2014 is set to be another exciting year for traveling. With an ever expanding air network, exchange rates of some key currencies plummeting and pariah countries opening up little by little, there should be no shortage of bargain destinations to choose from when making travel plans for next year. Overall, I see some themes when it comes to traveling to relative value destinations for next year. Europe – particularly the eurozone countries which have been the cheapest to visit for the past 2 years compared to the historical average, will likely lose a bit of the low cost luster next year as these countries recover from the deepest recession in decades. Emerging countries, particularly those in Asia, should offer a lot more value. Japan, which for years have discouraged travelers due to the (unfair) reputation of being expensive, should also offer a lot of value next year due to the plummeting Yen coupled with a more liberal policy for tourists. Here’s a run down of some key bargain destinations to visit in 2014:
This underrated gem with a terribly unfair reputation, and my favorite destination in Asia, has always been a good value destination as far as I can remember. During my visit some two years ago, I could get a nice traditional hotel room facing a Persian garden for only $28 with breakfast, admission to several impressive attractions (including UNESCO World Heritage Sites) for less than a buck and a 6-hour luxury bus ride for only $6. Last year, the Iranian Rial plummeted by half due to worsening sanctions which made things even cheaper for travelers. I choose Iran as a bargain destination to visit in 2014 due to the new reformist leadership and improving international relations which may make traveling next year to this country a tad more convenient than in the past. There is even talk of easing visa restrictions so this is definitely a destination to keep a look out for in 2014.
Before anyone blasts me for naming Japan as a bargain destination, let me clarify that I am considering Japan as a bargain here relative to costs of traveling around this country historically. The yen has been on a dramatic slide against most major currencies for the most part of this year, thanks to the economic policies of the current government. With inflation slow to catch up, this means that prices in Japan are about 25 to 30% cheaper than they were from last year. I was shocked when I saw large bowls of noodles going for just $3.50 in cheaper restaurants during my visit earlier this year. $6 already got me a bowl of chiraishi or rice topped with copious amounts of salmon, tuna and cuttlefish sashimi, as well as a side dish. This was just not the terribly expensive Japan that I had earlier imagined. Lodging options were also reasonable if compared to other developed countries in Asia such as Singapore. $15 got me a dorm bed in a hostel, and for about $8 more, I could upgrade myself to a capsule type bed.
Aside from the obvious cost advantages, another reason to visit is the recent pro-tourism policy of the Japanese government. If you hold a nationality that doesn’t require a visa for Japan, that’s all well and good. A new development this year is the lifting of visa requirements for Thai and Malaysian nationals and the issuance of 5-year multiple entry visas for Filipinos and Indonesians. Many of Japan’s airports (long known for having expensive landing fees) have also increased their allocations to international flights, making it easier to travel into the country.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
I know that Thailand in general is a pretty cheap place to travel around so imagine my surprise when I visited Chiang Mai and found things even cheaper – especially when you consider that this is Thailand’s second city. $10 was more than enough for a private room with bath in a guesthouse, and $1 to $2 for a filling meal. With all the uncertainty surrounding emerging Asian economies for next year, it looks like there’s even more room to gain extra bang for your buck here.
I have always been amazed as to how Bali remains quite cheap despite the massive wave of tourists that have returned following the twin bombings that occurred in the earlier part of the last decade. This island has now become an evergreen destination thanks to the outrageously large number of things to see and do here at pretty reasonable prices. And it may just become even cheaper. The Indonesian Rupiah has slid by some 25% since the year began, and this country is seen by many economists as one of the most precarious among the Asian economies so there may be more room for further depreciation in the local currency (aka more bang for your buck). I still vividly recall the mere $10 I paid for a private room in a traditional guesthouse in Ubud with free-flowing tea and banana pancakes for breakfast. Yep, the island of the gods is definitely a haven for bargain seekers.
This country sandwiched between Croatia, Serbia and Albania uses the euro so things may not be as cheap here as it was, relatively speaking. However, this bite-size sample of Europe is still a bargain if you compare what you can get elsewhere in the continent. The beaches around Herceg Novi and Budva are seen to be worthwhile (and cheaper) alternatives to the ones in neighboring Croatia while expenses in this country are a lot cheaper compared to other Mediterranean old towns. I got a huge lunch set complete with drinks for Eur 5 or less while my centrally-located hostel inside a UNESCO old town was only Eur 12. Moving around the country won’t break the bank either. My bus rides, at Eur 1 to 2, were unbelievably cheap!
Thanks to subsidies, Malaysia as a whole remains quite cheap despite being an upper middle income country. If you move out of the main tourist cities such as Kuala Lumpur, Malacca and Penang, things could get a whole lot cheaper. Kuching in particular, is probably one of the cheapest (if not the cheapest) large cities in Malaysia. A bowl of the famous Kuching Kolo Mee only set me back by $0.80 and I will always remember my days here for the cheapest meals I’ve spent anywhere in the world. It’s also cheap if you decide to splurge a bit. A spacious 45 square meter room in the swankiest hotel in town only costs less than $80. It’s a small price to pay for some luxury if you ask me.
India, already a perennial cheap destination, has become a whole lot cheaper in 2013 as the Rupee continued its slide, dragging the currency of its neighbors such as Nepal and Pakistan with it. These 3 are cheap destination to consider for 2014 though I am not of the opinion that the currency will continue to slide next year so I am not putting it up there.
The USA will most likely become more expensive to people from everywhere else, except maybe the Eurozone countries. The US Dollar will most likely strengthen well into next year due to the improving economy.
Eurozone countries and the UK are expected to continue recovering economically well into next year so this can only mean a further strengthening to the Euro which is bad news for tourists.
I would also like to stress that this list is not exhaustive. I am only able to comment on places I have been to so obviously South America is not in this list. But again, that also brings the point home on how picking on a good value destination is basically opportunity seeking. It’s useful to keep a look out on the political, economic and security situation as these could heavily alter how your budget pans out in your travels. For instance, I visited Central Java in mid-2009 which coincided with the global financial crisis and the Jakarta hotel bombings. As a result, I managed to book a swanky hotel for just $50 a night. The same hotel goes for $100 today. In such instances, turning the opposite way of where others are going would not only lead to an avoidance of crowds but also result to the discovery of yet another bargain destination.