If you are mostly interested in beaches, scuba diving, and other water sports you should start with our list of the cheapest Caribbean islands to see which ones are in your price range. Many travel destinations on the list below are closed to those from outside the regions, but quite a few are now getting ready to accept visitors.
There is actually good news and you can see it in our best destinations for Americans and Canadians during the COVID-19 crisis article. Obviously the first week of January is peak season for most Latin American and Caribbean destinations, so book early to lock in the best deals.
The Caribbean in January is a bit of a paradox here because it's the busiest month of the year, and prices are relatively high, but there are still many cheap options available if you know where to look. The cities below are better if you are in the mood for a bit of culture, but for those mainly looking to relax in the sun, you can't beat the Caribbean in January.
Specifically, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica are where you'll find most of them, although many even cheaper ones are on the Mexican coast in Cancun and just to its south. For most people, an all-inclusive resort will end up saving a lot of money, as long as you aren't so interested in exploring the whole island.
There's at least a small chance that it will rain a bit during January in Cancun, but keep in mind that the showers tend to be over in 30 to 60 minutes and that they often take place overnight. Just a short ferry ride from Play you'll be in Cozumel, which is a small island that is also worth considering.
While all the Caribbean will be expensive and nearly sold out for the first week of January (so book as early as possible if that's when you want to go), Mont ego Bay still remains reasonably priced for the rest of the high season that goes into April. The weather this time of year is pretty much perfect, and there are plenty of water sports and other activities to keep you entertained during the day if you aren't more interested in just relaxing.
Mont ego Bay is also home to one of the Caribbean's largest and busiest airports so flights here are usually direct and often cheap compared to some smaller islands. By the way, if you'd prefer to stay along a wonderful beach lined with small hotels, restaurants, and bars, then head to nearby Neil instead of Mont ego Bay or Echo Rios.
The far eastern edge of the Dominican Republic is where you'll find the collection of beach towns that are referred to as Junta Can. Unlike most Caribbean islands, the Dominican Republic has many huge beach hotels that have up to 1,000 rooms or more.
The first week in January will be booked early but after that it's normal room rates, which are great bargains compared to the rest of the Caribbean. The all-inclusive resorts here start at a bit over US$100 per night for two people, including room, meals, and unlimited drinks.
The better places obviously charge more, but there are plenty of good resorts that receive solid reviews near the lower end of the scale. Puerto Vallarta is also notable because it's an actual historic city with an interesting traditional center, rather than just a purpose-built row of beach hotels like in Cancun.
English isn't widely spoken outside of hotels and tour companies, so if you don't speak Spanish it's wise to at least pack a menu translation app. January marks the best weather month of the year in Cartagena and most of Colombia, as days will be uniformly sunny and warm, but rarely too hot, and nights are pleasant as well.
In other words, if you are really looking for great value in wonderful weather you should consider other parts of Belize instead or in addition to San Pedro. Came Caulker is a similar and smaller island even a bit closer to Belize City, and prices there are lower for hotels and for food.
But if you want a modern resort on a lovely beach with perfect warm weather in January you should head to the Guanacaste area and fly into nearby Liberia Airport. This area is a collection of former fishing villages that now have a variety of traditional beach hotels and modern chain resorts in all price ranges.
The historic city center is quite interesting, but many will choose to stay in the trendy Miracles district along the beach instead. January is part of the peak season in Santiago as the ideal weather draws people from all over South America who have vacation time.
It's a huge city with much to offer, and prices even during the peak season are quite reasonable by international standards. Many people include Santiago on a trip combining many South American countries, but those who don't want to jet around quite that much will find that Chile itself is loaded with great sights.
Being completely honest, January isn't an ideal month to visit Buenos Aires, as it will be quite warm, day and night, and also quite crowded. There's also the threat of rain on any given day, but we are including it here because it's still a fantastic place to visit and the warm weather isn't a problem for many.
Another thing to note about Buenos Aires compared to most other South American cities is that BA is more about culture, food, and other indoor pursuits. It's a great place for just strolling in the shopping districts when it's not too hot, but even when it's raining or too muggy outside you'll have an endless list of interesting things to see and do, all quite cheap for what you get.
