So you're planning a solo trip on a budget for 2021.
We're not suggesting that you go right away but planning is a good idea. Before getting into our destinations for solo travelers on a budget for this year, I want to direct you to a few important posts.
- Before you get too far in your planning process read Travel Planning 2021: Essential Information to Protect You & Your Money
- Have you been sitting more than usual? Then this post is important even if the trip you're planning is not particularly demanding: Physical Training for Travel: Getting Fit for Demanding Trips.
- While you're waiting for your trip to actually happen follow some of the tips in What to Do When You Can’t Travel.
- If you're in your 20s and 30s, you're in our largest demographic of readers. Read this.
- If you're in our second largest demographic, read Solo Travel Over 50: Reasons, Benefits, Destinations & Safety.
Below is our shortlist of great destinations for solo travelers on a budget in 2021. Now, I have to admit, it's the same list as last year since who could have acted on our suggestions last year? However, I have updated the numbers to give you a more current sense of the cost.
To come up with our budget lists, we have reviewed recommendations from other publications and considered their analysis, consulted fellow travelers, including members of the Solo Travel Society, and put it all through a solo travel filter to come up with our top 5 budget destinations each year. This year, there is one destination in each of Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, and South America.
It should be noted that our suggestions are based primarily on research. We haven’t visited all these destinations so they are not personal endorsements.
Here’s how the list was determined.
- Affordability. Naturally, the affordability of a destination depends upon your home currency. We’re based in Canada and our currency is low against just about every other western currency right now. However, most of the information below is given in US dollars unless it says otherwise as most of us know our exchange rates in relation to the US dollar.
- Cost of transportation. If the trip is short, the cost to get there is very important. If you’re planning a month or two in a destination, that cost is less significant as it will be prorated over a longer period of time.
- Safety. I’ve listed the US and Canadian government advice as of January 2020 for each destination. Most of the budget travel destination lists I've reviewed have not included this information. While it needs to be placed in context, we’ve decided to share it here. At the time this list was created, I chose destinations with a maximum rating of “exercise a high degree of caution.” Please read the section on understanding government ratings for more on what this means.
- Will it be interesting and fun? A great destination offers access to a new culture, fun things to do, or both. I’ve given you a very brief overview of both for each recommendation.
Check out our recommendations for budget destinations for solo travelers from previous years below. A number of them are still good bets.
Fundamentals for Finding a Budget Destination
Here are two fundamentals for finding a budget destination.
- Go where the crowds are not. Janice wrote about overtourism in How and Where to Travel to Avoid the Crowds. You'll save money if you don't travel to hotspots or choose to go in the shoulder or low season. It's basic supply and demand. The more tourists, the higher demand, the higher the prices are.
- Go to places that have endured hard times. Destinations that have endured financial or natural disasters such as hurricanes are usually less traveled and welcome tourist dollars. This pushes prices down and makes your tourist dollar all the more appreciated. It might be a rare chance to visit an overcrowded destination when it’s not crowded at all.
Understanding Government Travel Advice and Advisories
Due to the pandemic all safety ratings by the governments of Canada and the US are high as they are not advising to travel anywhere. For this reason, we have left the safety ratings as they were last year.
Governments create travel advice and advisory alerts for the sake of their citizens who are planning to travel to other countries. Both Canada and the US have a 4-tier rating system. While a country may receive one overall rating, specific areas within it may receive a different rating to indicate regionally specific concerns. These may be related to natural disasters, safety and security, health hazards, etc. This allows you to avoid areas that may pose a higher risk.
While the language varies slightly between the two countries, basically, the four levels are:
- Exercise normal security precautions. There is some inherent risk in any international travel, but there are no significant safety and security concerns here.
- Exercise a high degree of caution. There are identifiable safety and security concerns, or the safety and security situation could change with little notice. (To put this in perspective, Canada currently rates 96 countries as Level 2, and both countries rate the United Kingdom as Level 2.)
- Avoid non-essential travel. There are specific safety and security concerns that could put you at risk.
- Avoid all travel. There is an extreme risk to your personal safety and security.
Levels 1 and 2 are considered travel advice while levels 3 and 4 are considered travel advisories.
