Budget Destinations for Solo Travelers: 2018 Shortlist

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It’s time to research and suggest the best budget destinations for solo travelers for 2018.

I write this annual post for me as much as for you. I want to know the best budget destinations for solo travelers because I want to spend my travel dollar as efficiently as possible. And according to my research, the price of travel is going up in 2018 making it more important than ever to find destinations that are both affordable and exciting.

I’ve scoured the lists of budget destinations released by a wide variety of publications and created a shortlist with the objective of giving you options around the world that are not only affordable but also friendly and safe for solo travelers.

Some of  these are new destinations for me so it’s important to note that I have not stayed at many of the  hotels noted below. I researched them as examples.

solo travel, Book on how to travel solo

For how to travel solo wherever you go get The Solo Traveler’s Handbook. Lots of solo stories and how-to advice. Available on Amazon.

Here’s how this list was determined.

  • Affordability. Naturally, how affordable a destination is depends on your home currency. I’m in Canada and our currency is very low against just about every other currency in the world right now. Still, I’m hypersensitive about the affordability of a destination. Also, I’m giving the information below in US dollars as most of us know our exchange rates to the US dollar.
  • Cost to get there. If the trip is short, the cost to get there is very important. If you’re planning a month or two in a destination, that cost is less significant for it is prorated over a longer period of time.
  • Will it be interesting and fun? A great destination offers access to a new culture, fun things to do, or both. I’ve given you a very brief overview of both for each recommendation.
  • Safety. I’ve checked the US and Canadian government advisories on all these suggestions and indicated any warnings below.

Price of Flights in 2018: Are Basic Economy Fares a Good Deal?

According to the 2018 Global Travel Forecast, airfares overall are expected to rise 3.5% globally. Rates in Western Europe are supposed to increase by 5.5% and Eastern Europe by 7.1%. Airfares in North America will experience a more moderate rise of 2.3%.

In an effort to compete with budget airlines such as WOW, Spirit, and Frontier, mainstream airlines have started to offer cheaper fares on some routes. These basic economy fares may be a good deal but you have to be careful. You may pay more in the long run if you have to pay for a second carry-on bag (which may have a lower weight limit than the typical carry-on), a checked bag,  or in-flight food. While basic economy fares feature a low upfront cost, these fares could end up costing more.

Check flight prices from your city with FlightNetwork. I have found some surprising deals with them and have used their customer service when I made a mistake on a birth date and the issue was easily resolved.

Fundamentals for Finding a Budget Destination in 2018

Here are two fundamentals for finding a budget destination

  1. Go where the crowds are not. Last month I wrote about overtourism in How and Where to Travel to Avoid the Crowds. You’ll save money if you don’t travel to hotspots. It’s basic supply and demand. The more tourists, the higher demand, the higher the prices are.
  2. Go to places that are enduring hard times. The storms that hit the southern US and Caribbean last fall are hitting many destinations hard in terms of tourist income. This pushes prices down and makes your tourist dollar all the more appreciated. Tim Leffel, author of The World’s Cheapest Destinations: 21 Countries Where Your Money Is Worth a Fortune suggests that Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands as well as Houston, the Florida Keys, Naples, Mexico City and much of California wine country are all good options. It might be a rare chance to visit an overcrowded destination when it’s not crowded at all.

The Shortlist of Budget Solo Travel Destinations 2018

Note: In doing the research I wanted to offer apples-to-apples comparisons. So, all the flights I checked leave on February 28th with a return date of March 14th. The room rates I found are for the 28th of February. All were checked during the week of this post’s publication. The hotels and hostels are NOT recommendations. They were chosen based on their price and review scores and are intended to give you an idea of what you can get for your money. Also, I’ve used Toronto and New York City as points of departure to keep the numbers consistent. Use your own home airport to see what rates you’d have to pay.

Tajines in the market in Marrakesh, Morocco, North Africa.

