Budget travel could be fun if you got the right destination choices. We’ve scoured the globe looking for destinations where fun and excitement abound and where you won’t be asked to take out a second mortgage. From North America to Asia, Europe to Australia, we’ve come up with a list that will make even diehard globetrotters jealous. These are the top-10 budget-friendly travel destinations for 2020.
1. San Antonio, Texas, USA
7. Buenos Aires, Argentina
There’s plenty going on deep in the heart of Texas. San Antonio is a lovely travel destination that won’t break your bank account. Here you will find heaps of Texas culture and a vast array of great attractions. The relatively compact city center affords ample opportunity to string together several stops. Start at the famous Alamo, the historic garrison and pivotal battleground during the Texas Revolution in 1836. Since that time, the Alamo has become a potent symbol used by generations of Texans to proclaim their identity. Walk to the nearby Buckhorn Saloon & Museum where you can have a drink at this Old West-themed gift shop. From there it’s easy to enjoy San Antonio’s River Walk, a charming landscaped green space winding past numerous restaurants, hotels, and bridges. Tour the Briscoe Western Art Museum where you can explore art and artifacts reflecting the culture and history of the American West. Snap a few pictures of Rosita's Bridge and then cross over to explore La Villita Historic Arts Village. The many art galleries and shops offer plenty to see and a chance to enjoy some great San Antonio culture. Swing through Hemisfair Park where you can see the Tower of the Americas, visit Institute of Texan Cultures, and relax by the fountains and playground. San Antonio’s collection of things to do make it one of the top-10 budget-friendly travel destinations for 2019.
Located a few hours south of Mexico City, Puebla is a wonderful town with strong colonial-era ties. In addition to being a renowned destination for mole, Puebla boasts incredible architecture and beautiful scenery. Unlike other colonial-era cities in Mexico, Puebla was founded by the Spanish upon their arrival. Elsewhere in Mexico, colonial authorities built upon existing structures and urban developments. This was not the case in Puebla. The rich legacy makes it a great destination for budget-minded travelers. Start in the Zócalo de Puebla. The vibrant public square features fountains and benches and is surrounded by delicious restaurants. Visit the Catedral de Puebla just opposite the Zócalo. This Roman Catholic cathedral contains a fascinating octagonal alter. From here you have easy access to Puebla’s commercial district where you can browse for bargains or hunt for a souvenir. The Museo Amparo has an impressive collection of Mexican art set in a unique gallery space. Architecture fans will want to snap a few pictures. Biblioteca Palafoxiana is arguably one of Mexico’s finest libraries and well-worth a visit for its tasteful interior design. Finally, the nearby town of Cholula boasts an ancient Mesoamerican archaeological site known for its enormous pyramid. With strong connections to Spain and lots to see, Puebla is one of the top-10 budget-friendly travel destinations for 2019.
Hawaii is America’s tropical paradise. Lush green landscapes, black volcanic beaches, world class surf breaks…it’s an all-around ideal destination. Ascend Mauna Kea or dive amongst the ship wrecks on O’ahu. Hang Ten on the North Shore or head into Honolulu for some great shopping and dining. Whatever your passions, you can scratch the itch in Hawaii. On the western side of Kaua’i Island you will find Waimea Canyon State Park. Known to many as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” Waimea was carved over centuries by rainwater runoff from Mount Waiʻaleʻale. Among the wettest places on Earth, the mountain feeds Waimea’s innumerable waterfalls. Come see the reddish soils and green vegetation set against azure blue skies. It will leave you with the memories of a lifetime. Visit Pearl Harbor National Memorial, see the remains of the USS Arizona, and tour the decommissioned USS Missouri. Along O’ahu’s northern shores are famous surf breaks including Sunset Beach and Banzai Pipeline. This is the place that put the big in big wave riding. Head to the Big Island and visit Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. This is where you will find Kīlauea and Mauna Loa. Kīlauea is one of the world’s most active volcanoes and has been erupting nearly continuously for decades. Explore the black volcanic rock and see how molten lava adds to the Hawaiian shore. Contrary to the popular image, Hawaii isn’t all about resorts and luxury. There’s a ton of fun to be had amongst all the great scenery and national parks. Hawaii is a surprisingly budget-friendly destination.