This distinction is important as there is a possibility that the validity of your travel insurance could be impacted if your country issues a travel advisory for the country to which you are traveling. Always read the fine print of your insurance policy and check your government’s advice before leaving home. You can easily find this by searching “government of (your home country) travel advice” then searching within that site for your destination country.
None of the destinations on this year's shortlist have travel advisories at time of writing.
The Shortlist of Destinations for Solo Travelers on a Budget 2021
Note: For consistency, all flight prices listed were found on Google Flights and depart from Toronto or New York during the last week of February with a return date two weeks later. Use your own home airport to see what you’d have to pay for flights. The room rates listed are for the same time period and were found on booking.com. All were checked during the week of this post’s publication. The hotels and hostels are not personal recommendations. They were chosen based on their price, review scores (minimum 8/10 customer ratings), and central location and are intended to give you an idea of what you can get for your money. Average prices for food and transportation in the destination were gleaned from Expatistan. Unless otherwise indicated, all prices are in US dollars.
Top Budget Destination for Solo Travelers Africa: Windhoek, Namibia
I have friends who have fallen so in love with Namibia that they return again and again and now lead tours there for friends and acquaintances.
When asked if Namibia would qualify as a safe, interesting, inexpensive (once you get there) destination for a solo traveler, Jan said, “Absolutely! It has been a democratic country for almost three decades. With high unemployment, there is petty crime in Windhoek and one should exercise caution after dark, take taxis, etc., as in any large city. The country is safe for driving holidays; has a good infrastructure, water as well as roads; and one can drink water from the faucet.”
Affordability: One US dollar will buy you about 11.70 Namibian Dollars. A basic lunchtime menu (including a drink) in the business district will cost approximately $13.00. A beer in a neighborhood pub will set you back roughly $2.25. A 5-mile taxi ride runs about $8.50.
Cost to get there: From Toronto, return flights start at C$1,247.00. From New York City, return flights start at US$1,074.00.
- US Government: Exercise normal precautions in Namibia.
- Canadian Government: Exercise a high degree of caution in Namibia due to the high level of crime.
Top Budget Destination Asia: Yerevan, Armenia
I have wanted to travel to Armenia for a very long time, ever since falling in love with the films of Atom Egoyan. Armenia has a lengthy, interesting history, incredible landscapes, and delicious cuisine – not to mention being home to the world’s oldest known winery.
Take a walking tour of the city to see and hear about the history, architecture, art and culture of Yerevan, including Republic Square, the Blue Mosque, the Opera House, the National Gallery and the History Museum of Armenia. Climb the stairs of the Cascade for sweeping views of the city. Picnic in Lover’s Park; tour the Ararat distillery and taste the famous brandy; visit the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute; take a day tour to Geghard to see the medieval monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage site; and in warm weather, take a seat on an outdoor patio to enjoy the atmosphere and a delicious dinner.
Affordability: One US dollar will buy you about 470 Armenian Drams. A beer in a neighborhood pub will cost about $1.83. A 5-mile taxi ride will be roughly $3.00. A basic lunchtime menu (including a drink) in the business district will run about $3.87.
Here is a hotel for US$55.00, very close to the center, but set back from the main road, and including breakfast. Here is a hostel with a 9.8/10 rating for $8.00 in an 8-bed dorm or $16.00 for a private room.
Cost to get there: From Toronto, return flights start at C$1713.00. From New York City, return flights start at US$874.00.
- US Government: Exercise normal precautions in Armenia.
- Canadian Government: Exercise a high degree of caution in Armenia due to occasional demonstrations and protests.
- Both countries advise against travel to the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Top Budget Destination for Solo Travelers Europe: Tirana, Albania
Declared “The City Poised to Become Europe’s Next Affordable Creative Haven” by The New York Times, Tirana is the capital city of Albania. Art galleries and museums, including the intriguing House of Leaves; Ottoman, Fascist and Soviet-era architecture along with modern glass structures; the 289 hectare Grand Park; and bars and restaurants featuring a mixture of Greek, Turkish and Italian along with traditional Albanian cuisine are just some of the reasons to visit this fascinating city surrounded by castles, ruins, and Mount Dajti National Park.
Affordability: One US dollar will buy you about 101 Albanian Leke. A basic lunchtime menu (including a drink) in the business district will cost about $8.92. A cappuccino in an expat area, roughly $1.56. A monthly ticket for public transportation runs around $16.70.
