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World's Cheapest Destinations

(March 6, 2003)

For most travelers, sunning in St. Tropez and yachting around the Mediterranean for weeks at a time is simply a fantasy. But what if you could live it up even on a limited vacation budget? It's not a fantasy as a new book by travel writer Tim Leffel points out. According to Leffel's book "The World's Cheapest Destinations" travelers can still live it up overseas. AnitaVacation.com sits down with Leffel and asks the burning questions: why and how is it possible?



Click here to buy the book

"I wanted to show that avoiding the most expensive spots can save you enough to make another whole trip or two." 

AV: What inspired you to write a book about the world's cheapest destinations?

Leffel: When I started planning my first around-the-world trip, I kept searching for some kind of a primer that would give a rundown on costs for different countries and show which places offered the best value. I never found it. So I had to spend countless hours combing through guidebooks, budget travel web sites, and message boards to figure out where the bargains were. I'm hoping to save a lot of people from going through all that. I also wanted to show that avoiding the most expensive spots can save you enough to make another whole trip or two.

AV: What are the top 10 cheapest destinations and why?

"Unless you're wearing an "I Love George Bush" t-shirt, all of the 21 countries in my book are far safer than the US."

Leffel: I've featured 21 destinations in this book, so everyone should be able to find what they're looking for in terms of beaches, mountains, monuments, or whatever else. Depending on currency fluctuations, the cheapest countries for travelers are generally Indonesia, India, and Nepal.  In Europe, Bulgaria and Hungary vie for the cheapest. Guatemala is the best nearby deal for Americans, though there are plenty more in Central and South America.

AV: How much is the average journey?

"In three years of travel, we never spent more than $1,000 in a month."

Leffel: Living like a backpacker, as my wife and I did on our first few trips, two people can get by on $100 to $250 per week after airfare in all the countries I've featured here. In three years of travel, we never spent more than $1,000 in a month, and we did most everything there was to do in the places we visited. We were seeing the sites, eating in restaurants every meal, and staying in beachfront bungalows.

For mid-range travelers who want lots of comfort and air conditioning, it varies a lot by country. In a real cheap spot like Indonesia, a couple could live like royalty, staying in 4-star hotels and being chauffeured around everywhere for $300-$400 a week. A week-long package deal in most other spots will cost more, but my wife and I just paid $900 each for a 7-night all-inclusive stay at a beachfront resort in Mexico, including airfare. That's about half what an average trip to the Caribbean runs.

AV: What type of individual is best suited for the trips you describe in your book?

"I'm continually surprised at how much people focus on airfare and spend all their time trying to shave off twenty bucks on a flight. If you look at the total cost for a vacation, airfare usually doesn't come close to what you spend on hotels, transportation, and meals."

Leffel: A bargain hunter--someone who hates to pay retail! It does take an open mind, a sense of adventure, and a bit of patience to adjust to local cultures of course, especially those places that are less developed. Travelers who want everywhere to be just like home are probably better off in London or the Bahamas than they in the lands of the Great Pyramids and the Taj Mahal.

AV: What destination do you think will be people be most surprised by?

Leffel: Most people seem to be surprised at how easy it is to travel in places such as Thailand or Malaysia, and by how much they can buy with $100 when they go shopping. Most travelers to Turkey are a bit taken back by the liveliness, the night life, and the miniskirts in Istanbul. I guess they're expecting all the women to be draped in black, but it's a modern, secular country.

AV: What's the best piece of travel advice you learned while compiling your list?

"Advice: the more time you have, the cheaper it is. Rushing around and trying to do everything in a week gets quite expensive."

Leffel: I'm continually surprised at how much people focus on airfare and spend all their time trying to shave off twenty bucks on a flight. If you look at the total cost for a vacation, airfare usually doesn't come close to what you spend on hotels, transportation, and meals. So if you see a $400 flight to Italy and a $800 flight to Budapest, then take Budapest. You'll still spend far less at the end of a week or month. And more good advice: the more time you have, the cheaper it is. Rushing around and trying to do everything in a week gets quite expensive.

AV: If there is a war with Iraq, are the destinations recommended in your book safe for Americans to travel to?

Leffel: Well, Iraq's neighbor Jordan is probably not the best place for anyone to visit at the moment, which is too bad, because the people there are wonderful and Petra is one of the most amazing places I've ever visited. The part of Turkey that borders Iraq is a long way from the touristed western section, so it shouldn't have much impact there.

Otherwise, unless you're wearing an "I Love George Bush" t-shirt, all of the 21 countries in my book are far safer than the US. America has them all beat when it comes to homicides, robberies, fatal car crashes-almost any "danger" statistic you can think of. A dead traveler makes the news because it's so utterly rare. But how many shootings were there last month in your own city?

AV: That's true Tim! Thanks so much for your time!

For more information on Tim Leffel's book, as well as copies of his travel articles, visit his website: World's Cheapest Destinations.com

You can purchase Tim's book at Amazon.com or at his website.



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