5 Cheap Travel Destinations You Don’t Have to be Rich to Visit!

Travel

Traveling the world is a dream that many people have from a young age. However, they grow older, and the realities of the world hit them. Bills. Time. Money. No matter what it is, traveling abroad becomes seemingly out of reach for many people.

However, it doesn’t have to be.

Although many people dream about visiting London, Paris, or Rome on their trips abroad, there are plenty of incredible countries and destinations out there that are much more accessible for someone on a budget.

Over the last three years, we’ve had the opportunity to travel to some pretty amazing places (11 countries) while on a budget. In fact, we paid off around $57,000 of student debt while traveling for the first two of those years. Of those 11 countries that we visited, here are our five favorite budget-friendly places.

Thailand

The Land of a Thousand Smiles. Of the places that I’ve visited in the world, Thailand remains one of my favorites. Between the natural beauty, history, temples, food, markets, and low cost of living, there are few places in the world that can match it for a budget destination.

Whether you’re a backpacker, a young professional, or an older couple looking for adventure, there is something for everyone.

For a couple traveling together, you can easily spend a month traveling around the country without worrying about too much for around $1,500-$2,000. If you’re a backpacker willing to eat street food and stay in dorm rooms, you can cut that cost in half.

Our Open Water Diver course (three days of diving and accommodation) cost less than $300 at Big Blue Diving on Koh Tao.

Sri Lanka

Although not at the top of many people’s must-see destinations, Sri Lanka is prospering after decades of civil war and relatively recent tsunami damage. For those who are looking for an adventure on a budget, there is plenty to do in Ceylon.

The highlight of the trip, for me, was hiking to the top of Adam’s Peak (no cost other than accommodation), a fairly intense 3-4 hour walk at 2 am to see one of the most beautiful sunrises of my life.

However, drinking beer on the beach in Hikkaduwa at noon wasn’t the worst thing either. You can get a room directly on the beach for anywhere from $5-$30 USD per night.

Nepal

I mention Nepal with hesitation for a few reasons.

The first reason is that, while the country itself is very cheap, the things that you’ll likely want to do aren’t necessarily that cheap. For example, most people want to trek in the Himalayan Mountains to see Mount Everest while in Nepal.

Between the gear that you’ll need, the flight to the start of the trek, the guide, the porter, your food, and the accommodation on the trek, the costs add up quickly. Our trek for seven days cost around $800-$1,000 in total per person.

If the trek is a bit out of your budget, there are still plenty of other things to see and do while in Nepal. It’s filled with rich history, old temples, the Buddhist religion, and amazing nature all throughout the country.

With that said, Nepal is not for the faint of heart. Kathmandu is one of the most hectic cities in the world, and you’ll likely see things in Nepal that you’ve never before seen anywhere else in the world.

Peru

Although known primarily for Machu Picchu, Peru is so much more than just one tourist site. While you certainly shouldn’t miss Machu Picchu if possible (the price tag on it can be quite steep for someone on a budget), there is still plenty to see and do throughout the country that won’t break the bank.

For example, a ten-day boleto touristico (tourist ticket) costs just $45 USD and gets you entrance into 16 different ruins and museums throughout the Cusco region. Even a day trip to somewhere like the beautiful Rainbow Mountain will only set you back around $20 USD for an entire day that includes transportation, a 4-6 hour hike, breakfast, and lunch.

Colombia

Ah, Colombia. One of the most dangerous countries in the entire world, right? Not anymore. Tourism has expanded significantly over the last ten years, and it’s slowly becoming one of the hottest tourist destinations in South America. It’s also cheap (check out our six-month budget).

No matter what type of traveler you are, there’s something for everyone in Colombia. It’s the second most biodiverse country in the entire world, and you can go from laying on beautiful beaches in Cartagena to touring coffee farms in Salento to wearing a jacket in chilly Bogota all in one trip (round trip flights within the country start at around $40 USD).