Here is a boutique hotel for US$43.00, including breakfast, within walking distance of downtown. Here is a hostel for $12.00 in a 4-bed dorm or $43 for a private room, with breakfast available for $3.00.
Cost to get there: From Toronto, return flights start at C$1,135.00. From New York City, return flights start at US$904.00
- US Government: Exercise normal precautions in Albania.
- Canadian Government: Exercise normal precautions in Albania.
- Both countries advise avoiding travel to the southern city of Lazarat due to crime.
Top Budget Destination North America: St. John’s, Canada
Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada’s most easterly province is home to friendly people, rugged coastline, and gorgeous scenery. The capital of St. John’s, one of the oldest cities in North America, is colorful, with its jellybean houses, vibrant arts community, tasty culinary scene, and personality to spare.
Affordability: One US dollar will buy you about $1.27 Canadian Dollars. A beer in a neighborhood pub will cost about $5.50. A 5-mile taxi ride will be roughly $10.20. A basic lunchtime menu (including a drink) in the business district will run about $15.00.
Cost to get there: From Toronto, return flights start at C$782.00. From New York City, return flights start at US$623.00. Note: these prices are almost double last year.
- US Government: Exercise normal precautions in Canada.
- Canadian Government: Sit yourself down while I make you a cup of tea.
Top Budget Destination South America: La Paz, Bolivia
This description from The Guardian sealed the deal for me in terms of placing La Paz on this year’s shortlist of destinations for solo travelers on a budget.
An amalgam of architectural styles, cultures and beliefs, it has everything from offerings to the goddess Pachamama to incense-filled colonial churches, food stalls to trendy cafes, bowler-hatted cholitas to hipsters among its theatrical street life. It’s frenetic, chaotic, often frustrating but never dull. More than ever, it’s championing its culture, from local artists to age-old crafts. There’s a gastronomic revolution under way, with restaurants that use only Bolivian produce and bars that mix homegrown spirits. And Mi Teleférico, the world’s longest and highest urban cable car network, is making it easier to get around the city.
Affordability: One US dollar will buy you about 5.41 Bolivian Bolivianos. A basic lunchtime menu (including a drink) in the business district will cost about $12.75. A beer in a neighborhood pub will be roughly $3.88, and a 5-mile taxi ride, $17.37.
Cost to get there: From Toronto, return flights start at C$1100.00. From New York City, return flights start at US$845.00.
- US Government: Exercise increased caution in Bolivia due to civil unrest.
- Canadian Government: Exercise a high degree of caution in Bolivia due to the continuing political and social tensions and frequent illegal roadblocks throughout the country.
If you travel solo to one of these destinations, or any others that you would recommend to fellow travelers, please consider submitting your story and photos in a Solo Travel Destination post here.
For more on budget solo travel, check out these posts:
- How to Plan Your Solo Travel Budget – On Any Budget
- Cheap Solo Travel: Your Guide to Money-Saving Advice
- Save Money on Travel: 32+ Tips
- Backpacking Solo: Your Complete Guide for a Great Budget Trip
Here's the 2019 list of destinations for solo travelers on a budget
The Shortlist of Budget Solo Travel Destinations 2019
Note: In doing the research I wanted to offer apples-to-apples comparisons. So, all the flights I checked leave on February 28th with a return date of March 15th. The room rates I found are for the 28th of February, 2019. All were checked during the week of this post’s publication. The hotels and hostels are not recommendations. They were chosen based on their price and review scores and are intended to give you an idea of what you can get for your money. Also, I’ve used Toronto and New York City as points of departure to keep the numbers consistent. Use your own home airport to see what you’d have to pay for flights.
#1 Budget Destination for 2019: South Korea?
South Korea and Fiji were both mentioned on more than one budget travel short list for 2019 but when I compared the cost to get there, there was no competition. Flights to Fiji were three times the cost of those to South Korea. And when comparing the cost on the ground, Fiji was again far more expensive. South Korea was the winner hands down.
Affordability: 1 US dollar is about 1,100 South Korean Won (SKW). When you're purchasing something, to make it easy just consider 1,000 SKW to equal US$1. According to Expatistan, Seoul is 10% less expensive than Toronto and 30% less than New York City. There are many options in affordable hotels in Seoul. Here’s a sample of a highly-rated hotel you’d get for about US$95 that's in the center of the city. Here’s the central hostel with an 8.5 rating for US$38.
