When we talk about the most affordable cities, we’re not talking dirt cheap. Unfortunately, a city where a coffee or beer costs 10 cents will most likely bring some serious safety and health issues with it.
By affordable, we mean cities where you don’t have to sit down at the end of a day and calculate your remaining budget. Let’s see, we splurged on a great lunch so that’s probably a sandwich in our hotel room tonight…why even bother?
These cities are surprisingly good value for eating, drinking, getting around and just enjoying. Plus, these are some spectacular cities with rich histories, vibrant nightlives, and fascinating cultures.
Let’s also be clear – pricier doesn’t mean better. It generally indicates the level of the destination’s economic development; however, these places can often be vastly overrated and well…full of touristy types.
So, what’s the criteria? Well obviously, what goes into our stomachs is pretty high up there. The “Big Mac Price” is used by some economists to gauge a city’s pricey factor but we’ll be setting our sights a little higher than what’s in the sesame seed bun.
How much for a decent feed of local cuisine, a good coffee and a frosty beer? How much are cabs or public transport cards? And if we happen to stumble across the perfect t-shirt for someone back home will it equate in cost to a monthly gym membership or be…affordable?
There are some obvious ones and possibly a few surprises.
Prague (Czech Republic)
First of all, let’s not worry about taxi prices too much. Prague is a city for walking around in while taking in the incredible history and architecture. Even travelers who aren’t especially into admiring Renaissance and Gothic structures will stand back and say, “Wow, nice roofs” or something else complimentary.
Many of Prague’s buildings have been intact since they were built, some dating back more than 1,000 years. Jump on a cruise down the Vltava River which cuts through Prague, to get a real feel for the place.
Naturally, all this walking around will build up quite the thirst and hunger. Which is where you can joyously unleash, for Prague is seriously good value.
A full meal with schnitzel, steak, soup and desserts will most likely cost around $10 USD. Wash it down with pints of ale or cappuccinos for only $1- 2 USD a pop.
Burp, smile, walk off the calories then repeat.
Yes, really. The capital of the world’s third-biggest economy is not only very affordable but highly stimulating.
Let’s get the boring numbers out of the way so you can relax and focus on the fun stuff.
A coffee at anywhere but Starbucks will cost about 3 US dollars. Good start. A pint of beer is typically around 600 yen, which is a very affordable 4 bucks. Sold. Taxis are not only very reasonable but Japanese taxi drivers are probably the world’s most honest and diligent cabbies.
They’ll treat you like the royalty that you are.
Best of all is hitting the restaurants for lunch or dinner. Tokyo has some incredible dining choices – sushi, ramen, tempura, yakitori and on and on it goes. You and a friend can make complete pigs of yourselves and drink all you want for less than $100 USD. And we’re not talking about tiny, hard to find places near the airport – this is all over Tokyo.
Being able to savor the food of where you’re visiting is one of the main reasons for traveling.
Tokyo delivers in spades.
Then there’s the question of what to do. There’s literally something for everyone and you can zip around Tokyo on the extensive subway system. It’s ridiculously cheap, not just affordable – cheap.
For example you could ride from trendy Shibuya to the bustling older area of Asakusa for less than $2 USD.
Trust us, we’ve done it.
Maybe no surprises here, but Havana is not only one of the world’s most affordable cities, but often overlooked as a place to escape to.
Restaurants, cafes and bars are all very nice on the hip pocket. A dinner for 2 at a decent local restaurant shouldn’t top $30 USD. Perhaps some of the local Ropa vieja LINK – a delicious rice and pepper stew. That’s with a few beverages thrown in, of course.
Anyone coming from seriously pricey cities such as Sydney and London will be gleefully appreciative.
Naturally, you’ll pay more for meals and what not if you opt to dine in fancy hotels, but why would you want to, when you’ve got exciting local venues to check out?
A basic plan is to maybe take in the Spanish-influenced architecture, check out the beaches and some local dishes. You could do it in a classic vintage car, on foot or bike.
While Havana doesn’t exactly have carefully constructed cycle paths, it is a bike-friendly city. Plenty of spaces on the roads to get around on a rental is a great option.
You could do all of this and top it off by ducking into any bar with live music. Full of atmosphere and toe tappers such as rumba, salsa and bolero. Downing a few mojitos helps even more.
By our estimates you could tick off all of this in a day for less than $100 US dollars.
The way we see it, you can’t afford not to go.
Vietnam’s capital is hardly undiscovered, but it remains a great go-to for a holiday where you can truly indulge without fear of price.
It has an interesting mix of Vietnamese, Chinese and French cultures, with the latter being particularly evident in the architecture.
You’ll want to check out the Old Quarter, especially after dusk when they close the streets for the lively night markets. The Old Quarter is what it sounds like – an interesting peek into Vietnam’s past with colonial buildings, Buddhist temples and an eclectic mix of stalls and food. Lots of food.
Noodles, spring rolls, pancakes, wraps and soups. Beer, tea and Vietnamese coffee are good options for the thirst. Vietnamese coffee is renowned for its sweet richness and delivers a helluva kick. Ideal for pre-market / sightseeing / basic moving activities.
A solid feed at a good local restaurant for two people should cost less than $40 USD, with change.
Beers and coffees are around $2 at the most. As for getting around, taxis are your best bet. Prepare to negotiate if you want to hail one on the street. Don’t stress too much, they’re cheap even if the driver does take some cheekily disguised liberties. A general rule of thumb is not to fork out more than $20 for most trips and there’s always the option of pre-booked cabs in English if you don’t want the thrill of bartering.
Better to focus on the coffee that will have you walking 2-minute miles and the mountains of noodle varieties to get through.
Wondering what to do in Buenos Aires is the least of your problems. Figuring out what you have time to do is the main concern.
This is a genuinely vibrant, stimulating and beautiful part of the world that offers a lot more than tango and beef, as good as they are.
It oozes class. Fashion, the arts, good cuisine and cultural diversity are a vital part of the Argentinian capital. And then there’s the football. Whether you’re a soccer – oops football fan – or not is beside the point. The atmosphere at a Boca vs River Plate game has to be seen to be believed. Barely contained mayhem at its best.
Buenos Aires has a proud culture of equal parts native and European in origin. And the locals know how to enjoy themselves. Other than football, there’s music, clubs, cafes, bars and restaurants that really do go all night. The Argentinians are renowned for heading out later in the evening than other countries.
Have a nap if need be, because this city kicks off from 10PM.
And wouldn’t you know it, it’s great on the hip pocket. Eating the barbecue, salsa, fried cheese and desserts in the heart of the city should set you back roughly $20 per person.
You should have budgeted for this, so order another dessert/wine/coffee. Now is not the time to fret over a few dollars.
You’re in South America and life is to be enjoyed. Ask anyone.
The days of jostling for hours to see the Mona Lisa or a zoo you didn’t even want to go to in the first place are over.
Affordable destinations are everywhere. Just think non-touristy, more relaxing and way more fun.
…. now to choose which of the above will go to the top of my bucket list. Food for thought.
Personally, I’d be heading to Havana.