The travel bucket list even your tight budget can handle

by Theresa Edwards
Jun 3, 2016 at 8:00 p.m. ET

When you dream of traveling overseas, it can be discouraging to find just how prohibitive even a single seat in coach can run you. When you start adding up the cost of cafe hopping across the City of Love or sun worshipping Down Under, in places where the American dollar is a little weaker than the local currency, a weekend overseas, let alone an extended holiday, can seem out of reach. But those go-to bucket list cities aren't the only options if you're feeling some serious wanderlust. The world is a big, beautiful place, and these unique, gorgeous and affordable cities will get your passport filled in no time.

1 /26: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

1/26 :Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

1 U.S. Dollar = 21 Ethiopian Birr

Addis Ababa is gorgeous year round, whether you're looking for a verdant landscape or a sunny destination. Ethiopia's capital city is, well, a city, and that means you'll find chaos in spades there. But you'll also find upscale lodging for just north of $60, and more delicious food than you can handle for less money than most gnarly stateside gas station offerings.  

2 /26: Chiangmai, Thailand

2/26 :Chiangmai, Thailand

1 U.S. Dollar = 35 Thai Baht

Thailand is one of those ridiculously pretty places where, just when you think you've seen the most gorgeous thing the country has to offer you're confronted with another that blows it out of the water. Nowhere is that more true than in Chiangmai with its golden Buddhist temples and lush, surreal landscapes.

3 /26: Bali, Indonesia

3/26 :Bali, Indonesia

1 U.S. Dollar = 13,632 Indonesian Rupiah

Bali is a dream destination for many people, but that doesn't make it automatically off-limits for the budget-conscious traveller. If you can skip the resorts and ridiculous cocktails in a coconut, than you can easily enjoy paradise for far less than you would at a kitschy Florida mega hotel.

4 /26: Granada, Nicaragua

4/26 :Granada, Nicaragua

1 U.S. Dollar = 28 Nicaraguan Córdoba

Central America features on tons of budget travel lists, but that won't be the only draw by a long shot for travelers hoping to take in gorgeous landscapes and a stunning mix of architectural styles. That's especially true of colorful Granada, with its picturesque mission churches and colonial Spanish architecture sprinkled in among lively barrios.

5/26 :Goa, India

1 U.S. Dollar = 67 Indian Rupee

Goa, with its surreal palm-lined beaches and soft-as-a-cloud sand beaches is mostly known for the huge influx of hippies that flocked to India's shores looking for a little "enlightenment." Thankfully, a lot of the appropriative practices have fled, but what remains is a serious melting pot of cultures and a rich Indian state that you'll have trouble leaving behind.

6/26 :Hanoi, Vietnam

1 U.S. Dollar = 22,314 Vietnamese Dong

If Vietnam isn't on your bucket list, you need to rectify that little fact, like, yesterday. Between the amazing food, fascinating street scene and dirt-cheap accommodations (a hostel will run you around $7; something with an en suite toilet will cost you close to $30) there's really no reason to not make Hanoi the next destination on your "see it before you kick it" list.

7 /26: Cape Town, South Africa

7/26 :Cape Town, South Africa

1 U.S. Dollar = 15 South African Rand

As a continent, Africa rivals North America for its sheer size and, like the USA, the many countries that populate the enormous landform run a cultural gamut that bears experiencing. There is no "one size fits all" in Africa — you truly have to see it just to scratch its surface — and Cape Town in South Africa is an excellent gateway.

8 /26: Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

8/26 :Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

1 U.S. Dollar = 3.50 Turkmenistan Manat

The capital city of Turkmenistan has been called "The Empty City" and "The World's Strangest City" in turns. It receives less than 10,000 visitors per year because it has strict visa requirements, but if you can swing it, definitely swing it. It's a city of gold and marble, with architecture and sculpture that rivals the pricier city of Abu Dhabi without the huge price tag. Surreal and gorgeous, you can skip both the tourist bottleneck and sky-high accommodation costs.

9 /26: Krakow. Poland

9/26 :Krakow. Poland

1 U.S. Dollar = 4 Polish Zloty

Krakow looks like something straight out of a book of fairy tales. Clean and vibrant, travelers can enjoy rich architecture and a thriving city scene set against a captivating landscape without going totally broke.

10 /26: Hong Kong, China

10/26 :Hong Kong, China

1 U.S. Dollar = 6.50 Chinese Yuan

Airfare to Hong Kong is estimated to drop this year by 26 percent compared to the cost of tickets last year, which is why you'll find it on this list. A nice hotel room will still set you back about what you'd pay here in the States ($150), but with the sinking cost of getting to the major metropolis, you may just find that it's money well spent.

11/26 :Havana, Cuba

1 U.S. Dollar = 1 Cuban Convertible Peso

The day has finally come — or it did a few months ago. Cuba is no longer an off-limits destination. Getting there takes a little doing, but as long as you take part in a person-to-person educational trip and have it signed off on, a cheap stay in gorgeous Havana is just a relatively short plane trip and an Airbnb away. Budget travel at its finest.

12 /26: Oaxaca, Mexico

12/26 :Oaxaca, Mexico

1 U.S. Dollar = 18 Mexican Peso

Oaxaca can refer to the southern Mexican state or the city that also bears the name, and while it's worth it to take in as much of the larger region as possible for its gorgeous beaches and ruins, don't skip the city. If you have to choose between Oaxaca's Mexico City and Oaxaca's Oaxaca City, head for the latter, particularly around el Día De Los Muertos. You'll find it less crowded and much more affordable.

