Albania
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14 budget destinations around the world

Follow the Adriatic coast from Croatia to Greece and you’ll discover little-known beaches on the coast of mountainous Albania. Those who take the time to explore will be rewarded with an authentic culture (which remains intact, largely because of decades of Cold War isolation) and prices far cheaper than those across the Adriatic in Italy. Rooms in beach towns such as Dhermi (pictured), Himara, Ksamili, Saranda and Vlora cost as little as $33 a night. Or you can bundle Albania with Croatia, Montenegro and Greece on a nine-day guided tour through G Adventures for $999 a person (land cost only). Info: http://www.albaniantourism.com; package info: G Adventures, http://www.gadventures.com  (Gent Shkullaku / AFP/Getty Images)
Could Nicaragua be the new Costa Rica, a tourist favorite? Lonely Planet dubs this country an “A-grade Central American attraction” unto itself, from the Colonial architecture of León to surfing in San Juan del Sur. The big scenic star: Concepción volcano on Ometepe Island in Lake Nicaragua, where $25 gets you a guided hike to the top. Or you could spend eight days with Nicaragua Adventures visiting Managua, León, Granada (pictured), mountain villages and Lake Nicaragua start at $699 a person (land only). Info: http://www.visitanicaragua.com (Spanish) or http://www.visitnicaragua.us; package info: Nicaragua Adventures, http://www.nica-adventures.com/NicaraguaDiscovery.  (Stephanie Lim / Getty Images)
It’s often considered the “other Europe,” with a magnificent gypsy culture that makes wealthier Euro countries turn up their noses, Lewis says: “If you don’t need any better reason, explore Romania before it catches up with the Hungarians and the Austrians.” In Bucharest (pictured), you can tour the capital’s Baroque concert hall, a museum dedicated to rural peasant life and Revolutionary Square, where communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu was deposed in 1989. Hotels in the city can be had for $41 to $109 a night. And don’t skip Bran Castle, known as Dracula’s castle, about an hour outside Bucharest, which you can visit for $8. Info: http://www.romaniatourism.com  (Sean Gallup / Getty Images)
Start with Santiago, where many visitors make a pilgrimage to high point Cerro San Cristóbal for sweeping views of the 16th century city. Tourists can expect to pay as little as $9 a night in a hostel and $52 to $108 a night for a three-star hotel in the capital. Farther afield, you can visit the Andes in the north, the glaciers of Patagonia in the south or the coastal beauty of the Valparaíso. Some ideas: $280 for a three-day guided tour of Santiago with hotel and a day trip to nearby wine country or Valparaiso, or head to see glaciers and alpine lakes in Patagonia’s Torres del Paine National Park (pictured) for $882 per person (land tour only). Info: chile.travel; package info: Viator, http://www.viator.com  (Tim Hauf)
There’s more to this South American country than the Galápagos Islands, which offer highly regulated and pricier tours to the land made famous by Charles Darwin. Instead, explore capital Quito’s Spanish Colonial architecture (pictured), canoe on the Amazon River and stay in a historic hacienda with views of the beloved Cotopaxi volcano on a Gate 1 sampler from $799 a person, land only, for eight days. Info: discover.ecuador.travel; package info: Gate1 Travel, http://www.gate1travel.com  (Claude Meisch)
The country is known for its old-fashioned charm along with the rugged Annamite Mountains and the Mekong River. A six-day trip with Intrepid Travel can take you on a visit to the riverside city of Vientiane (pictured) with its magnificent Great Stupa, the Pak Ou Caves filled with hundreds of Buddha statues and the ornate temples of Luang Prabang in the north that’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Total cost, land only: $635 per person. Info: http://www.tourismlaos.org; package info: Intrepid Travel, http://www.intrepidtravel.com.  (Manish Swarup / Associated Press )
The popularity of Vietnam has brought visitors to neighboring Laos and Cambodia. Cambodia distinguishes itself with the amazing Angkor Wat temple complex (pictured). Though it’s undoubtedly the biggest attraction in the country, nearby hotel rooms can be found for as little as $41 (Palm Village Resort & Spa) and $58 to $64 (Spicy Villa). Also, English-speaking Kol Chhen gets good buzz on TripAdvisor for his personalized Cambodian Angkor Tour, which costs $30. Info: http://www.tourismcambodia.com; Cambodian Angkor Tour info, http://www.cambodianangkortour.com  (Susan Spano)
Capital La Paz may be the seat of Bolivia’s government, but Lonely Planet dubs Sucre “the most beautiful city and the symbolic heart of the nation.” It’s inexpensive too. The UNESCO World Heritage City, founded in the 1500s by Spanish colonials, features white-washed buildings. Expect to pay $72 a night for a hotel room in Sucre and $50 to $90 in La Paz. Then go discover the salt flats of Salar de Uyuni (pictured) or Lake Titicaca’s floating islands. Info: http://www.bolivia.travel  (Zack Seckler / Getty Images)
This is a place to go traveling through time, from the blues museum in Clarksdale (it’s said this is where the blues were born) to the Civil War battlefields in Vicksburg to the 1960s civil rights conflicts and protests in Greenwood. Chain motels along the way cost less than $100 a night, or you can splurge on historic places such as Cedar Grove Mansion Inn & Restaurant in Vicksburg for $100 to $215 a night. Info: http://www.visitmississippi.org and http://www.visitthedelta.com; Cedar Grove info: http://www.cedargroveinn.com.

