This post was originally posted by Fiona Moriarty on Hipmunk’s Tailwind Blog on February 14, 2016.
If you’re a college student, you should know that traveling abroad is good for you. It’s been shown to improve learning outcomes and may even be a predictor for better grades and higher incomes later in life. It also teaches valuable life and professional skills such as adaptability, independence, communication, and cross-cultural understanding.
The only downside? All those benefits come with a price tag. And if you’re a college student, odds are good that you’re not exactly rolling in the dough. The good news it that it’s still possible to travel on a tight budget— you just have to know where to go. Here are 12 cheap, lesser-known, and wonderful destinations to get you started. No matter which locale you choose, expect to pay well under $50 a night for the privilege of staying there.
Gorgeous architecture, historical attractions, and European sophistication distinguish Bucharest as a must-see city. Don’t miss the National Art Museum, the Romanian Athenaeum, the Parliament Palace, or Calea Victoriei, a popular street packed with traditional cafes, bars, and restaurants. Visit in the summer for the best rates and mild weather.
Located on the Bay of Bengal, Chennai offers visitors beautiful scenery, historical attractions, and a rich cultural heritage. Because it’s not a particularly well-known tourist destination, Chennai boasts budget-friendly accommodations year-round. Visit between November and February for great weather—highs are typically around 70 degrees. January is one of the most popular months because it features Chennai Pongal, a four-day celebration of the end of winter.
It’s a wonder this gorgeous island hasn’t been overrun with tourists: Palm-covered beaches, stunning waterfalls, unique geological features, and a relaxed culture make for a perfect island getaway. The island is 88 square miles, so choose accommodations near the beach for easy waterfront access. Rates are very budget-friendly—you can rent a room or a whole home for around $29 a night. If you want to avoid monsoon season, plan to visit between March and May.
Malaysia’s capital offers something for every kind of traveler, from jaw-dropping architecture (hello, Petronas Twin Towers) to primo shopping, delicious food, relaxing gardens, distinct neighborhoods, and spiritual exploration in mosques and temples. The city is also close to other attractions such as the Batu Caves and Putrajaya, which is one of the best places in the world to watch the sunset.
Lapu-Lapu is home to some of the most significant historical sites in the Philippines, making it a great destination for history buffs and anthropology majors. The city is also packed with art, restaurants, nightlife, live entertainment, beachfront scenery, and other cultural attractions. You can enjoy it all on a shoestring budget: Wallet-friendly accommodations start at $16 per night.
6. Lima, Peru
Ancient Incan ruins, ocean views, and a bustling metropolitan culture—Lima is ideal for the traveler who wants to experience big-city energy in a gorgeous setting. The city’s off-season runs from June to October, and this is when you’ll find the best deals on accommodations. The Festival season begins in October and continues through November; expect large crowds and a variety of cultural attractions, including the biggest religious procession in Latin America.
Coral reefs, palm-covered beaches, and budget-friendly hotels—Montego Bay is thetropical destinations for travelers with limited funds. Visit from October to early December for the best rates, abundant sunshine, and warm temps. Take a tour of the old sugar plantation or the working coffee plantation, practice your swing on the gorgeous fairways, soak up the sun on the white sand beaches, or kick back and enjoy the views of the Catadupa Mountains.
If you love the water, then get yourself to Nha Trang. Scuba diving and beautiful beaches await visitors to the city, which is located on Vietnam’s south-central coast. While airfare will cost a pretty penny, you’ll spend very little once you arrive—rates for budget-friendly hotels start as low as $8 per night, while luxury accommodations can be found for as little as $75 each night.
Located in the Andes Region of Ecuador, Quito is a nature lover’s dream. It’s also packed with colonial architecture, historical attractions, and a vibrant culture that you have to experience to fully appreciate. The city boasts a wide variety of budget hotels with rates starting as low as $20 a night. Before scheduling a trip, be aware that Quito’s winter runs from June to September, while the popular summer months run from December to March.
San Juan is an island paradise—think white beaches and tropical rainforests—any time of the year. The winter months (from December through April) promise the best weather, but you’ll find cheaper rates from May through September. If you’re visiting in June, don’t miss the city’s SoFo Culinary Week. If you’re an American citizen, you won’t need a passport to enter San Juan, and you can use U.S. dollars as currency. (That’s because Puerto Rico is a U.S. commonwealth.)
Despite being the Dominican Republic’s capital city, Santo Domingo has yet to attract large herds of tourists. And that’s great news for the wallet-conscious traveler, because low-budget accommodations abound (even during spring break!). Enjoy your savings while soaking up rays on the city’s beaches or tearing it up in one of the many salsa/merengue clubs.
12. Ubud, Indonesia
You may know Ubud from a little book called Eat, Pray, Love. Bali’s gorgeousness is on full display here, as are pretty rice paddies, open-air markets, and mystical attractions. Visit between July and September for the best weather. (But do be prepared for larger crowds than you’ll find during the city’s rainy months.) Homestays are popular in Ubud, but you’ll also find plenty of budget-friendly hotels both within and outside of the city’s center.
And there you have it: Even if you’re an impoverished college student, a wide variety of amazing cultural, natural, and historical destinations are within your reach. Save every dollar you can, and soon enough you’ll have enough money to get there.