It would be hard to beat Chiang Mai for its combination of great November weather and low prices. Even though it's officially the start of the high season for hotels, the beginning of the month is usually very slow anyway, so bargains are common. Hotels in Chiang Mai are among the best bargains in the entire world, so even if you do have to pay full price for a room it'll be cheaper than a dorm bed in most European cities.
As for Costa Rica, I think it would be ideal for what you have in mind. It’s by far the most tourist-friendly (and English speaking friendly) country in that area, so it’s a great starting point. Belize is pretty easy as well, although there is far less nature to enjoy. Panama and Nicaragua are a bit cheaper and have similar things to offer, but Costa Rica has the best infrastructure and nature parks, so it’s less stressful for a first-timer. The snorkeling is better on the Caribbean coast, I believe, but the better tourist beaches are on the Pacific. The country is pretty quick to get across, so you could easily spend a few days on both sides, plus another few exploring the rain forests and volcanoes and such.
One thing about Cancun that is interesting. Cancun itself is essentially a very long beach sticking out into the Caribbean that is lined with high-rise hotels and time-share properties. Except for a busy area at the corner of that peninsula, most of the hotels are spread out quite a bit, so there aren’t many things that most guests can walk to. Many people love it and are happy to basically stay in their own hotel most of the time, and maybe take a taxi down to that busy corner area once in a while. Personally, I’m a much bigger fan of Playa del Carmen, which is a full-on tourist town about 50 miles south of Cancun. It’s got hundreds of small hotels, restaurants, bars, shops, and everything else a visitor wants. The beaches aren’t quite as nice, but I find the town to be very fun and vibrant. Also, up and down the coast from south of Playa del Carmen to north of Cancun there are large resorts that are far from each other and on huge properties. Many of them are all-inclusive, so that is another option.
Sri Lanka doesn’t really have a good infrastructure for budget travelers at this point. There are loads of nice hotels if you are willing to pay US$40 or more per night, but almost nothing below that except for a few hostels. I haven’t been to Palawan but I have been to Boracay and Palawan can’t be too much cheaper. Boracay doesn’t have many budget options either, so my guess is that Thailand or Cambodia is your best bet.
Amazing post! I am taking vacation the last two weeks of November. I am planning to visit Germany for the first week. I also want to soak in some sun and enjoy the beach life during the second week of my vacation . Initially I wanted to go to Spain, but after reading your post I’m a bit discouraged because is not going to be warm enough . I love to sunbathe and outdoors activities . Just as running, hiking, tennis etc . Also I love to learn new cultures and fit in with the locals. Keep it economical .I been to must of the Caribbean and wouldn’t mind revisiting . But open to new warm destinations that would make sense. I would love to hear some of your suggestions .Thank you in Advance and safe travels..
It would be hard to beat Chiang Mai for its combination of great November weather and low prices. Even though it's officially the start of the high season for hotels, the beginning of the month is usually very slow anyway, so bargains are common. Hotels in Chiang Mai are among the best bargains in the entire world, so even if you do have to pay full price for a room it'll be cheaper than a dorm bed in most European cities.
November is a pretty slow month all over the Caribbean. I just tried a few random dates in the middle of the month and I’m seeing all-inclusives starting at US$142 for two people including all taxes on Expedia.com. There are many more closer to US$200 per night, including many that get very good guest reviews. I stayed at Bahia Principe Luxury Ambar, which is an adults-only hotel within their huge complex there, and rooms are US$198 per night for two people, fully all-inclusive. So the resorts are showing some very good rates considering the quality you get there.
That is an interesting request. I’ve spent about 18 total months in those countries you mention and I’ve yet to see a single rat. If your fear of rats is just that, you could go to any of them. But if you have a more general fear of things that are untidy then I’d definitely avoid India. It’s a fascinating country, but there are piles of garbage all over the place.
Oh no. I don’t mind rain but that would be a little disheartening. I come from a tropical place and it wasn’t until I moved to Canada that I realized that “rainy seasons” don’t really mean much. More so, I went to Punta Cana last October during the cold period and it was gorgeous every day, and what little rain fell was usually overnight or little drops that you could stay on the beach unbothered.
Prices go up a bit when you go south into Malaysia, but it’s worth it if you’ve got the money. You might even consider Myanmar as well, which I’ve yet to visit, but I keep hearing great things about. It’s honestly the perfect time of year there. By April it’s insanely hot (the hottest month of the year), but December through February is lovely. It’s all quite safe as well, as long as you keep your wits about you. I’m happy to help with more information if you need it.
There is no better time than December to discover a still (somewhat) under-the-radar part of the Caribbean. This verdant, five square mile island has seen a lot of activity recently, from a new mega yacht club to a Soho House to the Mandarin Oriental's first property in the Caribbean. More is on the horizon for this picturesque piece of paradise, but go before everyone else discovers it.
