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Wat Phra Kaeo in Bangkok houses the sacred Emerald Buddha statue. (CHAIWAT SUBPRASOM/REUTERS)
Wat Phra Kaeo in Bangkok houses the sacred Emerald Buddha statue. (CHAIWAT SUBPRASOM/REUTERS)

Where can my Canadian dollar go farther on vacation? Add to ...

When it comes to the United States, a popular destination for Canadians at this time of year, the loonie is currently as effective as a paper teapot. But that doesn’t mean you should cancel your vacation plans. Instead, aim for parts of the world where our dough still has some room to stretch.

“Asia has great budget destinations,” says cost-focused travel blogger Matt Kepnes (nomadicmatt.com), whose personal favourites include Cambodia, Thailand and South Korea. “All have amazing food, friendly people and fun nightlife. You can also get by on $20 to $30 a day if you really want to go cheap.”

Alongside enticing accommodation rates – Asia-bound airline tickets may be pricey but good hotels are typically far cheaper than North America – dining can also be economical. “Don’t be afraid to try the street food. If you see kids and seniors eating there, it’s going to be safe.”

But while Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines can also keep on-the-road costs in check, Kepnes says value vacations aren’t only about Asia. “Bulgaria is a wonderful budget destination. The landscape is beautiful, there’s lots of history and the beaches are great in summer. Not enough people go there,” he says.

Eastern Europe, of course, has long been that continent’s budget wing. But while Budapest; Dubrovnik, Croatia; Ljubljana; Riga; and ever-popular Prague are cost-effective alternatives to traditionally pricey spots such as London or Stockholm, they’re not your only options, according to Tom Meyers, editor of budget travel site EuroCheapo (eurocheapo.com).

“Often overlooked by North Americans, Lisbon is sunny, friendly and almost shockingly inexpensive,” he asserts. “Berlin is also still one of Europe’s great values: Most travellers are surprised by its low-cost eating, sleeping and sightseeing as well as its vibrant nightlife.”

And how about some sun? “Greece remains one of Europe’s great deals, if you travel with a certain amount of flexibility. Instead of heading straight to Santorini or Mykonos, think instead about exploring Crete. It’s far less expensive and offers history, deserted beaches and amazing food and wine,” he says.

You can also stretch your holiday dollars by choosing carefully in Central and South America. Full-time traveller and budget-conscious blogger Erin McNeaney (neverendingvoyage.com) has several suggestions.

“Bolivia is South America’s least expensive country and it has stunning landscapes and a fascinating indigenous culture,” she says, suggesting the colonial city of Sucre for its laid-back feel, inexpensive Spanish classes and access to the Amazon.

“Jardin in Colombia is also an affordable, off-the-beaten-track pueblo in the hills near Medellin. We loved the colourful colonial buildings, backdrop of lush green hills and sociable plazas lined with cafés and horse carts.”

And while Guatemala also makes McNeaney’s low-cost list – she recommends the beautiful Lake Atitlan area – budget-huggers should additionally consider her favourite Mexican city. “Guanajuato is compact and walkable, but its large student population means there’s plenty going on with cafés, bars, street food, markets and art galleries. It doesn’t receive many foreign visitors, so prices remain low,” she says.

You could also stay closer to home, of course. Current gas prices make that Canadian road trip you’ve always meant to do more enticing than ever. And while the U.S. exchange rate isn’t exactly co-operating, pump prices there are equally alluring. Consider bypassing America’s pricey big cities for a driving-based camping jaunt – see the website uscampgrounds.info for public campground listings.

For McNeaney, the bottom line is that lower budgets don’t have to mean shorter vacations. “Travel slowly. Trips between destinations can still be costly, but if you stay in one place longer you can save money. We’ve found extended apartment rentals [to be] especially good value: We rented one with huge windows overlooking Lake Atitlan for $700 a month when the nightly rate would have been $100.”

OUR READERS WRITE

  • Greece. Unfortunately if you look at areas of high unemployment and low Euros your dollar will be going further. @nikkibayley
  • Sure, the Euro is down, but it’s still far better value in SE Asia or Central America. [I recommend] Nicaragua: colonial architecture, surf lessons, freshwater sharks, Caribbean dives, volcanoes, rain forest … @reidontravel
  • Thailand (where I am right now)! Meals for under $2, massages for $8 and a studio apt for $300 a month. Seriously. @nwmypassport
  • Argentina is also a great deal especially with the blue market money market. Buenos Aires feels like Paris or Madrid – but for a third of the price. @Chiqee
  • Turkey for the delicious, inexpensive cuisine, the shopping (clothing, sandals, ceramics, brass, quartz) and the good-value in-country flights. @lizwarkentin
  • Spain – the Euro’s tumbling. Malaga is very rewarding and acts as a gateway to Granada and Sierra Nevada. @johnnytelegraph
  • Anywhere in SE Asia. Laos is a beautiful country – Luang Prabang and Nong Khiaw are great spots. In Thailand: Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pai, Koh Yao Yai. Of all these recommendations, I think most people from Canada – if they are not well-travelled – would feel most comfortable in Thailand. @Kmarano
  • If you’re looking for something in South America, Bolivia is very affordable with 4-star hotels for as little as $80 a night. @FlightNetwork
  • Stay here and go fishing in Canada. A senior’s fishing licence for freshwater or saltwater in B.C. is only $5 each! @WeiSclou
  • Alberta! No provincial sales tax and excellent mid-week deals in our mountain resorts for spring skiing. @nsmith
  • Canada? I’d start with the destinations closest to people’s homes and look at low cost ways to get away – camping, day-trips, etc. For example, in Vancouver: day trips to Whistler, camping via Discover Camping and renting gear from MEC (if you don’t have gear) to explore our three local mountains. @benry
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