#1 Budget Destination for 2018: Morocco

Tour companies are telling us that Morocco is one of the most popular destinations for 2018. Our editor, Tracey, is traveling there this April. Having been there only once on a one-day tour from Spain, I’m dying to go back. The culture is rich and colorful, the food delicious and the landscape dramatic.

Affordability: 1 Moroccan Dirham is worth 11 US cents. When you’re purchasing something, it’s easy to drop a zero from the cost and you’ll have a good approximation in US dollars. According to Expatistan, it is 48% less expensive than Toronto. There are many options in affordable hotels in Morocco. Here’s a sample of a highly-rated hotel you’d get for about US$80. Here’s the Hotel Central hostel that starts at around $30. You may want to note that there is also a singles hotel called The Mistral which comes in at the $200/night mark.

Cost to get there: It’s cheaper to fly to Casablanca than Marrakesh. From Toronto, return flights start at CAN$783. From New York City, return flights start at US$824. You’re reading that correctly, it’s more expensive in the US – an unusual situation.

Safety:

  • US Government: no warning.
  • Canadian Government: exercise a high degree of caution (this pertains to border regions and remote areas)

Interesting and fun: Arabic is the official language in Morocco, but French is commonly spoken. Read Solo Travel Destination: Morocco by reader, Jane, who is from the US and watch for Tracey’s reports this spring.

Ljubjana, Slovenia

Best European Budget Destination for 2018: Slovenia

As the best affordable European destination for 2018, I pick Slovenia. I was there last spring and loved it! As I keep telling people, there are tourists there, but not too many. Slovenia has had significant Austrian and Italian influence. It feels like what it must have been like to visit Italy in the 1950s. And it’s not just me. In our post on best solo travel memories of 2017, Karla wrote: “Walking around Lake Bled in Slovenia, hearing a band in the distance, finally realizing that I was heading right that way. The band played, in Slovenian,‘“Those Were the Days,’ and everyone danced and cheered. A couple of songs later, the concert ended with a traditional Slovenian ballad, and the entire audience sang along. Just thinking of this makes me smile fondly!”

Affordability: The US dollar is doing well against the Euro at the moment with 1 Euro costing US$1.20. In 2014 that Euro would have cost you US$1.40. In Canada, a surge in the employment rate is expected to strengthen the dollar, so the Euro will likely cost less this year for Canadians as well. According to Expatistan, the cost of living in Ljubljana, the country’s capital, is 30% lower than that of Toronto. Accommodation is affordable in the city. City Hotel Ljubljana has a fantastic rating and comes in at US$85/night. Hostel Celica, where I stayed, is going for US$15/night on February 28th.

Cost to get there: From Toronto, return flights start at CAN$1,097. From New York City return flights start at US$710. It’s a little on the steep side. I found it quite cheap to fly to Venice and rent a car to get to Slovenia.

Safety: 

  • US Government: no warning.
  • Canadian Government: exercise normal security precautions

Interesting and fun: Read Solo Travel Destination: Ljubljana, Slovenia and Two Sides of Ljubljana: Historic and Alternative.

New Brunswick boasts Canada’s warmest saltwater beaches (the warmest waters north of Virginia) on the Acadian Coast at Parlee Beach.

Best Budget Travel to Small Towns and Cities: New Brunswick, Canada

Small town and rural tourism is on the rise. It’s peaceful and significantly less expensive than going to the major destinations of the world. I’m suggesting New Brunswick, Canada as your relaxed, budget destination for 2018.

Affordability: Though the Canadian dollar may be on the rise, it will likely still be a good buy against most currencies throughout 2018. Today it costs CAN$1.27 to buy a US dollar. According to Expatistan, the cost of living in Moncton, New Brunswick, the start and end of my New Brunswick road trip is 25% lower than Toronto. The Rodd Hotel, a good quality Maritime chain, has a great location near the river in Moncton and comes in at US$79 per night. Auberge C’mon Inn is a hostel with an 8.5/10 rating that costs $20 nightly for a bed in a dorm.

