If you're a college student, you should know that traveling abroad is good for you. It's been shown to improve learning outcomes and may even be a predictor for better grades and higher incomes later in life. It also teaches valuable life and professional skills such as adaptability, independence, communication, and cross-cultural understanding.

The only downside? All those benefits come with a price tag. And if you're a college student, odds are good that you're not exactly rolling in the dough. The good news it that it's still possible to travel on a tight budget— you just have to know where to go. Here are 12 cheap, lesser-known, and wonderful destinations to get you started. No matter which locale you choose, expect to pay well under $50 a night for the privilege of staying there.

Parliament Palace in Bucharest, Romania

1. Bucharest, Romania

Gorgeous architecture, historical attractions, and European sophistication distinguish Bucharest as a must-see city. Don't miss the National Art Museum, the Romanian Athenaeum, the Parliament Palace, or Calea Victoriei, a popular street packed with traditional cafes, bars, and restaurants. Visit in the summer for the best rates and mild weather.

2. Chennai, India

Located on the Bay of Bengal, Chennai offers visitors beautiful scenery, historical attractions, and a rich cultural heritage. Because it's not a particularly well-known tourist destination, Chennai boasts budget-friendly accommodations year-round. Visit between November and February for great weather—highs are typically around 70 degrees. January is one of the most popular months because it features Chennai Pongal, a four-day celebration of the end of winter.

3. Ko Samui, Thailand

It’s a wonder this gorgeous island hasn't been overrun with tourists: Palm-covered beaches, stunning waterfalls, unique geological features, and a relaxed culture make for a perfect island getaway. The island is 88 square miles, so choose accommodations near the beach for easy waterfront access. Rates are very budget-friendly—you can rent a room or a whole home for around $29 a night. If you want to avoid monsoon season, plan to visit between March and May.

Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia at night

4. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Malaysia's capital offers something for every kind of traveler, from jaw-dropping architecture (hello, Petronas Twin Towers) to primo shopping, delicious food, relaxing gardens, distinct neighborhoods, and spiritual exploration in mosques and temples. The city is also close to other attractions such as the Batu Caves and Putrajaya, which is one of the best places in the world to watch the sunset.

5. Lapu-Lapu, Philippines

Lapu-Lapu is home to some of the most significant historical sites in the Philippines, making it a great destination for history buffs and anthropology majors. The city is also packed with art, restaurants, nightlife, live entertainment, beachfront scenery, and other cultural attractions. You can enjoy it all on a shoestring budget: Wallet-friendly accommodations start at $16 per night.

6. Lima, Peru

Ancient Incan ruins, ocean views, and a bustling metropolitan culture—Lima is ideal for the traveler who wants to experience big-city energy in a gorgeous setting. The city's off-season runs from June to October, and this is when you'll find the best deals on accommodations. The Festival season begins in October and continues through November; expect large crowds and a variety of cultural attractions, including the biggest religious procession in Latin America.

Montego Bay, Jamaica, a travel destination that even students can afford

7. Montego Bay, Jamaica

Coral reefs, palm-covered beaches, and budget-friendly hotels—Montego Bay is the tropical destinations for travelers with limited funds. Visit from October to early December for the best rates, abundant sunshine, and warm temps. Take a tour of the old sugar plantation or the working coffee plantation, practice your swing on the gorgeous fairways, soak up the sun on the white sand beaches, or kick back and enjoy the views of the Catadupa Mountains.

8. Nha Trang, Vietnam

If you love the water, then get yourself to Nha Trang. Scuba diving and beautiful beaches await visitors to the city, which is located on Vietnam's south-central coast. While airfare will cost a pretty penny, you'll spend very little once you arrive—rates for budget-friendly hotels start as low as $8 per night, while luxury accommodations can be found for as little as $75 each night.

9. Quito, Ecuador

Located in the Andes Region of Ecuador, Quito is a nature lover's dream. It's also packed with colonial architecture, historical attractions, and a vibrant culture that you have to experience to fully appreciate. The city boasts a wide variety of budget hotels with rates starting as low as $20 a night. Before scheduling a trip, be aware that Quito's winter runs from June to September, while the popular summer months run from December to March.

San Juan, Puerto Rico, a travel destination that even students can afford

10. San Juan, Puerto Rico

San Juan is an island paradise—think white beaches and tropical rainforests—any time of the year. The winter months (from December through April) promise the best weather, but you'll find cheaper rates from May through September. If you're visiting in June, don't miss the city's SoFo Culinary Week. If you're an American citizen, you won't need a passport to enter San Juan, and you can use U.S. dollars as currency. (That's because Puerto Rico is a U.S. commonwealth.)

11. Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Despite being the Dominican Republic's capital city, Santo Domingo has yet to attract large herds of tourists. And that's great news for the wallet-conscious traveler, because low-budget accommodations abound (even during spring break!). Enjoy your savings while soaking up rays on the city's beaches or tearing it up in one of the many salsa/merengue clubs.

12. Ubud, Indonesia

You may know Ubud from a little book called Eat, Pray, Love. Bali's gorgeousness is on full display here, as are pretty rice paddies, open-air markets, and mystical attractions. Visit between July and September for the best weather. (But do be prepared for larger crowds than you'll find during the city's rainy months.) Homestays are popular in Ubud, but you'll also find plenty of budget-friendly hotels both within and outside of the city's center.

