Travel and Exchange, the blog of travelers who change currency

5 destinations that are more affordable than you would expect

5 destinations that are more affordable than you would expect

One of the elements that we pay special attention to when picking out a destination is the budget and the standard of living of the country in question.

We cannot ignore the fact that, economically speaking, it is not the same travelling to Thailand than to Japan. However, it is true that often times we rule out certain countries because we tend to associate their names to the dollar symbol, which is sometimes based on wrong or exaggerated information. Here you have our selection of 5 destinations that are more affordable than you would imagine.

1. Japan

One of the quintessential expensive destinations. It comes as no surprise that, once you start planning this trip, prior to thinking about the cities you are going to visit, you have to consider the amount of money you should have saved in order to be able to spend a few days there. This is mostly due to our –distorted– idea that everything about Japan is expensive.

This list of basic traveling expenses when going to Japan will help us refute an idea that is not so grounded in reality.

  • Flights to Japan: The average is 600-700 euros. However, if you are on top of this and follow some tips on how to save money on flights, you can find good deals under 400 euros.
  • Accommodation in Japan: If you take care of this with enough time in advance, you can find a room in a 2 or 3-star hotel for about 50 euros/night. Just bear in mind that they take “cleanliness” in the literal sense of the word, and as such, wherever you stay, regardless of how many starts the hotels has, this will be a given. On the flip side, you can find even more affordable accommodation. This is the case of the capsule hotels, where you can pay 30 euros/night on average, or the popular love hotels, where a room cast cost you 40 euros for the whole night and 35 euros for three hours.
  • Moving around in Japan: Public transport in Japan is amazing: it is punctual, efficient and comfortable, which is why it becomes such an excellent way of travelling the country.
    It depends a lot on the city we are in, but in Kyoto, for instance, the best way to get around is the bus. The bus fare is 220 yens (approximately 1.60 euros) and if you want you can buy a one-day bus pass for 500 yens (nearly 4 euros). Now you get a rough idea of what moving around Japan costs, right? And to travel around the country there is the JR Pass, a train pass you can use an unlimited amount of times. Local trains, express trains and the ferry to get to Miyajima are also included. There are 7, 14 or 21-day passes (208, 331 and 421 euros, respectively) and they can only be purchased by non-residents from an agency outside the country.
  • Eating in Japan: There are tons of restaurants serving daily specials at very reasonable prices (10 euros per person approximately).

Another option is getting a «bento», a box-shaped container holding several types of food you can easily find at supermarkets, shops or railway stations for 3 to 15 euros, depending on your choice. If you don’t fancy this idea, you can always go to an udon, ramen or soba restaurant, where you won’t spend more than 5 euros per dish.

And of course, how could we forget about sushi while being in Japan? Even though it is considerably cheaper there, we recommend that you go to Sushi Zanmai, a restaurant chain very similar to 100 Montaditos in Spain, where you can gorge yourself with sushi for 10 euros per person.

Imagen de Fushimi Inari Taisha

2. The Maldives

Another destination we normally associate with hefty prices and honeymoons is the Maldives, where the travelling budget increases significantly enough as to reconsider whether to go and rest for a few days.  Let’s get that idea out of your head. There is a different side to the Maldives other than resorts. If you want to find out how much you would spend in a low cost trip to the Maldives, keep reading.

  • Flights to the Maldives: A while ago, a flight to the Maldives represented great part of the budget for the trip. But ever since a few months ago, it is easy to find flights at more affordable prices, even under 400 euros with layover in Colombo, Sri Lanka (which might make us consider the option of multi-centre holidays, combining Sri Lanka and the Maldives). So there you have it…
  • Moving around the Maldives: Taking into account that you have ruled out the luxury resort and you are looking for some low cost holidays in the Maldives, we should mention that hydroplanes (400 euros per person for a round trip) and speedboats (250 euros per person in a round trip) are not the only way to get around the island. In the Maldives, there are local islands that you can get to by ferry for 2.5-5 euros, in one to five-hour journeys.
  • Accommodation in the Maldives: Just as we were mentioning, and taking for granted that you are going to stay in a local island, with reefs and water just as the best resorts in the country, hiring accommodation here will set you back around 35 euros per room and person if you stay in an island like Maafushi, one of the most popular ones, or 35-45 euros, including breakfast, if you rather stay in Omadhoo island, in the Alif Dhaal atoll. Another option is staying in Mathiveri, another small fishermen island located in Ari atoll, where you’ll find accommodation from 50 euros, breakfast included.
  • Eating in the Maldives: If you’re staying in any of these islands, you’ll find plenty of local beach bars with very reasonable prices. For instance, a fried fish dish can cost roughly one euro at the current exchange rate, and a rice dish somewhere around 40 MVR (Maldivian rufiyaa), that is, 2 euros.

