A $5 bill might not go far in big-ticket cities like Paris or Tokyo, but the best meal in Bali costs three bucks, one of the funkiest cool hotels in Berlin has rooms for 80 Euros, and a five-day yoga course in Guilin, China, costs the same as a couple hours of Soul Cycle in New York City. Read on for more about these and other fun, affordable cities.
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Catering to a hip (and football-crazed) student population from the University of Texas, Austin is also a fantastic destination for cheap travelers. On the first Thursday of every month, South Congress Street hosts a block party, where restaurants give out free drinks and have special sales.
Eat: The thriving food truck scene is both budget-friendly and creative. The Southern-and-Asian fusion Peached Tortilla truck serves global tacos and delicious sliders like crab cakes with Sriracha mayo, from $3 to $3.50 apiece.
While it’s not the first place that comes to mind as an American tourist destination, the Motor City is earning a reputation for its creative postindustrial renaissance, with boutiques (don’t miss City Bird), bars and restaurants popping up in the Corktown and Midtown neighborhoods. Wednesday and Saturday tours of the edgy Museum of Contemporary Art are free, and Eastern Market is the spot to shop for budget produce. At night, catch live jazz at Bert’s, a legendary Eastern Market barbecue joint known for its ribs and jam sessions since the 1980s.
Eat: Supino’s rivals NYC pizzerias, and 12-inch pies like the Red, White, & Green with spinach, capers, roasted red peppers, mozzarella and ricotta are only $10.
In the up-and-coming Gulch neighborhood, the Station Inn hosts respected local singer/songwriters and bluegrass musicians, and Robert’s Western World is the spot for honky-tonk dancing, live music and a great selection of cowboy boots. The Loveless Café, around since the 1950s, attracts big bluegrass names on Wednesday nights and serves rich Southern food.
Eat: The Family Wash offers big plates of meatloaf or roast chicken for $12. Famous Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack merits waits for extra-spicy fried chicken, which is just $8 for half a bird.
One of the country’s best hubs for live music, New Orleans has plenty of cheap shows and even street performers worthy of ticketed events in other cities. Frenchman Street in Marigny is lined with bars offering free live music, like jazz at the Spotted Cat and Latin tunes at Café Brasil. During the day, Royal Street, in the French Quarter, and Magazine Street, which stretches between Uptown and the Garden District, are both great for browsing antique shops and lingering at outdoor cafés.
Eat: Three Muses has jazz singers and cheap entrées — pork belly with scallion pancakes is $9.
In the last several years, creative types have flocked to Berlin, attracted by cheap rents, like-minded artists and an edgy music and culture scene. Nightclubs like Berghain and Watergate host world-class DJs for 48-hour parties at reasonable entrance fees, if you can get past the doorman. Beyond nightlife, visitors explore Berlin’s many parks and lakes by bike for a $10 rental fee.
Eat: For traditional salads and sausages, Rogacki is an overflowing deli that’s been a go-to for German food since 1928.