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.
Memorable moment: Take in a 360-degree view of the cityscape by walking across the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge at sunrise. Get water-level views of the city on the 12-minute commuter ferry, departing from Circular Quay ($4.60 each way, sydneyferries.info). Hop off to see Taronga Zoo, where you can see koalas, wallabies, and other native Aussie animals (taronga.org.au, adults $36, kids $18). Guided bicycle tours are also popular: Cycle past the city's memorials, historic buildings, and 30-plus notable sites with Bonza Bike Tours (bonzabiketours.com, from $61 via Expedia).
Price check: Round-trip flights to Sydney in February, when days are nearly free of rain and high temperatures average 78 degrees Fahrenheit, recently started at $1,141 from L.A. (Delta), at $1,366 from Chicago (United), and at $1,423 from Atlanta (multiple airlines). Centrally located in the Rocks district, the Australian Heritage Hotel is a 1910s-era property providing B&B-style doubles with antique furnishings beginning at $119 a night (australianheritagehotel.com). The best values are often apartment rentals, like those offered by Sinclairs (sinclairs.com.au) and Medina Executive Sydney Central (medinaapartments.com.au), which start at $124 a night in early 2010. A tour of the Opera House starts at $25 (sydneyoperahouse.com, performances from $37).
Why in 2010: Vietnam's leafy, atmospheric capital, Hanoi, celebrates its 1,000th birthday in 2010—that's right, it's a millennial bash—and the city is throwing a huge, yearlong coming-out party. A deep roster of cultural festivities, including flower festivals and art exhibitions (more info at vietnamtourism.com), is set for 2010, while local tour operators like Exotissimo Travel debut English-language tours that explore Hanoi's days of colonial rulers and Communist heroes (exotissimo.com, from $45). At the same time, the city is burnishing its reputation as one of Asia's coolest, fastest growing metropolises (its population has doubled since 1990 to reach nearly 6.5 million) with the opening of über-hip places like the year-old, artist-run café Tadioto (tadioto.com) and the three-story Tan My Design (tanmydesign.com), which showcases Hanoi's top homegrown fashion.
Best of all, 2010 should be a very affordable year for U.S. travelers. The Vietnamese dong has just been devalued by more than 5 percent, and the dollar is stronger than ever against it, according to Bloomberg's data service. Compare this to Japan, where the dollar recently fell to a 14-year low against the yen, or Thailand, where the greenback hasn't fared well in 2009 against the baht.
Main Events: In late October, a contemporary-art festival called Light Gathering (Hoi Tu Anh Sang) will feature ingenious light installations and paintings (Oct. 30–Nov. 1, prices not yet announced). Millennial-themed flower shows, parades, and exhibits are also expected on the streets throughout the year. Tour operators are making events and attractions more accessible to English-speaking travelers. Hanoitourist Travel Company, for example, has launched 10 new full-day tours, which include exploration of Hanoi's famed labyrinthine Old Quarter and trips to outlying, centuries-old villages (hanoitourist-travel.com, from $50).
Memorable Moment: Tease your palate with a visit to food blog Stickyrice (stickyrice.typepad.com). Once you hit the city, pull up a plastic stool at Banh Cuon Gia Truyen at 14 Hang Ga Street—the banh cuon, rice pancakes with minced pork and ear mushrooms, are the city's best. Then tackle the Old Quarter and its 36 streets jammed with tube houses (some as narrow as 6.5 feet wide and as much as 229 feet long), traditional Chinese herb shops, and old temples.
Price Check: Round-trip airfare to Hanoi in April (an agreeable, off-peak time to visit) from L.A., Chicago, and New York starts at $706, $824, and $852 respectively. All four Hanoi Elegance Hotel boutique properties are known for their large rooms and great service; doubles start at $45 (hanoielegancehotel.com). It's worth it to order an airport transfer to your hotel, which costs between $15 and $20, to avoid being overcharged by a taxi driver.
Edited by: Stephen Merrill and Sean O'Neill.
Written by: Erika Jakubassa, Naomi Lindt, Ian Mount, Alex Robertson Textor, Cintra Scott, Brendan Spiegel, Regis St. Louis, and Brad Tuttle.
Research by: Kate Appleton, Beth Collins, Valerie Rains, and JD Rinne.
*Note: This article originally placed San José Del Cabo, Mexico, to the south, instead of to the north, of Cabo San Lucas. We regret the error.