I’m happy to try to help. It’s hard to say whether one 30-day trip would be better than several shorter trips. On one hand, it’s much more efficient to go for a month because it obviously saves you all the going back and forth. Also, one week is a short time to go 7 or 8 time zones away, as it takes pretty much an entire day each way, and at least a few days to adjust to the time change. Hmmm…
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If you are really only going for 4 or 5 days you only have time to visit one or maybe two cities anyway. I’d say that Lisbon would be ideal and you’d have time also for a short visit to Porto or the Algarve in the south, or at least the historic small town of Sintra, which is near Lisbon. Lisbon has fantastic weather for Europe and it’s a lovely city with plenty to see and do.
One thing I can assure you of is that those countries are very modern and well organized, and they know how to deal with winters well. So you really don’t have to worry about getting stuck or things being cancelled. As for getting around, the trains are modern, and they can be reasonably priced if you buy a couple months in advance. Otherwise, flying is probably your best bet because it’s a large area and you’ll probably want to go well to the north, and the trains might take many hours. You could even rent a car, which could be good if there is more than one or two of you. Have a great trip. -Roger

November brings the annual Vodafone Mexefest Music Festival (Nov. 24-25), a gathering of popular artists in venues throughout Lisbon. The Lisbon & Sintra Film Festival, in its 12th year, is a celebration of cinema with directors, actors, artists, musicians, and writers in town for the event (Nov. 16-25). Billed as the “largest technology conference in the world,” Web Summit began in 2010 as a way to connect industry and the technology community (Nov. 5-8). The year’s new wine and the ripening of chestnuts are celebrated with the Magusto, on Nov. 11, St. Martin’s Day. The holiday spirit becomes apparent at the end of the month, with colorful lights and roasted chestnut vendors along the streets.
This French-speaking Canadian city has a definite European vibe, from its cobblestone streets to its quaint boutiques and cafes. The city has a wide array of museums covering interests from nature to stargazing, art, and history. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts features temporary exhibitions that combine various artistic disciplines — fine arts, music, film, fashion, and design — that are popular around the world. Multi-day museum passes are available.
Cancun is at the north end of the Riviera Maya, which also includes the island of Cozumel, so this is a huge area with over a thousand hotels to choose from. All that competition keeps prices down until the high season begins, so November is still a buyer's market. There are even ruins nearby and other cultural opportunities, so it's not all about sitting on the beach here. If you prefer a high-rise hotel overlooking a beach then stay in Cancun itself, but if you prefer to stay in a friendly town with many restaurant and shopping choices then head to Playa del Carmen, just a bit to the south, instead.
And you mention that you’ve been to Cancun and Yucatan, but just in case you haven’t been to Playa del Carmen or Cozumel, those could also be worth a look. They are both much more real tourist towns as opposed to Cancun, which is primarily a long strip of high-rise hotels and time-share buildings on a beach. I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger
Another tip is to look for apartments. If you’re visiting a large city, chances are they have plenty of new apartment buildings that are looking to rent out. Many of the larger hotel booking sites will offer you apartments for rent – and they’re very affordable. Not to mention, they’re much roomier and more than likely updated. You usually get a full kitchen, washing amenities (for laundry), a dinner table to sit and eat at, and a good sized bathroom that doesn’t make you feel cramped.
My first thought was Goa, which you say you’ve been to before, but maybe you don’t realize that there are about 20 different beach areas that are different from one another in terms of vibe and types of visitors? Personally, I found that Anjuna and Vagator were both kind of mellow but also busy enough and easy to meet other people. But if you don’t like those, there are many different beaches in the south, which I’ve heard are also great and draw different groups. It’s something to think about because it doesn’t get much cheaper than Goa for beaches anywhere in the world. -Roger
Blisteringly hot in summer, Tokyo is a breeze in the cooler months. Fight the dizzying jet lag and head out for the world's best sushi or ramen, shop in the city's amazing department stores, and visit the parks surrounding the Imperial Palace in the center of the city. Escape the crowds somewhat by heading to Yanaka Ginza, which retains a bit of old Tokyo and has plenty of places to eat and shop. Do make time for a side trip to Hakone, where you can visit a Shinto shrine and see magnificent Mount Fuji on a clear day.
Anyone in the western half of the US or Canada will probably get a shorter and cheaper flight to Puerto Vallarta than to any of the Caribbean destinations above. The November weather in Puerto Vallarta is pretty much perfect and usually dry, and yet crowds are smaller and hotel prices are lower until Christmas itself. Mexico is, of course, one of the hot countries in November, in more ways than one.
For those looking for an even calmer slice of paradise without all the holiday festivities, try Waimei on Kauai’s southwestern shore, which offers calm waters and sandy beaches that are especially attractive in the early winter months. Get away from all the gloomy weather of the East Coast by trying out a Waimea vacation rental—it’ll definitely make for makes the perfect base to explore all Kauai has to offer.
There are a lot of possible places that might work for you, so it’s hard to narrow my suggestions down without knowing where you are starting from and how far you are willing to travel from there. But two things that come to mind are Bali, Indonesia, and the Cancun area of Mexico. If you are in the US or Canada then it will obviously be a long flight to Bali, but things are quite cheap once you get there so it’s really worthwhile. The island has beaches and water sports, but also really interesting culture, not to mention loads of shopping and beach resorts. Its main problem these days is vehicle traffic, so getting around the island is slower than it used to be.
