Pinching pennies? You can still have an epic adventure; it just requires a bit of planning. Our recommendation: Before you commit to your next getaway, take a few minutes to scroll through our list of the best value cities. Here are 20 of them.
20 Cities Where Travelers Get the Best Value
Vietnam’s cultural and political hub, Hanoi is a confluence of Southeast Asian, Chinese and French influences. It’s also ultra-affordable. According to the 2018 Backpacker Index, $18.14 covers the cost of a bed at an economical hostel, breakfast, lunch, dinner, three beers, two public transportation rides and one cultural excursion. Count us in.
Oft referred to as the gateway to the Annapurna Circuit, Pokhara has established itself as more than just a stopover en route to the Himalayas. This tourism industry darling offers a bit of everything. For adrenaline junkies, there’s paragliding and bungee jumping. Serenity seekers can fill their days with yoga and ayurvedic rituals.
Situated on the banks of the Mekong River, Vientiane intrigues with a fusion of colonial-era buildings, leafy boulevards, Buddhist temples and Hindu shrines. Bonus: Your dollar, err, kip goes a long way. Airbnbs start at $9 for a private room. Kick in an extra $10 and you can rent an entire flat.
Goa was a Portuguese colony until 1961. Both the culture and architecture reflect that. Over the past few years, the food scene has exploded. With tons of fantastic (and affordable) restaurants to choose from, you can eat like royalty for practically pennies. Of course, sandy beaches are a major draw too.
Straddling Europe and Asia, Istanbul has attracted quite the roster of rulers over the centuries. The Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Venetians and Ottomans all left their mark on this dynamic destination. Today, it continues to enchant with its artistic treasures, culinary heritage, coffee houses and spirited bazaars, where you can score the best bargains.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
The center of Chiang Mai showcases the remains of ancient walls and temples. There are tasty Thai delicacies at every turn. Pro tip: work off all that mango sticky rice by climbing the 300 stairs to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. Haggling at the famous Night Bazaar is also a guaranteed—and affordable—highlight.
Hoi An, Vietnam
This longtime trading port, on the central Vietnamese coast, is a melting pot of exceptionally well-preserved architecture. Ancient Town features 1,107 traditional timber frame buildings, temples and pagodas. The 18th-century Japanese Covered Bridge is another standout. Don’t leave without stocking up on bespoke garments made by expert tailors.
Manila is a city of contrasts. Spanish colonial structures stand beside modern skyscrapers. With a population of over 9.5 million, it’s among the most densely packed places on the planet. Like shopping? You’re in luck. The Filipino capital boasts a long list of massive malls along with flea markets and specialty stores.
Poland’s former capital is full of history. From ancient synagogues to 19th-century Habsburg houses, the past is on display. Far from a relic, modern-day Krakow boasts thriving contemporary art and fashion scenes. Plus, the reliable network of trams and buses makes transport easy (and inexpensive).
Poised on the shores of Lake Nicaragua, Granada is about as charming as it gets. Colorful facades line cobble lanes. Year-round sunny skies and pleasant temps up the appeal. A horse-drawn carriage is a lovely way to soak in the splendor for just $28. Food and drink prices are very reasonable, too.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon) is known for its role in the Vietnam War and French colonial landmarks, notably Notre-Dame Cathedral. Beyond the history, there’s the cheap eats. You can load up on flavorful fare from the stalls surrounding Bến Thành Market for just a few dong.
The world’s sixth fastest growing metro takes travelers on a journey through the ages. Old Delhi remains much as it was in the 1600s. In contrast, New Delhi teems with grand monuments, shopping centers and a wide range of eateries. Bonus: Three-star hotels average $25 a night.
Yangon has many remarkable religious sites. Thousands make the annual pilgrimage to worship at Shwedagon Zedi Daw. Sule Pagoda and Chauk-htat-gyi Buddha Temple, which showcases one of the country's largest statues, are also worth checking out. Beyond that, Bogyoke Aung San Market is a prized attraction as is picturesque Inya Lake.
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Some have called Phnom Penh a "sensory overload." We'd argue that “exhilarating” is a more apt descriptor. Motorbikes zip through narrow laneways, while markets buzz with excitement and bargains. Must-see sites include the Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. The easiest (and most economical) way to get around is by tuk tuk.
Did you know Jakarta is home to 10 million residents and 100 different ethnic groups? The architectural landscape is demonstrative of this diversity. Think: Dutch colonial buildings and Chinese temples. This bustling metropolis is also a bargain shopper’s paradise with unique handicrafts galore. Just be ready to barter!
Luang Prabang, Laos
Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Luang Prabang brims with Buddhist monasteries and gilded temples, including Wat Xieng Thong and Wat Mai. Price-conscious wanders will appreciate the room rates. Adding to the allure is Mount Phousi, a scenic hiking summit that offers splendid sunset views.
When you hear Nepal, you probably think of Mount Everest. But there’s much to admire at lower altitudes. Kathmandu is jam-packed with temples, ancient shrines, artistic traditions and, yes, traffic. Not to mention, it’s a steal by international standards. Case in point: mid-range hotels are in the ballpark of $30.
Drawn by exotic eats and lively nightlife, travelers from all over the globe are flocking to Bangkok. Yet, despite its popularity, prices remain surprisingly affordable. (A favorable exchange rate doesn’t hurt either.) Which means more bahts to spend at Khao San Road, a stretch of mid-range hotels, bars, restaurants and stores that’s beloved by backpackers.
Among the most wallet-friendly European cities, Kiev wows with its mix of old-world aesthetics and modern highlights. Grand cathedrals and cobblestone lanes mingle with live music clubs and bustling bazaars. You’ll also discover excellent restaurants and quaint cocktail dens that serve cheap (stiff) drinks.
Mumbai is chaotic and crowded, though not without its charms. This megapolis of 22 million residents is home to the iconic Gateway of India stone arch and booming Bollywood film industry. Whether you’re looking for aromatic spices or interesting souvenirs, you’re bound to find ’em at the many colorful markets.