10 Travel Adventures That Won’t Break the Bank

Dreaming of taking a Big Trip in 2010? Finances a bit tight? Well, take a look at the following destinations. Magic, thrills and adventure, yes. But for the budget-conscious globe-trotter, what’s equally important is that these are places where your dollars will stretch a long, long way. As a travel writer, I’m lucky enough to have experienced all 10–but I’d love to revisit every single one as a vacationer.

Vietnam

Vietnam packs a lot into its borders. Highlights include misty Halong Bay with its fairytale seascapes of limestone outcrops and islands; the Mekong delta with its floating markets; the old Vietcong tunnels at Cu-Chi near Saigon–now officially known as Ho Chi Minh City. (Don’t worry about getting stuck: one tunnel has been specially widened for westerners.) Backpacker beds are exceptionally cheap, but decent hotels often cost less than $40. A filling bowl of pho bo beef noodle soup or six seafood spring rolls is less than a dollar. In local hangouts, Saigon Export beer costs 40 cents a bottle.

For the ultimate traffic tale to tell the folks back home, head for Hanoi’s old quarter. Any attempt to cross the road turns into a heart-racing adventure. Not only are you contending with psycho-cyclos (rickshaw bicycles), there are thousands of motorbikes and scooters whose riders regard a red traffic signal as a suggestion rather than an instruction. Best place to experience the utter chaos is from within a cyclo rickshaw.

Lithuania, Eastern Europe

The southernmost of the Baltic States, visitors usually couple Lithuania together with Latvia and Estonia. However, you can easily spend a week in Lithuania alone. Quirky cities like Vilnius and Kaunas are steeped in art, music and historical curiosities…mushroom-scented woods and farmers riding on haycarts…mysterious sites steeped in pagan traditions…the windswept sands of the Curonian Spit where you can beach-comb for amber.

Mid-June would be a great time to go. A national holiday in Lithuania, the old pagan festival of Rasos marks the summer solstice. It’s an all-night affair with singing, dancing, bonfire-leaping, hunting for “magic” ferns, and floating garlands down rivers. Despite some serious alcoholic partying, most people manage to stay awake to greet the sunrise. As for prices, how about $2.54 for three potato pancakes with smoked salmon and sour cream and $1 for a glass of Svyturnys beer?

Granada, Nicaragua

From the laid-back colonial city of Granada, you can do a lot in a week in Nicaragua: tackle volcanoes…take Spanish lessons…visit Masaya craft market and also the villages where rocking chairs, hammocks, and pottery are made…explore the Selva Negra’s cloud forests and coffee plantations…chat with expats in the beach surfing town of San Juan del Sur…go to colonial Leon, where you might get to meet indigenous Indians.

Settling into a rocking chair with a cold Victoria beer is a pleasure that generally costs under $1 and spending more than $7 on a meal is difficult. The Alhambra Hotel on Granada’s main square costs a mere $30 a night.

Goa, Southern India

India is beyond fascinating, beyond anything you’ll ever experience elsewhere. The easiest introduction to this teeming country is the seaside state of Goa. Baking below a tropical canopy of banana, coconut and mango trees, this drowsy world of Arabian Sea beaches, backwaters, and spice-laden breezes is stamped with more than a few reminders of Old Portugal. You’ll find sunrise yoga on the beach, full massages for $8, dolphin trips for about $6, and colorful hippie markets.

Including four beers, two people can eat in a beach shack for under $10. And if you want to cut your expenses to the bone, there’s accommodation in simple beach chalets for as little as $8 a night.

Porto and Northern Portugal

Famed for its port wine lodges (yes, they do offer free samples), Porto is Portugal’s second city. An historic Atlantic trading port, its warren of laundry-hung alleys plunges down to a waterfront of boats, nets and fish restaurants. Sheets of cod (bacalhau) hang outside grocery stores with original art nouveau tiled facades; the church of Sao Francisco has a gold leaf interior that would make King Midas salivate. Don’t miss the Bolhau food market or the Torre dos Clerigos, Portugal’s highest belfry tower. From the top, you’ll get great views over the jumbled cityscape of churches, bridges and red-roofed houses.

By EU standards, the price of dining, accommodation, and public transport throughout the region is astounding. Trains and buses are an affordable way to make exploratory day-trips along the coast and into the interior of terraced vineyards and green river valleys. Don’t miss Braga and the thousand-stepped stairway of Bom Jesus church. On holy days, some pilgrims tackle these steps on their knees.