Cost to get there: From Toronto, return flights start at CAN$755. From New York City, return flights start at US$526.
- US Government: Exercise normal precautions in South Korea.
- Canadian Government: Exercise normal precautions in South Korea.
Interesting and fun: While I based the above information on Seoul, there is so much more to South Korea than its capital city. There are mountains and beaches, great diving, and hiking for outdoor enthusiasts. And, of course, there's a fascinating history over many centuries to be found in modern cities and more traditional villages. A little bit of research and you'll know why it's a great destination.
Best European Budget Destination for 2019: Łódź (pronounced woodge), Poland
When I saw this city on a budget destination list I just had to check it out to see if it would be right for solo travelers too. Eastern Europe is a bargain compared to Western Europe. It has much of what the west has to offer and more. Poland's culture is a product of its geography. It's had West Slav, Germanic, Hungarian and, to some extent, Western European, Byzantine, and Ottoman influence. It has fascinated me for some time.
Affordability: 1 PLN is about 25 US cents. That's an estimate. So, in managing your money on the ground, divide a price by four and you'll know the approximate price in US$. Łódź is 53% less expensive than Toronto and 68% less than New York City. There are many options in affordable hotels in Łódź. Here's a centrally located B&B/Hotel on Booking.com with an overall rating of 8.9 for US$37. Hostels are even cheaper.
Cost to get there: From Toronto, return flights start at CAN$1,106 non-stop or CAN$975 with a stop. The extra $31 is worth it. From New York City, return flights start at US$570 non-stop or US$440 with a stop in Oslo, Norway. These are fairly normal flight costs to Europe from North America.
- US Government: Exercise normal precautions in Poland
- Canadian Government: Exercise normal precautions in Poland.
Interesting and fun: Łódź is Poland's third largest city. It fell into into decline after WWII but since 2000 it has been reinventing itself. It's now famous for its architecture, street art, museums, and art galleries. The centerpiece of the restoration is EC1 which was the Łódź power plant. The east side of this building serves as a cultural space hosting workshops, art exhibitions, and other cultural events as well as a Planetarium and the National Centre for Film Culture. EC1 West houses an interactive Centre for Science & Technology and a 3D Omnimax Cinema complex.
Best Budget Destination to Commemorate a Major Event: Houston
Apollo 11 landed on the moon on July 20, 1969. Were you alive? I was. I saw the landing on a TV outside at Girl Guide camp. We could look at the moon and watch the TV at the same time. That was 50 years ago this year and Houston is celebrating, which is why this destination makes my budget bucket list. Visitors to Space Center Houston at NASA’s Johnson Space Center get to imagine they are witnessing the history-making events from the Mission Operations Control Room and others which have been restored to their 1969 appearance, complete with vintage furniture. Read further for more budget options for solo-friendly Houston.
Affordability: Houston is 10% less expensive than Toronto and 38% less than New York City. Hotel accommodation is neither cheap nor expensive in Houston but is offset by the number of free things to do in the city. Here's a Hotel in the city center on Booking.com with an overall rating of 8.3 for US$120. However, I found great deals on VRBO. This is a self-contained apartment for one or two with great reviews for $59. One thing to note about booking on VRBO is the cleaning fee. VRBO is not a great option for only one night.
Cost to get there: From Toronto, return flights start at CAN$631 non-stop. From New York City, return flights start at US$209 non-stop.
Safety: Exercise normal precautions.
Interesting and fun: The 50th anniversary of the giant leap for mankind is a great reason to visit Houston but there is more. A great starting point is Houston’s Museum District, which has 19 museums within walking distance: 10 of them are always free and the others offer special free days. For a full list of free things to do in Houston check out this page.
Best Budget Caribbean Destination: Puerto Rico
It's been just over a year since Puerto Rico was hit hard by Hurricane Maria but the island is ready for tourists again. It's an affordable Caribbean destination with beaches and an interesting history. It's a destination to enjoy and one that would benefit from your travel dollars.
