Get more out of your dollar with a vacation to one of these atypical travel destinations. These cities were ranked as the least expensive in the world by the 2010 Mercer Cost of Living Survey, released in June.
Because some of these places are off the beaten path, do some extra research before you go. Call a travel agent, go to the State Department travel advisory website for warnings, and consult guidebooks and websites.
-- Michael Robinson, Los Angeles Times ()
10. Windhoek, Namibia
The capital of Namibia lies in a valley with the Auas Mountains to the southeast, the Eros Mountains to the northeast, and the Khomas Hochland to the west. Windhoek’s population exceeded 233,000, according to a 2001 census, making it the most populous city in Namibia.
With crime on the rise, the State Department encourages travelers to “employ common-sense preventive measures” such as avoiding isolated areas and safeguarding purses, wallets and cellphones. (Damien du Toit)
9. Tegucigalpa, Honduras
The name of this 400-year-old mining town means “silver mountain” in the ancient Nahuatl language. In 1998, Hurricane Mitch tore apart Tegucigalpa, the capital and largest city of Honduras, killing an estimated 7,000 people, destroying the majority of the country’s crops and damaging most of the highways and bridges in the country. Flooding and landslides have left remains of houses that once rested on the hillside. (Jason A. Samfield)
8. Kolkata/Calcutta, India
Calcutta is the state capital of West Bengal and the business center of eastern India.
North Calcutta is congested, with attractions such as College Street (a street of stalls and stores of all kinds) and Nakhoda Mosque (a massive red sandstone mosque with the capacity to hold 10,000 worshippers). South Calcutta is less congested and more modern, with golf courses and horse-riding facilities.
A recent history of attacks on areas frequented by international travelers makes it a good idea to check with the State Department before traveling to Calcutta. (Piyal Adhikary / EPA)
7. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
At 7,762 feet, Addis Ababa has the highest elevation of any other African capital. The headquarters of the African Union and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa can be found in the city.
Although Ethiopia’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism list the city as being founded in 1887, Addis Ababa contains many Colonial monuments. Lucy, humankind’s 3-million-year-old ancestor, can be found at the National Museum of Ethiopia in Addis Ababa. OK, so it’s just a replica -- the actual remains are kept below the museum. (John Heilprin / Associated Press)
6. Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Manas (national folk hero of Kyrgyzstan) statues and the State Historical Museum highlight the capital of Kyrgyzstan. The city’s population has soared during the last century. In 1913, the city had 14,000 residents, according to Encyclopedia Britannica; now it has nearly 800,000, making it the most populous city in Kyrgyzstan.
A statue of Vladimir Lenin and the Kyrgyz White House, built as the headquarters of the Communist Party’s Central Committee in 1985, are among the top tourist attractions. (Vladimir Menkov)
5. Ashkhabad, Turkmenistan
One of the world’s largest carpets is on display at the Turkmen Carpet Museum in Ashkhabad. With the country becoming very oil and natural gas rich, especially in the 1950s and eventually peaking in the 1970s, the government focused more money on tourism, particularly hotels, palaces and fountains. The city also boasts one of the tallest free-standing flagpoles in the world. (Nathan Groth)
4. La Paz, Bolivia
At nearly 12,000 feet above sea level, La Paz is the highest-elevation capital city in the world (even if it is only an administrative capital). The city rests in a valley in the Andes -- and is filled with churches and museums from different eras. Travelers can find hand-crafted alpaca sweaters, handbags and many other products at Sagarnaga Street markets, but be ready to bargain. Those with weak stomachs may want to avoid the Witches’ Market, as they may see some bizarre and possibly disturbing wares, such as dried frogs and llama fetuses. (César Catalán)
3. Islamabad, Pakistan
Islamabad has been hit by a wave of of terrorism over the past few years, so make sure to check with the State Department before traveling.
The city was built in the 1960s to replace Karachi as the capital of Pakistan and has a population of more than 1.5 million. The recently renovated Lok Virsa (Folk Heritage) Museum has displays of jewelry, costumes, metalwork and more representing the cultures of many tribes of Pakistan. The Faisal Mosque is another top tourist spot in Islamabad. It is one of the largest mosques in the world, able to hold 300,000 people. (Michael Foley)
2. Managua, Nicaragua
Managua, the capital, is home to almost 909,000 people, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. The city is the country’s main trading center for many crops.
The remains of the Managua Cathedral still stand in the center of the city, a reminder of a 1972 earthquake that tore apart much of the city. The National Palace is another popular attraction, with 2,500-year-old statues on display in the museum. The 75-year-old structure also houses the National Archive and National Library. (Robert Blackie)
1. Karachi, Pakistan
And now, the most populous and least expensive city on this year’s list. Karachi is the largest city in Pakistan, with a population of more than 12 million, according to a 2007 estimate by Encyclopedia Britannica. Clifton Beach, once one of the most popular silver-sand beaches in the world, is still affected by a 2003 oil spill.
Karachi, the capital of the province of Sindh, is still the financial capital of Pakistan. (Muhammad Ahmed)