Traveling abroad can bring surprises — like checking into a Holiday Inn in the Maldives. Who woulda thought? You’d never expect it, but some luxury destinations known for outrageously expensive resorts have budget hotels, too. Here are your favorite cheap chains in superposh places.
Holiday Inn, South Male Atoll, Maldives
Photo: Holiday Inn
The Maldives is one of the most exclusive places in the world. It’s so remote and glam that hotel rates average $1,000 a night — and that’s just for a standard room. Most resorts are on their own islands, which aren’t cheap to lease, so luxury chains — like Conrad, Jumeirah, and One & Only — spend millions of dollars to run over-the-top, fabulous resorts and charge expensive rates to make ends meet. So, it’s truly shocking to find a Holiday Inn there. It may not have the lavish bells and whistles of the country’s other island resorts, but it has all the amenities: several restaurants, crystal-clear waters for snorkeling, and activities like yoga. Standard rooms can cost under $200 a night, and overwater villas (yes, Holiday Inn has them here) are available starting at about $535 — one of the lowest rates in the country for that kind of accommodation. (Villa rates hit about $2,000 a night at five-star resorts!)
The Fess Parker, a DoubleTree by Hilton Resort, Santa Barbara, Calif.
Photo: Fess Parker Santa Barbara
Most oceanfront hotels in Santa Barbara are fancy, like the Four Seasons and Bacara, a popular five-star resort. But The Fess Parker, a DoubleTree by Hilton Resort, keeps rates as low as $179 a night. That’s a steal considering the hotel is a stone’s throw from the sand and surf. It’s not often you find a DoubleTree with such a stellar beachfront location. The cost of staying at this 24-acre property also includes complimentary airport and Amtrak transfers and a heated outdoor pool.
Travelodge Las Vegas Center Strip, Las Vegas
Photo: Travelodge Las Vegas Center Strip
Most megaresorts right on the Vegas Strip bring on the glitz and glam, like the Cosmopolitan, the Venetian, and Aria. In fact, due to pricey real estate on Las Vegas Boulevard, most locations need to have hundreds of rooms, a handful of expensive restaurants, designer shops, and a sprawling casino floor to make money. So, it’s surprising that smack-dab in the middle of the strip is a 126-room Travelodge. We have no idea how the hotel has managed to run with the big dogs, considering rooms average $50 a night, there’s no casino, and almost everything is included in the rate (from breakfast and Wi-Fi to parking). Just be prepared for cheap beds, thin walls, and tiny bathrooms.
Days Inn Maui, Maui, Hawaii
Maui has the highest room rates of all the Hawaiian islands, with lavish beachfront properties like the Four Seasons Maui and Montage Kapalua Bay (rates start around $650). But amid the resorts sits Days Inn Maui, where visitors truly get some bang for their buck. Though Days Inn Maui is right on Keawakapu Beach along with the five-star properties, rates begin at just $118 a night. You might not get white glove service, a fancy pool, or gourmet meals, but did we mention the beach is your backyard for $118 a night?
Ramada Resort Camakila Bali, Badung, Bali
Photo: Ramada Camakila Bali
Bali offers a range of budget accommodations, but on Legion Beach, Ramada’s Camakila Bali resort — a brand that’s notoriously budget in the States — is a four-star palace. The hotel comes complete with a complimentary airport shuttle, outdoor pool, and myriad amenities like a full-service spa, two international restaurants, and a rooftop bar with a view of some killer sunsets. It’s actually everything you’d expect from a serene Bali resort — including pleasant, smiling staff — and they even arrange excursions to top attractions like Ubud and safaris. A steal at $95 a night.
DoubleTree Seychelles, Anse Forbans, Seychelles
Photo: DoubleTree Seychelles
An island getaway for the rich and famous, the Seychelles off East Africa lures the 1 percent with total seclusion and luxury resorts like the Four Seasons, Banyan Tree, and Raffles. So, it’s crazy to find a DoubleTree — Hilton’s uberbudget hotel chain for business travelers — right there on a white-sand beach. DoubleTree Resort & Spa by Hilton Hotel Seychelles-Allamanda pampers guests just like the other resorts do, and has a prime location just 20 minutes from the airport. In Seychelles, the resort is considered four-star, with rates as low as $280 a night (a bit much in the land of budget chains, but cheap for a beachfront resort).
Best Western St. Thomas, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
Photo: Emerald Beach Resort
It’s not unusual to find budget hotels in the Caribbean, but a budget brand directly on the beach? Throw all your expectations out the window, as Best Western, a chain that’s known for basic amenities, has not one but two oceanfront properties in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Best Western Plus (yes, this exists) Emerald Beach Resort has rates as low as $200 a night, while the more budget Carib Beach Resort (with a manmade beach) has rates as low as $139 a night. Both St. Thomas hotels embrace island culture with Caribbean-inspired room decor, thatch-roof palapas on the beach, and plenty of lush landscaping with palms.
Courtyard by Marriott Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Photo: Courtyard by Marriott Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi is one of the richest destinations in the world (thanks to a seemingly never-ending oil flow), so it’s chock-full of five-star hotel brands like St. Regis, Ritz-Carlton, Jumeirah, and Park Hyatt. In fact, there are limited options for budget travelers or backpackers — unless you stay at the Courtyard Marriott. Here, you will be completely spoiled. Courtyard Marriott World Trade Center, Abu Dhabi is a glittery high-rise with spacious rooms, crazy views, and, best of all, Courtyard by Marriott prices as low as $80 a night.
Howard Johnson Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Photo: Howard Johnson Recoleta
We all know what to expect at Howard Johnson hotels in the States, but HoJo is a different story in Buenos Aires. There are five hotels in locations that are considered some of the best in the city. You can book the Howard Johnson Boutique Hotel Recoleta in the buzzing, historic, and hip Recoleta neighborhood for $100 a night. There’s a spa with a whirlpool tub in a sun-drenched atrium, rooms are large compared to a typical HoJo, and deluxe guest rooms even offer whirlpool bath tubs. Overall, it looks and feels like a HoJo — but with upgrades. Best of all, most rooms come with balconies for those who want to recreate their favorite Eva Perón moments.