Affordability: The local currency is the US$ so we don't have a conversion to consider with this destination. San Juan, Puerto Rico is 6% less expensive than Toronto and 35% less than New York City. There are many options in affordable hotels in San Juan. Here's a centrally located guest house on Booking.com with an overall rating of 9.1 for US105. Hostels are even cheaper. I also found a studio apartment near the beach with excellent reviews on VRBO.com for US$55, VRBO is favorite site of mine.
Cost to get there: From Toronto, return flights start at CAN$475 with one stop. From New York City, return flights start at US$235 non-stop.
- US Government: Exercise normal precautions in Puerto Rico.
- Canadian Government: Exercise normal precautions in Puerto Rico.
Interesting and fun: The island has enjoyed Spanish, African, Indian, and U.S. influence, which, according to Puerto Rico's visitor bureau, is mirrored in the food, music, and architecture of the island. San Juan, Puerto Rico's capital, has a free trolley that will take you around San Juan and its National Historic Sites but you could spend a full day exploring the walled city of Old San Juan alone. Beaches are the ultimate budget travel activity and Puerto Rico has many wonderful beaches to relax on or explore. Puerto Rico is on the migration path of humpback whales. January to the end of March is the best time for whale watching.
Best Budget Destination in South America: Argentina
Argentina has spectacular natural wonders including Glaciers National Park, El Chalten, and Iguazu Falls, all bucket list destinations for the adventure travelers. But, of course, there's Buenos Aires and the tango! And then there are gauchos, Argentinian cowboys. Yes, there's much to make Argentina an exciting destination for any traveler, budget or otherwise. While other countries in South America may be cheaper, Argentina is one that has the safety rating I was looking for.
Affordability: 1 Argentinian peso is about 2.5 US cents. That's an estimate. So, in managing your money on the ground, divide a price by forty and you'll know the approximate price in US$. Buenos Aires is 59% less expensive than Toronto and 71% less than New York City. There are many options in affordable hotels in Buenos Aires. Here's a centrally located guest house on Booking.com with an overall rating of 8.9 for US$89 including breakfast..Here's a hostel with a rating of 8.4 for US$13.50 for a single bed in a four-bed, female dorm. And that includes breakfast. If you'd like an apartment I found this fabulous, 5-star unit on VRBO for US$78/night.
Cost to get there: From Toronto, return flights start at CAN$1095 non-stop. From New York City, return flights start at US$627 non-stop.
- US Government: Exercise normal precautions in Argentina.
- Canadian Government: Exercise normal precautions in Argentina.
Interesting and fun: There are lots of free and cheap things to do in Buenos Aires. There are, of course, free tours to enjoy but plenty more. Go to the Mataderos Fair, a Gaucho market on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, and see the gauchos show off their skills; take a walk through the 80 hectare woods at the Bosques de Palermo; or explore the graffiti in the northern suburbs. If you're in the neighborhood of Belgrano on a Sunday, go to the bandstand at Barrancas de Belgrano park for the free tango lessons from 7 pm. You can then watch the experts perform for a fee.
The Shortlist of Destinations for Solo Travelers on a Budget 2018
Note: In doing the research I wanted to offer apples-to-apples comparisons. So, all the flights I checked leave on February 28th with a return date of March 14th. The room rates I found are for the 28th of February. All were checked during the week of this post’s publication. The hotels and hostels are NOT recommendations. They were chosen based on their price and review scores and are intended to give you an idea of what you can get for your money. Also, I’ve used Toronto and New York City as points of departure to keep the numbers consistent. Use your own home airport to see what rates you’d have to pay.
#1 Budget Destination for 2018: Morocco
Tour companies are telling us that Morocco is one of the most popular destinations for 2018. Our editor, Tracey, is traveling there this April. Having been there only once on a one-day tour from Spain, I'm dying to go back. The culture is rich and colorful, the food delicious and the landscape dramatic.
Affordability: 1 Moroccan Dirham is worth 11 US cents. When you're purchasing something, it's easy to drop a zero from the cost and you'll have a good approximation in US dollars. According to Expatistan, it is 48% less expensive than Toronto. There are many options in affordable hotels in Morocco. Here’s a sample of a highly-rated hotel you’d get for about US$80.
Cost to get there: It's cheaper to fly to Casablanca than Marrakesh. From Toronto, return flights start at CAN$783. From New York City, return flights start at US$824. You're reading that correctly, it's more expensive in the US – an unusual situation.
- US Government: no warning.
