We’ve all got our sights set on destinations that are well beyond our budgets. Dream holidays can often seem frustratingly elusive — we don’t think we’ll ever be able to turn them into realities. Your next trip might not be as expensive as you think, though. Many exotic destinations are actually surprisingly affordable when you look into the details. Even flights can be less expensive than you imagined. We’ve picked out ten destinations that you didn’t know you could afford to visit, but probably could.
Iceland is renowned for its otherworldly beauty but also its astronomical prices. Its reputation isn’t entirely unfounded — fancy restaurants, famous landmarks and even three-star hotels come with a hefty price tag. Luckily, you don’t need any of these to experience the wonder of the land of fire and ice. Skip the pumped up hotel bills and stay at a hostel instead. There are some awesome ones to choose from that will be sure to win you over. Instead of eating tourist food at fancy restaurants, eat street food like the locals at the many food stalls that are dotted around the city. Hit the grocery store and pack your own lunch. Dodge the cash-sucking coach tours and rent a car to drive the natural phenomenon of the Golden Circle. What’s more, you can avoid the tourist-laden Blue Lagoon, save your money and visit one of the many free hot springs and bathe alone for less.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
In spite of the fact that Kuala Lumpur is more developed than many of its Southeast Asian neighbors, the Malaysian capital is surprisingly cheap. For starters, it has some of the world’s most reasonable rates for five-star hotels. You can stay at luxury hotels like the Majestic Hotel for far less than elsewhere, and if you can dial-down the luxury, three-star hotels are a bargain. So much in the city is on offer for free, like museums, religious sites, parks and more. When you need to stop for fuel, you’re not going to rack up a bill either. This exotic destination offers a fusion of dishes to satisfy any self-proclaimed foodie — for a fraction of the cost.
Oahu, Hawaii, United States
Traveling to paradise is never going to be free, but it’s not as bank-breaking as you’d think. To start with, a considerable increase in flight routes to Hawaii has caused fierce competition, great for visitors as it’s pushing prices down. When you get there, you’ll need to be selective about where you stay. Just a few roads back from Waikiki Beach the hotels are much cheaper, although you’ll still be a hop, skip and jump away. When you need to get out and about, you’re going to want to make the most of the incredibly commuter-friendly transportation model. Whether you're jumping on a shared bike or the bus, you’re in for a good ride. With activities like hiking, snorkeling and surfing on offer for next to nothing, you’ll be in the Aloha spirit in no time.
This holy city doesn’t have to be expensive. Many of the historical and holy sites that make this such a draw are free to visit. Make sure you head to one of the many rooftop lookouts to escape the crowds, visit the eternally sacred Church of the Holy Sepulcher where Jesus was resurrected and be in awe of the Dome of Rock. Stroll around Machane Yehuda Market, the city’s beating heart, where you’ll be sure to find a feast for your eyes and your stomach. Avoid lavish hotels with top-dollar prices and opt for more boutique lodgings. Many include complimentary amenities; free hors d'oeuvres at happy hour and bike rentals when you need to get out and about are sure to help.
Lake Como, Italy
While Lake Como evokes images of luminous mist clinging to still waters, it also brings Hollywood A-listers to mind. With the likes of George Clooney and Madonna owning million-dollar holiday homes, it’s no wonder it can feel out-of-bounds to us mere mortals. The main trick is to stay outside of the central lake. The historic city of Como is the perfect base, lodging is reasonably priced and it's the area’s transportation hub. You’ll be on the doorstep of the world’s most beautiful lake while enjoying the quaint charm and less pricey dining that the city has to offer. There’s no shortage of things you can do for next to nothing too. Explore the nature trails and fairy-tale villages that envelop the lake, take the Como-Brunate funicular to the balcony of the Alps and enjoy simple yet satisfying food with a view at Ristorante Silvio.
Bali sounds expensive and is certainly not lacking in exotic beauty, but if you know where to look, you can definitely get more bang for your buck. The former budget retreat has seen prices rise with the influx of Starbucks and high-end hotels. Why fork out at a four-star restaurant when you can drink beer and eat tasty food right on the beach? Get out on the water but don’t get sucked in by rentals. Sunscreen and a snorkel are all you need to explore; you may even catch a glimpse of the famous submerged Buddhist temple on a clear day. What’s more, beyond sandy beaches and exotic cuisine there are also some stunning budget beachside hotels to choose from.
Although this is one of Morocco’s most famous cities, it actually isn’t one of the most expensive, and certainly not compared to neighboring Europe. The price spectrum for hotels is vast. There’s no need to opt for all-out luxury but you will get what you pay for, so it’s probably best to aim somewhere in the middle. The city is all about shopping — you’ll find everything you could possibly want in the souks and, even better still, the price is always up for debate. There are many lavish restaurants in the city but also plenty of places to savor authentic Moroccan dishes for less. Try a taste of tagine and tea in Made in M or spice up your life at the authentic Darori Restaurant.
Staying in the home of the Greek gods doesn’t come with a celestial price tag. Don’t be fooled by the recent bad economic press though — it doesn’t mean everything is on the cheap, and it certainly hasn’t stopped its urban-chic nightlife and contemporary art scene. A must for culture-buffs, most of Athens’ ancient sights can be visited on a low-cost joint ticket and even more are completely free. All you need to do to see the Acropolis, Hadrian's Arch and the Panathenaic Stadium is to wander the streets. Check out the eclectic neighborhoods of Psiri and Exarchia with their quirky cafes and bars. If all that builds up a hunger, your stomach and your wallet will thank you if you sample some souvlaki street food.
Ireland probably doesn’t spring to mind as a cheap European getaway, but the luck of the Irish may well be with you. Flights from the United States with Norwegian Air are surprisingly affordable and even more so from within Europe. The city is home to many quirky character-filled hostels like the Abbey Court Hostel, with breakfast included. Take a waterside walk at the National Botanic Gardens along the banks of the River Tolka, gaze at some world-class art at Dublin City Gallery and stroll around the cobbled grounds of Trinity College, all without spending a penny. If you build up a thirst, skip the Guinness factory and sip some of the famous brew while looking down at the city from the Gravity Bar.
One to visit now before even more people get wise to this gem, Albania is a budget-friendly jewel on the Adriatic Coast. Compared to its neighboring nations, it is an incredibly affordable destination so you can sleep, eat and drink without breaking the bank. It’s no wonder the stunning Albanian Riviera is a dream destination for many — its golden beaches are lapped by tempting turquoise waters that are relatively untouched compared to others in Europe. You can laze on the glorious beaches, visit Syri i Kalter, an incredible natural phenomenon creating the mirage of an eye, and explore the UNESCO World Heritage site at Butrint while still having money left over for a glass or two of Raki.