5 value-for-money destinations in Latin America to get the most out of your Christmas fund in 2021
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As backpackers with no real need for material gifts during my years of travelling, family and friends have often struggled to know what to get me for Christmas. Many of them instead decided to gift me funds towards experiences abroad or flights, something I’ve been truly grateful for as I travelled full-time on a budget. If you too happen to find yourself in the privileged position of having funds to burn but no idea of where to burn them, take a look at my top travel destinations in Latin America to get the most out of your Christmas money in 2021 – provided the world opens up next year now that we have a vaccine. These destinations are both up-and-coming in terms of attracting visitors, and in giving great bang for your buck. Let me know which value-for-money Latin American destinations you decide to travel in 2021 in the comments!
After you’ve gotten through this list of value-for-money travel destinations in Latin America to get the most out of your Christmas money, you may also find these posts interesting:
Confession:I originally wrote this for 2020, and let’s just say that did not age well… However, I expect traveller trends to be pretty consistent post-pandemic, so I’ve just given it a few tweaks here and there. And to reiterate, I am in no way encouraging you to hop on a plane before this mess of a world is medically safer. That not only means that the destinations become safe, but that the people of the destination country are safe from you, too.
1. Medellín, Colombia
Haven’t you heard?! Medellín is one of the hottest travel destinations in South America right now, mainly due to its cheap cost of living, exciting activities and day-trips, fascinating history, party culture and perfect year-round weather (they call it the land of eternal Spring, but most Brits can’t comprehend it being 28 degrees Celsius in Spring). There’s absolutely loads to do in this lively city and in the pueblos that surround it, and all for a decent price. Things are becoming gentrified though, especially in the main tourist haunt of El Poblado, so get there quick before the rest of the city loses some of its gritty, colourful charm.
Brazil is sooo much more than Rio Carnival! 1100km north of the (still very much worth visiting) city of Rio de Janeiro, you’ll find the pretty coastal town of Porto Seguro, in the state of Bahía, which is renowned for its colourful culture with strong African influence. All around Porto Seguro, you’ll find gorgeous beaches adored by the affluent Brazilians who come here to holiday, and a few teeny towns that offer an interesting look into indigenous customs and the cultural legacy of the slaves from whom much of the current day population is descended. Across the water from the main town (which with its quaint pastel houses and bright bunting is a beauty in itself) is the cape of Arraial d’Ajuda, which boasts a chapel with an unbelievable view and the chance to make a wish upon one of the famous Bahía bands (wish bracelets). Just a night bus away is the overwhelmingly vibrant city of Salvador, a must-see in the Bahía region of the North of Brazil.
Don’t miss: getting the ferry across to Arraial d’Ajuda for a day of white sanded beaches
3. Caye Caulker, Belize
Though not the cheapest place in this list of top travel destinations in Latin America to get the most out of your Christmas money in 2021, word of Caye Caulker’s chilled atmosphere and beautiful reefs is earning it increasing popularity amongst backpackers and holiday-makers in Central America. While Belize’s large town of San Pedro is booming with resort-style tourism, Caye Caulker offers an alternative whose vibe is juuuust right. There are still deals to be had, and there’s enough to keep you occupied on this small island that you won’t feel the need to spend any of that Christmas fund on moving onto a new place if you’re on a short trip. Settle yourself down in paradise!
Don’t miss: snorkelling with manatees and sharks around the world’s second biggest coral reef
4. Granada, Nicaragua
Following a more or less complete shut-down of tourism due to civil unrest in 2018, Nicaragua finally opened for visitors to explore once more in 2019, only to be abruptly shut again in 2020. Tourism pre-pandemic was still a little slow in places as the riots of recent years have severely damaged the country’s reputation, but it will get there eventually. When it’s safe to travel again, it will be a perfect time to travel to Nicaragua, avoiding crowds and putting your 2021 Christmas money into the hands of people who have been awaiting the return of tourism longer than most. Plus, it goes without saying that it’s a beautiful place to travel to! In my opinion, Granada, Nicaragua is the most beautiful, vibrant and interesting destination that the country has to offer.
Don’t miss: peering into the crater of Volcán Masaya to see its lava swirling around
5. The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Now, this is not a cheap option, and though you can save a lot of money by exploring the Galapagos Islands independently overland and using water taxis between isles, from our experience we would highly recommend that you embark on a multi-day tour with a small boat and proper guide. It can be pricey, but it’s SO SO SO SO SO SO WORTH IT. And while you might be curious as to why this has therefore made into in the top value-for-money travel destinations in Latin America to get the most out of your Christmas money in 2021, hold on tight because there is actually a good reason.
You see, many people have a desire to see the Galapagos, but due to cost or the time needed to explore them or just prioritising places that offer a more vibrant atmosphere in their youth, most tend to take this once-in-a-lifetime trip during their senior years. However, you’re really going to get better value for your hard-saved money if you are young and fit enough to actually fully explore and immerse yourself in the experience of these incredible islands. This is very much an active destination.
When we took our boat trip, there were several older couples and a younger lady with a knee injury who sat out on over half of the activities that the guide took us on (and that they’d already paid for!). They had to rely on us young’uns to report back what we’d seen, tell them all the amazing facts from the guide and send them our photos of the most ridiculous wildlife encounters we’d ever seen. Although still great, it wasn’t the best value for money for them considering how long they’d saved for it.
So if (and only if – we don’t want any of you getting into serious debt for travel) your Christmas money plus savings can afford you a trip to the Galapagos Islands, we urge you to book that trip as soon as you can.
Don’t miss: a thing!
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