Is Brazil on your bucket list this year? How about Haiti? We’ve got the inside scoop on some surprising places you should visit this year, where you should proceed with caution, and which spots to re-think visiting this year altogether until political and social situations calm down a bit.

Brazil

Home to natural wonders like the Amazon, beautiful beaches in Ipanema, and thriving cities like Rio de Janeiro. Of course,  Brazil is always a great place to visit, but especially in 2014. This year, the city of Porto Alegre will play host to the 2014 FIFA World Cup from June 12th thru July 13th. This event has caused vacation rental guru HomeAway to notice a 41 percent increase in vacation rentals to the country. Why not check out HomeAway‘s FIFA World Cup ’14 Brazil Guide for more information? It includes things to do and other attractions you shouldn’t miss while you’re in town.

Brazil is also home to some of the world’s best Carnival celebrations in Rio de Janeiro. This year they start from 02/28/2014 to 03/04/2014. Celebrations are also in Sao Paulo, Recife, Olinda, Salvador de Bahia, Florianopolis. Not to mention the other party-centric cities like Buzios, Porto de Galinhas, Fortaleza, Porto Seguro, and Iguazu Falls! If you’re visiting Rio de Janeiro, don’t forget to pay a visit to the spectacular Sugarloaf Mountain Aerial Tram. It was named as one of the world’s most beautiful cable car rides.

Nicaragua

Looking for an unforgettable tropical vacation to a land of beautiful beaches? How about impressive volcanoes and rich culture? But without the crows and tourism of Costa Rica? Visit Nicaragua. As an up-and-coming travel destination it offers visitors a more authentic Central American experience. This intriguing destination is located less than two hours from Miami. It is accessible by direct flights to Managua from major U.S. cities likeHouston, L.A., San Francisco, New York City, New Orleans, Atlanta, Dallas, and Washington D.C.

Once you arrive, hotels, restaurants, and attractions are very affordable. The beaches are largely unspoiled, and you can try your hand at anything from surfing and snorkeling. For the more adventurous, there are zip-line canopy tours and sandboarding excursions down the Cerro Negro volcano. What’s not to love?

United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.)

There’s a lot going on in the U.A.E.! Try the world’s fastest roller coaster at Ferrari World Abu Dhabi. What about the The Louvre Abu Dhabi? Opening in December of 2015 on Saadiyat Island, it’s sure to be worth a visit. It’s no secret that the U.A.E is typically known as a glamorous playground for the international rich and famous. That doesn’t mean it’s exclusive! Many hotels and attractions are actually pretty affordable, with rooms showing on Trivago from $62 USD a night!

Traveling around can be cheap too. With a one-day pass for unlimited rides on the Dubai metro and bus system coming in at less than $4 per person.  With that in mind, jump on the city’s popular Line 8 bus. Take a scenic trip from the Gold Souk through Heritage Village and along the beach. Cruise past the Burj al-Arab and Wild Wadi before ending near Internet City and the Mall of the Emirates. The Dubai Museum costs less than $1 or you could experience local history and culture at the Jumeirah Mosque for only $2.50.

Explore one of the oldest Emerati neighborhoods in Bur Dubai. Head to the Bastakiya district with a guide from the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding for $15. Spend the day at the Dubai Mall Aquarium for $15 per person. Gain free entry into Mushrif Park, home to swimming pools, horseback riding, and camel rides. Treat yourself to a seaside picnic at Jumeirah Public Beach.

All of this is just in Dubai. Don’t forget about Abu Dhabi, Fujairah, Sharjah, Ajman, Ras al-Khaimah, and Umm al-Qaiwain! All are worth visiting for their rich history and cultural experiences.

Mexico

Mexico is a much more desirable vacation spot these days. Right now, it is safe to travel to most major tourist areas. In these areas, there is nothing more to fear than if you were traveling to any other major city, worldwide. The best part? Affordable hotels, plenty of attractions, family fun, and beaches are up for grabs. The Riviera Maya is a great spot to take the family, with a variety of budget-friendly all-inclusive resorts. The Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit areas offer similar perks on the Pacific side. However, when traveling in Mexico there are risk factors. However, the U.S. Department of State says, “millions of U.S. citizens safely visit Mexico each year for study, tourism, and business, including more than 150,000 who cross the border every day.”

Russia

Moscow. St. Petersburg. Sochi. Three popular places full of Russian art, history, and culture. Now, Sochi will be playing host to the 2014 Winter Olympics. While the country remains a must-see on most travel bucket lists, visiting Russia nowadays can be an adventure steeped in controversy and bureaucratic red tape. U.S. citizens must go through as series of complicated procedures in order to gain a tourist visa. Not to mention that Russia has often received bad press. However, that doesn’t make it any less of a historical and beautiful place to visit. Be sure to pay attention to safety travel updates before continuing with your trip, but don’t forget to enjoy yourself!

Haiti

Haiti was considered a ‘no-go’ zone last year. However, this year, we are thrilled to say that it worth going if you have the chance! The island nation has recently upped its international travel game. This has resulted in new flight service to Port-au-Prince from New York City and Fort Lauderdale via JetBlue.

Several major international hotel chains have also returned to Haiti. The Best Western Premier Petion-Ville opened in December 2013, along with the Royal Oasis. Marriott International has also started construction in the Port-au-Prince area. It is expected to open a new hotel in 2015. The U.S. Department of State still technically has issued a Travel Warning but the main qualm is the slow response rate of emergency services.

They stress that travelers should obtain evacuation insurance in case of medical emergency since it may be difficult to access proper medical care in-country. If you travel smart, you would ensure this was in place regardless. It is recommended that you pre-arrange airport transfers and hotels, just to be on the safe side. Haiti is definitely a must-see on many people’s travel wishlist. 

Philippines

Despite recently being hit with by natural disasters, destinations like Boracay, Cebu, Bohol, Iloilo, and Bacolod, are still up and running and as beautiful as ever. Don’t let any of that put you off as there are many breathtaking experiences to be had. Why not visit the out-of-this-world Chocolate Hills in Bohol or see the Banaue Rice Terraces? How about swimming among the whale sharks in Donsol or diving at the Tubbataha Reef National Marine in Palawan? You could check out the nightlife in Manila or treat yourself to the ultimate beach vacation in Cebu or Boracay.

The Philippines are still, naturally trying to get back on their feet after the storm. If you want to help, why not donate to organizations like the American Red Cross or the Philippine Red Cross? Visiting the country and helping them increase their tourism income is a sure fire way to help their economic stability and ensure yourself the trip of a lifetime!

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Read more by Kaeli Conforti, Huffington Post

Kaeli Conforti/Celeste Duckworth

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