Top 12 Amazing Vacations You Didn’t Think You Could Afford

There’s no need to swipe the credit card with these 12 amazing vacations from around the world.

White sand beach, natural wonder, European party town, safari, royal palace hotel…you see an evocative photo and imagine it will be five years of saving before you experience it. Which is only true if you follow the standard travel paradigm. Get off the beaten track and there’s amazing vacations to be found for much less. Much much less. We’re talking a few days of travel for less than a night in your local bar.

All these are not only vacations you didn’t think you could afford. They’re amazing vacations that can be funded by any pay check.

Diving in Belize

diving belize

diving belize2

Images of vibrant reefs and a thousand sharks normally suggest get out the plastic. Diving is an expensive hobby, especially when the marine life resembles a Jacques Cousteau dream. Belize is one of the world’s finest dive destinations, packed with both macro beauty and all the big scary stuff. It’s also one of the cheapest places to learn to dive or spend a week plunging to 30meter depths. Thailand used to hold the mantle of cheap divers’ paradise. Now the reefs are ruined and the prices have doubled. Belize is the new incumbent so come before it changes.

Camel Trekking in the Sahara

sahara camel

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The world’s biggest desert hardly sounds accessible. And inaccessibility normally means shelling out $hundreds just to reach your destination. But in Morocco, a day’s camel trekking in the Sahara sand dunes costs just $30, including all your meals and an overnight in the desert. In particular, Erg Chebbi offers desert dreams at an astonishing price. Four star hotels have swimming pools overlooking the dunes: they cost $40 all inclusive for two people. It’s not just cheap camel trekking in Morocco, you’ll find similarly cheap prices all over the country.

Getting Cultural in Spain

cultural spain

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Most first time visitors to Europe want Roman ruins, ancient walled cities, unique culture, and great food. They want to see authentic Europe and they swarm to Italy and France to soak up the sights. Neighboring Spain has all the above but at half the price. Even in capital city Madrid you can buy a bottle of good wine for $1. Hostels in the north of the country cost $5. Tapas isn’t a meal you have to buy, it’s a snack that comes with every 12oz beer you order. Only Italy and India have more UNESCO World Heritage Sites, so if you want to get cultural in sunny Europe then head to Spain.

Beach Bliss in the Philippines

phillipines beach

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White sand, palm trees, turquoise ocean, and not a single VISA sign in sight. If you can’t pay by credit card then you know it’s cheap. That’s the Philippines, a succession of islands that fulfills all beach escapism reverie. For around $30 a day you can be traveling to postcard perfect images that would cost five times that if you were on Indian Ocean islands. Best of all, the local rum is surprisingly tasty and $4 is enough to get a group of friends drunk.

Horse Riding in Kyrgyzstan

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kyrgyz mountain landscape

Why is horse riding always so damn expensive? Want to gallop a mare across some untouched landscape and you’ll be shelling out well over $100 a day. But in Kyrgyzstan there are more horses than people so there’s plenty of potential rides. For around $40 you can follow the nomads and take a multiday ride across this country of staggering mountain peaks and alpine lakes. That $40 includes your horse, guide, accommodation in a traditional yert, and all meals.

Surfing in El Salvador

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The El Salvador waves would have any surfer creaming themselves in anticipation. And the coastal towns take the cheapness of a vacation to new levels. It’s eminently possible to survive on $15 a day, including a hut overlooking the water and everything a surfer needs when they’re not in the water. Bring your board, stay for a month, and you’ve probably spent less than your monthly rent.

Crossing China by Train

china temple

china terrecotta warriors

China isn’t all smog and plastic factories. It’s packed with enchanting sights and is a regular feature on many travel bucketlists. Although it’s evidently capitalist, it’s still officially communist, which means the prices for many things are controlled by the state. So a first class sleeper overnight train journey will cost less than a hotel for the night. Drift off, wake in a new destination, explore, then get back on the train for another overnight. This routine enables you to tick off many of the country’s famous sights for very cheap.

Discover the Natural Wonder of Namibia

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namibia desert

One of the world’s most beautiful countries, Namibia has little but astounding landscapes and natural wonders you’ve never heard of; like Fish River Canyon, second only to the Grand Canyon in size. Best of all, you hardly have to pay a cent to get anywhere. There’s no public transport, so the only way is to stick out a thumb. All the locals do it. You clamber into the back of someone’s truck, give the driver a dollar, and hitch a ride to natural attractions on absurd scales.

Trekking in Patagonia

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patagonia trek

Some counties are too precious about their mountains. They charge absurd national park entry fees just so you can go hiking. but there are so many mountains and hiking trails in Patagonia that it’s possible to know where to start. So here’s a tip: pack your tent, strap on the hiking boots, and just set off. You can buy supplies in the little villages and collect fresh water from alpine streams. Patagonia offers a sublime and untrammeled landscape to explore, and it won’t cost you more than the odd tin of pilchards.

Safari in South Africa

Safari

Safari

Some people land in South Africa and are disappointed to learn that lions don’t occupy the runway. While the big five safari animals avoid planes, South Africa is filled with game reserves and national parks, including Kruger, the oldest and almost the largest on the whole continent. Unlike most parks, you don’t need a tour and a safari truck to visit Kruger. You can self drive. Hire cars are available for less than $30 a day, making it one of Africa’s most affordable safari experiences. Just make sure to give the elephants right of way when they’re crossing the road.

Living Like Royalty in India

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Umaid Bhawan Palace

Umaid Bhawan Palace Hotel

Everyone wants to treat themselves to utter luxury. But nobody wants to pay for it; hence thousands of silicon enhanced dolls hanging around aging millionaire businessmen. Travel in India and you don’t need a sugar-daddy to sponsor the party. Five star hotel rooms cost less than $100, a luxury car with driver less than $30 a day, and a lavish banquet less than $5. It’s not only absurdly cheap, you’ll get treated like some idolized Bollywood star by all the locals. They’ll practically be bowing at your feet whenever you emerge from your 100 square meter hotel suite.

Partying in Poland

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A night out in a European city usually costs double your daily travel budget. Don’t expect any change from $150 if you want to get wasted in London or Paris. But Poland has an (un)healthy obsession with vodka and it’s rare you’ll ever pay more than $1.50 for a shot. The nightlife is just as good as more famous capitals, only a little messier and on different timescales. Instead of starting the party at midnight, you start necking the vodka at midday. Which always makes for good times.