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Cheap, under-the-radar travel destinations

No cash? No problem, for these hotspots

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“Traveling shouldn’t be reserved for people who are affluent,” says Freddie Pikovsky, an editor at the travel blog Off Track Planet and co-author of “Off Track Planet’s Travel Guide for the Young, Sexy, and Broke.” His book is a frank guide for the ramen eaters among us, and we mean frank — think: Greece’s best hookup spots; avoiding narcs in Thailand.

Not all of us can afford that five-star hotel, so we asked Pikovsky to give us some alternative places to put our extra vacation days toward.

Dream trip: SCUBA diving in the Great Barrier Reef
Hit: Taganga, Colombia
The small fishing village of Taganga, Pikovsky says, is “one of the cheapest places in the world to get SCUBA-certified.” It’s cheap to stay in the area too, and it retains a lot of pre-commercialization. “The last time I was there they didn’t even have roads yet — it’s still dirt roads,” Pikovsky says. And we know what you’re thinking — worried about being kidnapped? “Things have changed there so much,” he says. “The guerillas that were kidnapping people were decentralized by the government, so kidnapping is not as valuable a thing for them anymore.” Other people’s hesitation to visit means the crowds are few and the luxury resorts are popping up — all meaning now is a good time to go.

Dream trip: Amsterdam
Try: Vancouver, Canada
Besides Colombia, another country that’s going through a reputation shift is Amsterdam. Gone are the days of hitting a café for an illegal smoke: “They’ve actually changed their law and it’s only now for locals,” Pikovsky says. But, he says, Vancouver is the new it-spot for café culture. “You can do basically everything that you were once able to do in Amsterdam as a tourist but can’t do anymore.”

Dream trip: Paris
Try: Buenos Aires, Argentina
“The city is built almost like the Paris of South America,” Pikovsky says. For your French fix, hit the neighborhood of Palermo, which resembles Paris and has “a lot of European influence,” he says. Other sites to see: the Pink Palace, Argentina’s version of the White House and Avenida 9 de Julio, the widest street in the world.

Dream trip: Tokyo
...No, really, go there
“Since the earthquake they’ve been trying to promote tourism heavily,” Pikovsky says. “I haven’t personally been to Japan [but] there are probably affordable options now for flying over there.”

More travel tips

Get the cheapest flight
“Go toward the shoulder of a season,” Pikovsky says. “You don’t necessarily want to go at the height of a season, and you might not necessarily go at the off point, but somewhere that’s toward the end or a little bit early on in the height of the season you’ll find discounted airfare.”

Don’t rely on your phone
“If you’re in another country, take the opportunity to ask strangers around you questions, because that’s when you end up hanging out with a group of people from another country that you never thought you would end up with.”

 
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