Anyone who has travelled on a budget would already know that low funds does not equal low fun. You can have an amazing time with very little money. Some of the world's best destinations and most memorable experiences are available to budget travellers.
Even your everyday experiences will be more memorable when you travel on the cheap. You'll meet more people. You'll have more authentic encounters with local life. You'll see things and taste things and feel things that the cloistered surrounds of a fancy hotel and an air-conditioned private car could never allow.
For budget travellers, 2019 is shaping up as a great year. There are plenty of amazing destinations to visit that will only cost you a few Australian smashed-avo brunches to travel through. These are the value-for-money destinations you want to be visiting.
Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia Photo: Alamy
Indonesia isn't Bali. It doesn't begin and end on that uber-popular island (though admittedly, Bali is easy to do on the cheap). For real value for money in this huge and diverse country, however, as well as an escape from the touristy hordes, focus your attention on the likes of Sumbawa, Raja Ampat, Tanjung Puting, Flores and Sumatra, where you'll get hotel rooms for less than $20, and meals for $2 to $3, plus all the hiking, scuba-diving, surfing and exploring you can handle.
Cape Town Photo: Shutterstock
South Africa is cheap – it's seriously cheap. It's even cheap to get to. It used to cost more than $3000 to fly to Johannesburg; these days if you keep an eye out for sales you should be able to get there for $1500 or less. And when you do you'll discover an eminently affordable country, where one Australian dollar still buys more than 10 South African rand. That means you'll be able to afford to stay in decent accommodation, eat out most nights, and even hire a car to see as much of the country as possible.
Polignano a Mare, Puglia. Photo: Alamy
Yes, Italy. It might seem crazy to advise budget travellers to go anywhere near western Europe, but the truth is that some countries – including Italy – can be surprisingly cheap. To survive in this country on a tight budget, avoid the likes of Rome, Florence, Milan and the Amalfi Coast, and instead head to Naples, Verona, southern Sicily, Puglia, Calabria and Le Marche. In these places you'll find cheap lodgings, high-quality, affordable food, and attractions that aren't rammed with people.
Georgia – cheap and cheerful. Photo: Crooked Compass
Georgia is the little country that could, a former Soviet stronghold that these days boasts amazing natural beauty, charming old villages and towns, great wine, high-quality food, and an atmosphere of adventure – all this, and it's also extremely cheap. You could get away with a budget of $30-$40 a day in Georgia, and that will get you a comfortable bed, three good meals, and plenty of sightseeing. Get here before everyone else does.
La Paz, Bolivia Photo: Alamy
Bolivia will always make my lists of affordable and desirable destinations, because it's just so amazing. First, the costs. Getting there, admittedly, isn't easy. Once you're on the ground, however, expect to pay around $10 a night for a dorm bed, $3-$5 for a decent local meal, and $1-$2 for a short taxi ride. Next, the attractions: Bolivia is peak South America, a place where indigenous culture still thrives, where you can hang out in cities like La Paz, Cochabamba, Salar de Uyuni and Potosi and feel like you're in another world.
Mekong Delta. Photo: Shutterstock
The best meal of your life, and it will only cost $2. That's what's on offer in Vietnam, not just on one rare occasion, but every time you sit down for breakfast, lunch or dinner. The food here is just so good, and so cheap. Vietnam has always been popular among budget travellers, and justifiably so. In fact, plenty of people have already visited. If that's the case for you, it's time to go back in 2019, and dig a little deeper. Head out into the Mekong Delta. Explore the highlands around Dalat. Check out Bong Lai Valley. You won't be disappointed.
Pushkar, India. Photo: Shutterstock
There's so much to talk about when it comes to travel in India – the 29 states, each offering vastly different experiences, the 23 official languages to get your head around, the seven major religions, the vastness and diversity, the colour and the chaos – that people tend to forget how affordable this country is. You can get a room in a guesthouse for about $10; eat a meal in a restaurant for $3; take a long-distance train ride for $8. For travellers, this is one of the most readily accessible countries on Earth.
Blue Mosque and Bosphorus in Istanbul, Turkey Photo: Shutterstock
Now is a great time to visit Turkey. The country's tourism industry has been hit hard recently by various factors, most of which have been out of its control: isolated terror incidents; proximity to humanitarian disasters. It's now on the slow road to recovery, which means prices are down, and tourists are welcome. Get in now for great deals on hotels, for cheap cruises in the Aegean, for affordable transport and high-quality, cheap local cuisine.
Oaxaca, Mexico Photo: Shutterstock
Steer clear of the touristy heavy-hitters. Avoid Cancun, stay away from Playa del Carmen, and delay your visit to Cabo. If you want to see Mexico on the cheap, it's time to head to places like Mexico City, Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta, San Miguel de Allende and Oaxaca City, where you'll be able to grab tacos for 50 cents each, beers for $2, and guesthouse beds for $20 or less. Mexico is a lot of fun and surprisingly safe – well worth having on your list for 2019.
Plovdiv, Bulgaria Photo: Shutterstock
Though countries such as Italy can definitely be done on the cheap, if you're after real value for money in Europe, head to Bulgaria. This former Eastern Bloc country has plenty of history in its towns and cities, a beautiful coastline, surprisingly good food and wine, and a reliably warm welcome. It's also very cheap, and a great place to head in winter if you want to ski without paying the astronomical prices charged in the likes of France and Italy.
What are your tips for budget-friendly destinations to visit in 2019? Where do you plan to travel to next year?
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