06 Oct

Written by Kathryn Vercillo on October 6, 2009

Where do you go if you want to take a frugal vacation? Many people choose to go to off-the-beaten path cities that aren’t well-known as tourist destinations. Other choose to head to the cities where their relatives and friends live since this usually means that they can get free accommodations. Although those frugal travel options are great, they aren’t the only choice that you have if you want to go on vacation. There are some highly-popular cities that people often think of as expensive which may surprise you with the low-cost opportunities that they offer for visitors.

Here’s a look at ten cities that you might have thought were out of your travel budget but which are surprisingly affordable if you travel right:

1. San Francisco, United States. This city is one of the most expensive cities in the world for the people who live there. Visitors often end up spending a lot of money too because they stay at pricey hotels and eat at expensive restaurants. However, this amazing city can easily be seen on the cheap. Most of the famous attractions here are actually free (including Golden Gate Park, Fisherman’s Wharf and the Golden Gate Bridge). Additionally, there are many other free and affordable activities in the city that will give you an insider’s experience of traveling here. Take free walking tours, visit local museums on the free days and spend time wandering through the popular neighborhoods doing some people-watching. As for accommodations, there are a number of youth hostels and couchsurfing options here so you can stay in San Francisco on the cheap if you’re willing to be flexible about where you stay.

2. Sydney, Australia. This is definitely a city that can cost you a lot of money if you’re here is a visitor. However, you can see all of the major attractions in Sydney at almost no cost by enjoying a walking tour of the area. This is one of the best cities in the world for walking tours. There are even many free walking tours available to visitors here. Go when the weather is nice and plan to skip the expensive attractions. Just see what you can see for free. Visit a grocery store and pack your lunch to save money. The most expensive part of visiting this city will be getting there so try to go during the off season or look for deals on flights to further reduce the cost of visiting this great destination.

3. Paris, France. Do you think that it’s impossible to visit this expensive French city in any sort of frugal manner and yet still enjoy it? Think again. The best thing about Paris is really its ambience. You don’t have to do anything at all to enjoy this destination. You merely need to be there to soak up the feeling of being in love with a city. The most expensive part about Paris for most visitors is the accommodations. You can avoid this cost by doing something totally off-the-wall and camping just outside of the city. It sounds wacky but it’s a great way to keep a Paris vacation frugal.

4. London, England. Here’s another one of those cities (like San Francisco) that we all just think of as being very expensive. We know that it’s pricey to live there and most of us can’t imagine being able to visit there without spending a pretty penny. As with most major cities, though, you’ll find that there are a lot of free activities in London if you’re willing to look for them. Free options include visiting and photographing famous attractions like Big Ben, enjoying concerts at St. Martin’s in the Fields and attending festivals like the Dickens Festival in June. If you can use your savvy traveler skills to get a good deal on a flight and hotel then you can keep the trip affordable by sticking to only free activities. Eat in the smaller, more affordable local restaurants and use public transportation to further minimize costs and you’ll find that London is surprisingly affordable for you as a traveler.

5. New York City, United States. You know what the best thing about New York City is for the frugal traveler? It’s the fact that the museums in New York City are all free. You can spend an entire vacation experiencing different sides of New York just by going to the museums. Skip Broadway shows and trips up to the top of the Statue of Liberty. Just lose yourself in the science and art of museums instead. Another great thing about New York is there is a lot of really tasty food for cheap in this city. Grab a bite, take it to Central Park and bask in the wonder of this busy place. Rent out a cheap room in a shared apartment to avoid hotel costs.

6. Rome, Italy. If New York is great because of all of the free indoor museums that it has then Rome is great because of all of the free outdoor attractions that it offers. Most of the famous things that you would go to Rome to see are right there in the open for you to view without paying a penny. The Pantheon, St. Peter’s Basilica and the fountains of Rome are popular examples. The one thing that’s tough to find in Rome is a frugal hotel so you’ll want to plan to stay at a hostel or other affordable accommodations on this trip.

7. Toronto, Canada. This is yet another world city that can be expensive if you’re not careful but frugal if you’re smart. It’s a particularly smart travel choice for worldly Americans because it’s closer (meaning more affordable to reach) than Europe but still offers an international travel experience. The major tourist attractions here are expensive so the key to frugal travel is to stick with off-the-beaten path sights. Do your research into frugal Toronto travel before you go so that you know how to get the most for your money.

8. Buenos Aires, Argentina. This city is one of the most amazing cities in the world. It offers all of the cultural and entertainment options that you’d desire from a city like Paris or San Francisco. However, the Argentinian dollar compares so favorably with the money in America or Europe that it seems like everything there is to do here is incredibly cheap. Traveling to areas where your money goes a long way is a great move for someone who wants to be frugal. Buenos Aires is probably one of the best options if that’s the route you want to go for saving money on your travel.

9. Madrid, Spain. Are you more interested in going to Spain than to South America? You may think that Madrid is out of your budget. In fact, it once ranked second on a list of the most expensive cities for visitors. But that doesn’t mean that you have to spend a lot to visit here. The key to frugal travel in Madrid isn’t knowing how to find cheap things but rather knowing how to avoid the most expensive parts of the city. Top attractions and activities to avoid in Madrid if you want to save money include drinking in Lavapies, eating at the terraces of Plaza Mayor and going to theme parks. Also note that you’re not expected to tip in Spain so you’re wasting your money as a tourist if you do.

10. Taiwan, China. Are you interested in taking an extended vacation? Would you be willing to work to offset the cost of your trip? If so then a great city to check out is Taiwan. This is one of the top cities for people who are interested in teaching English in a foreign country. The cost of living here is highly affordable. People who teach here can actually save up a lot of money during their stay which means returning with a profit in your pocket. Plus you’ll be located in an interesting foreign destination that provides you with plenty of opportunities to see the types of exotic things that you’d probably want to see on vacation.

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One Comment

  1. 1

    STacey
    October 14th, 2009

    Museums and art galleries in London… all free too. In fact, same applies to the vast majority of museums in the UK

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