By Amrita Jayakumar | NerdWallet
The surge in inflation may have slowed, but the cost of everyday items is still high enough to put a strain on your travel budget. If winter already has you dreaming of a luxury beach vacation, it’s worth finding a destination where the U.S. dollar delivers more bang for your buck. Fortunately, there are several options around the world where five-star accommodations are surprisingly affordable, even without using travel rewards.
Travel search engines Skyscanner and Kayak both analyzed data on their platforms to rank the cities where you can book the cheapest five-star hotels. How cheap are we talking? All of the cities in this combined list feature five-star hotels for less than $200 per night.
Skyscanner looked at the average price per night for a five-star hotel room booked on its portal from January through June 2023. Kayak looked at average prices based on searches conducted across all its portfolio domains from July 2022 through June 2023 for travel from November 2022 through October 2023.
Here are the top five cities to consider for your next luxury getaway.
1. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, City Center skyline. (Getty Images)
The Malaysian capital topped Skyscanner’s list at $102 a night for five-star accommodation and came in second on Kayak’s list at $175 a night. Five-star hotels in the city include chains such as Hyatt and Hilton, as well as high-end properties such as the St. Regis and Banyan Tree.
Known for its delicious cuisine, cultural attractions, street food markets, shopping, nightlife, skyscrapers and theme parks, Kuala Lumpur offers a mix of luxury and budget-friendly activities for all travelers.
2. Hoi An, Vietnam
Hoi An Ancient Town and Thu Bon River at sunset, Quang Nam Province. (Getty Images)
This ancient port city on Vietnam’s central coast offers five-star luxury for $117 per night, according to Skyscanner data. Boutique luxury hotels include Little Riverside, Anantara and Amina Lantana.
Because of its trading history, Hoi An has a unique blend of Japanese, Chinese and European influences. At this offbeat Vietnam destination, you can enjoy everything from beautiful architecture in the Old Town neighborhood to seventh-century temples, farm-fresh cuisine, lush countryside and pristine beaches.
3. Tirana, Albania
The New Bazaar in Tirana, Albania. (Getty Images)
The Albanian capital comes in third on Skyscanner’s list, with five-star accommodations available for $140 per night. Although not as popular as its European neighbor Greece, Albania is slowly opening up to more tourism.
Tirana, the largest city, is a haven for art and history lovers, featuring a bustling town square, an underground Cold War bunker converted into an art museum, mosques, palaces and fortresses.
Although it has a few big hotel chains, including a Marriott and a Radisson, most of Tirana’s five-star hotels are lesser-known, such as the Xheko Imperial and Mak Albania.
4. Chiang Mai, Thailand
Doi Inthanon at Chiang Mai, Thailand. (Getty Images)
It’s no surprise that Thailand is a popular destination for travelers looking for both luxury and affordability. At $146 per night according to Skyscanner data, Chiang Mai boasts a large collection of five-star properties.
Marriott, InterContinental and Shangri-La are a few of the big hotel chains with locations in the northern Thai city. High-end boutique hotels include Chala Number 6, Cross Chiang Mai Riverside and Villa Mahabhirom.
The mountainous city of Chiang Mai offers a different landscape from Thailand’s famous beach destinations. Attractions include the country’s highest peak at Doi Inthanon National Park, Buddhist temples, botanical gardens and traditional villages against a backdrop of rice fields.
5. Hammamet, Tunisia
Beach in Hammamet, Tunisia. (Getty Images)
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Kayak’s top affordable five-star destination is Hammamet, a beach town in the African country of Tunisia. A luxury stay here will set you back $151 a night, according to Skyscanner data.
Sheraton and Radisson Blu are two of the only chain hotels in this town. Luxury properties include The Sindbad, Medina Solaria & Thalasso, La Badira and Les Orangers.
Located about 40 miles from the capital of Tunis, Hammamet’s namesake beach features sparkling blue waters suitable for snorkeling and diving. History lovers can soak in cultural attractions from the ancient medina, a maze of alleyways bustling with shops and Islamic architecture, to fortresses and mosques. There’s even something for amusement park enthusiasts: Carthageland, a theme park inspired by the Carthage empire.
Other cities where you can find affordable luxury
Here are the other destinations that made it into Kayak’s top five:
Bogotá, Colombia: $192 per night.
Colombo, Sri Lanka: $210 per night.
Side, Turkey: $212 per night.
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