Australia, the Land Down Under, is a vast continent full of rich biodiversity, incredible culture, and untamed wilderness. The Australian Outback is the stuff of legend. Running along the country’s eastern coast is the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef system. Brisbane, capital of Queensland, is a place to enjoy lots of Australian experiences without overloading your wallet. Start in Central Brisbane at the Brisbane City Botanic Gardens. Enjoy a walk in the lovely park set long the banks of the Brisbane River. Cross Goodwill Bridge and visit the Queensland Maritime Museum. Grab something to eat at one of the cafes and restaurants along the river before dropping by Streets Beach for some fun and relaxation. A bit further north is Queensland Museum and Science Centre, a great place to learn about the science, culture, and history specific to the Queensland region. Many people enjoy traveling out to St Helena Island National Park in Moreton Bay. The former penal island is lovely for a bit of bird watching. Further out is Moreton Island where you can see whales, seabirds, dolphin pods, or enjoy sand tobogganing. Australia’s third-largest city offers something for everyone. Its rich landscapes provide spectacular vistas. If you ask us, Brisbane is without a doubt one of the top-10 budget-friendly travel destinations.
India has long fascinated travelers. The country’s incredible heritage and dizzying pace make it a wonderful destination. Immense and diverse, it can be hard to know where to go or what to see. If you’re a budget-minded traveler looking to maximize your excitement and adventure, we recommend heading for the northern city of Agra. Located in India’s most-populous state, Uttar Pradesh, Agra is where you will find that most recognizable Indian landmark, the Taj Mahal. If you’re traveling by train, book your ticket to Agra Fort station, which is conveniently located near many of the city’s important sights. Wander the labyrinthine streets to acquaint yourself with the local culture before heading to Agra Fort, the former residence for emperors during the Mughal Dynasty. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the fort’s historical significance make it a must-see attraction. Be sure to see the monumental Delhi Gate, considered an architectural marvel when it was built. Wander the fort and gain an appreciation for how Mughal royalty lived. Walk through Taj Garden and Mumtaz Park on your way to the Taj Mahal. The temple’s outer gardens are great places for pictures. With its long history and rich cultural treasures, Agra is a fantastic place to simply wander around. This is one of the many reasons Agra a great destination for budget-conscious travelers.
Hungary’s capital on the River Danube is a beautiful Eastern European city with unique charm and plenty to see. Having survived behind the Iron Curtain, the character here is markedly different from say Paris or Rome. Start along the river at Buda Castle and explore the former residence of Hungarian kings. Visit the Hungarian National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum, both now housed at the castle. Walk to Matthias Church and then to Fisherman’s Bastion, a great place to snap photos of the Hungarian Parliament Building across the Danube. Parliament’s iconic architecture is easily one of the most recognizable sights in all Hungary. Once you’ve had your fill, venture across the river and tour Parliament. The nearby Museum of Ethnography has a wonderful collection of artifacts detailing life in Hungary and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Head east from the museum to Hero’s Square and explore the fairytale Vajdahunyad Castle. The Museum of Fine Arts is a great stop if you like Renaissance and 19th century European paintings. Finally, enjoy a bit of relaxation at one of Budapest’s famous thermal spas. The bathhouses around the city offer a range of services and occasionally host raucous parties catered to the city’s youth. Budapest is an absolutely fabulous city where you can enjoy the best of Eastern Europe without spending an arm and a leg.
Argentina’s capital and largest city is a great destination for budget-minded travelers hoping to enjoy a bit of South American culture and a dash of European-inspired architecture. Start outside the central train station where you can see the Torre Monumental, a large clock tower commemorating Argentina’s independence. Wander through General San Martin Plaza and visit the Monument to the Fallen in Malvinas. Nearby is Basílica Santísimo Sacramento, a large Catholic church with elaborate décor. Make your way west towards Recoleta Cemetery while exploring central Buenos Aires. Recoleta is a famous burial ground built in 1822 and contains a number of famous graves, include that of Eva Perón. Take some time to see the statues and mausoleums while enjoying the cemetery’s peaceful atmosphere. Nearby you will find several lovely green spaces including Plaza Francia, Plaza Mitre, and Plaza Rubén Darío. Walk the paths and see the sculptures. Head into the National Museum of Fine Arts where you can enjoy one of Latin America’s largest public art collections. Enjoy works by internationally renowned masters as well as some of the finest Argentinian artwork on display anywhere in the world. At night, head for the city’s San Telmo neighborhood where you will find popular bars and nightlife entertainment. We’re sure you’ll agree, Buenos Aires has a lot going for it, not least the fact that it’s a great budget-friendly travel destination.