- Canadian Government: exercise a high degree of caution (this pertains to border regions and remote areas)
Interesting and fun: Arabic is the official language in Morocco, but French is commonly spoken. Read Solo Travel Destination: Morocco by reader, Jane, who is from the US and watch for Tracey's reports this spring.
Best European Budget Destination for 2018: Slovenia
As the best affordable European destination for 2018, I pick Slovenia. I was there last spring and loved it! As I keep telling people, there are tourists there, but not too many. Slovenia has had significant Austrian and Italian influence. It feels like what it must have been like to visit Italy in the 1950s. And it’s not just me. In our post on best solo travel memories of 2017, Karla wrote: “Walking around Lake Bled in Slovenia, hearing a band in the distance, finally realizing that I was heading right that way. The band played, in Slovenian,‘“Those Were the Days,’ and everyone danced and cheered. A couple of songs later, the concert ended with a traditional Slovenian ballad, and the entire audience sang along. Just thinking of this makes me smile fondly!”
Affordability: The US dollar is doing well against the Euro at the moment with 1 Euro costing US$1.20. In 2014 that Euro would have cost you US$1.40. In Canada, a surge in the employment rate is expected to strengthen the dollar, so the Euro will likely cost less this year for Canadians as well. According to Expatistan, the cost of living in Ljubljana, the country's capital, is 30% lower than that of Toronto. Accommodation is affordable in the city. City Hotel Ljubljana has a fantastic rating and comes in at US$85/night. Hostel Celica, where I stayed, is going for US$15/night on February 28th.
Cost to get there: From Toronto, return flights start at CAN$1,097. From New York City return flights start at US$710. It's a little on the steep side. I found it quite cheap to fly to Venice and rent a car to get to Slovenia.
- US Government: no warning.
- Canadian Government: exercise normal security precautions
Best Budget Travel to Small Towns and Cities: New Brunswick, Canada
Small town and rural tourism is on the rise. It's peaceful and significantly less expensive than going to the major destinations of the world. I'm suggesting New Brunswick, Canada as your relaxed, budget destination for 2018.
Affordability: Though the Canadian dollar may be on the rise, it will likely still be a good buy against most currencies throughout 2018. Today it costs CAN$1.27 to buy a US dollar. According to Expatistan, the cost of living in Moncton, New Brunswick, the start and end of my New Brunswick road trip is 25% lower than Toronto. The Rodd Hotel, a good quality Maritime chain, has a great location near the river in Moncton and comes in at US$79 per night. Auberge C'mon Inn is a hostel with an 8.5/10 rating that costs $20 nightly for a bed in a dorm.
Cost to get there: Flights from Toronto to Moncton run CAN$288. From New York City, flights to Moncton run US$235.
- US Government: no warning.
- Canadian Government: no issue there.
Interesting and fun: Great festivals (read The Tintamarre: A Festival to Beat the Band), warm water ocean beaches and small cities just big enough for good food, drink and entertainment are highlights of New Brunswick. Here's a post I wrote from a trip there in 2016, The Great Acadian Road Trip: Itinerary, Tips and Lots of Pics.
On My Personal Budget Bucket List: Bolivia
This is on Lonely Planet's list for 2018 and mine as well. According to them, “budget-conscious travellers can get by on less than US$30 a day, eating at unforgettable markets and taking hiking and biking trips. Must-do: La Paz also has a fast emerging yet affordable upscale scene, epitomised by superb dining at places such as Gustu, founded by Noma’s Claus Meyer.”
Affordability: There are approximately 7 Bolivian Boliviano to the US$. As an approximation, 70 boliviano is US$10. According to Expatistan, the cost of living in La Paz, the country's capital, is 52% lower than that of Toronto. Now for accommodation. The Camino Real Aparthotel & Spa 5-star hotel is rated 9.1 on Booking.com and priced at just US$123/night. You can stay really cheap at the Hostel Austria for $7/night. And of course, there's everything in between.
Cost to get there: Flights from Toronto to La Paz run CAN$955. From New York City, flights to La Paz starts at US$508.
- US Government: no warning.
- Canadian Government: Exercise a high degree of caution due to political and social tensions.
Interesting and fun: We don't yet have any posts on Bolivia so if you have been or go in the future, please share your experience by contributing a Destination post using our easy form. Submit your destination post here.