Malaysia is a favorite of mine, although it’s not really known for beaches. Again, it really depends on what you are looking for. Kuala Lumpur is my favorite city in Asia because it’s got such a great mix of things and it’s also pretty affordable, but not everyone is looking for a big modern city. I’m happy to help with more recommendations if you let me know more about your goals. -Roger
Cambodia could work because Siem Reap is inland and the amazing Angkor Wat temples are worth a full day or two, and the town of Siem Reap itself is quite nice. You could actually combine a couple days in Siem Reap with a few days in Bangkok, and take a (cheap) luxury bus between the two. Bangkok is a really fascinating city with a lot to see, plus it’s a great transport hub. The other main non-beach option in Thailand is the city of Chiang Mai, which is wonderfully inexpensive with quite a bit to see. It’s even a bit cool during December, so that might be a nice change of pace from India. Many people are also going to Myanmar these days, although I haven’t been yet so it’s hard for me to recommend it. I’d say if you combined 2 or even 3 of these places you could have a very interesting holiday.
Even cheaper than that is Cartagena, although the flight would probably be a bit more expensive. Cartagena has a gorgeous walled colonial Old City filled with cool hotels, shops, and restaurants, and it’s a 10-minute cheap taxi ride to a strip of beachfront hotels in a modern neighborhood. It helps if you know Spanish in both places, but Playa del Carmen has so many English speakers that it’s easy to get by on that alone. Those are my best picks in our region for inexpensive places that are fun with a lot to offer a solo traveler or small group. Let me know if you have any questions. -Roger
“Winter in Eastern Canada” might sound more like a 19th-century prison sentence than it does a pleasant vacation, but Quebec City does the cold better than anywhere in North America. Blanketed in snow, QC looks like the world’s most elaborately constructed Christmas village. The cobblestone streets in Old Quebec densely packed with storefronts beckoning you to come in for hot food and baked goods, and boisterous bars overflow with a cacophony of Quebecoise. In December the streets are draped with Christmas wreaths and populated with carolers, plus there’s an authentic German Christmas market -- a true novelty in a city so overwhelmingly French.
Amazing post! I am taking vacation the last two weeks of November. I am planning to visit Germany for the first week. I also want to soak in some sun and enjoy the beach life during the second week of my vacation . Initially I wanted to go to Spain, but after reading your post I’m a bit discouraged because is not going to be warm enough . I love to sunbathe and outdoors activities . Just as running, hiking, tennis etc . Also I love to learn new cultures and fit in with the locals. Keep it economical .I been to must of the Caribbean and wouldn’t mind revisiting . But open to new warm destinations that would make sense. I would love to hear some of your suggestions .Thank you in Advance and safe travels..
I am planning a 12 night or close to 2 weeks holiday from London for the last week nov/or first 2 weeks of December to avoid the holiday season. Looking for a sunny holiday so nearest bets are a minimum 7 to 8 hr flight from here. I had few things on my mind mix a wildlife safari and beach holiday in Tanzania (but the safari’s appear v expensive!)or travel to south/central America I haven’t been to any part of south America and was considering costa rican region. Ideally looking for few days on a good beach snorkelling etc and few days exploring the country and nature. Do you think costa rica is a good starting point if it’s the first country I was visiting in south America ?
It’s going to be pretty cold in December all over Europe, although not quite so bad in the south, of course. As far as where to go, I’ll refer to our Europe 3-star traveler index, which lists every major city in Europe from cheapest to most expensive. The price is the typical daily expense per person for a couple traveling and staying in 3-star hotels. Once you scan through that list you should have some ideas.
Europe in general and Greece in specific are not ideal in January because it’s cold and many sights are closed. I’d go to Thailand, which has a great variety of things to see and do, and January is the best weather month. Spend at least a few days in Bangkok and then either go to one of the islands like Phuket or Kho Samui, or head up to Chiang Mai for its temples and shopping and outdoor activities. You could even head over to Siem Reap to spend a couple days seeing Angkor Wat. Let me know if you have other questions. -Roger
One reason that Vietnam isn’t as popular as it could be is that travelers often feel a bit hounded when they are there. For some reason, those in the travel business in Vietnam (working at travel agencies where you book tours and such) make tourists feel like they are being hustled. They are rarely 100% honest with what they tell you or about the prices they are charging. Still, it’s an amazing country and it’s also incredibly cheap, even if you end up paying a bit more than you were supposed to. I highly recommend it, and it won’t be a problem if you realize before you get there that you can’t take everything at face value in the way that you usually can in Thailand or Bali. Quality of hotels for the money is also very good.
If those flights are too expensive you might think about going somewhere else in Mexico or to Costa Rica. The area around Cancun including Playa del Carmen and Tulum and Cozumel has a LOT going on. And if you’ve been there you could instead go to the Puerto Vallarta area, which is very different and also great. For activities though it’s hard to beat Costa Rica. I think they invented zip-lining and the country is about one-third national parks with all kinds of fun activities. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger
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