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Portugal Wins Best International Budget Destination!

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Canada, Mexico, Guatemala and Thailand also winners

There's something undeniably exciting about crossing the border into a new country, getting a new stamp in the passport and experiencing a completely new culture and history. International travel sounds expensive, but it doesn't have to be, especially if you're visiting one of our 10 winners of the title Best International Budget Destination.

  • Portugal

    Something of a secret Europeans keep to themselves, Portugal hides away from the cross-traffic Euro travel path by dint of its geography. Because it is not centrally located, fewer travelers find it, meaning lower prices in its architecturally gorgeous cities and along its rugged and sandy coastlines. By avoiding the high dollar restaurants and a lot of taxi-taking, budget travelers will find lodging, food, wine, museums (most of them are free on Sundays) and train travel intrinsically affordable.
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  • Canada

    Vast and varied, our neighbor to the north affords a plethora of different experiences – from raw wilderness adventure to exploring the charming French cities of Montreal and Quebec – with very little effort and travel expense. Exploring Canada’s natural treasures comes particularly cheap for those into hiking or touring via rental car. Don’t miss Banff National Park, Lake Louise and Vancouver Island in eastern Canada. For the best lodging rates, avoid the peak summer season. With the U.S. dollar up 15 percent from last year, now’s the time to go.
    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

  • Mexico

    Right now, the U.S. dollar buys 20 percent more pesos than it did a year ago in Mexico. At the same time, flights are at a low, and getting there by car can save budget travelers even more cash. Mexico has always been known for its affordability, especially where food, tequila and shopping are concerned. Even its high-end, all-inclusive resorts in the Riviera Maya area are a good value, plus there are always incredible bargains away from the main tourism hubs.
    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

  • Guatemala

    Markets are one of the greatest, most colorful joys of visiting this Central American country, particularly the Chichicastenango Market. Visitors can pick up some local fruits and snacks to save money while touring the country’s Maya ruins and other historic sights. Food, hotels and transportation are exceedingly reasonable, especially by taking the “chicken buses” from place to place. Look for cheap local eateries known as comedores. Tour the capital city Antigua, volcanoes and other natural attractions on a shoestring.
    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

  • Thailand

    Known for its unspoiled beaches and jungles, its vibrant cities and great food, Thailand is easy to do on the cheap if you stay clear of the high-end resorts and live like a local. The most affordable regions lie north of Bangkok and the beaches in the south. Budget travelers can find guesthouses, street food and mass transportation – buses, motorbike taxis, boats and trains – to keep the Thai travel expenses to a minimum. As a top Asian travel destination, Thailand is extremely visitor friendly to boot.
    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

  • Greece

    Given its current economic tailspin, Greece is currently one of Europe’s best bargains as well as one of its most well-loved destinations. Its combination of ancient history and idyllic islands lands it on many an American bucket list. With the dollar strong against the euro and gas prices at a low, Greece is both cheaper to get to and get around these days. For best rates and availability, book ferries to the islands ahead of time.
    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

  • Poland

    History is Poland’s long suit, but the Eastern European country offers tons of variety at budget-friendly prices. Stick to local cafes, especially the so-called “milk bars” (bar mleczny) – hangovers from Communist days serving traditional cuisine.  Even in capital city Krakow and historic Warsaw, lodging is affordable and train transportation incredibly cheap. Some cities offer tourist passes, moreover, that include bus and museum discounts. Entry to one of the nation’s most popular attractions, the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial in southern Poland, is free, but you must reserve online.
    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

  • Philippines

    With more than 7,000 islands, the Philippines makes for a warm, sunny playground with a blend of Spanish and Asian culture. Budget-wise, it is surprisingly affordable for a tropical island destination. Even flying from island to island won’t break the bank, although alternative budget options such as ferries are available. Food is extremely cheap in local restaurants and on the street. Hotels can run up the vacation tab a bit, but budget-minded travelers can also find accommodation in the $15 per night range.
    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

  • Cambodia

    Fairly new on travelers’ radar, this Southeast Asian destination still dwells in the deep bargain zone. Popular among backpackers and cyclists, it has also risen in status among those who prefer a measure of convenience, service and luxury without the sticker shock of some other high end hotels in neighboring countries. Visitors of all budgets can savor Cambodia’s distinctly flavorful cuisine for pennies. Private and public transportation are affordable, and Cambodia’s close proximity to Thailand and Vietnam make it a good core headquarters for regional exploration.
    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

  • Hungary

    It is quite possible travelers will get the most beauty for their buck in Hungary’s capital city Budapest, the “Paris of Eastern Europe” on the Danube River. Enjoying its amazing collection of architecture comes free and admission to some of its UNESCO World Heritage Sites costs nothing or next to. As memorable as its architecture is, Hungary’s iconic cuisine of goulash and decadent pastries also comes cheap. Outside the capital, lakes, hiking trails and local vineyards provide pastime without spending pains.
    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

For the past four weeks, USA TODAY 10Best readers have been voting daily for their favorite destination from a pool of 20 nominees. The votes have been tallied and we have a winner!

Something of a secret Europeans keep to themselves, Portugal – winner of the title Best International Budget Destination --  offers architecturally beautiful cities, a stunning coastline and rich cultural heritage all at affordable rates.

The top 10 winners in the category Best International Budget Destination are:

  1. Portugal
  2. Canada
  3. Mexico
  4. Guatemala
  5. Thailand
  6. Greece
  7. Poland
  8. Philippines
  9. Cambodia
  10. Hungary

Additional nominees in this category included Argentina, Bolivia, China, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Peru, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.

A panel of experts picked the initial 20 nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote. Experts Kim Orlando (TravelingMom.com) and Lydia Schrandt (10Best Editor) were chosen based on their extensive knowledge of international budget travel.

10Best and USA TODAY extend their congratulations to all the winners.

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Kim Orlando

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