We get told all the time that it’s a small world, but it can seem pretty big when you start considering all the options for travel.
It gets even bigger when you start trying to work out how you can possibly afford to see it all.
There has always been a demand for budget travel destinations, and most of those interested in travel know the usual spots for a cheap getaway, but there are some new kids on the block that you might not have considered.
Having scanned the entries at the bottom of the list, I was delighted to see that some unusual places had become a distinct possibility, even on my meager budget.
The really good news is that the cheaper places are usually in need of your business, so you’ll be welcomed and you’ll know that you’re doing your bit to help the local economy.
There is still the issue of getting there to consider, but with so many airlines competing for your business there are always bargains to be found if you can be flexible with dates and routes.
1. Johannesburg, South Africa
In its short 130-year history this city has experienced more than its fair share of upheaval and few will have escaped hearing negative reports about it on global news networks.
However, this is a city that has been quietly fighting back for the last 20 years, and it is a must-see for anyone with a thirst for unconventional destinations.
The size of the city could be daunting so it will be important to plan your itinerary before you set off, but there are some real treats in store for those that plan well.
Try to avoid the temptation to stick to the sanitized shopping malls that have started to be developed to attract the new wave of tourists in the area.
There are a plethora of local tour guides available to ensure you get to experience the warmth and enthusiasm of the people that live there.
The regeneration of this fascinating sprawl is being fueled by its 8 million inhabitants, which makes for an energetic and invigorating experience, including a thriving music scene, local art galleries, excellently curated museums and many vibrant eateries.
A tour of Soweto, where you can walk the only street in the world to have been home to two Nobel Prize winners (Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu both lived on the world famous Vilakazi Street), is something that shouldn’t be missed.
This township was at the center of Johannesburg’s fight for equality and justice and is drenched in history, but visitors will need to be prepared to see extremes of wealth and poverty that still exist here.
Overall, Johannesburg offers a sense of optimism and excitement for the future combined with a fierce pride of its past that absolutely has to be experienced.
2. Cartagena, Colombia
It’s time to put the Caribbean back on your bucket list!
Cartagena sits on the coast of Columbia with its toes dipped into the crystal blue warm waters of the Caribbean Sea with the white sand beaches and palm trees that you’d actually expect from that part of the world.
While the home of Pablo Escobar is crumbling in ruins less than a 100 miles away, it is fair to say that the local drug problems of Columbia never reached this hidden gem of South America and it is a relaxed and safe place to spend some quality time.
This is a city of two halves, with Old Town living up to its name as a UNESCO World Heritage site, and Bocagrande providing stark contrast with high-rise buildings, heavy traffic and expensive condos.
Both parts of the city are worthy of a visit by themselves so this is like getting two vacations in one.
Old Town is defined by its Spanish Colonial history with miles of crumbling stone walls, 16th Century buildings and brightly painted pastel houses.
As you wander through its cobbled streets and alleyways you will encounter street vendors selling fruits and vegetables, homemade Colombian crafts and, of course, sunglasses!
You’re definitely going to need them, as the sun never stops shining on this stunning city.
A great way to see this part of the city is to take one of the local chiva buses.
These are rickety wooden-framed buses adorned with colorful murals.
Now used just for taking visitors on tours, they are a throwback to the city’s past when these were the most popular public transport in use by the locals.
If it’s a little glamour that you want, then take a trip to the other side of town.
Bocagrande is often compared to Miami and Rio de Janeiro and is home to the wealthy jet-setters who can be found sipping coffees in beachfront cafes or shopping in any of the multitude of boutiques to choose from.
It’s hard to believe that this place is a cheap option, so take the chance to go before everyone finds out about it.
3. Bucharest, Romania
The capital of Romania’s history goes back to the 1400s when it was home to the infamous Vlad the Impaler, the inspiration for the Count Dracula mythology.
It has had a turbulent history of dictatorial leaders and oppressive regimes, but since the revolution in 1989 the city has regained its former glory and transformed itself into a place of wonder and culture.
The Palace of the Parliament is alleged to be the heaviest building in existence and is a monolithic reminder of the communist regime that strangled the city for four decades.
You can now go on tours of its state rooms and can see the splendor which was a direct contradiction to the poverty suffered by the Romanian people during Ceausescu’s reign.
The sightseeing certainly doesn’t stop there.
This city is a mismatch of architectural styles, with several ancient Orthodox churches sitting next to utilitarian style offices, and it has often been nicknamed the Paris of the East for its art deco moldings and flamboyant elegance.
There are so many to choose from, but be sure to take in the National Museum of Contemporary Art when you visit the Palace of the Parliament.
As well as holding some of Romania’s most important pieces of artwork, it is also housed in the former private quarters of the dictator and his wife and is worth a look for that alone.
If you tire of soaking up the history of this stylish and romantic city you can always take a break at any of the many new trendy coffee shops, night spots and cocktail bars.
Bucharest has a popular university and many of its students choose to stay after graduation, giving the city a young and vivacious edge.
