World travel is on most of our bucket lists, yet for many it seems out of reach. Mostly because we assume we need lots and lots of cash. But we don’t.
Seeing the world is within your grasp this year—it’s just a matter of where you choose to go. While many popular tourist destinations remain highly priced year-round, other, lesser-known locations offer incredible deals.
To get started, review this list of the top five best travel destinations in Europe. A couple spots catch your eye? Since it’s generally inexpensive to hop from one European country to the next by plane or rail, consider checking out more than one of these during the same trip.
- Italy’s heel
Anyone who’s been to Italy’s major cities is unlikely to consider the country a budget travel destination. Turns out, the heel of Italy—think Puglia or Calabria—is home to some of the country’s best beaches, historic sights, and hilly towns. You’ll find the best value, though, in the area’s delicious cucina povera—poor man’s food. Simply prepared, scrumptious, and dirt cheap, it’s matched only by the area’s equally inexpensive accommodations and relaxed pace of life.
Even the most well travelled individual is likely unable to name more than one city in underrated Bulgaria. Neighbouring the Black Sea, the country has a plethora of museums, outdoor recreation, transportation, and accommodations, all for incredibly low prices. Visitors should be sure to check out its most famous site, Rila Monastery, offering free, simple rooms for pilgrims.
- Lisbon, Portugal
Your money will go a long way in Lisbon. From delicious meals out (including desserts that cost less than a euro) to transportation by the city’s romantic—and bargain-priced—trams, spending your days in Lisbon will be carefree and easy on your wallet. For entertainment, scout out free museums, or head to the south for a day to enjoy Lisbon’s picturesque beaches. Look for inexpensive homestays to save even more money, or count on hostels as low as $13 and mid-range hotels as low as $30.
- Faroe Islands
There are few people who can accurately pinpoint the location of the peaceful Faroe Islands, a small, self-governing nation within the Kingdom of Denmark. Almost exactly halfway between Iceland and Norway, the entire grouping of islands is home to less than 50,000 residents. For travellers, that means some of the best hiking, bird watching, and wandering without the hustle, bustle, and overcrowding. By subsidising the helicopters and boats that function like buses between the islands, the Faroese government makes it affordable for you to zip easily between locations without ever seeing another soul. For budget-friendly accommodation, look into the islands’ hostels and increasingly popular homestay options available through sites like Airbnb.
- Warsaw, Poland
Much like South Africa, Warsaw is a beacon for those who love history. The capital of Poland is home to gorgeous architecture and gardens, and is steeped in a rich musical history. Visit in the summer and enjoy free piano concerts every Saturday and Sunday in Lazienki Park next to its statue of Chopin. Old Town, the city’s oldest and most historic part, was nearly destroyed during WWII, but restoration efforts earned it a place on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage sites. If you’re willing to spend a little bit of cash, galleries, restaurants, and cafés abound, but they won’t cost you an arm and a leg, and the price of lodging has dropped nearly 20 percent since 2013.
This post was contributed by Chris White of gap year travel site Gapify.co.uk, experts in comparison of overseas programmes for studying, volunteering and working abroad.