Max out your cash in Mexico. Invest in Indonesia. And get your way to Greece.
Tim Leffel, who wrote a book called The World's Cheapest Destinations: 21 Countries Where Your Money is Worth a Fortune, is echoing a point I've made in the past (and many, many others have made, of course), which is to say that so-called "trouble spots" are often some of the best travel deals around.
Leffel singles out Mexico, saying that many folks have avoided the entire country because of drug and crime issues along the border. Not to cover up the country's troubles, but avoiding Cancun because of problems in Tijuana is kinda like skipping Seattle because of gang trouble in Reno, Nevada.
There have been isolated problems in tourist areas, but the point Leffel is making is that there are great bargains to be had in Cancun or Cabo San Lucas. Probably Cozumel and Mazatlan, too. "There are so many rooms they are trying to fill, so every week there are unbelievable deals." Look for interior cities, too, he says. www.visitmexico.com
Also on Leffel's list:
NEPAL - "fascinating cultural tours out of Kathmandu...(with) fully outfitted whitewater rafting trips...at less than $50 a day." www.welcomenepal.com
GREECE - The protests and strikes, compounded with the recession that has cut the number of European visitors, means there's excess capacity now, USA Today reports in a story on Leffel's advice. He's quoted as saying that Greece is "hurting for business and rolling out the discounts." www.visitgreece.gr
INDONESIA - "It's a whole chain of islands and it's got everything; beaches, diving, mountains and culture." http://www.indonesia.travel/
HONDURAS - "First-class diving and Mayay ruins," Leffel says. www.letsgohonduras.com
HUNGARY - "All the charm of its western neighbors at lower costs." They haven't adopted the Euro, and the currency has dropped against the American dollar. Leffel suggests skipping Budapest and trying cheaper digs in Hungary's wine country. www.gotohungary.com
ETHIOPIA - "Incredible ruins and scenery" and a currency that dropped nearly 30 per cent against the U.S. dollar in 2010. www.tourismethiopia.org
THE USA - Leffel says to look for deals in cities hit by a drop in convention business, such as Orlando and Las Vegas. Good advice, for sure, in places that normally have pretty competitive rates. Good for Canadians, too, given the fact our dollar IS ABOVE PAR AGAINST THE AMERICAN GREENBACK, and how often do we get to say that? www.discoveramerica.com
VIETNAM - Once again, somewhere where the American dollar - and presuming the Canadian with it - gained value last year. "Whether you're a backpacker looking for a $5-a-night flophouse or a high-end visitor seeking a luxury hotel, you'll find bargains here," Leffel advises. www.vietnamtourism.com
IRELAND - Economic troubles and a slew of new hotels means travel deals for 2011, Leffel advises. I made my first trip there in April of last year (see photo of right of the lovely coast of Donegal) and fell in love with the people, the scenery, the castles and the overall atmosphere. The cities also are awesome; Dublin, sure, but also Belfast in Northern Ireland with great restaurants, wonderful architecture and, yeah, a couple of nice pubs. www.discoverireland.com
UNUSUAL CRUISE DESTINATIONS? YOU CAN ADD LIBYA TO THE LIST
Here's a cruise you can write home about. Crystal Cruises, according to USA Today, is going to begin stops in Tripoli, Libya; a first for the 22-year-old company.
"The luxury line says the 1,080-passenger Crystal Serenity will visit the Libyan port of Tripoli during the vessel's 11-night "Italian Splendor" voyage from Venice to Barcelona that begins Nov. 16. The voyage also includes calls in several Italian ports including Naples, Civitavecchia (for Rome) and Livorno (for Florence) as well as Dubrovnik, Croatia," Gene Sloan wrote on the USA Today travel site.
The city was founded by the Phoenicians back in the 7th century and has some cool architecture and wonderful archaeological sites.
READY FOR SOME HOLLYWOOD? CHECK THESE L.A. BARGAINS FOR THE GOLDEN GLOBES
Yeah, it's probably hard to find a cheap hotel in LA when the Oscars are on. But apparently it's not bad for the Golden Globe Awards. CheapOair.com says they found a slew of good spots in western LA, in or near Hollywood, for reasonable prices. Among their recommendations are the W Hotel Los Angeles in Westwood Village (my former home when I was at UCLA way back when, and still a great part of LA for stargazing, a little bit of space and, wait for it, actual places to walk and shop and eat without needing a car!), for $188 a night, the Omni Los Angeles Hotel California Plaza (downtown) for $135 and the Grafton on Sunset (West Hollywood) for a very good price of $177 per night.
Downtown LA has come a long way, with plenty of good restaurants and shops and lots to do, even if you are a good half hour from the beach. West Hollywood is known as the gay capital of southern California and probably is more in line with what Canadians would want to see and experience in a trip to so-Cal, with tons of nightclubs and restaurants and funky shops and colourful characters. Like Scarlett here. I'm not saying you'll run into Scarlett Johansson, pictured here at left in a rather modest dress from the 2006 Golden Globe Awards, I do believe. But there's a chance you might see that guy who was the third dude from the left in line at the grocery store in some really horrible episode of Three And A Half Men (as opposed to the funny, intelligent, well-written episodes, I mean).