Montenegro

After its split from Serbia, Montenegro is Europe’s latest holiday hot spot–and also the world’s newest independent nation. Along with three-course meals for $7 and rooms in private houses for $10, you’ll find a land of craggy mountains with a switch-backed Adriatic coastline of bays, beaches and villages of pale gray stone. The sea sparkles like blue topaz and medieval walled towns with crumbling fortresses and palaces are often emblazoned with the winged lion emblem of the Venetian Republic.

Now paint in monasteries slotted into mountain crevices and fishing villages of red-tiled roofs and deep-green shutters. Roman mosaics…olive groves…water-lilied lakes…deep canyons and the mighty Boka Kotorska, Europe’s southernmost fjord…the border town of Ulcinj with its minarets and tales of pirate slave-trading.

Austria

The Alps? There’s no denying that Switzerland is one of the most scenically gorgeous countries on earth. But unless you’re armed with an expense account, I can promise you that exploring its mountains, lakes and medieval towns will wreak havoc on your finances.

Winter or summer, neighboring Austria has just as much of the alpine wow factor…plus the city splendors of Vienna and Salzburg. And it’s a lot less expensive than you may think. For example, in the Tyrolean village of Fendels, you could rent a furnished apartment for two in a chalet next spring for as little as 175 euro ($230) per week. Surrounded by hiking trails, Fendels village makes an excellent base–the Tyrolean Oberland is close to the borders of Switzerland and Italy. (Go to the Austrian Tourist Board’s web site at http://www.tiscover.at and you’ll find plenty more self-catering accommodation at similar prices.)

Penang, Malaysia

A melting-pot of Malay, Chinese and Indian culture, Malaysia offers up powder white beaches and virgin rainforest teeming with wildlife; the bustling capital of Kuala Lumpur and the historic port city of Malacca; inexpensive seafood and inexpensive spa pampering; sailing, snorkeling, diving, fishing, golf and island-hopping.

With a distinct Chinese flavor, one of Malaysia’s star turns is Georgetown, capital of Penang island. You come across snake temples, arcaded shophouses and tiny workshops specializing in mahjong tiles and dice; kong-teik craftsmen who make funerary paper artifacts; fish getting dried like laundry in the open air. On the Weld Quay waterfront, around 2,000 fishing families live in rickety wooden dwellings on the Clan Quay jetties.

Chania, Crete

On the Greek island of Crete, Chania is one town that it would be criminal to miss. Crete’s former capital, its history goes back 5,000 years. In the Old Town’s skinny alleyways you’ll find icon workshops…lyres hanging in dusty musical instrument repair-shops…bursts of white jasmine cascading from archways…cats snoozing on balconies…the unlikely sights of a pencil-thin minaret above church towers and a mosque squatting on the waterfront.

Strung with garlands of colored light-bulbs, Chania’s old Venetian harbor at dusk truly is the stuff of romance. The water shimmers in waves of crimson, sapphire and emerald, the Venetian lighthouse sends out its beady wink, and stalls do a steady trade in pistachio nuts. Alleys that were afternoon-silent become thronged with locals taking the volta–the evening stroll. Even in July and August, you’ll find studio apartments here for under $40 a night…plus you can eat well for $10.

Bohemia, the Czech Republic

Prague teems with tourists but few people realize what the rest of the Czech Republic offers. One of its regions is Bohemia, blessed with a spellbinding mosaic of castles, frescoed houses and Rapunzel-style turrets straight from a sword-and-sorcery tale. At Cesky Krumlov you can peer into a medieval bear pit complete with bears. Sedlec, a suburb of Kutna Hora has a chapel entirely decorated with human bones, right down to its chandelier.

Many towns have stoupas…lofty “plague pillars” adorned with chained devils. They commemorate deliverance from the plagues, which swept Europe during the Middle Ages. Then there’s Karlovy Vary, the oldest of Bohemia’s grand spa towns. With spa water bubbling up all over town which visitors can collect for free, it’s a gorgeous place of baroque buildings in sugar-plum colors, flowery parks, and shops glittering with Bohemian crystal.

Kyoto Travel Guide

Kyoto remained the capital of Japan for more than a thousand years. It carries the repute of being one of the most beautiful cities of this world. The initial perception of Kyoto anyone would perceive is of a city that has its roots in its own traditions but is simultaneously merging with the modernization of this world.

Transport
Kyoto is served by two Osaka airports namely Kansai International Airport and Itami Airport since it does not have one of its own. But, the track between these two cities is worth more than one glance for sure. Other modes of conveyance like buses and railways can also be used. Inter-city transport comprises majorly of buses, taxis, railways and for people who want to enjoy the picturesque allure of Kyoto, the option to travel slowly on foot or bicycle has also been given. If you love getting first class importance and treatment while traveling, then you can access this city in five star rooms of first class trains or on a business class ticket in a leading airplane service to reach this city of an entirely beguiling landscape.

