10 Most Exotic budget-friendly destinations to travel during this Christmas 2016

Well, well, lets face it! While Christmas almost knocking at the doors might be the best thing ever as the year-long wait is almost coming to an end, but this is also getting many of us  really stressed and worried while trying to figure out where to travel during this winter! Do you want to travel to exotic and relatively crowd-free places? Then here is a list of the best 10 exotic places you can consider traveling to over this Christmas and New Years. I have been to all of them and hence my guide is based on real hands-on experiences giving you an idea of the top activities to consider along with the number of days you would roughly need for them.

1. Lanzarote, Canary Islands – How about a sunny Christmas but still with all the European taste in it? Leave all the tourist crowd behind in Spain and hop on a flight to the Canary islands which are a part of Spain, but far away from European mainland. Yes, the Canary Islands tops my list of places to visit because it’s in every sense the Hawaii of Europe and it’s truly majestic there on Christmas! Lanzarote and Tenerife are my absolute favorite islands with Tenerife having most of the tourist crowds and bigger parties on Christmas and NYE eve. My personal favorite is Lanzarote which is the furthest of all the Canary islands (also Europe) and sits just 125 km away from the coast of Africa. When I was in Lanzarote for Christmas, I found it a heaven because even if the main towns (Arrecife is the  capital) were a bit crowded with tourists, if you rent a car and decide to stay away from the main towns, you can still have a whole beach to yourself. The island is smaller compared to Tenerife or the Gran Canaria, but has so so much in offer. Costa Teguise with its famous beaches makes for  a lovely area to book a hotel in or just go for an AirBnB (as I did) in some small village in the island. There is a lot to do in terms of activities ranging from swimming in the warm Atlantic Ocean on Christmas and NYE (which can be an amazing experience at this point of the year), volcanic cave walking in Cueva de los Verdes, to climbing volcanoes which can be found everywhere in the island. However, camel riding in the spectacular Timanfaya National Park  with moon-like  landscape was my favorite!

Category: Sunny
Activities: Beach, volcanoes, mountain hiking
Number of days: 6-10 days
Prices: Moderate (20-80 €/day for accommodation, 8-10 € for a proper meal, 5-6 € for a Margarita).
Car rental: Required 
Languages spoken: 
Spanish and English (widely spoken)
Visa: Schengen visa

2. Myanmar, South East Asia – When most people will board their Christmas flights to Thailand and Vietnam, why not leave all the tourists behind and head to the majestic and exotic rural country of Myanmar (formerly Burma)? It’s a very religious Buddhist country and still out of the main tourist trails of South East Asia. Most of the country is outside the tourist radar which gives plenty of options to go off beat if you want. Yangon is the “cultural” capital of the country and gives an authentic taste of Myanmar, but Lake Inle, Kalaw and Bagan are places that travelers love the most! I fell in love with all of them and I strongly suggest you to travel in public buses and trains to experience the beauty of the country’s landscape. They are cheap, comfortable and is the best way to meet the locals. The weather in December should be perfect as the monsoons will just be gone making it a pure bliss. Bagan is a place which shouldn’t be missed at any cost and will remain the highlight of my trip. Renting a bicycle in Lake Inlet and an e-Bike in Bagan is a good idea because it will offer the flexibility to discover the places with your own pace and schedule. Not much planning is required to visit Myanmar honestly as I found it to be one of the safest and easiest country to backpack as a solo-female! Everything is slow and when you are there, you need to have time and go with the rhythm instead of just hopping from one place to another. 

Category: Sunny
Activities: Culture, wildlife spotting in the lakes, mountain hikes
Number of days: 10-20 days (really depends what you want to see)
Prices: Cheap (8-30 €/day for accommodation, 2-5 € for a proper meal, 2-4 € for a Margarita)
Car rental: Not required
Language spoken: Burmese and English (widely spoken)
Visa: Visa on arrival for most countries (India included)