Las Maldivas

3. United States

We are not going to lie: when we began planning the 26-day trip that was going to take us around the United States for the first time, we considered cutting days off, thinking that the budget we had in mind was going to fall short.

Once we started to look around and gather information, we found out that travelling to the United States was not as expensive as we thought it would be. In fact, it was quite the opposite. You would be amazed at the prices sometimes, especially when the exchange rates was in your favour.

  • Flights to the United States: This part of the budget pretty much depends on the city you want to fly into. It is not the same flying to New York, where prices hover around 400-500 euros (we purchased tickets in Easter for 445 euros per person), than to San Francisco, where the average flight is 600 euros.
    Regardless of the city you are flying into, we highly recommend looking for flights with enough time in advance and be on the lookout for the potential deals that might be available.
  • Moving around in the United States: If you are thinking about taking a road trip, just as we did across the West Coast, visiting National Parks, renting a car becomes a must.  We paid 650 dollars (approximately 588 euros) for 26 days, which is a very tight budget if we take into account that we even paid the extra fee for dropping off the car in a different state.
  • Accommodation in the United States: Here, the prices oscillate quite a bit, depending on whether we are looking for accommodation in route, along the road, in a motel like the ones in the movies –a double room here will cost you 40 dollars per night (36 euros)–, or in the centre of Manhattan, in New York, were it is unlikely that you’ll find a place to stay for less than 80-100 euros a night.
  • Eating in the United States: The first thing to remember when going to the United States is that everything is supersized, so before ordering, bear in mind that:  With a bowl of pasta or some pancakes for breakfast you can probably eat for the whole day.  This is something you should take into account both when ordering and when estimating your food budget.  Eating in a fast food restaurant that serves pizzas or burgers, for example, can cost 10-12 dollars on average (10 euros approximately).

Imagen de Estados Unidos

4. Iceland

This is another one of those destinations that gets ruled out because it is considered to be one of the most expensive countries in the world (where the currency accepted is the Iceland krona).

We are not saying that Iceland is the most affordable destination, but it just takes comparing some of prices for the most basic things we will need to realise that it is much cheaper than we expected.

  • Flights to Iceland: This is probably the most affordable item in our travel list. If we look with enough time in advance, we can find flights to Reykjavik for 250 euros during peak season (July-August).
  • Moving around Iceland: The best way to move around the country is by renting a car because using public transport to get to the popular tourist sites is not the most common. Renting a car for 10 days with limited mileage is approximately 700 euros.  Obviously, the more people, the lower the individual budget, so start looking for travel companions to go to Iceland!
  • Accommodation is probably the most expensive item in our budget, given that if we are interested in staying in a hotel or a guest house, we will not pay less than 100 euros for a room with a shared bathroom –something extremely common in Iceland–. On the contrary, finding a room with a private bathroom is quite the rare thing.  But this is not the only option. If you are travelling during peak season, i.e. in the summer, you should consider combining it with camping. This is a lot cheaper, around 10 euros per person/night, and you can do it in unique places, into the wilderness.
  • Eating in Iceland: One of the unfounded rumours about the country is that eating here is expensive. It is true that eating in a regular restaurant is a lot more expensive than doing it in Spain, for example, but if we go to a fast food restaurant (you can find them in any gas station, visitor centre or rest area, and they serve pizza, hot dogs or burgers), the price will go down significantly. Take at least 10 euros per person for this kind of meal.

If this is not your thing, you can always go to Bónus –the supermarket with the pig sign–, one of the cheapest in Iceland, where prices are similar to those in Spain, and even more so in the case of some products.

Besides, think about the fact that Iceland is the perfect country to go on a picnic out in the open.


5. Switzerland

It is also regarded as one of the most expensive destinations in Europe. From our experience, the best thing to do, if you are on a budget, is to visit the country several times, given that flights are probably the cheapest part of the trip.

  • Flights to Switzerland: It is easy to find flights to Zurich or Geneva from different cities in Spain for 50 euros total.  However, bear in mind that you will have to do it with enough time in advance if you are travelling during bank holidays or on a weekend. In December, we travelled from Barcelona to Basel for 75 euros per person. These are some quite incredible prices considering the dates!
  • Accommodation in Switzerland: One of the best ways to save a bit of money is to stay in hostels or outside the city centre.  If you go for this option, the average price goes down considerably: 70 euros per room/night.
  • Eating in Switzerland: Here we always have the option of doing some shopping in a supermarket and then going for a picnic, as we suggested doing in Iceland, although going to a restaurant is not an exorbitant price either. For instance, in the renowned Chalet Gruyères, in Gruyères, a fondue for two, plus drinks (including beer), will cost you about 100 francs, that is, 45 euros.


After reading us, have you changed your mind about any of these destinations?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.