While there are so many places I want to go in the world, I thought I’d give my picks for where I’d love to go this year—right now, before it’s too late (if I had unlimited time and money, that is). Taking into account currency exchange rates (my #1 deciding factor as a budget traveler!), anniversaries and celebrations, current events across the globe, and the ever-changing flux of tourism, here’s my list of 16 places to go in 2016!
Maybe it’s just the fact that when I’m told I “can’t” go somewhere, it only makes me want to go more. Cuba is a country that, due to the improvement of US foreign relations, will be changing rapidly. The Americans are coming! Although US citizens still need a visa to (legally) go to Cuba, tourism with Cuba’s very close neighbor and possible shifts in the embargo will undoubtedly cause huge changes. Go now, in 2016, while it still retains those authentic vibes.
2. Road trip the USA
If I could pick one more big trip this year—this would be it! The US Dollar is strong and gas prices are cheap—very cheap (last month it dropped to $0.99/gallon in some places). Fill up the tank, grab some snacks, and hit the road! The National Park Service turns 100 this year, so you could help them celebrate by focusing on seeing some of the country’s natural wonders while you’re at it.
Poland is my top budget choice in Europe—since it’s a member of the EU and very popular with budget airlines (Ryanair flies to 11 airports across Poland), it is ridiculously easy to get to. The US Dollar has an excellent exchange rate with the Polish złoty, making the country a cheap choice during European travels. One of my favorite Polish towns, Wrocław, was named the 2016 European Capital of Culture, so it’s definitely a destination on the rise.
The capital city Riga stole my heart, and I will forever love Latvia as it was my first solo destination in continental Europe. Although no longer using Latvian lats and having switched to the Euro, Latvia remains a very affordable option in Europe. Riga will keep you busy with both culture and clubs, and the countryside is meant to be beautiful! The country recently marked its 25th anniversary of independence from the Soviet Union.
While Ireland is always one of my favorite destinations, 2016 will be a big year for them: the country will be celebrating the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising, the uprising that led to Irish independence from British rule. I have a feeling the Irish will go all out for this one, and combined with the green beauty of the countryside and the friendliness of the Irish people make Ireland a top choice for 2016!
Despite Russia’s notoriously complicated and stressful visa process, it is one of the most fascinating countries with so many options of things to do and see. Due to political tensions, economic sanctions, and Russia’s involvement with eastern Ukraine and the Crimea, the ruble has fallen enormously. The exchange rate, favorable when I went in June 2014 (USD$1=34 rubles), has now dropped to USD$1=73 rubles! While the red tape of the visa process can be painful, your money will stretch very far in this interesting country. Also, vodka.
Croatia is a member of the EU, but still retains their own currency—the Croatian kuna. While Croatia is perhaps the most popular and open to tourism of the Balkan countries, and the Dalmatian coast in particular is far from “secret,” it is still possible to find the unique stillness of “off the beaten track” in some places. As tourism is growing in leaps and bounds (along with the popular Game of Thrones series, Croatia was listed as a filming location for the upcoming 8th Star Wars movie), Croatia is a country you should absolutely visit right now while you can, before it gets any busier.
Greece has had a rough year. What with the Greek economic crisis plunging the Eurozone into chaos, and the migrant/refugee crisis currently sweeping Europe crippling Greece (the first port of call for many), many visitors have been scared off of visiting the country. However, Greece will definitely value your tourist dollars, and the money you spend for your trip will, more or less, directly benefit some of the people the financial crisis hit most—such as tour guides, B&B owners, and those who work hospitality and tourism for a living.
With terrorist attacks hitting Paris twice in 2015, the city of light needs your love. The outpouring of shock and grief at the November 13 attacks demonstrated just how many people have a special affection for Paris. It’s Paris and it’s beautiful and will always be worthy of a trip.
Although I’ve never been to Belize (or traveled in Central America), I noticed that this small country was popping up on a whole lot of other “Where to Go in 2016” lists. If my curiosity is sparked, others will be as well—get there before everyone else can! The Belize Barrier Reef is the second largest coral reef system (after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia), and there are limitless options for water activities, gorgeous beaches, and Mayan ruins. Also swimming in caves with skeletons?! I need to go here!
11. East Africa
With the outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa, many unaffected areas in East Africa have had a decrease in tourism. (Africa is a huge continent made up of 54 different countries—an incredible span of diversity!) Like Greece, let your tourist dollars do good work by boosting the economy—Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, and Zimbabwe are all meant to be good destinations, and with exciting offers for safaris (one of the most popular activities for visitors). My first visit to East Africa will be to Zambia this April!
The country suffered from a massive earthquake in April 2015, and like Greece and East Africa, could use your tourist dollars. Again, the money you spend on your visit will likely help those people in the tourism industry that are struggling to maintain their livelihood in a direct way. Also, Mount Everest.
Australia has often been seen as an expensive destination—absolutely true in many ways. However, the Australian dollar (AUD) has seen a slight dip—making now a great window of opportunity for a trip to the land down under. The Australian Outback, big cities like Sydney and Melbourne, and (of course) kangaroos. Why wouldn’t you want to go?! I’ve also seen lots about natural areas facing encroachment and potential ruin, like the Great Barrier Reef and forests in Tasmania. Go now while they’re still there!
There are so many reasons to go to Japan, but first and foremost: the Japanese yen is becoming increasingly more affordable for those with USD, meaning a trip to this interesting country might not be impossible for people trying to travel cheap. Tokyo will be hosting the 2020 Summer Olympics, which means it’s an exciting time to go to Japan.
A country filled with natural beauty and bustling cities, Vietnam is one country I would love to visit. Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City were (respectively) named the second and third cheapest cities in Southeast Asia—if that’s not enough reason to go, I don’t know what is!
While much of the South American buzz is on Rio de Janeiro and its upcoming Olympic games, Ecuador has made it onto my radar. The country seems to have it all: the colonial influence is still visible in the capital city, Quito, you can stand in different hemispheres at the Equator, and the Amazon rainforest is there to explore. Also, I really want to go to the Galapagos Islands. As in, I REALLY want to go. The Galapagos tortoise. Do I need to say more?!
Where do you want to go in 2016? Which places would you prioritize? Which places have I missed?!
Photos 1, 2, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 courtesy of PhotoDropper plugin.