Changes in The World’s Cheapest Destinations

Stepping inside here will cost you dearly.

Every few years I put out a new edition of The World’s Cheapest Destinations book. Number three came out in 2009 and for the most part is still pretty accurate in terms of prices, but I’m looking at making some roster changes for edition number four in 2012.

Bye-bye Turkey

I was hesitant to include Turkey in this last edition because both the exchange rate and prices had gotten steadily worse. But then their currency took a dive in 2008 and half that equation got better. I’m going to have to drop the country this time though for sure. As Lara Dunston noted in this great GranTourismo post on grocery prices where they stayed over the course of a year, “We were astounded at how expensive Istanbul has become.”

What will replace it in Europe? Probably Poland—it depends on what I find out in the course of first-person research. For Krakow, Lara said, “We never expected it would turn out to be the cheapest destination on our trip.”

Save it for a vacation/holiday

Leaving Out Morocco

Morocco is still a terrific value for the mid-range traveler on vacation, especially if you’re booking a package tour from Europe that includes airfare. For long-term travelers on a budget however, especially backpackers, it’s no longer the great deal it was five or ten years ago. It has simply gotten too popular with Europeans, who have flooded the main tourist cities and driven up prices—which are now often quoted in euros.

What will replace it? Probably Syria, but again I need to get some feet on the ground for price checks and see if the former trickle of western visitors has gotten any larger.

Not as cheery in Buenos Aires

Iffy Cheap Destinations

A few countries I’ve highlighted have gotten more iffy, but the main one I’m keeping an eye on is Argentina. Inflation has been quite bad there due to some inept government policies. Plus their decision to slap a reciprocal visa fee onto visitors arriving by air means a couple could pay more than $262 extra before they even step out of the airport. (Related post: Argentina says screw you to foreign visitors.)

I was a little worried about Hungary, but prices seem to be staying in check there due to economic problems there and in Europe in general. Thailand has gotten more expensive as the baht has risen in value, but it’s still a great deal, especially come lunch time.

What have you found in your travels? Any surprises to the upside or downside with your travel budget?

  1. Adrian

    My wife and I would like to go to Greece and/or Turkey in the next year or two. Would you say Turkey is still a better deal than Greece at least? Are costs outside of Istanbul significantly less?

    • tim


      Turkey still has a slight lead on Greece when it comes to affordability, but the gap is closing. Greece’s economic troubles are the wild card because Turkey’s economy is actually doing quite well. Being outside the euro zone has probably helped in that regard. Prices are better outside Istanbul, yes, but prices go up drastically on the coast during the summer, just as they do on the islands of Greece. You have to get off the beaten track to find good values. If I were going to either right now on vacation, I’d seriously look into package deals or a leisurely tour to bring the hotel and transportation prices down.

  2. Teri Green

    What about Panama, Costa Rica, and the Philippines? I think these places are contenders too when it comes to the cheapest but having the best.

    If your retirement plans biggest concern, the one that makes the thought of retirement frightening, is expenses, its one you can wave goodbye to. With a bit of clever searching and planning, you can retire overseas cheap on almost any budget and live in comfort and peace.

    There are numerous locations on where to retire cheap, even in the United States, where retirement can be inexpensive and fun.

    • tim

      Teri, thanks for the feedback, but living/traveling in Costa Rica is no bargain—it’s the most expensive country in Central America by a wide margin. And Panama’s a little better, but still not a great value compared to Guatemala, Honduras, or Nicaragua. The Philippines is a worse value than most other countries in Southeast Asia—though they do make it easier to put down roots than some of the others.

      Price isn’t the only consideration of course, but The World’s Cheapest Destinations is a travel book, not a “where to retire” book.

  3. Emil H

    I was surprised to see that Turkey is being pushed out as a cheapest destination in Europe – I’ve been considering including it as a cheap “unknown wine destination” in a blog about great wine places to visit

    • tim

      Emil, wine was a good deal last time I was in Turkey and maybe it still is. But in the daily “basket of goods and services” most travelers care about, that’s not a deal maker or breaker. (Plus the wine is better in Hungary or the Czech Republic, plus the cultures there are more open to drinking it almost anywhere.)

  4. clare

    I love Turkey but have always had an issue with the sanitation which is still not as good as it could be. I think a lot is to do with poor hygiene in some restaurants and washing salad etc in local water… not great :-(

  5. Ryan

    What about the Ukraine? I know Kiev can be expensive, but once you venture out, I find it to be one of the cheapest destinations in Europe. I found Lviv to be a pretty good bargain.

  6. Sara Gabrakirstos

    Wow this was really insightful thanks! I have so far only been to Europe and the U.K. Shooting for Costa Rica this summer! In my personal experience, Eastern Europe is of course the more economical route to travel. I have to say that as far as my more frugal options traveling in eastern europe: Budapest, Hungary, Vienna, Austria, Prague, Czech Rep., Timisoara, Romania (Timiwhat??) and Athens/Mykonos Greece, I am much obliged to you SkyScanner as you have been always been my most trusted travel advisor. Actually going to Romania and Timisoara of all the cities!–had been such an eye-opening experience that dispelled so many notions for me about the country, the people, and the culture! Thanks to the round trip cost of 34 usd, away me and two friends went on a weekend getaway while studying abroad in Italy. We were so apprehensive about going to Romania and a city in Romania most don’t readily recognize. But everything was a pleasant surprise; the people were enormously helpful! and the prices were more than affordable, even cheap I would say. Hands down I’ve never been anywhere where things were so cheap! food, clothes…it’s only a shame that I happen to be completely adverse to the fashion in offense, I just can’t do the 80s again.

  7. Sara Gabrakirstos

    p.s. if you’re already in Europe you’ve got more of an advantage to travel than I do here in Cali. Skyscanner and Momondo are some really great sites that allow you to select your location and “Everywhere” thereby providing you with a serendipitous, adventurous weekend somewhere!

  8. feuria

    Oh!!! thanks to Newest edition of “The World’s Cheapest Destinations” book….I love to travel with my family…:))

  9. steve

    interesting. argentina’s economy is a ticking timebomb once again.

    you basically can’t have savings in argentina unless you think way outside the box and invest internationally as soon as you receive any income. it’s the argentine govt’s way of forcing people to work. forget trying to secure a mortgage loan unless you’re uber-wealthy there – banks obviously aren’t willing to take a bath when hyper-inflation kills their investment.

    the argentine national bank is the only one with huge lines at the atm on weekends, while all the other banks/atms have no line at all….the lines are comprised of people waiting to get their welfare payouts.

    great country, great people, insidious socialist govt. it’s unbelievable how cheap it was for an american traveler in 2007 compared to just 4 years later. shame it has to be (rightly) pulled from the next edition of cheapest destinations.

  10. darren

    This book could be one good source of information for worlds cheapest destinations

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