You can regard this list as that typical “50 places to go this year” piece, but without the bloat of all the places having the only reason “why not now?”. Each place below offers a specific advantage to visitors in 2015, some of them being transient, such as favourable exchange rate fluctuations, – others more or less permanent, such as new legislation.

1. China – expanding its 72-hour visa-free regime

Chinese authorities have been steadily expanding the list of cities which fall under the new 72-hour no-visa initiative throughout the past year; currently (as of January 2015) there are already 11 of them: Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, Shenyang, Dalian, Xian, Guilin, Kunming and Hangzhou, the last one having joined since October 2014. This means that visitors from outside China can now explore some of the relatively non-touristy spots for three days without the need to apply for a full-scale visa. So take the chance to walk the bridges of the serene West Lake of Hangzhou, one of the wealthiest cities of China for most of the last millenium, until tourist crowds make it into yet another endless photoshoot spot.

Hangzhou’s West Lake, with its pagodas and bridges, is arguably one of China’s most picturesque places. By Ian C / CC2.0

Hangzhou’s West Lake, with its pagodas and bridges, is arguably one of China’s most picturesque places. By Ian C / CC2.0

Currently citizens of 51 countries are eligible for the visa-free transit, given they have a connecting flight via one of the abovementioned Chinese cities. All you need to do is to inform the airline at check-in of your intention to use the 72-hour transit opportunity and fill in a form during the inbound flight. Note that you need to register at a local police station once you leave the airport upon your arrival to China, yet if you stay in a hotel it will most likely do it for you. Before booking your flight via China, make sure to check you local Chinese embassy website for further details of the programme.

2. Japan – depreciating yen means lower costs for incoming tourists

There’s an economic reason to consider visiting Japan these days: the 15% depreciation of the yen relative to the US dollar and some other major currencies during the last year, which means that a lot of things have become somewhat more affordable, especially local food, attractions and shopping. The country’s tourism industry can be said to have fully recovered from the 2011 earthquake and Fukushima nuclear plant event, hinted by the inbound visitor numbers which reached consecutive historical highs for the last two years, after a sharp dip in the year of the disaster.

Shopping streets are as busy as ever in Tokyo. By Caleb Kung  / CC2.0

Shopping streets are as busy as ever in Tokyo. By Caleb Kung / CC2.0

So if you’ve always wanted to buy an authentic samurai sword, or a collectible gundam figure, or some less trivial items of which Japan has no shortage whatsoever, like cute colourful rubber poo or BDSM toy kittens, this is your chance!

3. Lithuania – euro adoption means smoother purchasing experience

This hidden gem has definitely become more convenient to visit (especially so for the dwellers of the Eurozone) after the transition to euro on the 1st of January 2015. While the former national currency litas has already been pegged to the euro for the last 13 years, tourists are now free of the hassle of buying the local money when they enter the country.

Trakai Castle, built in the 14th century when Lithuania ruled half of Eastern Europe. Photo by Mindaugas Danys / CC2.0

Trakai Castle, built in the 14th century when Lithuania ruled half of Eastern Europe. Photo by Mindaugas Danys / CC2.0

Lithuania’s path into the Eurozone has been bumpy, with the initial intention to join back in 2007 thwarted by the ensuing global financial crisis, but now it’s all in the past, and you can enjoy a cup of well-made kava (strong black coffee, Lithuanian-style) with a piece of šakotis cake in the cozy medieval streets of Vilnius, or go on a tour of the breathtaking Trakai Castle Island – and pay with the second-most used currency in the world.

4. Singapore – celebrating its 50th birthday

This year the city-state of Singapore is having its Golden Jubilee, aka 50th independence anniversary, and everyone’s invited! The celebrations will continue for the entire year, with each month offering something new and special, from local media and art projects to the huge parade on the National Day, the 9th of August.

Singapore skyline by Luke Ma / CC2.0

Singapore skyline by Luke Ma / CC2.0

You can check out the upcoming events on the SG50 official website. In case you’re up for an adventure in a high-spirited cosmopolitan metropolis, Singapore is the place to be in 2015.

5. South Africa – cheaper national currency favors international visits

The South African rand has been on a continuous decline against all major currencies since the middle of 2011, for example more than 40% relative to the US dollar. What this means is that people whose income is not in rands (i.e. pretty much all people outside South Africa, Swaziland and Lesotho) will most likely feel that they can buy more for a unit of their cash in SA than they could’ve bought several years ago.

Cape Point near Cape Town, by Nicolas Raymond / CC2.0

Cape Point near Cape Town, by Nicolas Raymond / CC2.0

Travelers from all over the world flock to South Africa for its magnificent landscapes and nature, as well as pleasant climate. The country’s tourism industry is thriving, with established and new players offering a wide range of activities for any taste; it’s also the place to be for those who are attracted by the concept of responsible tourism.

6. Colorado, United States – recreational marijuana

There is now one more reason to visit the US state of Colorado, and that is of course the move by the local authorities to legalize the consumption and keeping of products derived from a certain plant of the Cannabis genus.

Maroon Bells in Elk Mountains, Colorado. Photo by Dhaval Shreyas / CC2.0

Maroon Bells in Elk Mountains, Colorado. Photo by Dhaval Shreyas / CC2.0

This, of course, is just a nice “bonus” compared to the breathtaking natural attractions of Colorado, yet for many it might make the process of taking in all the raw beauty of the Elk Mountains and the Black Canyon even more fulfilling. And yes, there’s an entire website dedicated to recreational marijuana in Colorado, with detailed information and store location maps.

7. Russia – tumbling ruble and bad press raising the value-for-money

There are two reasons why Russia is on this list: firstly, the sharp decline in the value of its national currency, and secondly – the flurry of negative publicity that this country has gained in the Western press due to the actions of its president. The ruble has lost nearly half its value against all main currencies following the fall in oil prices in the second half of 2014, which means goods and services inside the country have become significantly cheaper for foreign visitors. The decline in tourist demand due to the spillover effect from the critique of Mr. Putin also prevents the hotels and other tourist-targeted service providers from raising their prices to take advantage of the opportunity.

Hermitage in St. Petersburg, one of the largest museums and art galleries in the world. Photo by Ninara / CC2.0

Hermitage in St. Petersburg, one of the largest museums and art galleries in the world. Photo by Ninara / CC2.0

Since all this doesn’t make the ordinary Russian people “denizens of Mordor”, and Moscow or St. Petersburg any less impressive places to explore, this year might offer a great opportunity to do just that.