Best Budget Destination for a Year of Celebrations: San Antonio, Texas
US News ranks San Antonio number 2 in their list of top budget US destinations for 2018. That's good news but there's more. San Antonio is celebrating its Tricentennial in 2018. It will be a year of celebrations making this year a great time to go.
Affordability: Free is the big word for San Antonio this year. Check out the Tricentennial celebrations here. Obviously, currency is not an issue for US travelers. For Canadians, the prospects of a stronger Canadian dollar makes US travel more appealing than it has been in the last few years. According to Expatistan, the cost of living in San Antonio is 24% lower than Toronto. Regarding accommodation, the Hotel Gibbs Downtown Riverwalk has a 8.5/10 overall rating and 9.1/10 for location. The decor looks fun and when I checked for our Feb 28th date, the rate was discounted to US$99. Two and three-star hotels run between US$30-$50.
Cost to get there: Searching through FlightNetwork, flights from Toronto are CAN$374 and from New York City are US$194.
Interesting and fun: There's the Alamo historic site, the San Antonio Missions which were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015, the San Antonio is Natural Bridge Caverns less than 30 minutes away and much more to see and do. Read of Solo Travel Destination: San Antonio, USA.
Price of Flights in 2018: Are Basic Economy Fares a Good Deal?
According to the 2018 Global Travel Forecast, airfares overall are expected to rise 3.5% globally. Rates in Western Europe are supposed to increase by 5.5% and Eastern Europe by 7.1%. Airfares in North America will experience a more moderate rise of 2.3%.
In an effort to compete with budget airlines such as WOW, Spirit, and Frontier, mainstream airlines have started to offer cheaper fares on some routes. These basic economy fares may be a good deal but you have to be careful. You may pay more in the long run if you have to pay for a second carry-on bag (which may have a lower weight limit than the typical carry-on), a checked bag, or in-flight food. While basic economy fares feature a low upfront cost, these fares could end up costing more.
Check flight prices from your city with FlightNetwork. I have found some surprising deals with them and have used their customer service when I made a mistake on a birth date and the issue was easily resolved.
The Shortlist of Cheap Solo Travel Destinations 2017
The price of flights has been falling year after year since 2013 and, according to a report in Forbes, this trend will continue in 2017. The same report points to American Express Global Business Travel predicting a rise in the prices for hotel rooms of about the same percentage as the decline in flight prices. I'd say that's a wash. And as a consumer we have to plan carefully to get the most for our travel money.
To help you (and me) here is my shortlist of affordable destinations for solo travelers in 2017.
Belize is on a number of budget lists for 2017. Let's start with a Destination post written by Gemma, a reader from the UK. She recommends going off the beaten track just a bit to Hopkins, Belize. The most popular destinations in Belize are San Pedro and Caye Caulker.
Affordability – You can buy 2 Belize dollars with one US dollar. It's an easy calculation. While there are many luxury resorts in Belize there is no shortage of budget hotels. The price will vary according to where you are in Belize with the more popular spots being more expensive of course. I'm going to focus on Hopkins since it was recommended by Gemma and I've seen it described as the friendliest place in Belize – something that would recommend it to this solo traveler.
For hotels I usually look for something around the $100 mark but in Hopkins I found The Parrot Cove which looks significantly better than the US$100 hotels for US$127. I'd likely stretch my budget in this case. However I'm also inclined towards hostels. In her post Gemma recommended The Funky Dodo with its tree top bar, a hostel that I've seen priced as low as US$13 per night. According to Expatistan, Belize City is 30% less expensive than my home of Toronto.
Cost to get there – Return flights to Belize in February from Toronto run at about US$530. Return flights to Belize from New York City for the same time period run about $440.
- US Government: no warning.
- Canadian Government: Exercise a high degree of caution due to crime and Zika Virus
Interesting and fun – Belize is both a Central American country and a Caribbean country giving it the culture of Central America with Mayan ruins and jungle as well as the beaches of a Caribbean island. It's home to a 185-mile-long coral reef that is protected by the UNESCO World Heritage program making it a great destination for snorkelling and diving.
Europe is always a desirable destination but not always an affordable one. Greece, and Crete in particular, is the recommended European destination for 2017.