And there you have it: Even if you're an impoverished college student, a wide variety of amazing cultural, natural, and historical destinations are within your reach. Save every dollar you can, and soon enough you'll have enough money to get there.

  This article was originally posted on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog on February 14th.

Published in Travel Inspiration

I've spent the better part of the last seven years exploring Asia and this corner of the world is nothing short of amazing. Spectacular sights, delicious foods, incredibly diverse cultures and such a rich history....Asia has it all!

However, Asia can also be overwhelming to first-timers. Where do I go and what do I do? Here are five awesome overlooked places to get your planning started:

Osaka

  Japan

Japan is the best country in the world for people-watching -- if you know where to look, that is. Much like the stylish yet offbeat Harajuku district in Tokyo, Osaka also as a youth Mecca that should be on the "to-do" list of every traveler to Japan. It is called Amerika-Mura and there is no more hip in town to be. The area is on the cutting edge of fashion and youth culture, and is packed full of restaurants and shops selling everything from clothing to music to random novelty items.

Kyoto

  Japan

p align="justify">Kyoto is full of temples but one stands apart from the rest: Otagi Nenbutsu-ji, which dates back to the eighth century. The temple grounds are adorned with over 1,000 small Buddha statues, each with a different expression. Back in 2008 when I lived in Japan, this place was really off the beaten path. Nowadays however thanks to sites like TripAdvisor, it is slowly starting to get more attention -- but still thankfully remains a quiet, overlooked destination.

Ko Samui, Thailand is where you should go in Asia this fall
Ko Samui, Thailand

Ko Samui

  Thailand

One of the best things to do on the island of Ko Samui, Thailand is to rent a scooter and get away from the crowds. Go explore the island, find a quiet beach and take time to unwind. Or check out the numerous markets and eat your way through as many of the small food spots scattered across the island as possible. The island is yours!

Seminyak

  Indonesia

Bali is known for great resorts but the ones of Seminyak, Indonesia stand out in particular. Immaculate beaches. Delicious food. Luxurious resorts. Seminyak has it all but with less crowds that Kuta or Sanur. Soak up the sun on Seminyak Beach, go surfing or even indulge in a game of beach volleyball. The area is also a foodie's paradise, so make sure to come hungry. Start at Jalan Laksamana (also known as Eat Street) but make sure to expand beyond -- there are tons of unique, amazing restaurants serving some of the best food on the island.

Tsuen Wan

  Hong Kong

Located at the end of the MTR line, Tsuen Wan, Hong Kong is a quiet suburb that is far removed from the normal tourist trail. It is also the home of Discovery Park, a combination shopping mall and park that has been around for nearly two decades. The tropical rain forest-themed shopping center spans over 600,000 square feet and even includes an artificial waterfall and stained glass ceiling over the main lobby. Once you are done shopping, do not forget to explore the neighborhood and get a glimpse of local Hong Kong life.

  See More Hong Kong

Hong Kong Off The Beaten Path

Published in Asia

The beautiful island of Ko Samui is one of Thailand's most popular islands with tourists. As such, it's important to know a few key details when planning your trip, such as the right time of year to visit, where to stay and how to avoid the crowds. And that's exactly why I am here!

About The Island

Ko Samui was a self-sustained island with no roads at all until the 1970's, when the first few adventurous backpackers started arriving one at a time via local boats. It was in the 1990's that the island started to gain an international reputation as a beautiful luxury travel destination, a reputation that has only gotten stronger since.

Ko Samui, Thailand

When To Visit

The weather in Ko Samui is slightly different from the mainland of Thailand. During April through September, when its monsoon season throughout the bulk of mainland Thailand, Ko Samui receives very little rain. Their rainy season is October to December. January through March is the sunniest time of year, and the peak tourist season. Consider planning your trip around the beginning or the end of the wet season to avoid the crowds and save a few dollars by paying off-season prices.

How To Arrive

The easiest way to reach Ko Samui is via plane. There are daily flights from Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and several other prominent Thailand destinations, as well as international flights available. However, ticket prices for these flights are noticeably higher than flights to and from other Thai destinations.

The international departure gate at Ko Samui airport in Thailand
The international departure gate at Ko Samui airport

An alternative option is to travel to Ko Samui from Surat Thani, on the southern mainland of Thailand. Tickets are available at both the train station and airport for around 300-500 Bhat and include the bus ride to the Don Sak Jetty and 45-minute ferry ride to the island. (Find out more information here.) Or for those who like to take the scenic route, consider departing from Chumphon. The combined bus and fast boat ride takes close to 12 hours but passes through both Ko Tao and Ko Phangan. It is definitely an enjoyable option for photographers or anyone not in a rush.

Where To Stay

The bulk of Ko Samui hotels and resorts are located on the northern and eastern sides of the island. So, when choosing a location the first thing to consider is do you want to be in the heart of the action, or further away on the more subdued, peaceful western side of the island.

The pool at Papillon Resort in Ko Samui, Thailand

As Ko Samui is a primarily luxury travel destination, there is no shortage of high-class resorts and hotels from $100 on up to $1,000 a night. Zazen Boutique Resort & Spa is one of the island's most popular and highly rated accommodations, and is a steal of a deal at around $200 per night.

There are also quite a few mid-range lodging options throughout Ko Samui that range from $35 to $100 a night, and a few budget options even cheaper than that (for all you backpackers out there). Check around online for the best deals.

  Any questions?

  flickr   //   nicolas_vollmer_photo   emreyuzak   klg19   aj_toth

Published in Thailand

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