3. Ecuador, South America – Imagine a tiny country with heaps of activities. One can swim with the sea turtles in the world-famous Galapagos Islands, spot anaconda in the great Amazon rainforest, do river rafting in class 5 rapids of Banos, swing in the end of the world (Casa Arbol) in Banos, stroll around in the historic city of Cuenca, jump over the Equator in Quito, and also hike in the big volcanos of the Andes mountains!!! Yes, this is Ecuador and despite being one of the smallest countries of Latin America, it’s a jackpot! Food and accommodation is incredibly cheap and doing adventure sports is not expensive at all! While most of the people come here to only head to the Galapagos Island which is insanely expensive (but so much worth it), you can just explore the rest of the country and especially the Amazon rainforest because even though Ecuador has only 3% of the Amazon, it boasts on having 1/3rd of the entire wildlife and biodiversity! The trip to the Amazon is relatively much cheaper (330$ p.p. for 3 nights) and rewarding in terms of wildlife spotting than in Peru, Brazil or Colombia! Food is mouth-watering and people are more than just welcoming! Don’t believe me? Then hop on a direct plane to Quito or Guayaqil from Amsterdam/Madrid and explore the country to see for yourself!

Category: Sunny
Activities: Beach, wildlife spotting, volcanic trails and hikes, mountain climbing
Number of days: 10-20 days (really depends what you want to see)
Prices: Cheap to moderate (15-50 €/day for accommodation, 2-10 € for a proper meal, 2-3 € for a Margarita)
Car rental: Not required when in the cities.
Language spoken: Spanish and English (touristic places only)
Visa: Visa on arrival for most countries (India included)

4. China, Asia – I know this comes as a shock to see China in this list, but nothing beats China when it comes to amount of things it has in offer! After solo backpacking for almost a month in this truly exotic and shangri-la land, all I can say is China will leave you speechless! I was confused and scared the first few days wondering if I would survive 3.5 weeks in this strange country, but I realized soon that to enjoy China I need to know the culture first. And once I started adapting myself to China, I had a blast! Food is great and even if you are a vegetarian, you should be fine! Beijing and Shanghai are two great cities which are super international and has a lot in offer, but to see “real” China, head to the mountains in the South West – Yunnan, Sichuan and Qinghai provinces. One definitely needs to hike the Tiger Leaping Gorge which is supposed to be one of the best hikes of China. Also heading to Tibet (not just the Autonomous region of Tibet like I did, but head to Kham and Amdo regions of Tibet which is still not touristic at all and doesn’t need any kind of permit) would be a great idea. Even if the mountains are cold in December, mountain hiking shouldn’t be a problem because it is going to be way too sunny during the day, just prepare yourself in layers. Don’t forget to see the strange stone (not “hanging”) mountains which James Cameron showed us in his movie “Avatar”. They are located in the Hunan province in the Zhangjiajie National Park and if you are there, you have to walk on the longest and tallest sky bridge of the world located in the famous Tianmenshan Mountain! I can’t stop talking about China because it’s a country which changed me a lot and with all honesty it’s once in a lifetime experience you are going to have there!

Category: Sunny, but can get cold in the mountains
Activities: Culture, history, food, hiking, forests
Number of days: 14-30 days (depends on the places you choose to visit)
Prices: Cheap to moderate (10-50 €/day for accommodation, 2-5 € for a proper meal, 1-2 € for a Margarita)
Car rental: Not required
Language spoken: Mandarin, Cantonese and English (very less spoken)
Visa: Chinese tourist visa (easy to get in 7 days)

5. Road trip to Andalusia, Spain – Well, I can’t deny that Spanish Christmas is my favorite in Europe and I keep going back to Spain at least once every year. Barcelona in Catalunya is an amazing city at any time of the year and Christmas is just stunning with the famous La Rambla street all lit up (been there, done that). But you have not seen Spain if you haven’t been to the exotic south of the country. Have you heard of Sevilla? You are missing a lot of good things in life if you haven’t been to the Spanish region of Andalusia. It’s the warmest part of Spain during December-January and you might still be able to swim in Malaga if you are lucky! The best idea is to hire a car when you land in Sevilla or Malaga (two big airports of this region), and drive around to see Malaga, Rhonda, Cadiz, Sevilla, Grenada and Cordoba. This is going to be an epic road trip and because most of the tourist crowds will head to Barcelona or Madrid, you can still have your personal space here. Two absolutely not to be missed things include visiting the spectacular islamic monument of Alhambra in the hills of Grenada and attending a Flamenco dance show in Sevilla or Cordoba. If you want to go a bit off-beat, then head to Rhonda to see the stunning rock bridge where you could even try rock climbing! I have great memories from this road trip and I will always recommend spending your Christmas in Andalusia rather than in crowded Barcelona. Do it and you will thank me forever!