Mongolia is a land of incredible pastures, horses, and amazing people. The vast Eurasian Steppe unfurls before you as the horizon fills with grasslands and gorgeous rivers. With a backpack and camping gear you can essentially wander around to your heart’s content. Follow nomadic peoples as they graze their horses or explore vast desert tracks. Most people will arrive in the capital Ulaanbaatar, which for several years has been one of the world’s fastest growing cities. Global mining concerns have invested enormous resources here and the city’s budding tourism industry is expanding to cater to foreign visitors. Start at Sukhbaatar Square and visit the State History Museum of Mongolia. The National Museum of Mongolia is nearby and has an extensive collection of artifacts and antiquities showcasing Mongolia long history. Wander around the central city to get a sense for contemporary Mongolian culture. Enjoy a traditional meal and visit some of the many temples and monasteries. Later travel to Gorkhi Terelj National Park, located about 37 km from downtown Ulaanbaatar. See some of the country’s famed grasslands, explore traditional yurt accommodations, and sample authentic Mongolian stone barbecue. Depending on your schedule, consider visiting a few other places around the countryside to get yourself out of Ulaanbaatar. Mongolia has for many years now sought to attract travelers from abroad and remains a fantastic budget-friendly travel destination.
9. Sophia, Bulgaria
Bulgaria’s accession to the European Union in 2004 was a remarkable achievement for a country long under Soviet influence. Fifteen years later Bulgaria continues to remake itself. In the capital Sophia, start at Cathedral Saint Aleksandar Nevski and explore this fantastic Bulgarian Orthodox church with its Neo-Byzantine architecture. Neighboring St. Sophia Church was built in the 6th century and features an underground crypt. From there you can easily walk to the National Art Gallery, National Ethnology Museum, and National Archaeological Museum. These three institutions are clustered together and make for a lovely few hours exploring Bulgaria’s history, arts, and culture. Afterwards spend some time wandering around Central Sophia where you can enjoy numerous great restaurants, bars, and cafes. Southeast of downtown you will find Borisova gradina, the city’s oldest and best-known public park. The forested paths are great for walking and quiet time in the midst of urban Sophia. Travelers looking for something off the beaten path should venture east to the town of Kazanluk. From here you can visit an obscure and now abandoned attraction known as Buzludzha Monument. Opened in 1981, it was abandoned after the fall of communism and stands a curious testament to Bulgaria’s recent history. This is one of those places you can definitely brag about to friends and family.
Cappadocia, located in central Turkey, is world famous for its many geological formations called hoodoos. Also known as “fairy chimneys,” these rock structures resemble thin smokestacks. The thing to do is take a hot air balloon ride so you can see the otherworldly landscapes during the magic hours at dawn or dusk. Plan to stay a day or two and book a room in one of the famous cave hotels. These accommodations are often built right into the fairy chimneys and are a great place to meet fellow travelers. Be sure to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Göreme National Park and explore Derinkuyu underground city, the largest excavated underground city in Turkey. The natural landscapes in the area are truly remarkable and you can easily spend hours wandering around snapping photos. Budget-minded travelers will find much to enjoy without having to spend a lot of money on fancy resort accommodations. Go for a hike in Love Valley or explore around Sunset Point. Find a spot where you can enjoy the view and let the magic of the moment inspire you. Spend time in the small town of Göreme where you can explore the shops and find a good café. Almost any way you slice it, there is a ton to do. With so much beautiful land to explore you can easily spend several days just hitting the highlights. If you’re aiming to see Turkey on a shoestring budget, do yourself a favor and visit Cappadocia. We have no trouble recommending this as a great budget-friendly destination.
The world is a beautiful and diverse place. With great experiences around every corner, you don’t have to spend your life savings to visit great destinations. We’ve put together a list with something for everyone. Come see what all the excitement is about. Stop waiting for the perfect time to take the vacation you’ve always wanted. The time is now with our guide to the top-10 budget-friendly travel destinations.