In 2016, a lot of people are making New Year’s resolutions to get out more. How about getting way out? Like, out of the country! Here are The Root’s top five international spots you should hit up this year.
Cuba: Unspoiled and Easier to Visit
Danielle Horry, a travel consultant based in New York, visited Cuba in 2013 for her 40th birthday. On that trip, she wandered through the decaying streets of Old Havana expecting to meet people who despised Americans. But she encountered the exact opposite.
“I have visited 33 countries. I have never been to a country like this one,” Horry said. “The people are its greatest commodity. There are no warmer, more generous, more open people anywhere.”
When she returned in 2014, she visited Santiago, Cuba, the Afro-Cuban stronghold, and saw more of the countryside—a plush, green terrain with mountains, beaches and waterfalls. She plans to return in July, but this time, her visit will likely much easier to obtain, just as your visit could be, too.
It’s all thanks to President Barack Obama, who announced in December 2014 that the United States would restore diplomatic relations with Cuba. Since then, the U.S. has eased restrictions on traveling to the island nation. Travelers in 12 authorized categories—including business, cultural exchange, journalism, professional research, athletic contests, and academic, humanitarian or religious work—may travel there, and there will soon be commercial flights from the U.S. to Cuba.
Brazil: Cheap, and It Has the Olympic Games
Brazil’s link to the African Diaspora has always attracted travelers looking to connect with Afro-Brazilian people, culture and history. Beyond culture, the country has something for every type of traveler—urban beaches, undeveloped beaches, the Amazon forest, hiking, waterfalls and Carnival.
This year, there are even more practical reasons to visit the country. Brazil is suffering an economic recession, but that has created a perfect situation for travelers on a budget. Flights can be bought for as cheaply as $550 through the U.S. The country’s currency, the real, is at its lowest level in 13 years—4 reals to each dollar as of this past Wednesday. But Brazil is not a last-minute travel destination. The $160 visa requirement for Americans means that travelers have to plan accordingly. That will change temporarily this summer. Brazil is lifting visa requirements for American tourists who visit the country between June 1 and Sept. 18. Thus, you’ll be able to make a last-minute decision to attend the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer in Rio de Janeiro.
South Africa: Cheap, Sophisticated and Cultural
Where in the world can black women enjoy a pool party so much that they don’t care about their hair? A viral video from last year shows hundreds of black women (and a few men) partying to house music at a water park in Durban, South Africa. As the music crescendos, the black women start to splash water everywhere. The Essence Music Festival believes so much in Durban that it will make its international debut in the city this year.
South Africa is hot. Africa is hot. No person knows this better than Cherae Robinson, founder of Tastemakers Africa. She spent the last year jet-setting across Africa, finding the best places for people to eat, relax and party on the continent. The result is a startup that produces unique experiences for travelers and locals.
“South Africa has something for everybody,” Robinson said. “If you want trendy and developing, then Johannesburg is as hot as New York City. If you are looking for beach vibes and epic views, then you go to Cape Town. You can get three or four vacations in one visit if you have a lot of time.”
South Africa is one of the best travel bargains in the world this year. In just one year, the country’s currency, the rand, has gone from 10 to each dollar to 15 per dollar.
Ghana: Dumsor in an African City
Dumsor is a term that describes Ghana’s persistent power outages. The country simply can’t meet its energy needs. But that inconvenience didn’t stop Nicole Armarteifio from returning to her homeland from the United States to produce An African City. The Web series is about five sophisticated career women looking for love in Accra—Ghana’s capital city.
“For any country that can give me sun, fresh coconut water and a plethora of opportunities, I’m in,” Amarteifio said.
An African City returns next week for season 2, and like the first season, it will showcase an Africa that is rarely seen in media: sexy parties, African designer clothes and elegant houses. It will also likely incite more people to visit Ghana.
Cherae Robinson sponsors a group trip to Ghana every year, and she says the best time to go is in December, when the Ghanaian Diaspora returns home from around the world for parties and events. Ghana also offers African Americans an opportunity to reconnect with their past through visits to former slave ports.
“For a black person going to Africa for the first time, Ghana is where people experience those sentimental ‘I’m back on the Motherland’ vibes,” Robinson said.
Bali: An Accessible Paradise
The mention of Bali usually evokes images of an inaccessible paradise that is too expensive for regular people, but that’s not the case. Recent airfare deals from the United States have ranged from $800 to $1,000—a steal, considering that expenses on the island are cheap. The island is also close to other coveted destinations in Southeast Asia like Singapore and Thailand. So you can easily put together a tour of the area. Nomadness Travel Tribe member Jasmine Owens decided to visit Bali after seeing her friends’ gorgeous pictures and hearing about the cheap spas. But when she finally arrived there, she fell in love with the elephant sanctuary and monkey temple. She has one piece of advice for potential travelers:
"Make sure to get as many spa treatments as possible, and see as much of Bali that you can,” Owens said.
Lastly, Wherever You Want to Go … #BookDatIsht!
This destination isn’t a specific place. It’s a lifestyle. As popular travel personality Kenna Williams says, #BookDatIsht. The only thing standing between you and a new international destination is a plane ticket. So when you see a cheap plane ticket, book it!
Kiratiana Freelon is a Rio de Janeiro-based multimedia journalist whose work focuses on social issues, international news and sporting events. She has published two books: one a travel guide to black Paris, and the other a travel guide to multicultural London. Visit her blog and follow her on Twitter.