If it’s a taste of historic Europe that you want, then you can’t go wrong with a trip to this animated urban paradise.
4. Siem Reap, Cambodia
This is not a new entry on the budget travelers list of places to see, but it is still deserving of an entry.
It seems that the northwest province of Cambodia has somehow managed to retain its small-town charm despite being flooded with tourists since the rediscovery of the Angkor Temples way back in the 19th Century.
The original village is built along the banks of the Siem Reap River and is home to local fishermen and rice farmers, but the blooming city is unique in Cambodia.
Home to a thriving nightlife, backpacker hostels and hotels and busy streets filled with tuktuk drivers and street markets, you will find plenty of restaurants, spas and tour guides.
Its colonial history is still visible in the architecture, which lends itself to French and Chinese influences.
The real attraction of this city is still its proximity to those unbelievable temples that rise up from the landscape like something from a dream.
Just the sheer number of these structures over such a huge area is testament to the size and influence of the ancient Angkor civilization.
There was a time when each of these temples would have been the center of a lively complex of villages, but now they are solitary stone monuments to a time long forgotten and to walk amongst them is a pleasure that is difficult to match.
There is, of course, more to the area and a little time should be taken to see the floating villages on lake Tonle Sap with their houses, schools and shops all sitting atop stilts that stick out of the water. It is unlike anything you have seen before.
There is also the local ancient tradition of the Aspara Dances, scenes of which are illustrated on the walls of the Angkor Temples.
You will not be short of wonder and amazement if you choose to have your next budget break at Siem Reap.
5. Mumbai, India
Formerly known as Bombay and home to over 18 million residents, this city has to be seen to be believed.
It is the largest city in India and this densely populated metropolis can be overwhelming with a combination of heat, traffic and crowds to contend with.
Technically situated on an island with just land bridges connecting it to the mainland, it seems that this city could break its banks and overflow at any moment.
This is a city reserved for the most open-minded and adventurous of explorers, but once a visitor has come to terms with the humidity and the pollution, there is much to be discovered.
This is India’s center of finance, entertainment and fashion and it is home to the planet’s most expensive home and some of the biggest slums in Asia.
It is a city of confusing contradictions, harsh realities and outstanding wonders.
A tribute to the Arc de Triomphe stands proud in this city and The Gateway of India is the must-see attraction in Mumbai.
It was built to welcome King George V and is to be found in Mumbai harbor where it used to welcome the hordes of British tourists arriving by boat.
Its indo-saracenic architecture was seen as the height of sophistication when it was built and the style has been copied throughout the metropolis.
From the harbor you can get a boat to the nearby Elephant Island, so named for the carving of an elephant to be found in its port.
This can offer a break from the crowds and is home to peaceful cave temples and incredible Hindu sculptures.
There is, of course, an unfathomable choice of eateries, shops, museums and theaters in this sprawling metropolis and you should also try to fit in a visit to the Central Bazaar district.
Marine Drive is this city’s bustling promenade, and it does lead to a beach, but while Chowpatty Beach is home to many festivals and parties, it is not recommended that you go for a paddle in the murky waters.
Definitely a destination that should be seen by anyone curious to see all that this planet has to offer.
6. Chania, Crete
So many of those classic stories of mythology are set in and around this area of outstanding beauty and it is easy to see why the dramatic landscape made them so easy to believe.
The isle is home to no less than five mountain ranges, and the resulting valleys, gorges, rivers and lakes are truly breathtaking.
The island was the home of the Minoans, the oldest recorded civilization in Europe, which is pretty old, and you can’t walk five paces without tripping over evidence of this ancient history.
Chania itself is thought to be built on the site of Kydonia, which was one of three cities created by King Minos.
Without even leaving the city you can go and walk through the excavation of the original ancient settlement and imagine yourself walking through doors into elegant rooms with full fireplaces, bedrooms, kitchens and servant quarters.
To see all the treasures that were found during the excavation you will need to visit the Archeological Museum, which is also in the center of the town.
There is also all evidence of invaders throughout the centuries to be found in this city; the Byzantine Wall, the 13th Century Venetian Arsenal and the 17th Century Ottoman fort are just some examples.
It is fair to say that a passion for history and culture will be catered to here.
There is also the option of an invigorating hike through striking scenery, as the Samaria Gorge is right on Chania’s doorstep.
All of this and we haven’t even started to consider the wonderful white sandy beaches that you will find in Chania.
Crete is no stranger to tourism and the beaches on the north of the city will provide you with all the facilities you may crave such as sun loungers, beach bars and water sports.
However, if it’s seclusion and natural beauty that you want, you can find this at the beaches on the south of the city.
Add to this the welcoming Cretan people, their delicious food and the fun nightlife and it becomes hard to imagine why you’d spend your hard-earned money anywhere else!
So that’s my selection from the bottom of that price comparison list, and I hope you can see that traveling on a budget doesn’t always mean you have to scrimp on experience or just follow the crowd.
Do a little research and you can find yourself on a voyage of real discovery.
P.S. Where are you planning to go this summer?