Merida is the capital of the state of Yucatan in Mexico. Merida has a population of about 750,000, and is the largest city in the Yucatan Peninsula. Merida is a city of contrasts. I want to go to the beach! I want to experience the food, life and architecture of the ‘real Mexico’. Yucatan Merida
Historical homes have been turned into inns, often for the fraction of the cost of Cancun resorts. The Spanish colonial centre of Plaza Grande has 16th-century cathedrals and free art museums; on weekends it becomes the scene of dance, food and parties. Day trips to five Mayan sites on the public Ruta Puuc bus loop go for about US$40, or head to the village of Celestún and hire a motorboats (US$17 per person) to see hundreds of pink flamingos in the mangroves.
Mekong Delta is the region in southwestern Vietnam where the Mekong River approaches and empties into the sea through a network of distributaries. The Mekong Delta region of Vietnam displays a variety of physical landscapes, ranging from mountains and highlands to the north and west to broad, flat flood plains in the south. The inhabitants of the Mekong Delta region are largely ethnic Viet. The region is famous as a large rice growing area. Life in the Mekong Delta revolves much around the river, and many of the villages are often accessible by rivers and canals rather than by road.
Ohrid is a city on the eastern shore of Lake Ohrid in the Republic of Macedonia. It has about 42,000 inhabitants, making it the seventh largest city in the country. Ohrid is notable for having once had 365 churches, one for each day of the year and has been referred to as a "Jerusalem". The city is rich in picturesque houses and monuments, and tourism is predominant. In 1979 and in 1980, Ohrid and Lake Ohrid were accepted as a Cultural and Natural World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. Ohrid is one of only 28 sites that are part of UNESCO's World Heritage that are both Cultural and Natural sites.
San Franciso is officially the City and County of San Francisco, is the leading financial and cultural center of Northern California and the San Francisco Bay Area. A region of 7.6 million people which includes San Jose and Oakland. The only consolidated city-county in California. Little boutique hotels near Union Square can be had for under US$100 – a fraction of what you’ll pay in New York or London. Food-wise, San Francisco’s ‘mission burrito’ (stuffed with rice, beans and carne asada) goes for US$5 in the bar-filled Mission.
Iquitos is the largest city in the Peruvian rainforest. It has a population of 406,340. The world’s biggest city not reachable by road. Local outfits can tailor trips to venture into piranha fishing spots, look for pink dolphins in the wildlife-rich Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve (stopping at native villages to mingle with Amazonians) or reach the rustic Otorongo Lodge on the Colombian border. Iquitos is interesting in itself: Eiffel (of Eiffel Tower) fame came to build rubber baron’s mansions. The best time to visit is October or November, when it’s still dry but before summer crowds.
Lesotho is officially the Kingdom of Lesotho, is a landlocked country and enclave, completely surrounded by its only neighboring country, the Republic of South Africa. It has a population of approximately 2,067,000. Mountains, cannibal caves, dinosaur footprints, crafts markets –by pony. The best deals are to the west at off-the-beaten- track Malealea, about 60km southeast of the capital Masuru, where multiday treks lead into a massive mountain range and landscape coloured musk and orange. It’s extraordinary – and cheaper than pony treks in the east. Overnight trips, including a pony, food and a guide, begin at US$50 per day.
Connected with much of Europe via budget airlines, Porto is a lovely town of atmospheric narrow lanes, village-like plazas and buildings decked in azuelo tile. In recent years, UNESCO recognised its historic centre as a World Heritage Site. Tourists can stay in antique-filled inns with river views from just €25 (US$37.75), take a ride on an historical tram (€1; US$1.40) or head to the beach near Afurada village by ferry (€1). A few hours east is the traditional wine district of Alto Douro, where you cruise in a flat-bottomed boat (€20; US$28.50) and sleep in 200-year-old homes (€60; US$86).
Tajikistan,officially the Republic of Tajikistan,is a mountainous landlocked country in Central Asia. Marco Polo was impressed – and you will be too, once you experience the stunning scenery of this safe, stable Central Asian nation. And it can be accessed at dirt-cheap rates, even including the hire of a car and driver. Getting a Russian Lada for several days can be arranged for about US$300, which opens up the Afghan border and Pamir Highway, one of the world’s greatest road trips.
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Japan is an archipelago of 6,852 islands. “The land of the rising sun”. Japan had a rough 2011, with the March earthquake and a hard year for tourism, so travelling there is not only a good thing to do, but can actually make financial sense. Compared with destinations like London, Paris or New York, its attractions and accommodation are often much cheaper. In Tokyo, for example, it’s possible to find simple, Japanese-style minshuku guesthouses from ¥3000 (US$37). Also, many attractions are free (eg temples, botanic gardens) or just cheap (the Tokyo National Museum is a fifth the cost of Tower of London), while attractions like the Nagano ski runs or Disney tickets are cheaper than Alps lift tickets or Mickey Mouse’s entry in Anaheim.
Cities of the American northeast – New York, Boston and Washington DC – might not be the world’s cheapest, but you can save a bundle by taking advantage of the recent boom of budget bus companies. These buses, which also connect with Philadelphia, Toronto, Pittsburgh and even Charlotte, are a steal at about US$5 one way (and sometimes just US$1). Considering most destinations are ped-friendly (with good public transport and walkable centres), you can hop-scotch across the region without booking a flight or hiring a car. Better still, the ride’s comfortable, there’s free wi-fi, buses leave on time and there’s often plenty of room.