5 International Trips That Are Cheaper Than a Weekend in London

See recent posts by Kyle Valenta



We've already told you how expensive two days in New York City can be, but there are plenty of other destinations that will break the bank in no time at all. London is one of those places. The popular European city drew a record 19 million international visitors in 2016 alone, according to the Evening Standard, and for good reason. London is loved for its centuries-old history, diverse cultural scene, countless museums, and more. But London's inimitable atmosphere comes with a hefty price tag. For starters, expect to pay an average of $200 per night (or more) for a room in a mid-range hotel. Historic sights like the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey cost around $30 per person, as does the London Eye. Plus, you'll need $50 per person for a pay-as-you-go Oyster visitor card for the Tube (or have to rely on painfully expensive taxis). 

You should also budget around $120 each for food over a 48-hour period. While you might save some money on free museums like the Tate Modern and British Museum, you'll part ways with lots of cash if you want to see one of the West End's most popular shows. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, for instance, will cost you $215 per ticket. Note that these figures don't include any shopping, afternoon cafe visits, or night-out cocktails. 

When all is said and done, you could easily spend nearly $1,300 on activities and sightseeing alone. You'll also have to tack on $550 per person for flights from most major U.S. cities. All in, you're looking at a potential investment of $2,400 for two days. With that in mind, we've come up with a list of big-ticket trips you could take for around the same price (or less). 

Author's Note: Keep in mind that flight prices and hotel rates are subject to daily (and sometimes hourly) changes. While the prices in this article reflect local currency conversions and prices at the time of publishing, they may change over time.

Seven Days in Mexico City

Mexico City/Oyster

Mexico City/Oyster

Mexico City is a bargain traveler’s dream. Hotels, meals, and attractions all come with low price points, making the city a magnet for culture-seekers from around the world. You’ll find world-class museums here like National Museum of Anthropology and Casa Azul (the Frida Kahlo Museum), as well as murals by Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco. The contemporary art scene is also booming, with galleries in seemingly every neighborhood. If you need even more culture, the pyramids of Teotihuacan are a one-hour trip outside of town. The city is also known for its local food, beautiful parks, bustling markets, and wild nightlife.

Hotel prices in July generally hover around $100 per night, and street food should run no more than two or three dollars. Even in some of the fancier foodie spots in Roma and Condesa, you shouldn’t expect to pay more than $15 per person for dinner. Of course, if you opt for top-end dining venues like famous Pujol, you’ll be shelling out plenty of cash. Tickets to most of the city’s famous museums are reasonable, from just a few dollars for the National Museum of Anthropology to around $10 for Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul. A visit to the pyramids, which are a must-visit for anyone coming to Mexico City, costs around $9 for the bus and entrance fees per person. 

Getting around the city by metro is relatively easy and costs $0.25 per ride, no matter the distance you’re traveling. The metro connects the historic Centro with neighborhoods like Roma, Juarez, and Polanco, as well as sights like the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe and even Coyoacan, in the city’s south. Alternatively, Uber trips rarely run more than a few dollars, even for the long haul to and from the airport.

Overall Cost: Given the above costs, a seven-day trip to Mexico City for two people should cost around $1,150. That’s assuming you’ll visit one museum per day for five of the seven days, work in a trip to the pyramids, splurge on Ubers, and drop around $280 to $300 on food by eating a mix of street food and market meals, plus dining at cheap cafes and more upmarket restaurants in Roma or Condesa for a few dinners. Flights to Mexico City from the east or west coast of the U.S. hover around $300 to $400 each during the month of July, making this a true bargain vacation. 

Mexico City Hotel Pick:

Four Days in Barcelona, Spain



Tackling Barcelona in the summertime might require a bit of bravery. While the city is a major destination for travelers year-round, summer sees the tourist population swell. During this season, the beaches are thronged with sun-seekers, the bars spill into the streets, and the general vibe verges on ecstatic (though, of course, in that ever-chill Catalonian way). And while peak season does mean that hotel rates are higher than you’ll find at other times of year, Barcelona (and most of Spain in general) still manages to feel like a bargain.

For starters, hotel rates average around $150 per night across the city. Plus, your money might just bring you something a bit more stylish here than in London, as the boutique hotel scene in Barcelona is booming. The city’s amazing July weather also helps keep costs low, as you can enjoy all of the amazing outdoor activities that are free. And by that, we mean the beach. Strolling the city’s atmospheric Gothic Quarter is another bucket-list item that’s free.