Affordability – The exchange rate for US$ to Euros is quite good right now. In fact, it's a few cents stronger than the Euro which it was definitely not a couple of years ago. There are many options in affordable hotels in Crete. Here's a sample of a highly-rated hotel you'd get for about $100. Here's the Chiani hostel that starts at US$12. You may want to note that there is also a singles hotel called The Mistral which comes in at the $200/night mark. I couldn't get a comparison for Crete but according to Expatistan Athens is about 30% less expensive than Toronto.
Cost to get there – Using Flightnetwork, the price of US$686 from New York and US$800 from Canada. While Europeans may be able to fly directly to Crete, those of us from North America would have to fly into Athens and then get to Crete. You can fly if you want but I'd be inclined to stay in Athens two nights and take a ferry to Crete.
- US Government: no warning.
- Canadian Government: Exercise normal security precautions.
Interesting and fun – The island is rich in history, Minoan ruins, rugged mountains, beaches, traditional villages and food! You can do a bit of Greet island hopping from Crete. It's easy to book a tour and given the island's difficult economic situation it is not expensive. Rick Steves has an excellent post on the Greek Islands here.
New Orleans, USA
If you avoid Mardi Gras New Orleans is one of the least expensive and most culturally unique cities in the US. Ashley, an American reader, gave us an excellent post on budget travel to New Orleans here. If you do want to go during Mardi Gras read this post submitted by Guy from Australia: Solo at Mardi Gras
Affordability – For Americans the exchange rate is not an issue. For Canadians, every US$ costs us about Cdn$1.25 but as far as American cities go, this one is a good option. As mentioned above the Euro is worth just slightly less than the US$. Here is a sample of a hotel in the Garden district that is about $100 per night. Starting at US$31 you can book yourself into Site 61 Hostel. According to Expatistan New Orleans is about as expensive as Toronto when you consider the exchange rate.
Cost to get there – There are many budget airlines operating within the United States offering affordable domestic flights. From Toronto, return flights start at US$550. From New York City return flights start at US$460.
- US Government: no warning.
- Canadian Government: Exercise normal security precautions
Interesting and fun – When I think of New Orleans I think of music! From street musicians to formal concerts the city is alive with music. Coffee and Beignets at Cafe du Monde are a must. The French Quarter and Bourbon Street are definitely important.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
I definitely have my sites set on Buenos Aires this year. It's been too long since I've been to South America. It's time to go again and Argentina is definitely a priority. You can read what Zenaida wrote about this Paris of South America here.
Affordability – There are 16 Argentine pesos to the US dollar. Here's an example of a hotel in the historic center of Buenos Aires for about US$100. A bed in a hostel dorm starts at US$12.50. According to Expatistan, the city is 30% less expensive than Toronto.
Cost to get there – It's likely best if you go to Argentina for a couple of weeks or more to make the expense of your flight worthwhile. From Toronto flights start at $US1,180. From New York City round-trip flights start at US$900.
- US Government: no warning.
- Canadian Government: Exercise normal security precautions
Interesting and fun – The culture of Argentina, whether it's in the Tango, art or food is well recognized. Take in the museums, go to the city parks, go on a Gaucho Day Trip, take in a concert and, of course, there's the night life. Buenos Aires has lots to offer.
And, for the second year in a row, Quebec City makes the list.
Quebec City, Canada
The Canadian dollar is not strong making Canada a good deal for just about any western traveler. But for Canadians and Americans I'd recommend Quebec City in particular. It offers a bit of Europe without traveling across an ocean.
Affordability – The Canadian dollar runs between 70% and 75% of the US dollar making the city quite affordable for Canadians when compared to traveling the US or Europe and just about anyone traveling to Canada. Here’s an example of a hotel you could book in Quebec for the equivalent of US$100. And here’s an example of a hostel you could book for less than US$25 per night. According to Expatistan, Quebec City is generally a little less expensive than my home of Toronto.
Cost to get there – A flight from Toronto to Quebec City return is about US$200. You can also travel there from anywhere in North America by bus and train. Obviously, the cost jumps significantly from outside North America.
Interesting and fun – Old Quebec is a UNESCO-listed site and well worth a wander. The city has great restaurants with excellent food. If you go in the winter, take in their famous Winter Carnival, but go to Quebec City at just about any time of year and you’ll likely be able to take in a festival.