 

With the rise of budget airlines, traveling abroad is no longer only for the wealthy. If you’re willing to put in the time to research and budget your money accordingly, there’s likely a country close to where you live that you can afford to visit. All that you need is some time off (that’s a whole different story).

What is your favorite budget travel destination? Comment below!

by Jul 31, 2017

The Best Cheap Restaurants in Cusco

Life Style

 

The Best Cheap Restaurants in Cusco

One of my favorite parts about living in Cusco has been the vibrant food scene. Sure, Cusco is a tourist city first, which means super expensive hotels and restaurants line the streets to cater to the wealthy travelers. However, even if you’re on a budget, you don’t have to miss out on the great dishes on offer in the city. Use this guide to find the best cheap restaurants in Cusco!

 

Le Buffet Frances

Ok, this cute little European cafe tucked away on a side street of Cusco isn’t a buffet, but it’s definitely French! Run by a young French couple, all the food here is phenomenal, and it 100% deserves its place in the top spot on Tripadvisor. The set meal with a sandwich, fresh juice, and dessert is my go to, while Daniel usually opts for the bacon and pumpkin quiche. You can also stop by for desserts and coffee, or meat and cheese platters to share. The fresh, light taste is such a welcome change from heavy Peruvian food. The best part? A complete meal for two doesn’t even set us back $20. Definitely the best cheap restaurant in Cusco.

 

Fuego

This American spot was a great find, and one of our favorite cheap restaurants in Cusco. Daniel and I hit it up for the amazing lunch menu. A sandwich or burger, fries, coleslaw, drink and dessert for $8. Yes please. I opt for the cuban sandwich with pulled pork, while Daniel usually tries something from the burger menu. If you’ve been traveling in South America for awhile, you know a good sandwich is HARD to find. Check out Fuego for your fix!

 

Creperia La B’om

Love this little creperie. The ambiance inside is magical. Low cielings, colorful cushions, a living room with couches to lounge in and a balcony with an amazing view of the city. Oh, and the food is great too. A menu of the day with a crepe, espresso, and fresh juice will only set you back $5 and will definitely leave you feeling cozy and full. Another great aspect of this place is that it has the cheapest beer prices we’ve seen so far! $2 for a Cusquena brew is (sadly) a great deal here in the city. Check it out for lunch and some casual afternoon drinks!

 

Best Breakfast: Museo Del Cafe

This is the best breakfast I’ve had so far in Cusco. Yes, the meals are $9 to $10 but don’t get scared away! First, they are HUGE. I had to skip lunch afterwards because I was still so full. And second, they include everything. Coffee, fresh juice, and all the food you could ever need. We checked out a few cheaper spots in Cusco, but once we added juice and coffee to our meals, the price almost always exceeded those from Museo del Cafe. Finally, the food is delicious and the ambiance is great. Comfy couches line the wall and we snagged a great seat on the balcony overlooking Cusco’s cobbled city streets. It’s right by Plaza de Armas, so you should definitely check it out when you’re searching for the early morning cure to your next hangover!

 

Best Peruvian Food: Menu of the Day

The menu of the day is not a restaurant, but an option. Peruvian cuisine has some of the best cheap restaurants in Cusco. Many different small Peruvian restaurants offer traditional food at an insanely cheap price every day. The menu of the day changes daily (makes sense) and usually includes a soup, a main dish, and a juice. You can find the choices hanging in windows of restaurants or written on signs outside advertising the prices. If you want a filling meal on a budget, the menu of the day is the BEST choice. At the small restaurant by my apartment, we can get a large potato and veggie soup, rice and fried fish, and a cup of juice for only $1.50. Seriously, it’s crazy. The closer you get to the center of the city, the more expensive the menu will be. I’ve seen them range up to $10 at nice restaurants. So, if you’re on a budget, my advice is to prowl the side streets to get the best deal!