Category: Sunny, but can get cold in some parts (hills in Grenada and Cordoba)
Activities: Culture, history, music, rock climbing, beach, mountain hikes
Number of days: 6-14 days (depends on the places you choose to visit)
Prices: Cheap to moderate (10-30 €/day for accommodation, 6-10 € for a proper meal, 2-3 € for a Margarita)
Car rental: Required
Language spoken: Spanish and English
Visa: Schengen visa

6. Florida, United States: Do you like bird watching, snorkeling and chilling on the beach with cheap cocktails, then this “Sunshine State of USA” is a true gem! I say it because very few places make me go back and this definitely is one of them .I have traveled 3 times in different parts of Florida since past 2 years and I love, love and love it there! Miami, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale are the big airports you can fly and check Orlando to fly cheap from Europe. If great parties and booze is what you are looking for, then look no further than Miami. But if you are like me and visit places to explore the culture, food and nature; then just head to either Fort Myers region (many amazing beach state parks there) or drive to the Florida Keys. Fort Myers will turn out to be a cheaper bet during the christmas time as Keys is going to be flooded with tourists with hotels mostly booked! I loved my time watching alligators in airboats inside the Everglades National Park and snorkeling in the John Pennekamp National Park has always been the highlight of my last three trips to Florida! I often end up using my Hilton points in the uncountable Hilton and Hampton Inns that Florida has in offer which helps me curb my costs, but if money is not a problem for you, then look no further than the Keys. I can’t imagine a better place in USA to spend a sunny Christmas other than Florida with all the friendly Spanish people, delicious tacos and burritos along with the cheap Margaritas flowing in! Wow!!

Category: Sunny
Activities: Beach, kayaking, snorkeling, hiking
Number of days: 6-10 days
Prices: Moderate to expensive (70-100 €/day for accommodation,10-20 € for a proper meal, 6-8 € for a Margarita)
Car rental: Required
Language spoken: Spanish and English
Visa: B1/B2 visa

7. Jordan, Middle East – There is a misconception amongst most of us about the Middle East; people think it’s very dangerous to travel. Come visit Jordan and it will leave you spell-bound. I backpacked as a solo female in this spectacular country early this year, and trust me, I only want to go back again someday soon. I have written a post that will help you plan your Jordan trip budget friendly. Jordan is not the regular backpacker’s destination because the attraction tickets are not cheap which makes it an expensive country to visit! You need to dress up modestly (it’s an Islamic country) and safety precautions (like any other country) applies, but people here will make you feel so so loved that you will have no reason to complain. December is cold, but still very stunning and sun is still shining! I loved the culture, friendly locals, and especially the fact that even though bordered by Saudi Arabia and Syria, it’s still so different and safe for solo female travelers! Not to forget, that Jordan boasts on one of the Wonders of the World – Petra and that alone should be a reason to go see the country; but apart from Petra, there is so much more too! Wadi Rum (moon on earth) desert was the highlight of my trip and snorkeling in the Red Sea was a dream come true. The old cities of Amman and Jeddah are not to be missed because the north of the country is very different from the relatively orthodox South. The history and architecture are so rich. If you are not faint hearted, float in the Dead Sea because it’s still not that cold (like 20 Deg in December) and please don’t come back without trying the amazing Sisha! Go, go go and check out Jordan for yourself!

Category: Sunshine shouldn’t be a problem, but cold and snow can be expected in Petra
Activities: Architecture, history, desert, hiking
Number of days: 7-10 days
Prices: Moderate (10-80 €/day for accommodation, 6-10 € for a proper meal, 5-6 € for a Sisha)
Car rental: Not required
Language spoken: Arabic and English (widely spoken by everyone)
Visa: Offers visa on arrival to most of the countries (India included)

8. Portugal, Europe – This is one of the most under-rated European countries in my opinion and often over-shadowed by its extravagant neighbor Spain! A true gem in all respect with its terrific history, great beaches, delicious food, best wine, lush green forests and lastly, friendly locals!! Lisbon in itself is a great city to explore and definitely tops my list of best cities in Europe. There are many day trips which can be done from Lisbon including Cascais and Sintra. Not to miss are the small fishermen villages of Nazare and Obidos. Porto in the north of the country offers the best wine and is another amazing city that the country has in offer whereas Portugal’s Algarve region in the south has great beaches for you in the towns of Faro and Lagos. Portugal is really a cheap country and the food although has plenty of meat and fish in it, one can find plenty of vegan restaurants in the big cities (including Michelin star places). A road trip from north to south of the country is doable in 10 days and you will return happy!