As of late 2019 the Argentine currency has been continued to plummet even more than inflation has gone up, so Buenos Aires can be really cheap these days if you've got US dollars. Brioche is a mountain resort town in southern Argentina where you can expect it to be mild and crowded, so it can be a nice break from the hot coastal cities.
This place used to be a German settlement, so it still has an abundance of small chocolate shops and some architecture to carry on that theme. Even in high season, prices here should be at least a bit below those in Buenos Aires, so it will feel like a bargain for most foreign visitors.
You might also consider including Mendoza on your trip, which is the main wine region of Argentina, and also good value. January is the middle of the wet season in Rio de Janeiro, but this is the typical tropical rain pattern that almost always amounts to a 30-minute downpour a few times a week, and sunny skies before and after that.
It might be a stretch to call January in Tenerife as having “great” weather, but it's still pretty damn good even if it's too chilly to go swimming. Tenerife, in case you aren't aware, is the largest Canary Island that also has the best infrastructure for English-speaking travelers, and its temperate location just off the coast of Africa gives it mild and pleasant weather all year round.
This island has many hundreds of hotels and holiday rentals, and it's very popular with the British as well as others from northern European countries. January is part of the high season in Tenerife for hotel prices, but it's still inexpensive by European or global standards.
The area in the southwest corner of the island is where you'll find most hotels and beach resorts that cater to an English-speaking crowd. This is a proper beach resort with a wide range of affordable hotels alongside posh places that are popular with conventions and conference crowds.
While the weather in January is going to be too cold to enjoy a swim in the ocean, it's obviously far warmer than you'll find anywhere in Europe or even Turkey this time of year. Egypt continues to struggle with stability and safety issues, or at least a perception problem, so check the news to see how things here are looking before you go booking a long holiday.
January is peak season in Cape Town so finding hotel deals will be challenging, but still it's quite reasonably priced compared to Europe, North America, or Australia. The weather is pretty much perfect in January with warm days, mild nights, and virtually no rain at all.
The good news is that the country is filled with great sights, including safaris, of course, and history, so a 2-week trip can still be affordable all things considered. Goa is incredibly popular around the Christmas holidays and through January so hotels will be more expensive this time of year than any other.
That said, it's still incredibly cheap compared to any other sunshine destination in the world as long as you know your way around. In Canute and Bag it might feel like prices are only a bit cheaper than in, say, Spain, but if you go to Arjuna or Va gator and find a family-run hotel and eat in local restaurants you'll be spending a fraction of that.
If you are in the mood to tour around, Mumbai has great weather during January, and Delhi has warm days but cool evenings this time of year. There are many really expensive hotels in Said Reap since this attraction brings in almost as many 5-star travelers as it does backpackers, but there are still plenty of cheap guesthouses and even hostels.
The price average for a day in Said Reap is actually quite a bit lower than what is shown here, and it's only inflated this much because admission to Angkor Was is quite high if you only go for the one-day option. As the most expensive part of Thailand, Phuket barely qualifies as cheap if you are determined to stay in one of the many beach resorts in the posh towns.
The prices we list on this site are for Phuket Town, which is inland and much cheaper than even the cheapest beach cities. Another nice thing is Phuket has its own huge international airport so you can fly in from the Middle East instead of having to change planes in Bangkok.
Saigon (as it's locally known) is certainly not a beach city, but it's a very popular part of the SE Asia backpacker circuit that really heats up this time of the year. There are beach cities like NHA Trans along Vietnam's east coast, and a few islands to the south and over in nearby Cambodia as well.
This is also an emerging party city, unlike others in Vietnam, so it works on many levels for the budget tourist or backpacker. The weather is perfect, with warm sunny days and mild nights that aren't annoyingly muggy like they are in Bangkok and Saigon.
Come to Chiang Mai and then shop around for multi-day trips to nearby forests and temples, which are also very cheap, even in January. In the past few years Lung Praying has gotten many more upscale hotels so it might look like the city isn't friendly for budget travelers, but there are still many cheaper guesthouses left, although most aren't bookable online.
If you just show up in town there's a good chance you can find a cheap room, but arrive early in the day if possible. You should be able to get in a bit of beach time this month, although most people sit at hotel pools between meals and visits to the many shopping malls.
The huge airport is also very busy this time of year, though airfares are quite reasonable from Europe and other nearby areas where people are looking for a winter break.