 

Best Value: Maikhana Indian Buffet

I love Indian food. I try every Indian restaurant in every city we visit and to be honest, in South America, they’ve all been average at best. Not surprising, but still a little disappointing! Who knew I would eat the best Indian food of my life in little Oxford, Ohio?? Anyway, the Maikhana Indian Buffet in Cusco is great for two reasons. First of all, if you’re on a budget, it’s less than $5 for all you can eat rices, curries and a salad. It even includes water, which is so rare and so great to find outside of the US. While the curries are fine, the real star of the show is their garlic nan. Omg. It is far and away the BEST nan I have ever had in my life.The pieces are huge and so flavorful, and you can add it to your meal for only $1.50 more. That alone immediately categorized Maikhana as one of the best cheap restaurants in Cusco. Seriously if you’re an Indian lover like me, don’t miss this awesome buffet!

Best Drunk Food: Rey Kebab

Rey Kebab is the best. It’s set up right across from the best bars and clubs and open late so you never have to head home unsatisfied. The classic kebabs are only $5, and they’re big, hot, and filling. However, my favorite dish here is definitely the pita and hummus plate. I lOVE hummus, and theirs is exceptional. Their pita is also always hot and fresh. For only $3 it makes the perfect midnight snack. No matter what time of day (or night) it is, definitely stop by Rey Kebab for a delicious and cheap meal.

Best Dessert: Qucharitas

Guys. This place. Qucharitas is n cafe, ice cream, and dessert shop in Cusco. The most interesting thing about it is that they make the ice cream right in front of you. They have a cream base that they pour on large freezers, then they mix in whatever toppings you ask for and let it all freeze together into their delicious ice cream. Oh, and did I mention their waffles? Put your ice cream on a fresh waffle with nutella, or in a homemade waffle cone. They also have smoothies, cakes, milkshakes and crepes to tempt your sweet tooth. A half waffle with ice cream and nutella (my go to) is more than enough to split with a partner and will only set you back $4. Not bad, because the quality is absolutely phenomenal!

Best Snack: Muchaway Churros Artesanales

Ok, this little whole in the wall cafe is just too cute. Run by a young couple, the place only has two tables, a couple chairs, and a small menu. But, you don’t need to look at it long because it’s clear what they do best: churros. You can get mini churros to dip in chocolate, churros filled with caramel, or even churros topped with different candies and toppings like a sundae. Pair it with a coffee or tea and your sweet tooth will definitely be satisfied for only $2. Check it out!

 

Best Bar: Indigo

This restaurant isn’t too cheap (around $10 for a meal) but I’m putting it on the list because it’s my favorite bar in Cusco and has the best atmosphere. Order a beer, a pisco sour, or even a hookah to smoke for the night, grab a few board games from the bar, and enjoy the music and cheerful ambiance while you relax. Arrive at just the right time and maybe the table set with a porch swing will even be available to snag for your group. If you’re getting dinner too, the best options on their menu are definitely the Thai curries. The musandam curry with peanut butter and rice is my go to. It’s large enough to split for two if you grab a cheaper appetizer also, which can help keep costs down. Definitely don’t miss Indigo for a night out in Cusco.

 

Cusco is one of my favorite cities to live in so far because the array of different restaurants and cuisines has been so delicious and fun to try. I promise, even if you can’t afford $30 ceviche, there are plenty of great restaurants here where you don’t have to trade flavor for price. Use this guide to try the best cheap restaurants in Cusco, and let me know what you think!

All my love,

Di

Did I miss one of your favorite haunts? Comment below so I can try it and add it to the list!

by Jul 28, 2017

Craft Beer in Medellin: It’s Better Than You Think

Colombia

A wall of beer bottles showing craft beer in Medellin

Photo credit: La Toma Cervecera

Craft Beer in Medellin: It’s Better Than You Think

Pablo Escobar. Cocaine. Drug cartels. The next big craft brew scene? Colombia is a country of several faces, and its world reputation suffered significantly during the drug wars. Unfortunately, many people know it to be a dangerous place.

