Published by the POINTS GUY
TPG has a comprehensive list of must-visit destinations for 2018, but maybe they aren’t all in your price range. If you love exploring the newest, coolest spots and want to do so on a budget, here’s our list of our favorite up-and-coming, low-cost countries and cities to visit in 2018.
Dakar’s music and art scene has exploded in the past few years. Live tunes can be found every night of the week at various venues around the city, which hosts an annual 10-day art and graffiti festival known as Festi Graff. Senegalese crafts, like wooden-carved statues, paintings, jewelry, drums and hand-dyed fabrics, are sold for reasonable prices in street markets and shops on every corner. Plus, Senegal has one-of-a-kind tourist attractions such as the Pink Lake, which gets its name from its rose-hued salt content, and the 160-foot African Renaissance Monument.
TPG Tip: You can fly nonstop to Dakar’s Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport (DKR) from New York-JFK on Delta.
The Points Guy has been visiting Ghana for a few years now, heading up PeaceJamconferences for youth, and he’s obviously a fan. Ghana is one of Africa’s safest countries, according to the Global Peace Index, and is also becoming a global hotspot — in 2016, Accra was named “the capital of cool” by the T: The New York Times Style Magazine. It’s also home to one of West Africa’s largest markets, the Kejetia, long stretches of sandy beaches and Mole National Park, which is the country’s largest wildlife refuge and home to 300 species including hippos, elephants and monkeys.
TPG Tip: #AVGeeks should try Latante DC10, an aviation-themed restaurant that’s actually located inside an airplane.
Americans may be concerned about visiting Lebanon, a country once plagued by conflict with a war just over the border. But Beirut is an epicenter of culture, cuisine and nightlife, and many travelers are surprised to see it resembles Europe much more than it does Asia, the continent on which it’s located. You don’t need to head to Miami or Ibiza to sip Champagne among stylish partygoers on the beach until the sun comes up — you can do it right in Beirut, and for a third of the price. It’s a thriving city for foodies too. Make sure to try manakish, a flatbread pizza topped with fresh herbs and sesame seeds, or labneh, a soft cheese made from yogurt.
TPG Tip: If the Alps are out of your price range for that yearly ski trip, head to more reasonably priced Mzaar Kfardebian, a ski area just an hour outside of Beirut, where you’ll find peaks up to 8,000 feet.
Though it may be hard to pronounce and even harder to locate on a map (it’s sandwiched between China and Kazakhstan), this former part of the USSR has spent the past couple of decades reforming its own identity. Completely landlocked in the heart of the Tian Shan mountain range, Kyrgyzstan is one of the world’s least-crowded countries and relatively unexplored by US travelers, so now is the time to go. You can visit 13 national parks, more than 2,000 different lakes and three UNESCO World Heritage sites and even check out the world’s sixth-longest nonArctic glacier.
Pricey visa fees won’t be an issue, as US citizens and most Europeans can enter for 60 days without one. And that’s not the only thing that’s cheap: Homestay lodging for a true cultural experience can run as little as just $5 per night, and splurging on fancier spots is also extremely affordable.
TPG Tip: Drink up! Even alcohol is easy on your funds here, as bottles of vodka can cost as little as few dollars at the supermarket.
The 2015 earthquake devastated many areas of Nepal, effectively shutting down tourism for a few years, but the country has bounced back and 2018 is the year to visit. In fact, the Nepali tourism board has announced it hopes to have one million international tourists next year.
Although the country has rebuilt many of its cultural and religious monuments, your tourist dollars (and you won’t spend a lot, as food and lodging aren’t expensive) will go a long way in continuing to boost Nepal’s economy. The government is also investing in infrastructure that will make things easier on hikers headed for the Himalayas, like helping them easily obtain permits and creating rescue and information centers in more remote areas. Non-hikers can visit Patan, a city scattered with tranquil temples and religious sites, or experience the bold colors of the bustling capital city, Kathmandu.
TPG Tip: You can travel in Nepal on as little as $15 a day.
The only Southeast Asian destination on our list, this under-the-radar spot is often overlooked in lieu of more popular destinations like Thailand and Cambodia. The laid-back vibe of the country is addictive, and once you begin to explore all that Laos has to offer (rushing waterfalls, the never-ending Mekong River and the French colonial vibes of Vientiane and Luang Prabang), you’ll never want to leave. Locals are dedicated to the environment, focusing on eco-tourism and making their own lifestyles as green as possible. Make sure to visit the Pak Ou Caves on the Mekong River north of Luang Prabang. These Buddhist sites, encased inside limestone cliffs overlooking the river, are peaceful and picturesque.
TPG Tip: Do your part to give back and volunteer by chatting with local teens to help them improve their English at Big Brother Mouse.
American travelers are often surprised to hear that Nicaragua tops the list as one of the safest Central American countries to visit. It also happens to be one of the most beautiful, from Granada’s colorful colonial architecture (the city is also known as the Paris of Central America) to the crystal blue waters of the Corn Islands to the country’s many volcanoes, some of which you can go volcano-boarding down, like Cerro Negro. Sure, Nicaragua remains overshadowed by nearby Costa Rica’s yoga retreats and Belize’s exotic jungle appeal, but that’s why it’s still so cheap to visit, with a number of reasonably priced hotels, hostels and dining options, many of which overlook unspoiled beaches perfect for surfers.
TPG Tip: Don’t miss visiting León, Nicaragua’s second largest city. Its gorgeous, crumbling Spanish-style architecture and friendly energy (and low prices) will win you over immediately.
Colombia‘s largest cities, Bogotá and Medellín, have undergone major turnarounds in recent years, going from squalor filled with drugs and violence to chic, trendy havens known for affordable cuisine and a sexy, salsa-fueled nightlife. This blossoming cultural revolution with an emphasis on creativity and innovation has made both cities safer and more eco-friendly, with an emerging prominence given to artistic endeavors like street art and interactive exhibitions. Even Cartagena is easy on the wallet, as you can have seriously stylish dining experiences and stay in a fancy high-rise hotel along the Miami-like Bocagrande strip on the cheap.
TPG Tip: Foreign visitors are exempt from paying sales tax on hotel rooms, making an already affordable destination, well, even more affordable.
If you’re considering the Italian Riviera for a vacation, why not spend much less and head to the Albanian Riviera, which is just as beautiful but much more reasonably priced. The perfect place to experience surf and sunshine, you can leisurely hike to deserted beaches, go cliff jumping or sip cocktails from a beach bar during sunset. If beaches aren’t your thing, Albania has an endless number of beautiful villages, such as the historic, mountainous Kruja, home to a large medieval castle; the ancient ruins of Apollonia; and the UNESCO World Heritage site Berat, known for its large number of Byzantine churches and impeccably preserved white Ottoman architecture.
TPG Tip: Renting a car in Albania is extremely cheap (as low as $10 per day), so there’s no excuse for not exploring — assuming you know how to drive.
Detroit, a city known for food, Art Deco architecture, music and street art, has come a long way: The Motor City experienced high crime rates as its economy began to decline in the 1970s, suffered a devastating economic crash in the early 2000s and underwent the largest municipal bankruptcy in US history in 2013. Today, it has up-and-coming neighborhoods like Corktown and Midtown, booming with restaurants, boutiques and quirky street art. With home buyers flocking to Michigan’s largest metropolis to snap up foreclosed homes in lieu of spending much more in San Francisco, New York and Chicago, Detroit is one of the cheapest, coolest cities around these days.
TPG Tip: Don’t miss the Eastern Market, one of the oldest markets in the US, where you can shop and enjoy holiday markets, game-day tailgating and more.