To enhance all of this sunny bliss, you’ll want to sample the city’s cultural offerings during your four days here. The Gaudi sights should top your list. Keep in mind that you’ll want to get advance tickets for Parc Guell and Sagrada Familia — his two most famous creations. You’ll need about $27.75 each to get into both. Couple all of that modernism with the Cubist creations at the Picasso Museum ($17 per person) and MACBA, the contemporary art museum ($12 per person). 

Food and drink in Barcelona are also significantly cheaper than in London. Keep in mind that you’ll want to dine away from Las Ramblas and the Gothic Quarter to get your money’s worth. Breakfast here is light — a pastry and coffee — and won’t cost more than a few dollars each. Lunch generally comes as a set menu del dia, and costs around $15 per person, though if you opt for simpler lunches like bocadillos, you can drop that to around $5 to $10 per person depending on how much you drink. Dinner varies, too. If you opt for humble tapas bars and drinks, your costs will stay lower ($10 per person or less), while the fancy foodie joints will be pricier (around $20 per person). 

Getting around the city by metro is also cheap and efficient. Single rides cost around $2.75, or you can buy two T10 cards, which will cost around $25 and provide 20 trips (and can be used on the Renfe trains to and from the airport). 

Overall Cost: If you book your flights from the U.S. to Barcelona far enough in advance, you can find summer fares for $600 (or less). Packing in Gaudi’s major creations and a couple of museums, along with eating on the high end of the spectrum, puts your costs for this four-day trip at just over $1,000. If you’re willing to do as the locals do, and opt for bar lunches and tapas dinners, you’ll save around 50 percent of your food budget — or around $160.

Barcelona Hotel Pick:

Seven Days in Southern Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City/Oyster

Ho Chi Minh City/Oyster

Take our advice and don’t sleep on Vietnam. In fact, nearly all of Southeast Asia offers remarkable travel deals for those who can look past the sometimes high cost of flights to reach the region. If you’re willing to opt for street food and buses to get around, you can easily snag a week-long trip for two to southern Vietnam for about the same amount as a jam-packed two days in London.

If you wanted to eat market and street food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (which plenty of visitors to Vietnam wind up doing), you’ll spend no more than two or three dollars per person, per meal. If you want to swap in a mid-range restaurant for one of those meals, you’re looking at $5 to $10 per person. Even adding one or two nights at one of the fancier establishments will run around $50 for two, so you’re still well within the budget.

Taxi rides around the city’s central districts cost between $3 and $5, though it’s $8 to $10 to the airport. Most sights within the city, like the sobering War Remnants Museum, cost less than $2 to enter, and strolling Ben Thanh Market is free. Vietnamese coffee on the street won’t cost more than $1, and even in the trendy cafes springing up in districts like Phu Nhuan, you won’t spend more than $2 on a coffee. Ho Chi Minh City is a young and vibrant place, and with that comes lots of buzzed-about nightlife. Many of the new skyscrapers here are home to sceney rooftop bars, and you’ll pay a pretty penny for cocktails at most of them (along with having to adhere to dress codes). Budget around $14 for a drink at nightclubs like Chill Skybar.

Of course, one of the great joys of visiting Ho Chi Minh City is how easy it is to explore the surrounding region. Guided day trips to the Cu Chi Tunnels — used by communist forces during the American War (as it’s called in Vietnam) — cost around $40 per person. You can also head to the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho for a few days. Buses there cost around $10 per person (round-trip), and hotels in town average around $20 per night (or less, depending on your comfort levels). Boat trips from Can Tho to the Cai Rang Floating Market cost around $10 each, and Mekong Delta tours from Can Tho can be snagged for $20 per person.

Overall Cost: Getting from the U.S. to Vietnam will easily be the most expensive part of this trip. You can find tickets for around $875 per person in July, though if you’re willing to book far in advance, you may find tickets for $100 to $200 less than that. Hotels in Ho Chi Minh City for four nights will cost around $200 (though if you go budget, you’ll pay even less), while three nights in Can Tho comes in at $60. If you stick to street food or market food, you’re adding around $85 to your total bill. Add in the cost of Can Tho tours ($30 per person) as well as buses and taxis ($50 to be generous). That means, in a full week, you’ll spend under $500 for two people on food, lodging, and entertainment. Even if you add in a mid-range meal every day, you’re only adding around $70 to your overall tab. That’s a bargain no matter which way you slice it.