However, the Medellin, Colombia that I came to know during my six-month stay couldn’t be further from that perception.

Finally able to breathe again after years of suffering, Colombia is experiencing a wave a foreign visitors as it has never before seen. In fact, tourism in Colombia has exploded by 250% since 2006. And those visitors have helped to bring something beautiful to the country.

Craft beer.

I’m talking IPAs, chocolate stouts, coffee stouts, cannabis pale ales, amber ales, and several other incredibly delicious brews. Although it may not be the first thing that you think about when you think Colombia, it should certainly be on your radar. Let’s take a look at what I found in Medellin.

 

A Scene in its Infancy

 

Since I wasn’t old enough to experience the craft beer boom in the United States in the late 1990’s, being in Medellin gave me a taste of what it must have been like when the scene was in its early stages.

For example, we checked out the La Toma Cervecera craft beer festival in Medellin. Although we were only expecting a few different beer booths and some people hanging out, we showed up to a fifteen-minute long line just to get in the warehouse/brewery.

Once we paid for our tickets and got our mug/requisite palate cleanser (sliced chorizo), we walked into a surprisingly poppin beer festival. It was complete with multiple different independent beer companies, small booths serving artisanal food, a guy giving beer tattoos in the middle of the party, and the classic industrial layout (think exposed beams, open roof, beer tanks, and everyone sitting at wooden pallet tables).

With all of the different options to try, it was difficult to decide where to start (luckily we had time for several). The difference that stood out to me the most about many of the companies is that several of them were clearly just some friends that got together to brew some craft beer. 

For example, we stopped at one booth, and the poor guy’s bottles were just exploding and overflowing one after another (we finally got a decent kiwi IPA off of him). Although not every beer that we tried was excellent (in fact, most were not anywhere close to what you might find in the US), it was pretty awesome to witness the beginning of the craft beer boom in Medellin.

With all of the different companies that showed up, you might think that it’s easy to find craft beer in Medellin.

Unfortunately, that leads me to my next point.

 

A guide for glasses for craft beer in Medellin

Photo Credit: La Toma Cervecera

Hard to find in Stores

 

If you’re from a craft beer-loving country such as the United States (sorry Europeans/Aussies, the beer in the US is the best), you’re going to find it quite difficult to track down a good brew in the city. In the supermarkets (yes, even in Carulla), the best that you can find is Club Colombia (not a bad beer in its own right), a few iffy imports, and some Bogota Beer Company (pretty solid, actually).

For the good stuff, you’ll have to track down the few places in the city that stock craft beer in the bar. Luckily, if you’re a tourist, that shouldn’t be that hard to do. Some of the best places for craft beer in Medellin that we found were the following places:

  • The Brew House in Poblado: Carries a decent selection of their own craft beers and several other local beers. Plus, the owner is a nice guy and great to drink with. He’s always there and will probably have a drink with you if you strike up a conversation.
  • La Cerveceria Libre in Poblado: About a 5-7 walk from Parque Lleras. It’s a bit away from the more touristy stuff, but the beer selection here is good.
  • Ragazzi Pizza and Pastas in Envigado: Although not everyone has enough time in the city to make it out to the suburbs, this is one of the best restaurants in Envigado. Their prices are excellent, their food is great, they always have several craft beers available, and the owners are super friendly.
  • The Beer Store in Poblado: This one ‘s hard to miss. It’s directly in the center of Parque Lleras, but they have a pretty good selection of beer. It’s the only place that I could find the BBC IPA in Medellin.

Although there are certainly a few other places to get craft beer in Medellin (in Poblado and elsewhere), these are just a few of the better places that I found during our stay in the city.

As Colombia continues to prosper and experience influence from people all over the world, I imagine that the craft beer in Medellin is only going to get better. Whether you have two days or two months in the city, be sure to experience the scene for yourself.

by Jul 26, 2017

A Visit to the Pisac Ruins in Cusco, Peru

Peru

 

A Visit to the Pisac Ruins in Cusco, Peru

Pisac. Is. Amazing.

