With world economies shifting and the steady strength of the U.S. dollar and other western currencies, there are plenty of interesting travel opportunities popping up in the new year. We officially declare 2019 the Year of Original Travel!
Push yourself to get off that worn-out tourist path, expand your boundaries and open your mind to new adventures. This year, discovering some of the world’s lesser-traveled countries is more affordable and more impressive than you could have imagined. Check out the top cheap destinations we suggest exploring in 2019:
Georgia (Not the State)
As a former republic of the Soviet Union, Georgia possesses a fascinating blend of Russian and Eastern European culture. Make your home base in Tbilisi, the country’s capital, and explore the city’s many attractions like the Chronicles of Georgia (free), Narikala Fortress (free), the Peace Bridge (free) and several cathedrals.
Much of Georgian culture draws on its culinary delights, so be sure to gorge on local favorites like Khachapuri (a gooey egg and cheese mixture stuffed in bread) and Khinkali (dumplings containing broth and a variety of meaty or cheese and potato stuffing). Local delights like this can be had for between $3-$5 USD. It wouldn’t be right if you didn’t wash all that tasty goodness down with a generous serving of authentic Georgian wine. Wine in Georgia flows like water, thanks to its stronghold as one of the oldest wine regions in the world. Not only can you wine taste your way around the country, but bottles are also available in restaurants for under $10. Finally, don’t miss a taste of the local poison, Chacha. It’s a strong spirit with an alcohol content of 60%. You’ve been warned.
This country is one of the cheapest and most rewarding places to travel to in 2019. Iran may get a bad rap in the press, but travelers swear there’s no country that’s more hospitable. Best of all, entrance fees for local attractions, transportation costs and food are all well within a backpacker’s budget.
History buffs will love the 1,500-year-old underground city and ancient Persian palaces and fortresses. Additionally, the mosques of Shiraz are sights to behold, specifically Nasir al-Mulk and Shah Cheragh. Many of these sites are $5 USD or less to enter.
Most people don’t realize how naturally blessed Iran is. In this country, you can find the world’s largest salt cave, the naturally-formed travertine terraces of Badab-e Surt and the world’s driest (and arguably most scenic) desert, Dasht-e Lut. These attractions are spread out, but luckily bus transportation fits well for a tight budget with an average of $5-$10 per trip — and that’s for a luxury first class seat with TONS of leg room.
Bordered by Thailand and surrounded by the stunning Indonesian islands, Malaysia is often overlooked by travelers seeking an exotic holiday for its better-known neighbors. However, if you skip Malaysia, you also skip some of the cheapest and tastiest street food in the world and top-notch scuba diving destinations.
Penang is the street food capital of the world and well known for its Malay-Chinese fusion dishes. Hit the streets of George Town and dive into Malay classics like Laksa or Koay Teow for just $1. Or head to Little India and feast on a massive plate of Tandoori Chicken, naan, and mint chutney for $6.
Set off for the east coast Malaysian islands like the Perhentians or Tioman, and get your fix of white sand beaches and crystalline turquoise water. Certified divers can book fun dives for $20-$25. Dive courses for those uncertified travelers are among the cheapest in the world. After the islands, don’t miss the chance to head inland to stroll through the rolling hills of the lush green tea plantations in the Cameron Highlands. After your nature fix, head south to Kuala Lumpur and explore the capital’s temples, mosques and street markets, and gaze upon the iconic Petronas Towers — all for free!
For westerners, Turkey is an epic budget destination thanks to the currency exchange rate between the U.S. Dollar and the Turkish Lira. There’s an endless number of things to do in Turkey and exploring this country’s many regions is cost and time efficient, especially since most domestic flights range between $25-$50.
The southern regions boast gorgeous beaches along the Turkish Riviera, the eastern regions offer up some truly authentic culture, and the Black Sea region’s plateau villages set above the clouds will make you question your choice to live in the modern world.
Most of Turkey’s World Heritage and historical sites are $7 to enter. Some (like the Blue Mosque in Istanbul) are even free. And there’s more to this country than ancient historical sites. Food is a bit part of Turkey’s culture as well. Simple eats like doner kebap and street sandwiches cost $3 or less. A fish dinner at a seaside restaurant including appetizers, dessert and a few drinks runs around $20 per person. Freshly squeezed juice is hawked on the streets for $0.35. And a Turkish coffee with dessert claims a modest $3. Indulging in Turkey knows no bounds.