10 TO WATCH
Top Budget Travel Destinations for 2010
Each year, we pore over industry news and trends and dive through mounds of statistics to determine the world's new best-value destinations. Find out why our picks are more affordable than ever—and how to have fun once you get there.
Why in 2010: In the last year, the value of the U.S. dollar increased more against Argentina's peso than any other major currency, according to oanda.com. In other words, for U.S. travelers, the New Year is smiling on Argentina especially—and its capital, Buenos Aires, is a city everyone should see at least once. The mighty dollar should mean more steak, more post-tango drinks, and more theater tickets for American visitors.
Local inflation is a concern, however. If you can, travel in the first half of 2010, or you may face rising prices for goods and services. In the meantime, lodgings are relatively cheap. According to hotels.com, the average price per room in Buenos Aires has fallen 19 percent since this time last year, to $114 in the first half of 2010. There's no reason to expect a reversal in that trend anytime soon.
Main events: On May 25, the country toasts the start of the Argentinean War of Independence two centuries ago, and a grand outdoor party is planned (bicentenariociudad.gob.ar, free). That night, the stately Teatro Colón opera house (built in 1908) is set to reopen-after several years of renovations-with a star-studded, aria-laced gala, followed by a season packed with opera, ballet, and orchestral music (teatrocolon.org.ar, from around $25). For Grade-A cattle and horse shows within the city limits, look the 124th annual La Rural livestock fair's special bicentennial edition (exposicionrural.com.ar, July 22–Aug. 3, admission $4).
Memorable moment: Do like the locals and stay up late. Milongas (tango halls) get kicking after midnight. Peñas (music clubs) start strumming around the same time. Nightclub doormen look at you funny if you arrive before 2 a.m. Tickets to theater shows like Tanguera, the tango-based musical (currently on tour), go for about $20. After catching a performance, stop to savor some fugazza—a slice of white pizza piled high with charred onions and mozzarella—along Buenos Aires's answer to Broadway, Avenida Corrientes. Try El Palacio de la Pizza for fugazza and other pizza varieties. 011-54/11-4322-0441, from 65¢ per slice.
Price check: March is a pleasant time to visit, with late summer weather prevailing. Rooms at the Art Hotel in Recoleta start at $95 (arthotel.com.ar) and ones at the Mira Vida Soho in Palermo start at $120 (miravidasoho.com). Even more affordable, rooms at the city's seven NH Hoteles start from about $103 night (nh-hotels.com). March airfare was recently available from Miami starting at $673 (Avianca), from New York City starting at $797 (TAM), and from L.A. starting at $875 (Mexicana). Entrance to the famous Recoleta Cemetery is free. A hop-on, hop-off city tour on a new double-decker, open-top bus costs $13 per person (buenosairesbus.com). Keep in mind that the Argentinean government now charges a $131 entry fee for U.S. air travelers (valid for the life of the passport).
Why in 2010: U.S. overnight stays in popular European capitals like Rome, London, and Paris dropped in 2009, but they were up 22 percent in Vienna in October alone, and were strong through the summer as well. The new popularity surely has something to do with Sacha Baron Cohen's smash movie Brüno, which starred a comically un-P.C. Austrian fashion designer. But the crowds are also celebrating Austria's rich culture; recently, a series of choral concerts commemorated the 200th anniversary of the death of Franz Joseph Haydn. In July 2010, the focus shifts to the 150th anniversary of Gustav Mahler's birth, which should keep the music-lovers coming. The city is also luring visitors because of its ever more celebrated wine culture. Vienna has more than 1,700 acres of vineyards, some of them inside the city limits. No other major city in the world has thriving wineries within walking distance of downtown, and in recent years, many of Vienna's white wines have become the toast of the world.
Hotel rates, fortunately, have not caught up with the city's sudden-and well-deserved-popularity. According to hotels.com, the city had an average nightly room rate of $138 in the first half of 2009, much cheaper than the European capitals it's starting to rival.