13 /26: Montevideo, Uruguay

13/26 :Montevideo, Uruguay

1 U.S. Dollar = 31 Uruguayan Peso

Montevideo is fantastic for city-dwellers seeking a full-on city experience far from home. You won't want to miss the vibrant street scene, skyscraper-dotted city skyline or overabundance of tango bars on offer as an escape from Uruguay's more touristy stops.

14 /26: La Paz, Bolivia

14/26 :La Paz, Bolivia

1 U.S. Dollar = 7 Bolivian Boliviano

Bolivia is home to a number of things worth stopping to gawk at, including its famous salt flats. But be sure to stop in the city center of La Paz where you'll find one of the world's up-and-coming destination cities packed to the brim with museums and incredible colonial architecture, mixed nicely in with local culture.

15 /26: Marrakech, Morocco

15/26 :Marrakech, Morocco

1 U.S. Dollar = 10 Moroccan Dirham

Despite being a longtime favorite go-to, the cost of visiting the home of Morocco's famous bazaar and surreal chaotic culture hasn't risen so much as to make it prohibitive for the first time traveler. Give it a go, eat the food (you won't be sorry) and enjoy the low cost of a stay, which averages around $30 a day for the shoestring traveler. 

16 /26: Reykjavik, Iceland

16/26 :Reykjavik, Iceland

1 U.S. Dollar = 125 Icelandic Krona

Lots of people flock to Reykjavik for its famous Blue Lagoon hot spring sauna, spa and resort, and while you certainly wouldn't regret spending the money there, there's plenty of other reasons to visit the Icelandic city, including the low cost of the trip and a stunning lights display when the Aurora Borealis is visible.

17 /26: Sarajevo, Bosnia

17/26 :Sarajevo, Bosnia

1 U.S. Dollar = 1.75 Bosnia-Herzegovina Convertible Mark

Bosnia might not be at the top of your travel wish list, but there's reason enough to give it a chance. It's gorgeous, first of all, and has flown below the radar on aggregated "must-travel" lists. Plus, it's got an incredible history that's been documented from the Neolithic period onward, and the entire city is framed by a river on one side and the Alps on the other. Oh, and it's affordable, of course.

18 /26: Seoul, South Korea

18/26 :Seoul, South Korea

1 U.S. Dollar = 1,186 South Korean Won

Admittedly, South Korea isn't typically considered to be "budget travel." But if you're smart with your money and stay out of the neighborhood made irritatingly famous by Psy, you can grab some great eats and accommodations in South Korea for under $50 a day. 

19 /26: Thessaloniki, Greece

19/26 :Thessaloniki, Greece

1 U.S. Dollar = 0.89 Euro

Greece is a great option overall for the money conscious traveller, but the further you get away from the biggies like Athens and Santorini, the more luck you'll have finding places to stay and things to do on the cheap. And if you budget right, you can always take a quick day trip into Athens to gawk at the Parthenon, if that's more your thing.

20/26 :York, U.K.

1 U.S. Dollar = 0.70 British Pound

The U.K. may seem out of reach if you're watching your bottom line, but savvy travellers know that there's much more to Britain than London, and York could be just the ticket for someone hoping to go on holiday to a picturesque locale with an English-speaking population.

21 /26: Udaipur, India

21/26 :Udaipur, India

1 U.S. Dollar = 67 Indian Rupee

Again, India is always going to be a top choice for budget travelers for its low-cost accommodations, rich history and melting pot of cultures. Udaipur can't be missed if you're headed to India, if only because the architecture is nothing like anything you'll find anywhere else in the entire world.

22 /26: Sofia, Bulgaria

22/26 :Sofia, Bulgaria

1 U.S. Dollar = 1.75 Bulgarian Lev

You can stay in Sofia, Bulgaria, for just under $30 a day, and you won't be sorry if you decide to do just that. Bulgaria's capital city is a tech powerhouse with a huge concentration of universities and cultural attractions. An incredible mix of old and new, Sofia allows people with an eye on a European destination skip the debt and just enjoy the trip.

23 /26: Sibenik, Croatia

23/26 :Sibenik, Croatia

1 U.S. Dollar = 6 Croatian Kuna

If you'd love a destination on the Adriatic Sea but would prefer to skip the massive influx of tourists to Greek hot spots, consider spending some time in Croatia, which will scratch the itch for you while offering a low-cost vacation with significantly smaller crowds.

24 /26: Tallinn, Estonia

24/26 :Tallinn, Estonia

1 U.S. Dollar = 11.75 Estonian Kroon

So too is Tallinn a sort of hybrid, somewhere between what you may expect from an Eastern European destination and a trip to Finland. Tallinn's Old Town district is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the open-air cultural museum simply can't be missed.

25 /26: Windhoek, Namibia

25/26 :Windhoek, Namibia

1 U.S. Dollar = 15 Namibian Dollar

Finally, Namibia. The draw to this African country has historically been its famous desert and all of the pomp that comes with traipsing around in a Jeep to see some local wildlife. Certainly, you ought to do that if you want to. But the modern and sleek city of Windhoek is often overlooked in all of the touristy marketing of Africa. Considering that you can stay in the veritable oasis for relatively cheap and still see all that Namibia has to offer, consider this, and not some overpriced kitschy safari-style lodging in Sossusvlei.

26 /26: Check the budget

26/26 :Check the budget

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