10 to Watch
Top Budget Travel Destinations for 2009
BudgetTravel.com reveals the best value hotspots for the New Year.
Main events: Olympic host cities love to premiere cutting-edge architecture in advance of the Games, and Vancouver is no exception. Visit in 2009 to get a sneak peek (vancouver2010.com). A case in point is the Richmond Oval, a new 8,000-seat arena with a speed-skating track and a glass façade that yields clear, expansive views of the rugged North Shore Mountains (richmondoval.ca). Vancouver will also be trading on all the Olympian attention to tout its local arts and entertainment scene. The Cultural Olympiad's 400-plus events include ice sculptures, circus acts, and a concert by the band Arcade Fire (vancouver2010.com/culturalolympiad, Feb. 1–Mar. 21). Among the city's other events, Grammy-Award-winning saxophonist Sonny Rollins returns to the TD Canada Trust Vancouver International Jazz Festival on June 29 (admission from $67, coastaljazz.ca).
Memorable moment: Cap off a visit to 1,000-acre Stanley Park with afternoon tea or dinner at The Fish House, a cozy clapboard 1930s building, complete with a fireplace, two patios, and live jazz on Thursday nights. It overlooks the park's gardens and forests of cedar, hemlock, and firs. Try the prawns, sautéed with garlic, roasted red peppers, tomatoes, basil, and feta cheese, then flambéed tableside with ouzo. (8901 Stanley Park Drive, 604/681-7275, fishhousestanleypark.com, flaming prawns $15).
Price check: The Listel Hotel, a highly rated, artfully decorated boutique in the city's West End, recently put its rooms on sale via Orbitz starting at $65 a night—75 percent off the hotel's average price.
BEAT THE CROWDS
These countries are hardly undiscovered, but it's not too late to enjoy them either. Plan a trip in 2009, so you can say you knew these places before they were overrun.
Why in 2009: It's no longer a backpacker's secret. In 2008, the country drew about 2 million visitors, more than 10 times the number it drew a decade ago. Cambodia's still off the radar for most Americans, but it's poised to take the same path as its better-known neighbor Vietnam, which saw a similar number of visitors nine years ago and now draws roughly 4 million visitors annually. Look for independently owned guesthouses because the major resort chains haven't built much here yet; and by all means, go before the crowds get too thick.
Main events: The sprawling Angkor complex and its magnificent Hindu and Buddhist temples between the 9th and 15th centuries will always be the star attractions here. Expect to spend at least two days exploring. In nearby Siem Reap, shop at the Artisans d'Angkor collective, where those making traditional handicrafts gain a guaranteed percentage of the profit (011-855/63-963-330, artisansdangkor.com).
Memorable moment: Rent bicycles in and around Siem Reap for less than $2 a day. Although the somewhat creaky models and frequently unpaved roads can make for a bumpy ride, it's a low-key way to explore the temples at your own pace—and to see the Cambodian people and landscape more intimately.
Price check: For recommendations for independently owned guesthouses, turn to Asiarooms.com, which recently listed rooms at Monoreach Angkor Hotel in Siem Reap at a starting rate of $33 per night. If you'd prefer an expert's guiding hand, consider Intrepid Travel's Heart of Cambodia tour. A guide will escort you around Phnom Penh, arrange a sunset viewing over Angkor Wat, and walk you through the depths of the Phnom Chhnork caves. The 15-day tour costs $1,400 per person (whether traveling single or as part of a couple), covering lodgings but not airfare—less than $100 a day (intrepidtravel.com).