If you’re thinking about skipping these beautiful ruins on your trip to Cusco, you definitely need to reconsider. There are two reasons to take this day trip. First, the town of Pisac has an amazing market and some great cafes to hang out in and explore. And second, the extensive ruins high up on the mountainside are breathtaking. They’re situated in four different groups, and the farther you walk into them, the more isolated and empty they become. It really feels like stepping back in time. Once you reach the third set, you can follow the path down the mountain and back into Pisac for a relaxing lunch. Seriously a perfect day!

 

 

Getting There

Getting to Pisac from Cusco is quick and cheap. Collectivos (shared vans) leave regularly from the top of Puputi street. They’re quick, comfortable, and only cost 4 soles / $1.25 usd. The drive takes around 45 minutes and drops you off right in the middle of the small town. Couldn’t be easier!

Once you’re in Pisac, you’ll have to take a taxi up the mountain to the ruin. You can grab a taxi right where you get out on the street, and they cost 25 soles / $8 usd each.

 

 

The Pisac Ruins

These ruins are amazing. The first group you walk into contain an incredible view of the Incan terraces flowing smoothly down the mountain. Once we passed through and explored them, we crossed the terraces to the second community. This set crawls even higher up the mountain, meaning more stairs, but also stunning panoramas of the ruins and valley below.

Afterwards, we were one of the few to venture onward to the third cluster in the Pisac ruins, about ten minutes away on a path on the side of the mountain. We had these all to ourselves, and promptly sat down to enjoy a picnic on the terraces. We continued to cross through and followed the path that goes downward and wraps around the mountain back to the town of Pisac. While on the path, up above us we could see the fourth and final ruins, a hospital and citadel, balanced precariously on the side of the mountain top.

 

 

Getting Down

You can exit the Pisac ruins in two ways. The first is by doubling back and taking another taxi from the entrance back down the mountain. The second choice, which we opted for, was to walk down and take the scenic route. More switchbacks, more cliff sides, and more terraces await on this 30 minute walk, but it was enjoyable and dropped us off right in Pisac’s main market.

The market weaves through multiple streets and squares and has beautiful sweaters, art, alpaca blankets, and more. While we found that the prices were a little higher in the markets in Cusco, their selection was larger and better. If you want to check it out, though, just make sure you visit on a Sunday, Tuesday, or Thursday, because the market is not open every day.

 

 

Finally, we decided to grab a late lunch and head home. We went to Ulrike’s Cafe, and I’m so glad we did because they have BAGELS! After seven months in South America, bagels are one of the American foods I miss the most. Seeing home made bagels and cream cheese on the menu was such an amazing surprise, and they were so good we even took some home for breakfast the next day. YUM.

Stuffed with good food and hot coffee, were ready to end our day  at the Pisac ruins and get back to Cusco. Doing so was easy. We just had to head back to the main road where we got off the collectivo when we arrived. After about one minute of waiting, another inevitably arrived and stopped to pick us up on their way to Cusco. We were heading back at just the right time in the late afternoon, and the setting sun over the valley was beautiful.

 

 

All in all, the Pisac ruins are my favorite destination (so far!) on the tourist ticket. They are easily accessible from Cusco, and the town of Pisac is a destination on its own. If you don’t have much time in Cusco, I suggest making sure you still squeeze this piece of history onto your to do list!

 

All my love,

Di

by Jul 25, 2017

What To Do In Medellin

Colombia

 

What To Do In Medellin

I lived in Medellin for 6 months, which means I had plenty of time to explore everything the city had to offer. If you’re only in town for a short time, make sure you don’t miss my top recommendations for what to do in Medellin!

Paragliding

The paragliding in Medellin is quickly becoming a top tour attraction. It’s pretty cheap and a great way to see the city. You don’t even need to sign up or prepay online, because all of the paragliding companies are in the same place. Take an uber or a taxi to San Felix and direct them to the paragliding – most will know where this is. You can choose between 20 minutes for $125,000 cop or 30 minutes for $165,000 cop. Now, take a deep breath, jump off the cliff, and enjoy your adrenaline rush (and the view of course!)

