15 cheap international destinations for 2020

Jan 8, 2020

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There are lots of ways to save on travel — like using points and miles — but international travel eventually requires money. Money to get there, money to stay there, money to eat … you get the picture. How far can you stretch your cash? It’s important to think about your destination if you’re watching your budget.

In 2019 I visited Italy for one week and Thailand for two weeks and the one thing they had in common was the amount of money I spent. Let me repeat, I spent two weeks in Thailand and just one in Italy and spent the same amount of money, flights included.

With that kind of contrast in mind, we’ve put together a list of 15 destinations where your money will go farthest as a budget traveler.

All of the data below was collected from budgetyourtrip.com based on the “budget travel style,” which means low-cost lodging, meals and transportation.

1. Poland

Krakow, Poland. (Photo by Maria Sward/Getty Images)
Krakow, Poland. (Photo by Maria Sward/Getty Images)

I’ve selfishly pinned Poland in the number-one spot because this is a destination I can’t recommend enough. The people, the food, the stunning architecture — Poland should be on everyone’s list of places to visit. It’s especially great for a budget-friendly vacation because the exchange rate is one dollar to 3.81 Polish złoty (as of Jan. 7, 2020), which is a whole lot of bang for your buck.

Average hotel price: $16/night for one person

Average meal cost: $6/day

Average intercity transportation: $9

2. Budapest

Budapest, Hungary.(Photo by Tanatat pongphibool/Getty Images)

Budapest, Hungary.(Photo by Tanatat pongphibool/Getty Images)Another personal favorite — I’m not alone on this — is Budapest. Ask anyone whose been to Hungary and they’ll agree: The capital city is a must-visit. There’s plenty to see and do between the Buda and Pest sides; just make sure you pack your walking shoes. In fact, you’re interested in learning more about the difference between Buda and Pest, I’d highly recommend a free walking tour. Pro tip: To fully take in the beauty of Budapest, grab a bottle of cheap (but delicious) Hungarian wine, head down to the Danube River and watch the sun set behind the city.

Average hotel price: $15/night for one person

Average meal cost: $7/day

Average intercity transportation: $8

3. Thailand

Krabi, Thailand. (Photo by Peerapas Mahamongkolsawas/Getty Images)
Krabi, Thailand. (Photo by Peerapas Mahamongkolsawas/Getty Images)

Thailand is known for being super-affordable and that remains the case in 2020. Whether you’re a backpacker, a family or a couple — there’s something for everyone to love here. You can spend the day island-hopping, get a five-star massage for dirt cheap or take a class in Thai cooking, and those are just a few of the affordable activities available to you. If you need any more convincing, my most expensive meal was a beachfront, three-course meal with drinks for a mere $17. On average, we spent about $6 a day on food.

Average hotel price: $25/night for one person

Average meal cost: $6/day

Average intercity transportation: $12

4. Canada

Quebec City, Canada.(Photo by DenisTangneyJr/Getty Images)
Quebec City, Canada. (Photo by DenisTangneyJr/Getty Images)

Canada isn’t the most affordable country on this list, but it is the closest to the U.S. which makes it automatically more affordable for American travelers. The current exchange rate is also in favor of the U.S. dollar (USD) at 1:1.30, which makes it even more appealing. Consider visiting the Province of Quebec, one of the more affordable regions. This is good news as it’s home to two amazing cities — Montréal and Quebec City. Both cities will have you wondering whether you’re in Canada or France.

Average hotel price: $34/night for one person

Average meal cost: $14/day

Average intercity transportation: $44

5. Croatia

Dubrovnik, Croatia. (Callum Hyland Photography/Getty Images)
Dubrovnik, Croatia. (Callum Hyland Photography/Getty Images)

You’ve probably seen a lot of Croatia on your Instagram lately and there’s good reason — it’s super-affordable at 1 USD to 6.70 HRK. If you have been thinking about visiting Italy or Greece, Croatia could be a more affordable and still beautiful alternative.

Average hotel price: $16/night for one person

Average meal cost: $9/day

Average intercity transportation: $8

6. Vietnam

Ha Long City, Vietnam. (Photo by ElOjoTorpe/Getty Images)
Ha Long City, Vietnam. (Photo by ElOjoTorpe/Getty Images)

Looking to indulge in amazing food and culture? Look no further than Vietnam. This Southeast Asian country is a fan favorite of budget travelers as U.S. dollars can go far here. Not to mention that the Vietnamese people are friendly and welcoming.

Average hotel price: $8/night for one person

Average meal cost: $4/day

Average intercity transportation: $7

7. Uruguay

La Paloma City, Uruguay (Photo by ElOjoTorpe/Getty Images)
La Paloma City, Uruguay. (Photo by ElOjoTorpe/Getty Images)

If you’re a beach lover, you may want to put Uruguay on your radar. This South American country along the Atlantic Ocean is known for having some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. If you want to bask in the sun, summer runs from November through February in South America. Pro tip: Rent a car on arrival in the capital of Montevideo and drive along the coast to take in the laid-back Uruguayan way of life.