Ho Chi Minh City Hotel Pick:

Five Days in Medellin, Colombia



It’s not Colombia’s biggest city nor its coastal jewel (those are Bogota and Cartagena, respectively), but Medellin is a hipster’s delight and Colombia’s new “it” destination. And while that’s due to a lot of factors, its permanent spring-like weather certainly helps sweeten the deal. These days, the former industrial city (and home of Pablo Escobar) is all about innovation, and as such, has drawn a young, progressive, and cosmopolitan population that’s busy renovating seemingly every inch of public space. 

Medellin is more low-key than other Latin American destinations like Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, and Mexico City. Here, you can spend your days strolling around the city, taking in the art galleries, visiting fascinating museums like the Museo de Antioquia, sipping locally grown coffee, and living like a local. Oh, and going out at night — very, very late at night.

Thankfully, the cost of doing all of this is relatively low in Medellin. Hotel prices average around $70 a night in July — even for attractive mid-range and upscale properties — and meals will cost $5 to $15 per person. You likely won’t spend much money on visiting sights, as it’s the city’s public spaces and people that are the biggest draws. Even so, entry to Museo de Antioquia (for amazing Colombian art and work by Fernando Botero) is less than $7 per person. 

If you are seeking an alternative to languid days sipping coffee (which costs around $2.50), head out of town. You can score a 20-minute paragliding adventure to the north of the city for about $45 each (this includes a tandem instructor). Back in town and looking for nightlife? Expect to pay between $2 and $6 per beer or cocktail, which is way cheaper than what you’ll find in London.

Overall Cost: When you add up the cost of food, lodging, paragliding, and visits to sights like Parque Explora and Museo de Antioquia, your tab for two travelers comes in at around $800. Even if you add $100 to $200 for a few nights out partying and a little shopping, you’ll still spend far less in five days here than you will in London. Flights from either coast of the U.S. generally hover around $500 in July. 

Medellin Hotel Pick:

Six Days in and Around Quito, Ecuador

The countryside outside of Quito/Oyster

The countryside outside of Quito/Oyster

Ecuador tends to get overlooked for its neighbors to the north and south — Colombia and Peru. That’s a shame because the Quito region is a fascinating place to explore and makes a great home base for visiting some of Ecuador’s coolest sights. Here, you’ll find stunning colonial relics alongside the chaotic urban melee that characterizes so many of Latin America’s great cities. It’s an edgy, cool place, though feeling at home here will require a little digging. 

Quito itself is a blend of all things old and new, strewn across seemingly endless hills. The most scenic part of the city is its Old Town, where you’ll find the striking Basilica of the National Vow, a neo-Gothic church that dominates the neighborhood’s skyline. At the center of the Old Town sits Plaza Grande, which buzzes with locals, tourists, and the occasional protest. It’s also home to the Presidential Palace. You’ll find restaurants, shops, and cafes in nearly every direction in the Old Town. If you’re looking for something more trendy, La Floresta is Quito’s version of Brooklyn or Cartagena’s Getsemani district — expect lots of graffiti, coffee, and artisanal fare.

Quito’s charms aren’t limited to historic architecture, though. Head to the Centro de Arte Contemporaneo, which mounts edgy exhibitions as well as lectures, events, and parties. If you’re looking to tap into Ecuador’s history, then the Museo de la Ciudad is worth a visit. Or, pop into the Museo Casa del Alabado to check out what Ecuador’s art and culture looked like before the Spanish invaded. You should also head out of town during your six-day visit here. Cotopaxi National Park is around two hours south of Quito and is home to stunning natural scenery.

So what should you budget? Hotel rooms in Quito in July average around $85 per night. Even better than that, the cost to enter many of the city’s main sights is free, or close to free. The Centro de Arte Contemporaneo costs nothing for visitors, while the Museo de la Ciudad is only $3 per person and the Museo Casa del Alabado is $6 per person. Strolling the Old Town costs nothing — of course — but you’ll want to stop for coffee, food, and some drinks. Coffee at the city’s trendier spots run around $2.50, and you can pair that with sandwiches that cost between $5 and $6. If you want to eat in more upmarket places, expect to budget around $35 per day, per person. If you’re okay with eating at local hole-in-the-wall joints, expect to knock off around $20 from that total, per person. 

Overall Cost: Flights to Quito from L.A. and NYC run around $515 in July, though you’re also likely to find great deals if you set price alerts. That alone costs less than getting to London. You’ll spend just over $500 on hotels for six nights, and around $180 on food and drinks for two people if you stick to local joints. Budget around $20 to $40 on sightseeing, depending on how many museums you want to visit. If you tack on day-trip tours to Cotopaxi National Park, that will add around $100 each to the total. Overall, two people can enjoy almost a week in Ecuador for under $2,000, including flights.

Quito Hotel Pick:

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