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Luxury vacations for less

With the right strategy, you can go on a luxury vacation while staying within your budget.

BY ROBERT REID Published: April 24, 2011
You’re better off spending the shopping time for yourself.

Go to cheap places.

Traveling in style isn’t really rocket science. If you want added luxury and can’t afford the French Riviera, go where it’s cheap. The dollar always has greater reach and durability in Southeast Asia — you can stay in simple, new, clean air-conditioned guesthouses in Vietnam from $15, and eat pho noodles with locals for about a dollar. East Europe is considerably cheaper than the west, and Latin America is filled with good-value destinations.

Many budget-seekers are going to Argentina, home to Patagonia, great wines and steaks, and tango — it’s also the rare place where the dollar continues its climb over the local peso (it’s up 12 percent in the last two years).

Another rising destination closer to home is Nicaragua, where you can have a week’s vacation for the price of a day or two in the Big Apple. The colonial heart, Grenada wears its early 16th-century roots on its sleeve. You can have a “Mayan sauna” or dance lessons for about $10, horse-carriage rides for a third of the cost at Central Park in Manhattan, hire sailboats in a nearby tropical archipelago for $25, and find inexpensive lodging.

The best place, in fact, is the Hotel Plaza Colon, where a room with balcony overlooking the cobblestone streets of the center and cathedral tops is $129; other guesthouses start at $10.

Robert Reid grew up in Oklahoma and is Lonely Planet’s U.S. travel editor and spokesman. He is diversely traveled.

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