In Picking a destination – Part 1, we discussed how to use practical factors such as budget, length of trip, and weather to help you pick a destination.
In Part 2 we’ll discuss how the region of the world where you are travelling determines both the cost of the trip, its “feel”, and level of difficulty.
If you limit yourself to first world countries when picking a destination, you are short-changing yourself both in the figurative and proper sense. Many of the world’s most amazing sights are in the developing and third world. Think about the Taj Mahal (India), the Pyramids (Egypt) and Machu Picchu (Peru). Besides, countries with a weak economy are a bargain for travellers. You can comfortably travel through many of them for less than $50 a day.
In many parts of Ecuador and Thailand for example, you can get a good room for $15-20, and a meal for a few dollars. Below is a description of the different parts of the world and what you can expect in each.
Dividing the world in three
The world can be divided, roughly, into three “tiers”, based on the strength of a country’s economy (related to the average income and cost of goods) and various things like infrastructure and literacy level. Each tier lends itself to a different kind of trip. Knowing how much time and money you have, the kind of environment you want, and how adventurous you are, will in turn help you determine which of these tiers you should pick from.
1. Developed world (e.g. Canada, France, USA, Australia, Singapore)
These countries have a high standard of living, excellent tourism infrastructure, and generally high prices. They feel “comfortable” because we can expect a level of service and choice similar to what we have at home. It is easy to travel here, and hence a good choice for rookie travellers.
- Transportation, scheduled events, and so on, are reliable and easy to arrange.
- Food and water are (usually) safe to consume.
- Visas are not normally required by Canadian and American citizens (always verify this).
- No special vaccinations are normally required (verify this).
- Easy to travel to at a moment’s notice without any special preparation.
- Budget accommodation is hard or nearly impossible to find.
- Public transportation is expensive. In some countries such as Canada and the USA, it is difficult to explore areas outside the larger cities without your own vehicle (unless you join a tour).
- Prices for everything are fixed, no bargaining is allowed (for some this may be an advantage).
- Depending on your choice of activities and where you stay, it may be hard to meet other travellers because most tend to do their “own thing”.
- The locals usually keep to themselves.
2. Developing world (e.g. Mexico, Thailand, Morocco, Ecuador, Costa Rica)
Countries in this tier of the world have a “rougher” edge. They usually have a good tourist infrastructure, but the quality, comfort and reliability of accommodation and transportation might be less than what you are used to, especially in the lower price bracket. Costs are lower (sometimes much lower) due to the lower standard of living. Customs can be very different from home, and you should prepare by reading about your destination, even if you are joining a tour. If you have travelled within North America and Europe and are ready to try something more exotic and challenging without spending a fortune, these countries are for you!
- Budget accommodation is plentiful and you can find some real gems, but you need to do your research.
- Public transportation is inexpensive, frequent, and goes just about anywhere (although it can sometime be slow and uncomfortable).
- Bargaining is usually allowed (and expected) in markets and souvenir shops. You can often bargain down the price of a room in the low season.
- It is relatively easy to meet other travellers and locals.
- Transportation, scheduled events, and so on, can be unreliable.
- You shouldn’t drink the tap water, and should read about what food precautions to take (for example, avoiding salads).
- Visas are sometimes required by Canadian and American citizens. Check this at least a month before departure.
- Vaccinations may be required.
3. Third world (e.g. India, Cambodia, Vietnam, Guatemala, Tanzania)
These countries have the lowest standard of living in the world, and for this reason can be incredibly cheap for the independent traveller. Some of the most amazing sights can be found therein, but the travelling can be difficult and the culture shock is high. You are certain to feel out of your element here, and for this reason, I find these countries the most rewarding. However they are not for the faint hearted. If you are an inexperienced traveller, you might want to join a group to explore at first.
- Very cheap. You can live for a whole week here with what you spend in Europe in a day.
- Public transportation is inexpensive, frequent, and goes just about anywhere, but it can be unreliable and breakdowns are not unusual. You need to research your options carefully.
- Bargaining is usually allowed (and expected) just about everywhere.
- It is very easy to meet other travellers. Western travellers share an “instant bond” that springs for the very foreignness of everything around them.
- Local people are constantly around to offer services, rooms, tours, etc. Anything can be had for a (usually low) price. But bargaining is essential.
- Require more travel time and preparation. A lot of unexpected things can happen, so don’t schedule yourself too tightly.
- You cannot drink the tap water, and should be extremely careful with the food.
- Visas are often required by Canadian and American citizens. Check this at least a month before departure.
- Some vaccinations and/or prophylactics (e.g. malaria tablets) are usually required.
- A lot of poverty, beggars, pickpockets, etc. You have to be on your guard and know what to watch for.
There you have it. This concludes the Destination Picking series. You are now an expert and should be able to find the perfect destination for your next trip! If not, contact me and I’ll try to help you out.