Cost to get there: Flights from Toronto to Moncton run CAN$288. From New York City, flights to Moncton run US$235.

Safety:

  • US Government: no warning.
  • Canadian Government: no issue there.

Interesting and fun: Great festivals (read The Tintamarre: A Festival to Beat the Band), warm water ocean beaches and small cities just big enough for good food, drink and entertainment are highlights of New Brunswick. Here’s a post I wrote from a trip there in 2016, The Great Acadian Road Trip: Itinerary, Tips and Lots of Pics.

Bolivia!

On My Personal Budget Bucket List: Bolivia

This is on Lonely Planet’s list for 2018 and mine as well. According to them, “budget-conscious travellers can get by on less than US$30 a day, eating at unforgettable markets and taking hiking and biking trips. Must-do: La Paz also has a fast emerging yet affordable upscale scene, epitomised by superb dining at places such as Gustu, founded by Noma’s Claus Meyer.”

Affordability: There are approximately 7 Bolivian Boliviano to the US$. As an approximation, 70 boliviano is US$10. According to Expatistan, the cost of living in La Paz, the country’s capital, is 52% lower than that of Toronto. Now for accommodation. The Camino Real Aparthotel & Spa 5-star hotel is rated 9.1 on Booking.com and priced at just US$123/night. You can stay really cheap at the Hostel Austria for $7/night. And of course, there’s everything in between.

Cost to get there: Flights from Toronto to La Paz run CAN$955. From New York City, flights to La Paz starts at US$508.

Safety:

  • US Government: no warning.
  • Canadian Government: Exercise a high degree of caution due to political and social tensions.

Interesting and fun: We don’t yet have any posts on Bolivia so if you have been or go in the future, please share your experience by contributing a Destination post using our easy form. Submit your destination post here.

photo, image, beach, jacksonville, florida

Jacksonville has 22 miles of beaches

Best Budget Destination for a Year of Celebrations: San Antonio, Texas

US News ranks San Antonio number 2 in their list of top budget US destinations for 2018. That’s good news but there’s more. San Antonio is celebrating its Tricentennial in 2018. It will be a year of celebrations making this year a great time to go.

Affordability: Free is the big word for San Antonio this year. Check out the Tricentennial celebrations here. Obviously, currency is not an issue for US travelers. For Canadians, the prospects of a stronger Canadian dollar makes US travel more appealing than it has been in the last few years. According to Expatistan, the cost of living in San Antonio is 24% lower than Toronto. Regarding accommodation, the Hotel Gibbs Downtown Riverwalk has a 8.5/10 overall rating and 9.1/10 for location. The decor looks fun and when I checked for our Feb 28th date, the rate was discounted to US$99. Two and three-star hotels run between US$30-$50.

Cost to get there: Searching through FlightNetwork, flights from Toronto are CAN$374 and from New York City are US$194.

Interesting and fun: There’s the Alamo historic site, the San Antonio Missions which were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015, the San Antonio is Natural Bridge Caverns less than 30 minutes away and much more to see and do. Read of Solo Travel Destination: San Antonio, USA.

Here’s the 2017 list.

best-budget-solo-travel-destinations-2017

The Shortlist of Budget Solo Travel Destinations 2017

The price of flights has been falling year after year since 2013 and, according to a report in Forbes, this trend will continue in 2017. The same report points to American Express Global Business Travel predicting a rise in the prices for hotel rooms of about the same percentage as the decline in flight prices. I’d say that’s a wash. And as a consumer we have to plan carefully to get the most for our travel money.

To help you (and me) here is my shortlist of affordable destinations for solo travelers in 2017.

photo, image, beach, hopkins, belize

The perfect spot for some beachside R&R.

Available on Amazon.

Available on Amazon.

