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Why: Kuala Lumpur is a gem most people have not found out about, which is to your benefit. Kuala Lumpur has a mix of different cultures, from Asian to Indian, which makes the food really great. While there, I was able to grab food in Little India and ate amazing chicken tikka masala, then I headed to China Town and ate the most delicious noodles. The mix of cultures even shows with the attractions. I was able to explore a Chinese temple (Thean Hou), the Bantu Caves and a mosque (the National Mosque) all in one city. Kuala Lumpur is also known for its sky bars (rooftop bars). The one to check out is Sky Bar, which has a pool and overlooks the Petronas Towers. Hotels are mega cheap, as well: You can get a five-star hotel with an infinity pool on the rooftop for only $42 a night. Check out D'Majestic Place by Swiss-Garden. Kuala Lumpur is also the hub for cheap flights throughout Southeast Asia. You can get a roundtrip flight from Kuala Lumpur to Thailand for $24.
This is Mother Nature at her best. Take a bus to explore 27 mammoth waterfalls as well as emerald Dominican jungle and local wildlife. A guided walking tour of the first seven waterfalls is around $6 (it costs extra if you want to see more of them), or you can spend more to explore them by Jeep. Word to the wise: Bring your bathing suit and bug spray.
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How cheap is it? The UK saying “laters” to the EU may be bad news for Brits, but it’s proving to be great news for travelers. Brexit tied a brick to the already-sinking pound; overall it’s down 30 percent against the dollar since summer of 2014. Airfares, too, have dropped. And the UK is, for the next couple of years at least, formally in Europe -- so super cheap air and train fares that currently operate between the UK and the continent still run post-Brexit, pre-exit. You can be in Paris in 2.5 hours by train. Boom! Take that European trip you’ve been dreaming about since your student days, as it may never be cheaper.
A Dominican Republic favorite known for its high-end resorts, Puerto Plata is also a great place to visit on a budget. The sands of Playa Dorada and Cabarete are perfect for whiling away days amongst heavenly surrounds, while Fort San Felipe del Morro, a 16th century citadel and World Heritage Site, offers the chance to ingest a little history and culture. For value eats, head to Sam's Bar and Grill, and finish the night off with a trip to Mangu for a great night out.
Just how cheap is it? Poland’s economy is swinging upward, but the price of traveling here is still indulgently cheap compared to other EU countries (that could change, though, so don’t dally). In its bigger cities -- Warsaw, Kraków, Wrocław -- you can get a centrally located, one bedroom Airbnb for $30 all to your lonesome. Polish food is notoriously cheap and filling, especially if you’re dining on pierogi and goulash in no-frills milk bars (cafeteria-like relics of Communist times). In Warsaw, you could ball out on craft cocktails at bijou bars (or just drink $1 Polish beers and vodka shots for that matter). Or treat yourself to a two Michelin star meal at Atelier Amaro, where the six-course meal is a reasonable $70.
Why: Zanzibar may sound like an expensive, bougie honeymoon island, but take it from this solo affordable adventure traveler; it's more budget friendly than you think. Not to mention, absolutely beautiful. You can take the ferry from mainland Tanzania to Zanzibar for only $35 ($50 if you want a VIP seat), but flights to and from there are usually less than $100. Yes, there are many luxury resorts like Tulia Zanzibar and Melia Zanzibar that you should definitely splurge on if you can. (Tulia has a jungle waterslide and pool floaties. Enough said.) But there are also budget options. In fact, I found an Airbnb called the Surf Escape that was only about $40 per night, right on the beach, and had on-site surf, paddleboard and wind-surfing lessons.
Why: Manaus in the north of Brazil is a short flight from Miami and provides multiple economical options in one. It is a top destination for adventure travel or a sedate wildlife and photography sojourn or a serious eco-tour. Although it's a city of 1 million inhabitants, Manaus is mainly famous as the gateway to the Amazon rain forest. Comfortable, modern hotels like the Caesar Business Hotel start at $63 year round. Aside from visits upriver in the rainforest, Manaus offers sites ranging from the local Amazon tributary, the Rio Negro and the fabled Renaissance-style Manaus Opera House/Amazon Theatre. For an up-close look at wildlife, including endangered species, there is a free, small zoo at the Hotel Tropical. A biologist heads up this state-certified rescue center that has elusive deep-rainforest species, from jaguars to the lovable 120-pound capybaras. The Bosque da Ciencia (Science Center) is a popular open-air wildlife park just outside the city of Manaus. Local species roam freely in front of strolling tourists. Day-trip options include short visits to the rain forest as well as the Presidente Figueiredo Waterfalls and Gruta do Refugio do Maroaga, a cave filled with marine life and bats. Traveling in the rainy season provides an even better value, and the weather is no hindrance to boating and spotting a wide array of tropical birds, pink dolphins and a feisty piranha or two.
