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The 5 cheapest travel destinations right now
One traveler's economic crisis is another's budget holiday. Take advantage of the newfound affordability of these five countries
Signs of global economic recovery are glimmering, but are they enough to justify taking a major vacation?
Well, it depends on where you live. Not everyone is recovering, making now the ideal time for those who are to visit some traditionally expensive or even off-limits countries.
Staying atop current trends in the travel industry, combined with knowing its jargon, can put a once-elusive holiday within reach.
For instance, look for words like “cost structure” (i.e., insultingly cheap local labor) during research, as well as “distressed inventory” (i.e., time’s running out on these flights and hotel rooms).
For the value-hunting traveler, we’ve assembled some travel ideas with the help of professionals and economists who know what’s trending.
While there may be other, more affordable destinations overall, these five are the best values in travel right now.
Advance bookings to Mexico for the Legacy Travel agency are their strongest in 15 years, according to its Vice President, Catherine Banks.
“Cost structure is different than most other places,” says Banks, meaning Mexico is inherently cheap.
But combine that with the negative publicity of widespread drug violence (hundreds of kilometers from its most popular tourist spots) and a weak European economy that’s starving Mexico of its customary visitor base, and this country’s ready to make a deal.
According to Banks, “In Cancun and Riviera Maya, there are more five-star resorts than the Caribbean and Hawaii combined, and the price isn’t close to the same.”
And now they’re sitting empty.
Currency conditions: The peso’s been weaker and inflation low in recent months, according to Forex.com Senior Currency Strategist Eric Viloria. So your money should stretch out quite a bit.
Also on CNNGo: Insider Guide: Best of Mexico City
Eager to regain tourism lost to the political unrest and flooding of 2011, Thailand is closing itself out at rock-bottom prices.
“Summer shoulder season (the narrow window between the low and high seasons) seems to be slower than usual," says Tony Cardoza, President of Cardoza-Bungey Travel.
"As a result, we see very good four- and five-star hotels and resorts offering deals.”
That means even cheaper accommodations at the lower ends.
Currency conditions: The Australian dollar goes over 100 percent further in Thailand than at home, according to The Economist's Big Mac index, and the euro and U.S. dollar rate almost as favorably.
Also on CNNGo: Insider Guide: Best of Bangkok
The Republic of the Union of Myanmar could have picked a more profitable time in world economic history to open itself to outsiders, but its delayed departure from despotism is the traveler's gain.
“Burma today is similar to Southeast Asia of 20 years ago,” says Steven Larkin, President of Intrepid Travel, North America.
But the plan going forward may be to go a higher-end route in the development of tourism than neighboring Thailand, so the time is now for a cheap, ethical trip, before even the first Starbucks moves in.
This is the cheapest Myanmar will ever be.
Currency conditions: Burma restructured its currency in early April, turning a fixed rate of 6.4 kyat per U.S. dollar to a floating rate of over 800 kyat per U.S. dollar. This should make exchange rates more reliable, but make sure to bring lots of paper money: Myanmar is still largely cash-only.
Also on CNNGo: 5 signs Myanmar is getting easier for travelers
Here’s that distressed inventory we talked about. Tasteless as it may sound, the Arab Spring may have enabled your spring break, driving down demand and prices right along with it.
“The overall sentiment is that resort areas like Sharm El Sheik are very safe,” says a spokesperson for Hotwire.com, “but most vacationers appear to prefer traveling to Turkey and other destinations that haven’t seen as much civil unrest.”
That preference has made Egypt a buyer’s market. The drop in demand has another benefit: smaller crowds.
“Clients going now have been able to get pictures of themselves in front of the pyramids with no other tourists blocking the view," says Cardoza.
Your window may be closing, though; presidential elections are looming.
Currency conditions: The Egyptian pound is sinking like a stone in recent futures trading, foreshadowing a devaluation of up to 50 percent or more. While that benefits foreign currency holders, it can also lead to inflation, making travel plans to Egypt even more urgent.
Also on CNNGo: How to get a cheaper holiday
All of the turmoil in Greece has weakened tourist demand and, in turn, prices -- for the present -- but it’s uncertainty about the future that’s really driving down travel costs.
Right now, many travelers are betting that already low rates will drop further should Greece fall out of the euro, so they’re delaying plans to visit there. This self-perpetuating drop in demand will depress prices even more in the meantime.
As for the drawbacks, Hotwire’s spokesperson says flying through Athens is a bit risky in terms of service reliability. However, there has been an increase in air service directly to many of the larger island destinations, which are free of the unrest and demonstrations of the mainland, according to John Clifford of InternationalTravelManagement.com. Just make sure you hurry, while they still have roads and stuff.
Currency conditions: The euro fell to a 16-month low against the US dollar earlier this year, a trend that Viloria sees continuing as debt concerns mount.
Also on CNNGo: 7 trips for 7 travelers
Bonus destination: Spain
“Spain has economic concerns similar to those of Greece, so many travelers are holding off on visitation for the same reasons,” says Hotwire’s spokesman. Substitute “Greece” for "Spain" in the entry above, and read again.
Also on CNNGo: Top places to visit in 2012