Belize

Belize is on a number of budget lists for 2017.  Let’s start with a Destination post written by Gemma, a reader from the UK. She recommends going off the beaten track just a bit to Hopkins, Belize. The most popular destinations in Belize are San Pedro and Caye Caulker.

Affordability – You can buy 2 Belize dollars with one US dollar. It’s an easy calculation. While there are many luxury resorts in Belize there is no shortage of budget hotels. The price will vary according to where you are in Belize with the more popular spots being more expensive of course. I’m going to focus on Hopkins since it was recommended by Gemma and I’ve seen it described as the friendliest place in Belize – something that would recommend it to this solo traveler.

For hotels I usually look for something around the $100 mark but in Hopkins I found The Parrot Cove which looks significantly better than the US$100 hotels for US$127. I’d likely stretch my budget in this case.  However I’m also inclined towards hostels. In her post Gemma recommended The Funky Dodo with its tree top bar, a hostel that I’ve seen priced as low as US$13 per night. According to Expatistan, Belize City is 30% less expensive than my home of Toronto.

Cost to get there – Return flights to Belize in February from Toronto run at about US$530. Return flights to Belize from New York City for the same time period run about $440.

Safety –

  • US Government: no warning.
  • Canadian Government: Exercise a high degree of caution due to crime and Zika Virus

Interesting and fun – Belize is both a Central American country and a Caribbean country giving it the culture of Central America with Mayan ruins and jungle as well as the beaches of a Caribbean island. It’s home to a 185-mile-long coral reef that is protected by the UNESCO World Heritage program making it a great destination for snorkelling and diving.

photo, image, mistral hotel

The Mistral Hotel caters to solo travelers.

Available on Amazon.

Available on Amazon.

Crete, Greece

Europe is always a desirable destination but not always an affordable one. Greece, and Crete in particular, is the recommended European destination for 2017.

Affordability – The exchange rate for US$ to Euros is quite good right now. In fact, it’s a few cents stronger than the Euro which it was definitely not a couple of years ago. There are many options in affordable hotels in Crete. Here’s a sample of a highly-rated hotel you’d get for about $100. Here’s the Chiani hostel that starts at US$12. You may want to note that there is also a singles hotel called The Mistral which comes in at the $200/night mark. I couldn’t get a comparison for Crete but according to Expatistan Athens is about 30% less expensive than Toronto.

Cost to get there – Using Flightnetwork, the price of US$686 from New York and US$800 from Canada.  While Europeans may be able to fly directly to Crete, those of us from North America would have to fly into Athens and then get to Crete. You can fly if you want but I’d be inclined to stay in Athens two nights and take a ferry to Crete.

Safety –

  • US Government: no warning.
  • Canadian Government: Exercise normal security precautions.

Interesting and fun – The island is rich in history, Minoan ruins, rugged mountains, beaches, traditional villages and food! You can do a bit of Greet island hopping from Crete. It’s easy to book a tour and given the island’s difficult economic situation it is not expensive. Rick Steves has an excellent post on the Greek Islands here.

photo, image, new orleans, mardi gras world

Mardi Gras World…for the 51 weeks of the year you can’t go to a parade.

New Orleans guide

Available on Amazon.

New Orleans, USA

If you avoid Mardi Gras New Orleans is one of the least expensive and most culturally unique cities in the US. Ashley, an American reader, gave us an excellent post on budget travel to New Orleans here. If you do want to go during Mardi Gras read this post submitted by Guy from Australia: Solo at Mardi Gras

Affordability – For Americans the exchange rate is not an issue. For Canadians, every US$ costs us about Cdn$1.25 but as far as American cities go, this one is a good option. As mentioned above the Euro is worth just slightly less than the US$. Here is a sample of a hotel in the Garden district that is about $100 per night. Starting at US$31 you can book yourself into Site 61 Hostel. According to Expatistan New Orleans is about as expensive as Toronto when you consider the exchange rate.

Cost to get there – There are many budget airlines operating within the United States offering affordable domestic flights.  From Toronto, return flights start at US$550. From New York City return flights start at US$460.