Why: For an affordable and sun-soaked vacation, southern Portugal’s Algarve region should be hot on your radar. The city of Albufeira boasts a beautiful climate, fabulous beaches, inexpensive apartment-style hotels and a central location within the Algarve. There are over 100 different restaurants, bars and nightclubs, and Albufeira even has a charming Old Town with traditional Portuguese streets and plazas within the city center. The prices for both food and wine are extremely reasonable; be sure to sample the wines of Portugal. While summer remains the busiest and most popular time to visit, I love visiting in late spring — the weather is pleasant and sunny, there are fewer tourists and hotel rates are very affordable. Albufeira also offers easy access to nearby towns such as Loulé, with its famous market and an authentic slice of Portuguese culture. Rent a car to see the church of São Lourenço in Almancil, famous for its exquisite blue tile. Head north of Lagos to see Ponta da Piedade, with its towering red rock formations against the sea. Play a round of golf in one of the many beautiful courses in the Algarve. The place to stay: the Epic Sana Algarve overlooking Praia da Falésia, where you can bask in the sun at one of its five outdoor pools and indulge at the beautiful spa.
How cheap is it? Very. Its largest city -- helpfully named Panama City -- is the world's third-cheapest major city. And it is major! Panama has the fastest growing economy in Latin America, with abundant new restaurants and luxury hotels; it's pretty much the most (and arguably only) truly global/metropolitan city in the region. And still a bunk in a cheap but well-reviewed and centrally located hostel will set you back only $14 per night, while those seeking luxury accommodations can stay at the damn Waldorf Astoria for $149 per. Which is stupid cheap, all things being relative. A public bus ride in the city is just 25 cents. You can eat on the cheap for under $20/day for all three squares if you hit up cafés for breakfast, the beach fish markets for lunch, and restaurants without English menus for dinner. Beers will cost you anywhere from $1.25 to $3 a pop. All in all, you're getting huge bang for your buck -- oh also literally your buck, as US currency is interchangeable with the Panamanian balboa.
Cruise around charming cobblestone streets and hidden alleyways to come across some of the best bargains in Mexico. Buy handmade pottery, silver jewelry and leather goods for insanely low prices, and peruse the sidewalk artwork by local artists. The food is a steal, too, so be sure to check out the carts selling mouthwatering fresh fruit and margaritas.
*Savings based on all vacation package bookings with Flight + Hotel on Expedia.com from January through December 2017, as compared to price of the same components booked separately. Savings will vary based on origin/destination, length of trip, stay dates and selected travel supplier(s). Savings not available on all packages. For Free Flight or 100% Off Flight deals, package savings is greater than or equal to the current cost of one component, when both are priced separately.
Just how cheap is it? In Prague, you can get a one-bedroom apartment on Airbnb for as little as $30 a night, just a few metro stops from Downtown. Public transportation costs a song ($1 for a half-hour ticket) and you won’t be using it much anyway, considering the center is compact and walkable. It’s a city that’s great for playing bougie tourist for less -- gourmet dining and museum entry fees are moderately priced -- but meager budgets can also get on too, with main attractions such as Charles Bridge, Old Town, and Christmas markets being outdoors and gloriously free.
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Northern California also has many riches and wonders to offer. Nothing beats the morning mist swathing the Golden Gate Bridge during a San Francisco vacation. Be sure to hike at Batteries to Bluffs Trail and take in the expansive ocean views. If you’re craving sparkling pools, shimmering night skies, and majestic mountain scenery, instead of bay views, spending your vacations in Palm Springs is the way to go. Hollywood’s Waiting Room for Heaven is the ultimate desert playground for people-watching and wandering through art galleries.