Category: Sunny, but can get cold in some parts of the country
Activities: Culture, history, music, rock climbing, beach, mountain hikes
Number of days: 6-15 days (depends on the places you choose to visit)
Prices: Cheap to moderate (10-80 €/day for accommodation, 7-10 € for a proper meal, 3-6 € for a Margarita)
Car rental: Not required if you want to stick to cities
Language spoken: Portuguese, Spanish and English
Visa: Schengen visa

9. Puerto Rico, Central America – This island is a union territory of USA, but upon landing in the capital of San Juan, its evident that you are in Central America! Locals barely speak english (outside the capital town) and everything is dirt cheap. Puerto Rico has it all starting from the best beaches of the world (Flamenco beach of Culebra), lavish beach resorts (if a relaxed getaway is all what you are looking for), and rich culture all throughout the islands. Many  adventure sport options are available ranging from  scuba-diving & snorkeling, zip-lining, hiking in the famous El Yunque National Rainforest and also swimming in the bioluminescent bay (Vieques). US citizens can travel passport free and others would need a regular USA visa. Sadly I don’t have many good pictures from this 2 weeks trip except a few camera and phone pictures because I was robbed in this island. It doesn’t mean that  the place is unsafe, just be extra careful with your belongings and avoid empty beaches (even during the day time). Flights are really cheap from Florida airports and you can do a lot in 7-10 days in this island. Christmas eve parties are best in San Juan, but festivities can be felt all around the island. A car is a good bet if you decide to go outside the capital which I definitely recommend. Driving in San Juan can be really crazy, but you will get used to it in a couple of days. Go and check this beautiful island for yourself!

Category: Sunny
Activities: Beach, kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving, zip lining, hiking
Number of days: 7-10 days
Prices: Moderate to expensive (50-90 €/day for accommodation,10-15 € for a proper meal, 3-6 € for a Margarita)
Car rental: Required
Language spoken: Spanish and English
Visa: USA B1/B2 visa

10. Poland, Europe – Even though the last country on my list of places to travel over Christmas, personally I love it so much that I have spent  two last Christmas here! Yes, that is how much I love it in Poland! Polish Christmas images come straight from my childhood story books of snow and red Santa. Krakow is indeed the best city to visit, but not to miss the lively city of Wroclaw and the old city of Poznan and its cute Christmas market! Do you want to go completely off beat in Poland and have the best time of your life with the kindest locals of Poland? Nested in the mountains bordering Slovakia is the small Polish village of Szczawa (only 1.5 hours drive away from Krakow) which is my absolute favorite place in the whole country. I have been spending my Christmas eves here since past two years. Although I couch-surf here with an amazing family, there are many other Polish families  in the small villages around this region who happily offer their homes to tourists through AirBnB and you can choose one from them. The villagers are very kind and because tourists barely come here, the Christmas eve is very authentic with great food. Polish christmas dinner is mostly vegetarian but has few fish dishes too. Close to Szczawa is the famous ski town of Zakopane and even though very touristy as mostly all Polish people head here from the other parts of the country, you will still have a great time falling and skiing in the snow like I did!

Category: Snow
Activities: Ski, mountain hiking, forests, history
Number of days: 7-14 days (depends on the places you choose to visit)
Prices: Cheap to moderate (10-50 €/day for accommodation, 5-10 € for a proper meal, 5-7€ for a Margarita)
Car rental: Not required
Language spoken: Polish and English (very less spoken in the villages though)
Visa: Schengen visa

Did you like my suggestions? Do you think I am missing on some places? ? Tell me your Christmas and New Year plans for this year. Where was your best Christmas till now? 

If you are coming to Amsterdam where I live, then you might find this article (What not to miss in Amsterdam)  interesting!