Safety –

  • US Government: no warning.
  • Canadian Government: Exercise normal security precautions

Interesting and fun – When I think of New Orleans I think of music! From street musicians to formal concerts the city is alive with music. Coffee and Beignets at Cafe du Monde are a must. The French Quarter and Bourbon Street are definitely important.

Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires guide

Available on Amazon.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

I definitely have my sites set on Buenos Aires this year. It’s been too long since I’ve been to South America. It’s time to go again and Argentina is definitely a priority. You can read what Zenaida wrote about this Paris of South America here.

Affordability – There are 16 Argentine pesos to the US dollar. Here’s an example of a hotel in the historic center of Buenos Aires for about US$100. A bed in a hostel dorm starts at US$12.50. According to Expatistan, the city is 30% less expensive than Toronto.

Cost to get there – It’s likely best if you go to Argentina for a couple of weeks or more to make the expense of your flight worthwhile. From Toronto flights start at $US1,180. From New York City round-trip flights start at US$900.

Safety –

  • US Government: no warning.
  • Canadian Government: Exercise normal security precautions

Interesting and fun – The culture of Argentina, whether it’s in the Tango, art or food is well recognized. Take in the museums, go to the city parks, go on a Gaucho Day Trip, take in a concert and, of course, there’s the night life. Buenos Aires has lots to offer.

photo, image, quebec city, lower town, funicular

Beautiful Quebec city is beside the St. Lawrence River.  A glimpse of the Chateau Frontenac and the funicular railway from lower town.

And, for the second year in a row, Quebec City makes the list.

Available on Amazon.

Available on Amazon.

Quebec City, Canada

The Canadian dollar is not strong making Canada a good deal for just about any western traveler. But for Canadians and Americans I’d recommend Quebec City in particular. It offers a bit of Europe without traveling across an ocean.

Affordability – The Canadian dollar runs between 70% and 75% of the US dollar making the city quite affordable for Canadians when compared to traveling the US or Europe and just about anyone traveling to Canada. Here’s an example of a hotel you could book in Quebec for the equivalent of US$100. And here’s an example of a hostel you could book for less than US$25 per night. According to Expatistan, Quebec City is generally a little less expensive than my home of Toronto.

Cost to get there – A flight from Toronto to Quebec City return is about US$200. You can also travel there from anywhere in North America by bus and train. Obviously, the cost jumps significantly from outside North America.

Interesting and fun – Old Quebec is a UNESCO-listed site and well worth a wander. The city has great restaurants with excellent food. If you go in the winter, take in their famous Winter Carnival, but go to Quebec City at just about any time of year and you’ll likely be able to take in a festival.

And here is the 2016 list.

where to go in 2016

The Shortlist of Budget Destinations for Solo Travelers 2016

Available on Amazon.

Available on Amazon.

Cambodia

Three different readers have recommended Cambodia for solo travelers. You can read their posts here. And here are more reasons Cambodia is on the list.

Affordability – Here’s an example of a hotel you could book in Phnom Penh for the equivalent of US$100. And here’s an example of a hostel you could book for about US$7 per night. You can get a private room with ensuite for about US$25 per night. According to Expatistan Phnom Penh is about 30% less expensive than Toronto.

Cost to get there – Flights to Phnom Penh return are about $800. Getting to Asia is not cheap.

Interesting and fun – From fascinating markets to adventure travel to UNESCO sites, there’s lots to do. For specifics read the posts about Cambodia already on Solo Traveler.

Georgia

Affordability – $1 buys about 2.40 Georgian LariHere’s an example of a hotel you could book in Tbilisi for the equivalent of US$100. And here’s an example of a hostel you could book for less than US$10 per night. According to Expatistan Tbilisi is about half as expensive as Toronto.

Cost to get there – Flights to Tbilisi run at about US$800 return – not cheap but comparable to most European destinations and reasonable given that you will save when you’re there.