Average hotel price: $13/night for one person

Average meal cost: $8/day

Average intercity transportation: $14

8. Bulgaria

Sofia, Bulgaria. (Photo by FLAMINIA PELAZZI/Getty Images)
Sofia, Bulgaria. (Photo by FLAMINIA PELAZZI/Getty Images)

Whether you’re exploring the mountains or the coastline of the Black Sea, Bulgaria will take your breath away. This hidden gem in southeastern Europe only saw about 9.3 million tourists in 2018 compared to France’s 93.2 million — making Bulgaria the perfect place to take the road less traveled, for less.

Average hotel price: $11/night for one person

Average meal cost: $5/day

Average intercity transportation: $7

9. Slovenia

Slovenia
Lake Bled, Slovenia. (tunart/Getty Images)

As if the picture above isn’t convincing enough, you will be happy to hear that getting views like this doesn’t have to drain your bank account. Slovenia uses the Euro — which doesn’t convert favorably from the dollar — but costs are considerably cheaper here than in more popular European destinations like France or Italy.

Average hotel price: $20/night for one person

Average meal cost: $9/day

Average intercity transportation: $17

10. Montenegro

Kotor, Montenegro. (Photo by tunart/Getty Images)
Kotor, Montenegro. (Photo by tunart/Getty Images)

My only question is, why haven’t visited Montenegro? It has sweeping views of beautiful mountains, hence its name, which translates from Italian as “Black Mountains.” If beaches are more your speed, Montenegro has a whopping 117 along its 183 miles of coastline. So whether you’re a mountain person or beach person, Montenegro has the right view for you.

Average hotel price: $11/night for one person

Average meal cost: $9/day

Average intercity transportation: $13

11. Albania

Krujë, Albania. Photo by Westend61/Getty Images.
Krujë, Albania. (Photo by Westend61/Getty Images)

Can you imagine visiting a UNESCO World Heritage site without a crowd? Well, it’s possible in Albania. The country is home to four different sites ranging from archeological ruins dating to prehistoric times to an ancient beech forest. Like its neighbors in Montenegro, North Macedonia and Greece, Albania has amazing mountain and seaside views.

Average hotel price: $8/night for one person

Average meal cost: $6/day

Average intercity transportation: $3

12. Georgia

Tanatat pongphibool ,thailand/Getty Ima
Tbilisi, Georgia. (Photo by Tanatat pongphibool/Getty Images)

Georgia is actually one of the oldest wine regions in the world. Archaeologists trace its roots in alcoholic creativity all the way back to 6,000 BC. However, the Georgian process for making wine was and remains much different from the rest if the world. Instead of barreling the grapes for fermentation, Georgians use clay pots that are buried underground for three to six months. The process makes for a unique taste that you’ll definitely want to try.

Average hotel price: $2/night for one person

Average meal cost: $2/day

Average intercity transportation: $2

13. Ecuador

Guayaquil, Ecuador. (Photo by Jesse Kraft / EyeEm / Getty Images)

Guayaquil, Ecuador. (Photo by Jesse Kraft / EyeEm / Getty Images)Looking to add some variety to your next trip? Consider Ecuador. The South American country has a lot to offer — colorful cities, Amazon rainforest, the Andes Mountains and even the Galapagos Islands. Although the latter are a more expensive excursion, Ecuador is a great destination for budget travelers looking for a range of things to do.

Average hotel price: $6/night for one person

Average meal cost: $5/day

Average intercity transportation: $10

14. Australia

Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Edward Pizzarello/The Points Guy)
The Opera House in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Edward Pizzarello/The Points Guy)

The current exchange rate is a favorable 1 USD to 1.46 AUD, making the Land Down Under a prime prospect for budget travelers in 2020. That is, if you’re able to score an affordable airfare via cash or points and miles. Once that’s out of the way, Australia can be surprisingly friendly to American budget travelers.

Average hotel price: $22/night for one person

Average meal cost: $11/day

Average intercity transportation: $37

15. New Zealand

New Zealand
Deepwater Basin, Milford Sound, in the South Island, New Zealand. (Photo by Southern Landscapes/Getty Images)

New Zealand is another place that’s a bit difficult to get to, but once they are there, budget travelers can make their way through the country easily. It’s no Thailand when it comes to value, but the current exchange rate is in favor of the USD at 1:1.51 NZD.

Average hotel price: $23/night for one person

Average meal cost: $9/day

Average intercity transportation: $21

Maximize your travel

If you’re planning on booking a trip to any of these destinations, make sure you use a card that rewards you for both the booking and spend. Here are some of our favorites:

All of the data was collected from budgetyourtrip.com based on a budget travel style. 

Featured photo by Maya Karkalicheva/Getty Images.

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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