In our roundup last week, we talked about budget U.S. destinations for 2012. But if you've got your heart set on an international jaunt, we tracked down some spots that offer a lot of bang for the buck this year.
Pack your chopsticks
Following last year's earthquake and tsunami, tourism to Japan took a nosedive, so 2012 pricing for attractions and accommodations are intentionally low to lure travelers back. According to Lonely Planet, visitors can spend a night at a Japanese-style minshuku guesthouse for less than $40 per night. Additionally, the popular sites to see - temples, gardens and museums - are often free or inexpensive.
Taipei, Taiwan is making strides towards being a hot destination, according to Budget Travel magazine, offering trendy eateries, majestic South Pacific beaches and a lush mountain landscape scattered with flowing hot springs. The former Chinese territory, after a lull in tourism for many years, saw visitors from mainland China in mid-2011, and things have been booming since. To handle the influx of travelers, there is a new TaiwanTourist Bus Travel Service that offers inexpensive excursions to several of the island's attractions, starting at just $11 a day. Additionally, room costs in Taipei are down 11% from 2010 with an average rate of $140 per night -- a great deal for a large Asian city.
For budget European travel, think East
Of course, destinations like Rome, Paris and London will always be expensive in the summer, but there are some less frequented cities that provide that European flair without the high price tag. Lonely Planet, for example, recommends Macedonia -- a small country bordered by Albania, Serbia, Greece and Bulgaria -- as a value destination in Eastern Europe. Stay in the capital, Skopje, or wander west to the small town of Ohrid. Here travelers can find simple accomodation in a bed and breakfast for less than $15 a night. Saving-seekers can explore this Balkan land's Byzantine churches, sprawling lakes and plentiful vineyards.
In its Top Budget Destinations for 2012, Budget Travel offers two European options. Visit the Azores, an archipelago of nine volcanic islands nearly 1,000 miles off the coast of Portugal. SATA Airlines has direct flights for less than $700 out of Boston and a room at a five star hotel is $112 a night; the airline is also offering even more savings with combo packages. It is no secret that Greece's economy is floundering, but travel discounts are incredibly easy to track down. Since 2010, hotel prices are down 4% across the country and in Athens rates are down 15% to a mere $125 per night. Traveling around Athens won't be too pricey either as the city, despite the aforementioned recession, is expanding its Metro; a day pass is only $5.40.
Head to Africa
After a year of unrest, Egypt, according to Budget Travel, is "hurting for visitors." Although tourism makes up 11% of the country's economy, numbers are down by one third since 2010 and this means deals abound. Hotels are going for $100 a night, excursions to the Great Pyramids of Giza are 45% cheaper than in 2010 and resorts by the Red Sea are also slashed by 25%. Of course, safety is still an issue, so confirm that there isn't a travel advisory before you book.
Rates are down in South Africa after the World Cup in 2010. But if you want even cheaper prices, head to Lesotho, the "kingdom of the sky," completed surrounded by South Africa's landscape. According to Lonely Planet, visitors can do a multiday excursion by pony (the popular form of transportation in the country) into the mountains, caves and markets for $50 a day. This includes the pony, food and guide.
Closer to home: Mexico and South America
Don't be afraid to travel to Mexico, says CNN. Although there are very dangerous parts along the border and near Mexico City, Mexico is a safe destination overall; and one that doesn't hurt the wallet since rates are low to attract wary tourists. Head to Mérida, Mexico, one of Lonely Planet's top budget picks, in the Yucatan. The hotels in this vibrant city are a fraction of the price of a Cancun beach resort and here you can hang in the Plaza Grande like a local eating, dancing and drinking for less. Plus, buses to the Mayan ruins are only $40.
Further south, visitors can expect to shell out a few thousand dollars to explore the Amazon River and the isolated city of Iquitos, Peru. According to Lonely Planet, that price can reduced in half by cutting out the middleman and booking directly with a local outfitter based by the river; the site recommends using Dawn on the Amazon. Visit during October and November to avoid the summer crowds and subsequent price increases.