I wouldn’t say I am the most well-traveled person, but I get around often, especially around Europe since I moved to Germany… I started traveling for leisure and business when I was 25, and since then, I’ve been to 34 countries. Not bad, eh?! Sometimes, it is difficult for me to recall the details of all the places I’ve been to, while others are engraved in my memory. While it is hard to rank them from best to worst, or most to least favorite, I figured a good place to start is to single out my top favorites starting with budget traveling…. Which is my favorite mode of traveling, because you get a more authentic experience of the local life (plus I can be kind of thrifty lol). Wouldn’t you agree?!
Nuwara Eliya; Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka was my first ever solo trip for leisure, in 2012, where I backpacked across the island in 12 days, passing through Negombo, Colombo, Galle, Mirissa, Katharagama, Arugam Bay, Passikudah bay, Kandy, Sigiriyah, and Nuwara Eliya. I always recommend it to those looking for exquisite nature, adventure, friendly locals, and a variety of experiences on a budget. Of all the towns I visited in Sri Lanka, Nuwara Eliya was a different and unexpected experience that I even extended my stay. The freezing temperatures were also a nice escape from the humid hot weather that’s generally around the coast. I was surprised to see its beautiful colonial architecture, which is why it’s called “Little England”, amidst lush green nature and endless tea plantations… Naturally, as a tea addict, I felt at home! Around Nuwara Eliya, you can also visit “Little New Zealand” to see dairy farms, get some fresh dairy products, and even strawberry plantations and cute cafes with delicious local produce. Read more about my Sri Lanka trip in my blog post: Around Sri Lanka In 2 Weeks - Part III.
Activities in the area: Tea factories and plantations tour, hiking Adam’s Peak, and white water rafting.
Allepey, Kerala, India
It is no wonder that Alleppey's backwater canals have been named by National Geographic Traveller in the top “50 destinations of a lifetime”, and I got to experience that myself! Kayaking through these canals was such a beautiful serene experience where we were able to see the locals and interact with them (mostly because I was waving and saying hi to everyone like I actually knew them lol), and also spot different types of exotic birds... A disclosure here is that I wasn’t in India on a budget trip, but a sponsored luxury trip, which was beyond my expectations in all facets, and is highly recommended. I got so spoiled that European luxury can not impress me with how mediocre it is in comparison to Asian luxury (more on that in an upcoming post!). Still, Going to Alleppey was actually not on the itinerary; I had read about it and felt so compelled to go for the experience and pay for it myself. I am so glad I did not miss that chance! You can read more about my trip in Kerala in my blog post: Kerala, India: Experience Raw Nature In Style With Gateway Malabar Holidays.
Activities in the area: Kayaking, boat rides, spas, and Marari beach.
Are you starting to see a pattern here? Yes, my favorite budget destinations so far are all in South East Asia, and they’re all about gorgeous nature and adventure! Langkawi in Malaysia definitely stood out for me because it was like a compact of my Sri Lankan experience, where you don’t need more than a couple of days to take it all in, but you’ll probably enjoy it so much you’ll want to stay longer! As a bonus, it also has delicious local food ranging from street food, weekly farmers’ market, to seafood restaurants. Of course, another reason I loved Langkawi is that I actually got to meet a Facebook friend who is a local there, who was just the sweetest ever, took me around the island on her scooter!
Activities in the area: Beaches (duh!), tandem paragliding, cable ride, and a zoo.
Although these are my top 3, other destinations I’ve been to deserve an honorable mention, especially:
Rila mountains and monastery in Bulgaria, which didn’t make the cut because I was too sick and tired to explore its famous seven lakes so that’s my bad. Still, breathtaking nature and delicious local food without being overrun by tourists makes it worth the mention and a visit!
Nis in Serbia, which didn’t make the cut because I didn’t stay there long enough to be able to explore activities that I might like. It was the end of a 12 days trip, and I was beat. Still, Niskabanja park is worth a mention and a visit!
Have you been to any of these cities/countries? Would any of these make it to your list of top budget destinations?! Let me know in the comments!