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28 thoughts on “10 Most Exotic budget-friendly destinations to travel during this Christmas 2016

  1. I usually prefer to celebrate Christmas at home, but would not mind flying to one of these places for NYE. I like that you also listed useful facts underneath that is very helpful choosing the destination. Good work 🙂

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  2. We loved Myanmar! In Yangon and Bagan we definitely didn’t need a rental car but in Mandalay we did. In Mandalay even just slightly outside of the city center it is next to impossible to get public transportation. If we go back, we’ll make sure to stay right in the center because it cost us a fortune just taking the short trip into the main area!

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  3. Wow, I’m taking aback by how awesome this post is! I can usually barely find the time to post about one place, let alone a top 10! This is a very dangerous post as I just want to pack my bags up as soon as possible and travel to these places 😀 Poland to me looks particularly interesting. I’ve heard such great things, and after reading I think it’s moved up a few notches on my bucket list hehe. Petra also seems so mesmerising! Will keep this page bookmarked for the future.

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  4. Puerto Rice please!! Cool article, Christmas travels can be SO expensive! It’s nice knowing of some budget friendly options. I live in Costa Rica and the cost of rent and activities more than doubles during Christmas season which makes it hard for those of us who live here to stay during that time.

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  5. I love this post. I’m going to share this on twitter! Agree with almost all of the destinations and almost all of the information. Canary Islands, yes. Tenerife is also another of the islands that’s amazing for some European winter sun and can be budget friendly.

    Poland, yes agree! Great over the holidays lots of Christmas markets and excellent value for money.

    Spain road trip! Did this last summer around September time. Stayed in airBnB’s found that great value for money. Not sure about the temperature and seasonality factors in mainland Spain though.

    Ecuador i slightly disagree with. Colombia, Peru and Bolivia are better as budget destinations only because Ecuador uses the US dollar which drives the price up.

    Thanks for sharing, so much research has clearly gone into this!

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  6. Wow what a great Post. I’ve been to a few of these places myself and especially liked Andalusia. It is still truly Spanish in all its ways 🙂

    Would love to go to Myanmar soon!

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  7. This post gives me a serious case of wanderlust! Now I really want to check out Myanmar! You’ve been to some incredible places. Our Christmas travel usually consists of skiing, but I would love to visit a warmer climate for a change.

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  8. This is a great list of places. A few them are pretty far for me so the airfare would offset the savings, but it is good to have a few options to consider for this holiday season. I am hoping to be somewhere warm and far away from work.

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  9. Wow! Love this list. I never thought of many of these countries as budget-friendly, but it’s so nice to read in detail about what the estimated costs are for common things, like a margarita (lol #priorities). I am also a total bullet-list gal so I love the consistency in the set up of each destination!

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  10. Myanmar, Ecuador, and China are all so high on my list!!! China reallys urpsied me in your photos for looking to picturesque and vacation-y!

    But Jordan may be more managable from Dubai haha. Awesome list here these are all amazing, out of the box ideas!

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  11. Great list, not sure which I would choose. Last christmas I was home but the previous 3 I spent in New Zealand, Australia & Cambodia. Am trying to decide for this year between the Phillipines or back to South America!!

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  12. What a timely post for me!!! We have been considering a Christmas get away for a while now, but have been wondering what to do about Santa Claus as our kids are young. These have been positively salivating for a Christmas get away – especially to Jordan. It is very high on my list of places I would love to see.

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  13. How I would absolutely utterly love to travel somewhere this winter! Alas, transport costs just to get off my island are prohibitively expensive. You should come visit here – it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before. 😉 (It’s the Shetland Islands, by the way – in the North Sea, midway between Iceland/Norway/Scotland)

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  14. I wish I had the time to travel more… Looks like you had a blast in all of these fabulous places. The views and pictures look so spectacular. The people look warm and inviting. Looks like you had such an awesome adventure.

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  15. So many excellent choices here 🙂 I’d probably look to go somewhere warm and less-visited, with a good variety of scenery and activity, so Myanmar would be the one for me from this list, I reckon!

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  16. Excellent guide! I can image myself going to some places over Christmas! Love the little recap at the end of each destination. Funny that almost all are “sunny” but love the little twist in the end! Poland is gorgeous and really christmassy for sure in December.

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  17. Hey…what an amazing list of destinations to explore this Christmas. Very well described and you’re lucky to experience all these places on your own. loved it! Following your blog now to get travel gyan frequently 😉 Keep writing!

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