Blossoms
If you have the opportunity of visiting this aesthetically attractive city, make use of it and experience the beautiful blossoming cherries and plums. Kyoto is a world famous area that offers its visitors with an opportunity of panorama of cherries and plums especially in the season of blossom. There is a plethora of places where you can view this, for example Eastern Kyoto, Central Kyoto and Northern Kyoto.

Festivals and Events
On every 3rd and 4th February, the event of bonfire takes place on the shrine of Yoshida. The perfect season to view the bloom of cherries is April 1 – April 15. Visitors throng in huge numbers to take one glance at this. Gion Masturi is another one of the most famous events of Kyoto. Daimonji Gozan Okuribi is another event of its kind whereby reverence to one’s ancestors is paid.

Cuisine
There are a number of options for lovers of food in Kyoto. There are numerous Japanese and Italian cafes that can cater to your needs. Kyoto is renowned internationally for its matcha and yatsuhashi. Matcha is mainly green tea but there is also some matcha ice-cream available for you. Yatsuhashi can either be raw or baked depending upon your own preference. Initially, it was made with cinnamon but now it’s always available in matcha and strawberry flavorings. Other unique specialties are inclusive of hamo, tofu, suppon and kaseki-ryori.

Accommodation
If you visit Kyoto in the season of bloom of cherries or in the period of Golden week, the price of accommodation would be astronomical. Most of the accommodations that cater to the needs of foreign tourists are in the central city. But a number of temples and shrines run their own lodging areas for visitors who do not have too much money to spare for 5 star accommodations. However, the staff that runs these lodging areas hardly speaks English so this is a major turn-off. Hostels are also a very reasonable and practical solution for tourists who want to live with some reduced costs but not reduced facilities.

Flexibility And Convenience With The Plum Card From American Express

With the American Express Plum Card, business owners everywhere are finding out that there is always a way make companies bills and payment requirements more convenient, or flexible. In fact, owners of this business credit card should get used to hearing those two words. Responsible card owners will find that if you manage your payments properly, this Business Credit Card can be beneficial to business owners, small or large. Take a moment to find out what the Plum Card From American Express can do for you.

There are a number of different advantages that come with owning a Plum Card. For instance, the annual fee is waived for the first year of card ownership. American Express Plum Card Owners will also have instant access to the OPEN Savings Program. This program will allow you a discount of up to 3 for -20% on such partnered companies like FedEx, Hertz, and others. Card owners will have the ability to choose their own payment schedule. You will be able to choose to set your statement due date at the beginning, middle, or end of every month.

In addition to allowing card owners to select their payment date, Plum Card owners will earn a 1.5% Discount on almost every purchase you made that month if you can pay your balance within ten days of your statement due date. Lets face it, there is never anything wrong with getting that kind of a discount on your monthly statement, especially if you are using your American Express Plum Card to pay most or all of your bills. This discount will be reflected on your next month’s statement. Start calling your own shots with this business credit card, and same your company some hard earned money while your at it.

For most small businesses right now, each month is getting more and more unpredictable than the last. American Express understands that you are probably not going to be able to pay your statement balance a full 10 days in advance every month. Another excellent feature of the Plum Card from American Express is the ability to defer a statement balance for up to two months without any problems or additional penalty. Card owners must pay at least 10% of the statement balance by your regular due date for you to qualify for the extension. Card owners must also be sure to have paid off any prior deferred balance before trying to qualify for another deferment. These are tough economic times, there is no denying that any more. With the flexibility of the this account, business owners can be a little more prepared in an unpredictable world.

Other American Express Plum Card Business Credit Card Information:

This Best Business Credit Card does not come with a pre-set spending limit. This does not mean that you will be able to charge an infinite amount to your card, but that your spending capability will automatically adjust with regards to your credit history, spending trends, and additional financial resources. After your first year, there is an annual fee of $185 for card ownership of the Plum Card from American Express. Although this business credit card does not offer a reward program pre se, there are a number of other great perks and benefits that this account offers.

With this account, you will have full access to a lot of the premium benefits that other American Express card owners have come to adore. 24/7 live customer service is available to you at any time, at no additional cost. Customer service will be available for you in case you have questions, need to order a replacement card, find out about a dispute resolution, or to get other relevant account information. Are you doing a lot of traveling for your business? Customers will have access to car rental and insurance, travel accident insurance, and 24/7 online account access.

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