Pictured: The Delta Queen steamboat navigates the Mississippi River. (Joe Sohm / Getty Images)
Travelers usually skip the crowded capital, Colombo, and head straight to the beaches. The country has bounced back from the devastating 2004 tsunami and the civil war that ended in 2009, a recovery that has included construction of new luxury hotels on southern beaches that charge top dollar. But you can find small lodgings with reasonable prices not far from popular Tangalla Beach, places such as Mamboz Beach Cabanas for $135 for a double (including breakfast and dinner) and Talalla Beach Resort for $87 to $151 (depending on the season) for a double. Info: http://www.srilanka.travel; beach info: http://www.mambozbeach.com, http://www.talallaretreat.com

Pictured: Peraliya village in southern Sri Lanka.  (Lakruwan Wanniarachchi / AFP/Getty Images)
This may be a destination for intrepid travelers only. Violent July and August clashes over the country’s struggle to form a new government prompted the U.S. State Department to issue a travel warning, which was changed into an alert Dec. 18. Still, some travel companies haven’t returned. Abercrombie & Kent, however, has scheduled a tour of Cairo, Giza and the Nile River in March with prices cut in half ($3,695 per person for 10 days, land only). Info: http://www.egypt.travel; package info: http://www.abercrombiekent.com

Pictured: The Temple of Luxor. (Shawn Baldwin / Bloomberg)
America is in love with charming Charleston, S.C., voted best U.S. city by Condé Nast travelers the last three years. The architecture, the food and friendly folks get high marks — and the trip doesn’t have to be expensive. The 1837 Bed and Breakfast on historic Wentworth Street costs $99 to $235 a night. Other worthy stops: the hip mountain culture of Asheville, N.C.; the wild horses of the Outer Banks, N.C.; and the South Carolina Quilt Trails, where barns and businesses display artsy quilt panels. Info: http://www.discoversouthcarolina.com and http://www.visitnc.com

Pictured: The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge in Charleston. (Jeffrey G. Hammond)
Just about anywhere you want to go on your wish list in the Land of Enchantment is within driving distance, which makes for a more cost-efficient trip. Lewis cites cooking classes in Santa Fe, learning to paint like Georgia O’Keeffe and communing with beings from outer space in Roswell. Albuquerque generally is less expensive than Santa Fe (families can find motel rooms for less than $100 a night). And fans of “Breaking Bad” may want to take a DIY tour of the TV show’s shooting locations in Albuquerque. Info: http://www.newmexico.org

Pictured: Debbie Ball, owner of the Candy Lady in Albuquerque, shows off bags of the “crystal meth” - in reality, rock candy - she created for the “Breaking Bad” TV series.  (Jay Jones)
Mt. Rushmore (pictured), the Black Hills, Custer State Park, the Crazy Horse Memorial, Old West mining towns such as Lead and Deadville, and the Badlands are reasons enough to take a road trip to the Dakotas, without spending a ton of money. Plan a DIY drive starting in Rapid City, S.D., and spend about four days driving north until you get to Theodore Roosevelt National Park near Medora. Or choose a ready-made tour starting at $505, land only, for a Black Hills Vacation trip for a family of four that includes lodging and admission to nine national parks and attractions. Info: http://www.ndtourism.com and http://www.travelsd.com; package info: http://www.BlackHillsVacations.com  (Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
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