5 International Cities for Your Travel Bucket List!
Sometimes, we just need a complete change of scenery.
Perhaps you spent a “glorious” winter in Milwaukee or Michigan (shout out to Midwestern winters, amiright?). Or, you got your country fix in Nashville, but now you’re looking for a different kind of country. Or maybe a different country altogether?
If so, you’re in luck! Being a bit of a travel enthusiast myself, I’ve had the fortune of exploring a decent chunk of our amazing planet. With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite cities outside of the United States that best appeal to various tastes and budgets.
When deciding which cities would make the cut, I considered a few key characteristics:
- Is it possible to find good flight deals or inexpensive flights?
- Is it safe, particularly for solo and/or female travelers?
- Is it possible to travel there on a budget?
- Are there enough English speakers to make it an easier transition, especially for newer travelers?
- Perhaps most importantly, is the FOOD GOOD?! (You can’t say I don’t have my priorities straight!)
Based on this criterion, I narrowed the list down to five cities that I highly recommend visiting during your travels!
Mexico City, Mexico
I am thrilled to see Mexico City gaining popularity with travelers, considering the misconceptions and bad rap that the country has gotten in the past. CDMX, as it’s often referred to, has a lot going for it:
- Major international airport, making it easy to travel to and from the U.S.
- Vibrant neighborhoods
- Delicious cuisines
- Easy transportation – Uber is popular here
- Very safe overall
If you have only a few days to stay in Mexico City, then I’d recommend staying in or close to the Centro Historico, or the historic center of the city, which is close to all the popular tourist attractions. It’s also the most budget-friendly area to stay in. If you’re looking for something not in the center but still fun and safe, check out Roma Norte or San Rafael.
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My best piece of advice for Mexico City? Eat ALL the food. This is easily THE place to go if you’re a foodie!
I recently returned from a trip to Portugal. I must admit that I had a much richer experience than I’d anticipated having! Lisbon is the capital city of a country that is fast becoming one of the most popular travel destinations in the world. “Lisboa” as its known locally, has something for everyone:
- Beautiful architecture (the amazing painted tiles, known as “azulejos“, are EVERYWHERE!).
- Delicious food, especially seafood and pastries.
- Nightlife, a variety of local transportation options, and plenty of English speakers.
Oh, and don’t let me forget to mention the WINE! Portugal offers some of the best wines in the world.
You can often catch flight deals to Portugal if you pay attention. I recommend Scott’s Cheap Flights or checking Google Flights for the best deals. Portugal is one of the most affordable European destinations. It has just as much to offer as its more well-traveled counterparts.
While in Lisbon, be sure to catch a Fado performance. It’s an experience that is uniquely Lisboan and a neat way to sample the local culture!
This one is a bit of a stretch because of the flights. However, if you get alerts or subscribe to flight deals, you can sometimes find flights for as little as $600 round trip to Thailand from the States. Even if the flights stretch your budget a bit, everything else is cheap as heck once you arrive!
I was very intimidated to travel to Thailand, mainly because of the language barrier. I was traveling solo and was worried about my safety. I was blown away by the kindness and hospitality of the Thai people! And, you’d be surprised at how many people can speak at least some English. However, some of my best memories came from trying to communicate with people who couldn’t speak English. When in doubt, playing charades works wonders! And you can always point to the pictures on the menus. Thai people are generally very willing to help you.
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I spent over a year in Thailand, and every day, I dream about returning. Don’t even get me started on the food. Do yourself a favor and eat lots of street food from the vendors! Despite what you might think, it’s often safer than the food you eat in restaurants. I got food poisoning twice while in Thailand, and neither time was from street food. It was from touristy restaurants. That being said, even street food can be sketchy sometimes, so look for stalls with many locals eating near them. That’s a great sign, no matter what country you’re in!
Lima is another city with the best flight deals in the off-seasons, so keep it on your radar!
Lima, the “City of Kings,” is a highly underrated travel destination. Most people travel to Peru to visit Machu Picchu (and rightfully so!) and may only stay 1-2 days in Lima before catching a flight to Cusco. Big mistake! Unless restrained for time, I would absolutely recommend spending at minimum 3-5 days in Lima.
One of the best things to do in Lima is to hang out at the Plaza de Armas. This Plaza is the beating heart of Lima. You’ll find several important government buildings, an awe-inspiring cathedral, opulent palaces, and official residences. Peruvians do a lot of celebrating, too, so you’ll often catch parades and other events happening at the Plaza. There are tons of photo-taking opportunities here for the ‘Gram!
Another trait I love about Lima is how many museums there are. Lima has a lot of historical importance in early human history. Most people have at least heard of the Incas. Still, many pre-Incan civilizations could easily rival the Romans in ingenuity and craftsmanship. Do yourself a favor and check out some of the art and history museums while you’re there! You may just be amazed!
When I think of Dublin, the first word that springs to mind is FUN!
Ireland was the first country I ever visited internationally, and I don’t think I could have made a better choice. Dublin has its own unique character and personality compared to its neighbors. One of the best, most memorable things I did in Dublin was walk into a random pub off the beaten path and drink a couple of pints while people-watching. After a short time had passed, a flurry of workers who had just clocked out for the day and were ready to take the edge off (I presume) started packing the pub. Next thing you know, a small musical band started playing, and the rowdy (but happy) group of workers were belting out their renditions of Garth Brooks songs. You can’t make this stuff up, people!
I tell you this story because I think it sums up Dublin and the Irish people in general. Now, you won’t find great food here, to be honest, but if you like fish and chips, then you’re in luck. Dublin is also home to the Guinness Storehouse and the Jamison Distillery, which are worthwhile visits.
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Dublin is also a city where you can find good flight deals occasionally, so it’s worth signing up for those alerts. I also recommend traveling here during the off-seasons. Yes, it does rain, especially in the fall and winter months. Still, to me, the moody skies add a whole different element and character to the landscapes. It also adds beauty to the stately but crumbling castles you may visit outside the city.
There you have it; my top 5 city recommendations for when you’re ready to head outside of the U.S. Borders! What a great way to spend your hard-earned time off. I hope you’ll let me know if you end up visiting any of these cities or if there are others that you think are deserving of a mention on this list.