What countries offer the best bargains for travelers these days?

For someone interested in cities, history, beaches, and culture what countries or areas offer the best bargains these days? 15-20 years ago Eastern Europe and the Balkans were a given, but my understanding is that they’re now nearly as expensive as their Western neighbors. What other places would you recommend?

I was always told that Mexico offered cheap vacations, but after pricing Baja recently, it was just as expensive as anywhere else.

Canada has so much to offer. History, scenery, and the culture of Toronto with the Urban wonder of Vancouver. Every time I visit a new Provence I want to stay…

That’s just not true.

While Eastern Europe is indeed more expensive than it was 20 years ago, a week in Prague or Bratislava is still much less expensive that a similar week’s visit to Paris or Brussels would be…

Canada is indeed awesome, but it’s not really a cheap destination compared with the US. It was back when you got $1.30 Canadian for a US Dollar, but these days it seems like everything up there is still around 10-30% more expensive but our currencies are more-or-less on par.

I don’t know about the rest of Eastern Europe, but I was recently in Prague and some of the Bohemian hinterland and didn’t find it to be any cheaper than, say, touring around Germany. Lodging in the countryside was a tad cheaper, but food and drink wasn’t especially cheap and Prague itself was just as expensive as any big European city. Part of the issue in the Czech Republic is that we were there just as the euro was starting to really waver and the local currency was actually quite strong.

But as to the OP, I think the Balkans are actually sort of more along the lines of what you’re thinking. They actually weren’t popular destinations in the 90’s (for what should be obvious reasons), but they’re really starting to open up now. The nerdy northwestern travel writer Rick Steves has said that southeastern Europe feels (and costs) a lot like western Europe did back 30-40 years ago.

Are you dead set on Europe and North America? Would you be willing to consider Asia or South America?

And how much roughing it are you willing to do? If you’re OK with staying in youth hostels and can deal with local infrastructural quirks (less-than-constant availability of running water, for example), that broadens your range of potential travel destinations considerably. On the other hand, if you really want a 5-star hotel, you’ll find that many countries you’d expect to be cheap actually aren’t a bargain at all.

Not sure where your travel originates from but for those of us in living in Japan, traveling to China and southeast Asia is quite cheap.

Thailand and Cambodia are hard to beat. I never paid more than seven dollars a night in my seventy days there. One place in northern Thailand was under $1.70 and included WiFi! Bangkok is a great city and you have to visit Angkor at some point in your life. Phnom Penh was surprisingly nice. Vietnam, Burma, Malaysia and Indonesia are all pretty cheap as well.

South Africa is very reasonable - just got back to Prague a few days ago and Cape Town was much cheaper than Prague in all aspects.

If this is the part you’re really interested in, Israel just cannot be beat for a combination of all of the above in a comfortably “Western”-level country. However…

This, not so much… Your Israeli vacation will probably cost you pretty much the same as a vacation at any other Western destination (mostly because that’s what it is.) Much as I hate to recommend it right now (OK, not really :)), I’d say maybe Turkey would be a good place to look for something like this mix of interests, at more affordable prices.

Or Greece, although there may be some political unrest there in the foreseeable future.

Baja hasn’t been cheap in decades. Basically, any area which gets enough tourism to have instant recognition is likely to be expensive.

We went to “real” Mexico with my cousin who’s living there now (we saw Mexico City, Queretaro, and San Luis Potosi) and it was very cheap indeed - no beaches, but Queretaro is absolutely beautiful. We stayed in a hotel so historic it was in our guidebook and it cost what the Holiday Inn costs here.

Lots of Asia is a travel bargain, but the cost of traveling there from North America is the problem. Malaysia is wonderful and you can stay at really nice places for very cheap. Indonesia has some wonderful travel opportunities, but I avoid Bali like the plague. In Eastern Europe, Slovenia is lovely and a great value, Ukraine is also a bargain, and Hungary is still a value if you get outside of Budapest.

Just about anywhere in Southeast Asia except Singapore is very economical.

Nepal is a great country too.

Turkey is gorgeous and lovely and has a ton of history and wonderful people… but it ain’t cheap.

The Balkans are supposed to be a good deal these days.

I was just in Istanbul a couple months ago. It’s cheap based on the rest of Europe but the prices equated to pretty much the same as prices in the US.

You can really stretch a dollar in Peru for sure. Food and lodging were quite cheap.

After the airfare, China, India and Thailand are extremely good values.

I second China too. very good value and lots to explore.

My mother-in-law just got back from Peru and said it’s much more expensive than it was a year or two ago when she last went. A cab ride that used to cost her maybe $15(US) is now $25. Roughly, instead of your dollar being worth about 3x as much, it’s now more like 2x-1.5x as much.

I’m definitely open to more than just Europe and North America. Re. roughing it, youth hostels are no problem; inconstant running water might be. I’m not into adventure travel, or wild nature destinations - i.e. beaches are cool, but no safaris or camping, please. The ideal would be some country with interesting, historic cities and towns where you can relax, get some good, cheap meals, and explore for a couple weeks without going broke.

Thanks for all the suggestions so far.