 

Night out in Poblado

There’s a reason why every backpacker leaves Medellin raving about the night life – it boasts one of the best on the continent! A night out in Poblado is a tourist destination in itself. Whether you like fine dining, hip bars, craft beers, or clubbing til the sun comes up, Poblado definitely has it all. Make sure you return for brunch as well, and hit up the cute little shops on Via Primavera while you nurse that hangover.

Medellin City Tour

We all know Medellin produced the infamous Pablo Escobar, but what else have you learned about it’s history? Take this three hour tour not only to see parts of downtown Medellin you wouldn’t otherwise explore, but also to learn about Medellin’s rich and interesting history, with the FARC, the Colombian cartels, and even, surprisingly, their metro system. Just make sure you book in advance because this popular tour fills up FAST.

Parque Arvi

Visiting Parque Arvi is one of my favorite things to do in Medellin. It’s great for two reasons. First, because It’s up and over the mountain from Medellin, creating a complete fresh escape from the crowds and into nature. The second reason why I love Parque Arvi is because of the way you get there. Taking the metro seems boring, but not in Medellin where their metro line is actually a cable car! Enjoy spectacular views while swinging over the city – and only pay $2,400 cop for the ride. Once you reach Parque Arvi, take some time to explore the market and grab some Colombian eats, then hit the guide desk for a map. There are plenty of great options to hike, and you definitely can’t see them all in one trip.

 

Read more about hiking in Medellin

Soccer Game

The soccer season is long in Medellin and the games are really easy to get to. First, though, you have to decide which one of Medellin’s teams you support. National or Medellin? Once you got that down (aka once you figure out who is playing on the night you want to go), you can buy your tickets at the Happy Buddha Bar in Poblado, buy a jersey for $40,000 cop from a roadside vendor, and hit the stadium.  After the game, walk down Avenida Nutibara and enjoy the festive atmosphere along with a few drinks.

Day trip to Guatape

While not exactly something to do in Medellin, it’s certainly easily accessible from Medellin. Guatape is the polar opposite of the city. Where Medellin is huge and modern, Guatape is the quaintest, most colorful Colombian town you’ll ever see. Climb the large rock for an amazing view of the man made lakes, wander the cobbled city streets and enjoy lunch in the sun, and take a boat out on the water for a tour of Pablo Escobar’s bombed out mansion. Beauty, nature, and history collide in this perfect day trip from Medellin.

 

Read more about how to take a day trip to Guatape

 

Try the local food

South American food can be hit or miss, but in Colombia, it’s definitely hit. Make sure you eat a papa rellena (meat filled potatos), empanadas, torta negra, fresh fried potato chips, and of course the famous bandeja paisa. Wash it all down with a refreshing limonada de coco. Colombia’s street food game is definitely strong.

See my restaurant recommendations in Medellin

Pueblito Paisa

If you can’t make it out to Guatape for a day, Pueblita Paisa is the next best thing. The small square is built on top of a hill so you get great views of Medellin. See how the locals once lived and enjoy the restaurants and lively square. It’s smack in the middle of the city, but still makes for a great escape from reality!

Check out a Festival

Medellin is known for some of their weeks long, wild festivals. Specifically the Feria de los Flores in July is a must see. If you haven’t planned your trip yet, check out this calendar of festivals in the city and see what’s coming up and which ones your interested in. Experience a little local culture and flair at these unique events!

 

Medellin is a beautiful, interesting, and must visit city when you’re traveling through Colombia. Whether you have one weekend or one year to spend exploring the city, don’t miss these attractions while in Medellin!

 

All my love,

Di

What did I miss? Comment below to connect, and sign up to get the latest updates straight to your inbox!

 

by Jul 24, 2017

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