The Most Affordable Times to Visit the World's Best Cities
Savvy scheduling tips for budget-minded travelers
Marveling at the Eiffel Tower at night. Cruising a cable car up Rio's otherworldly Sugarloaf Mountain. Tucking into the freshest and tastiest sashimi in all of Tokyo.
Believe it or not, such once-in-a-lifetime experiences needn't come with once-in-a-lifetime price tags. After all, it's one of the fundamental rules of savvy tourism: Whether you're dashing off to California or Thailand—South Africa or the Caribbean—when it comes to traveling on a budget, timing is everything.
So if you're dying to visit some of the world's best, priciest, and most unforgettable cities—but have always balked at the prices—read on, because here we've laid out the most budget-friendly times of the year to go.
When to Go: November through February
Ah, Paris, the city of riches, what with its abundance of Michelin-starred bistros and elegant pieds-à-terre. But if you're looking to engorge yourself on Bordeaux and frites and tour the city in the warmer months, prepare to spend a lot more money. It's simply a fact: summer in Paris, when tourism is at its peak, is the most expensive time to visit.
If you can postpone your vacation until winter, you'll save big, according to U.S. News & World Report. November through February are the most affordable months to visit. Roundtrip airfare from New York to Paris in February can even drop below $300. And, once you're there, entrance fees at many of the most popular museums and attractions are known to go down. However, one caveat: Be sure to avoid traveling during the last week of Paris Fashion Week (February 24 to March 3), when hotel rooms will be virtually impossible to find.
Cape Town, South Africa
When to Go: June through August
African safaris may seem totally unrealistic for budget travelers, but you can experience jaw-dropping wildlife without forking out tons of money on a luxury bush camp. In fact, just outside the gorgeous coastal city of Cape Town, you'll find several "self-drive" parks, including the De Hoop Nature Reserve, that are easy, accessible, and affordable.
U.S. News & World Report notes that Cape Town’s winter (June to August) is when tourism is slowest and therefore the most cost-friendly time to visit, especially if you're a foodie and you want to experience the city's amazing restaurants when they're offering affordable specials. Pro tip: Make sure to avoid the last two weeks of July, when the must-visit landmark Table Mountain closes to visitors.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
When to Go: July and August
Looking for a Caribbean getaway? Look no further than Puerto Rico!
If you're not afraid of higher temperatures and the occasional afternoon shower, know that the cheapest time to fly to San Juan is during July and August. Yes, it's when Puerto Rico is at its hottest and most humid, but it's also the most cost-effective time to go. Expect sunny skies and cheap hotel suites for under $100 a night in San Juan. If you're looking for an oceanfront room, you'll spend less than $150.
When to Go: September, or November 1 through December 12
According to UK's budget airfare site Cheapflights, which is operated by Kayak, the most affordable month of the year in which to travel to London is September. (The most expensive flights are usually in June.) But if you save money on airfare, don't expect to also save money on lodging. According to USA Today, hotel prices typically don't drop until the low season between November 1 and December 12.
When to Go: May through October
With crystalline lagoons, lush rainforests, and mountainous rock formations jutting out of the Andaman Sea, Phuket has everything you need in an exotic Asian escape. Plus, Thailand is one of the most wallet-friendly countries to visit—we’re talking private beachfront villas that cost $50 a night!
Phuket has a very active monsoon season between May and October, which means that on some days you won’t be able to swim, but accommodations and flights are significantly cheaper. Even during this rainy period, the weather blows over quickly, so you can still soak up a few pockets of sunshine while saving a ton of cash.
When to Go: January
The City of Angels is sunny and warm all year-round, so the prices remain largely static throughout the year. However, according to budget travel site Skyscanner, airfares can dip about 23 percent in January. (The site also notes that you'll find the best deals if you book plane tickets three weeks in advance.) January is a great month to visit because the weather is cool and comfortable and there are generally less tourists around, so you can freely explore the city.
When to Go: January
Like many of the other Cyclades Islands, Santorini is a seasonal destination, which makes it difficult to visit during its off-season. However, tourism in December, January, and February has increased in the last few years and more hotels and restaurants are staying open year-round to accommodate the influx of travelers. According to The Points Guy, hotels in Santorini are 51 percent cheaper in January than they are in August. If you're looking to see Santorini for a steal, book a trip outside of their high season, which runs from June to September.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
When to Go: January, or April through October
As U.S. News & World Report puts it: "Dubai really only experiences two seasons: hot and hotter." Expect to save money on your accommodations at this Middle Eastern dreamscape by visiting during the smoldering summer season, which runs from late April to early October. (But be prepared for temperatures that hit triple digits with high humidity.)
If you're looking for more bang for your buck on airfare, Kayak found that the cheapest month to fly to Dubai is actually in January. And if you book at least four weeks ahead of your trip, you're more likely to find a deal.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
When to Go: October
Rio is bustling year-round, thanks to its sultry beaches and upbeat nightlife. But there are a few quieter months during which you can visit that won't break the bank. October (the middle of the city's spring season) is the quietest month for tourism. There also isn't too much rain during that time of year, and though it will be cooler, you can still enjoy outdoor activities like climbing up Sugarloaf Mountain. Keep in mind that Rio’s winter (June through August) is actually not an off-season, because many American and European tourists tend to take vacations during their own summer season.
When to Go: Mid-January through late March
According to USA Today, here are some peak holidays in Japan that you should avoid if you're trying to save money: New Year's (late December to early January), Golden Week (late April to early May), and the Obon festival (mid-August). The cheapest time to travel there is in the winter—after the fall foliage crowds have left—between mid-January and late March.
When to Go: June through August
Australia's capital is at its slowest during winter, which occurs between June and August. If you don't want to go during the winter, you can also try for "shoulder season," which is mid-February to late May, and September to November, when the weather is more temperate but hotel and flight rates are still reasonable. Keep in mind that, even during the low season, prices hike up a bit during the school holidays in mid-July.