Paz, Bolivia by Pedro Szekely via Flickr
Image Credit: Poland_4076 - Old Town Square by Dennis Jarvis via Flickr
Image Credit: Vietnam by Mauro via Flickr
Image Credit: The View From My Balcony by Jayant Judilson via Flickr
Image Credit: Morocco, Marrakesh by Dmitriy Fomenko via Flickr