Just like with real estate, location tends to be what makes travel most expensive. It’s not only the flights—people in hotspots like Paris can afford to charge a premium for hotels and amenities because it’s such an in-demand destination.
Should you be willing to forgo a selfie at the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre, however, you can experience all the old world charm of the City of Lights (i.e. amazing coffee, beautiful architecture, and cool culture and art) at a fraction of the cost by opting to visit a similar place that doesn’t top so many people’s travel bucket lists.
This isn’t just true for the French capital, either. Below, you’ll find travel swaps for not only Paris, but three other trendy travel destinations that’ll open you up to new worlds—without emptying your wallet.
If you like Paris, try Buenos Aires
Often referred to as the “Paris of South America,” Buenos Aires has a cosmopolitan charm and is quickly becoming a cultural capital—this month, Art Basel launched its first Art Basel Cities fair in the Argentinian city in an attempt to bring more global awareness to its unique art scene.
Something else the city’s got going for itself? There’s really no bad time to visit Buenos Aires (other than in January when many shops and businesses close for a summer holiday). But for the best weather, opt for fall or spring. To cut costs, travel during the off-peak months of February and March, specifically.
Like Paris, Buenos Aires is known for its architecture. Stroll through the city center of Plaza de Mayo and plan a night on the town at the stunning opera house Teatro Colón. It’s worth booking a walking tour while you’re there—and visiting La Recoleta Cemetery, which is known for its Gothic structures. Finally, like its French counterpart, Buenos Aires boasts a cool café culture. Make sure to stop by Café Tortoni for an espresso or glass of wine before you leave.
If you like Charleston, try Savannah
Southern hospitality reigns supreme in this coastal city with similar laidback vibes to Charleston. Walk along River Street and stop at River Streets Sweets Candy Store for their renowned fresh fudge and other sweet treats to nibble.
To learn more about Savannah’s history, take a trolley tour. Or head to nearby Tybee Island (AKA “Savannah’s beach”) for a little earthing in the Atlantic Ocean—it’s an ideal swap for Charlestonians favorite sandy spot Sullivan’s Island.
If you like Mexico City, try Antigua
Ruins, mountain views, and hikes galore. Antigua is like Mexico City in many ways. However, the biodiversity of this Central American city is uniquely its own.
Antigua is located in southern Guatemala in the midst of volcanoes. Take in the city from new heights above at Cerro de la Cruz, AKA The Cross Hill, which offers the best panoramic views of Antiqua, plus a clear sight line to Agua Volcano. Down below, feast on Guatemalan food from the ever popular street stalls across the city.
If you like Montreal, try Helsinki
While Montreal might have seemed the obvious substitute for Paris, it’s honestly become such a destination in its own right that it deserves top billing here. Its je ne sais quoi might be hard to define, but you’ll encounter a similar vibe in Helsinki.
The city in Finland is a rising epicenter for creatives and features some serious design envy much like its counterpart Montreal. Wander to the Kallio district for vegan eats at Just Vege and cozy cafés. Something else the two cities share is a love of jazz music. Helsinki’s annual Jazz Fest is a summer highlight, but you can find great live sets in Koko Jazz Club or Storyville year round.
A close proximity to world-class skiing is another thing Montreal and Helsinki have in common. Saariselkä Ski Resort is a short flight north of Helsinki and one of the best places to ski in all of Finland. But if you want to stay closer to town, Kivikko ski hall, is located just 15 minutes from the city’s center.
Should cold-weather sports not be your thing—or you’re just looking for a way to heat up after hitting the slopes—you’ll be happy to hear that public saunas are super popular in Helsinki. Its traditional wood-heated spots like Kaurilan Sauna and Loyly, in particular, are worth checking out for an authentic sweat sesh.
Use this beginner’s guide to traveling on a budget to help make your next vacay even more affordable. Starting with this pro tip: Open a private browser to book flights in order to get the best deals.
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