TIME Tourism

Finally, Some ‘Best’ Places You Can Actually Afford

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What good is it to hear about the world’s best hotel when one night there costs more than you make in a week?

It’s not particularly difficult to find amazingly luxurious vacation lodging: Just go where they’re charging top dollar. The World’s Best Places to Stay as named by Conde Nast Traveler is filled with properties such as South Carolina’s Inn at Palmetto Bluff, an elegant 50-cottage resort with a high-end spa and a championship-level 18-hole golf course where guests typically pay upwards of $1,000 per night. At that kind of rate, you’d certainly expect to enjoy top-shelf accommodations and service.

For the rest of us, who hope that $1,000 will cover an entire week’s lodging on vacation, we can turn to Lonely Planet, which recently published its first-ever Word’s Best Hotels list. The roundup is based on input from Lonely Planet’s budget-conscious, backpacker-focused guidebook writers, and it includes sublists such as the top 10 eco stays and, most importantly for cheapskates, the world’s best value stays. The latter features several top backpacker hangouts (#1 is the The Backpack in Cape Town, South Africa, where a private single room starts at around $55), as well as a gorgeous guesthouse in northern Italy dating back to the 1500s.

The user-review giant TripAdvisor, meanwhile, which says it just hit the 150 million review mark (including 50 million new reviews in 2013 alone), offered the latest version of its own Best Accommodations awards not long ago. While some of the properties are undeniably high end and perhaps out of reach to the masses, because TripAdvisor’s ratings come from average travelers, the rates are plenty are quite reasonable: The top choices in the Bargain, B&B, and Family categories average $91, $138, and $237 nightly, respectively. The best bargain in the U.S. as named by the site is the Desert Riviera Inn in Palm Springs, where studios start at $119.

(MORE: Hey, We Want More $$$ Too! More Theme Parks Jack Up Ticket Prices)

As for restaurants, if you trust the opinion of the mob over the tastes of snooty critics, check out
Yelp’s Top 100 Places to Eat in the U.S., published earlier this week. The list is heavy on low-brow, low-price crowd-pleasing favorites, including hot dog joints (Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs in Denver) and falafel specialists Joe’s Falafel in Los Angeles). Yelpers’ #1 overall restaurant is Da Poke Shack, an unassuming seafood spot on Hawaii’s Big Island that’s as low-key and low-cost as its name indicates. Prices vary depending on the availability of fish and market prices, but a typical order, served in a Styrofoam container, usually runs under $10.

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