Don't assume that your less-than-epic budget means you always have to settle for theme park versions of the world's greatest destinations.
So what if your bank account can't afford one of those really iconic vacations that everybody dreams of? You might be able to have a similar and no less exotic experience that's slightly off the beaten path and costs a lot less.
So, don't go where everybody goes — and spends a ton of money. Try one of these alternatives instead.
Eds note: Graham Hughes holds the Guinness World Record for visiting every country on Earth without flying: four years, 31 days. He hosts the Travel Channel's "Lonely Planet: Odyssey with Graham Hughes" and is the author of Man of the World.
1. If you want to do an Amazon adventure...
Maybe you want to see the Amazon while you still can — and fancy swinging like Tarzan on vines, swimming with piranhas (they’ve got a bad reputation, but they’re actually quite sweet), getting yourself a selfie with a chirpy anaconda or friendly croc, and getting bitten by a zillion insects in your sleep,
But if the $160 visa fee for visiting Brazil isn’t enough to put you off, the transport and accommodation costs might. So go to Bolivia instead.
No visa costs, and jungle tours are a fraction of the price. Head down to Rurrenabaque on the Rio Beni in the north of the country. Even better, these days you can get there without having to traverse the notorious "Road of Death." A win-win!
2. If you want to see Mayan ruins...
It’s natural for people wanting to hit the Ruta Maya to make a beeline for Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula and the ancient cities of Chichén Itzá, Tulum and Uxmal.
I wouldn’t want to diminish the grandeur of these wonderful paragons of a lost civilization. But if you have an overwhelming urge to watch the sunrise from the side of a Mayan temple yet find yourself a bit strapped for cash, fly to Guatemala City.
Jump on the overnight bus to the beautiful lake island of Flores, ready to visit the exquisite (and cost-effective!) lost city of Tikal.
3. If you want to visit ancient pyramids...
I try my best to give a variety of answers to the oft-asked query “What’s your favorite country?” But at a push, my default answer is (and always has been) Egypt.
It’s cheap, it’s cheerful, it’s thoroughly insane, but it’s the ruins of over 4 millennia of ancient civilizations that keep me coming back.
Having said that, in high season the Pyramids of Giza can be a bit of a nightmare of crowds, touts and exorbitant entry fees. My advice? Trundle down to the pyramids of Saqqara and Dahshur, around 10 miles south of Cairo.
They’re not only cheaper, they also suffer fewer tourists, queues and crazy guys trying to get you on their darn camel.
4. If you want to do an Oktoberfest...
The stats of Bavaria’s Oktoberfest are simply staggering: more than 7 million visitors drinking over 12 million pints of beer. But even if half a pint of shandy is enough to knock you under the table, Oktoberfest is not cheap.
You have to pay for entry and then for each and every beer you drink (or spill). If you’re desperate to get squiffy toward the end of September (yes I know, it’s a silly name) but the size of your overdraft is holding you back, consider popping over the border.
The Czech Republic (or “Czechia” as the kids aren’t calling it) is the official cheapest place in the EU to grab yourself a stein or two of the foamy stuff. Works for me!
5. If you want to ski Europe...
While Swiss/Italian/French/Austrian Alps are the go-to place to ski in Europe, they’re not exactly cheap.
That’s why the canny Europhile will take a budget airline to Sofia, the bustling capital of Bulgaria, en route to the mountain resort of Borovets, 45 miles south.
Borovets boasts over 35 miles of marked pistes with an altitude of roughly 8,200 feet, and many runs terminating near the town center — something that allows skiers to ski almost to their hotel door. Ace!
6. If you want to go scuba diving...
In America, the Caribbean and Europe, the price of scuba diving can make it a little, erm, scuba-dubah-don’t.
But if you’re in Egypt anyway (visiting the Saqqara and Dashur Pyramids, obvs), it’s worth dropping in on the city of Hurghada.
Not for Hurghada itself (it’s kinda grotty) but the Red Sea it rubs up against offers a veritable cornucopia of coral and brightly colored fish for you to self-contained underwater breathing apparatus to your heart’s content at a price that’s just on the right side of "affordable."
7. If white sand beaches are your thing...
If money is no object, then lucky you! Head to the Maldives before climate change sinks them beneath the waves.
But for white sand beaches at a price that even a scruffy backpacker can afford, forge a path instead to Thailand. The beaches on the islands of Ko Samui, Ko Pha-Ngan and Ko Phi Phi (to name a few) are spectacular.
Plus if you want to get away from the "banana pancake brigade" (tourists flocking to Thai street food), there are hundreds of smaller islands to visit, and alternative beach heavens Cambodia and Vietnam are just next door.
8. If you want to go on a safari...
Feeling the call of nature? South Africa, Kenya or Tanzania might be tempting, but if you want to shoot the "Big 5" safari animals (with a camera — we’re not barbarians) on a shoestring, the smart money says go to Botswana.
Botswana is a rare success story in sub-Saharan Africa: The economy is going great guns, the infrastructure is above-par, and it has been politically stable since independence in the 1960s, thoroughly deserving of its bragging rights as the continent’s oldest democracy.
Get yourself to the capital Gaborone, hire a 4x4 and just drive. The Chobe National Park and Moremi Game Reserve are public parks, open year-round (floods permitting).
9. If you want to island-hop in the Caribbean...
The Caribbean is a lot of things, but one thing it’s not is cheap. And while spending a week putt-putt-putting around the Grenadines sounds fab, the manager of the bank where you keep your savings is unlikely to ever forgive you.
Luckily for the economically enlightened among us, there is a cost-effective alternative. Consider a trip to the incredible Bocas Del Toro archipelago in northwest Panama.
It's a spectacular cluster of dozens of tropical islands, accommodations shouldn’t set you back much more than $25 a night, you can get yourself a happy-hour beer for a dollar, and there’s the opportunity to surf, scuba, sail, zip line, quad-bike or just sloth out (in both senses).
Oh, and there are dolphins. LOTS of dolphins!
10. If you want to take a city tour...
Your first day in a big old city can be a bewildering cavalcade of noise and nonsense, so a lot of people seeking to get their bearings opt to jump on one of those open-topped buses that ply a circuit of the top sights.
But you can save yourself a packet just by simply putting your best foot forward and taking yourself off on a walking tour.
Good guidebooks always contain a selection of tours for you to follow, and there’ll be plenty of nooks and crannies, secret passageways and Easter eggs for you to discover for the princely sum of zilch.
You'll see details you’re almost certain to miss whizzing past on the bus.
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