Interesting and fun – Mountains for skiing and hiking, beaches for taking it slow,  medieval architecture and old villages. According to CNN, visit between February and November. May 26 is Independence Day.

Available on Amazon.

Available on Amazon.

Estonia

I have an affinity for the north but it’s usually really expensive – even for me to go to the Canadian north. But here’s an option.

Affordability – Estonia uses the Euro so US$1 currently buys €0.92. Here’s an example of a hotel you could book in Tallinn for the equivalent of US$100. And here’s an example of a hostel you could book for less than US$20 per night. According to Expatistan Tallinn is significantly less expensive than Toronto.

Cost to get there – This was a huge surprise. The cost came in under US$500 return. What a deal!

Interesting and fun – In addition to being a northern country, there are events throughout the year, music festivals and Christmas markets – yes, Estonia is on my list.

destinations for Solo Travelers on a budget

Beautiful Quebec city beside the St. Lawrence River. This photo and a post about Quebec City was submitted by Solo Traveler reader Ayan.

Quebec City, Canada

For Canadians and Americans, Quebec City is a great destination to give you a taste of Europe within North America.

Affordability – The Canadian dollar is currently quite low (about 70% of the US dollar) making the city quite affordable for Canadians and just about anyone traveling to Canada. Here’s an example of a hotel you could book in Quebec for the equivalent of US$100. And here’s an example of ahostel you could book for less than US$25 per night. According to Expatistan, Quebec City is generally a little less expensive than my home of Toronto.

Cost to get there – A flight from Toronto to Quebec City return is about US$200. You can also travel there from anywhere in North America by bus and train. Obviously, the cost jumps significantly from outside North America.

Interesting and fun – Old Quebec is a UNESCO-listed site and well worth a wander. The city has great restaurants with excellent food. If you go in the winter, take in their famous Winter Carnival, but go to Quebec City at just about any time of year and you’ll likely be able to take in a festival.

Available on Amazon.

There are few guidebooks on Uruguay. This one includes it. Available on Amazon.

Uruguay

Affordability – 1 US dollar buys about 30 Uruguayan pesos. Here’s an example of a hotel you could book in Montevideo for just over US$100. And here’s an example of a hostel you could book for about US$20 per night. According to Expatistan the cost of living in Mondevideo, the capital, is about 25% less than Toronto

Cost to get there – Flights to Montevideo from Toronto run at about US$800 return.

Interesting and fun – I’ve heard great things about Uruguay from other travel writers. Lonely Planet describes the country as “progressive, stable, safe and culturally sophisticated … [offering visitors] opportunities to experience everyday ‘not-made-for-tourists’ moments”. A side trip to Iguazú Falls in Argentina would be on my list as well.

destinations for Solo Travelers on a budget

The colorful buildings of Cartagena. This photo is by Solo Traveler reader Jennifer who gave us a post on Cartagena here.

Available on Amazon.

Available on Amazon.

Colombia

Affordability – The US$ buys about 3,100 Colombian pesos which is significantly more than a few years ago. Here’s an example of a hotel you could book in Bogota for just over US$100. And here’s an example of a hostel you could book for less than US$10 per night. According to Expatistan, the cost of living in Bogota is about half that of Toronto

Cost to get there – Flights to Bogota from Toronto can be as low as US$400 return. Amazing!

Interesting and fun – Cartagena on the coast, Bogota the capitol in the interior and stunning national parks and the Amazon mean that Colombia has a lot to offer. It is on a number of lists of recommended destinations but it’s worth noting that the US government has a travel warning for Colombia. The Canadian government has an advisory that is more geographically specific. A friend who lived there for a number of years and has been back in the US for two years and continues to return to Colombia considers the country safe.

So there you go – my shortlist of destinations for solo travelers on a budget. But, of course, this is personal. You may have your own budget destination list. Please share yours in the comments.

Last updated: 8th January, 2018

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