A major element of the MBA experience is travel. To truly learn about business requires a global perspective, and top MBA programs intentionally organize numerous trips and treks to expose their students to new corners of the world. Informally as well, MBAs frequently travel together to take advantage of planned breaks in the school year that go away once you re-enter the workforce.
CommonBond polled over 1,000 current business students to find out where they’re most excited to travel next. From these responses, we’ve curated a list of the Top 10 Must-Visit Destinations to help inspire your next MBA trip. Read on for ideas of where to stamp your passport next.
With tropical beaches, lush Amazonian rainforest, and bustling cities, Colombia has a bit of everything. While staying in Cartagena, you can relax on pristine beaches, explore natural salt mines, and even swim in a mud volcano (bring extra clothes!). If that doesn’t take care of your nature fix, a visit to the Amacayacu National Park should do the trick – the park borders the Amazon rainforest and is packed with exotic wildlife. For urban explorers, you’ll want to start your trip by sampling local cafes for the best (and strongest) cup of Colombian coffee. Then, learn to dance salsa in one of Medellin’s many clubs or tour a historic museum or church in Bogota.
Extra Credit: Financiers shouldn’t miss the financial district in Colombia’s capitol city of Bogota. Known as the “Chapinero” neighborhood, over half of the financial transactions in the country take place here. The “Bolsa de Valores de Colombia,” or the Colombian stock market, calls this affluent area home.
For those craving a southeast Asia trip, Thailand holds its own. Brush up on history as you tour the opulent Grand Palace grounds and residence in Bangkok. Then, venture to one of Bangkok’s floating markets, where local vendors sell produce, fresh juices, and other foodstuffs right from their boats. Thailand’s endless coastline and thousands of islands warrant at least a day spent traveling via boat to explore the beaches and marine life. Many Phuket-based boat tour companies offer snorkeling, diving, or kayaking to boost the boat experience.
Extra Credit: On the 15+ hour flight over, find time to read up on recent economic efforts in Thailand that have been credited with creating noticeable (albeit not always enduring) GDP growth in a previously impoverished nation.
#8. New Zealand
Speaking of long flights, the 8th hottest MBA trip destination is New Zealand. With extreme and breathtaking geography, New Zealand is paradise for those who love the outdoors. Adventurers can rock climb, cliff dive, white-water raft, surf, hike a volcano or glacier, dive in a cave, and even body board down a rockslide. Afterwards, be sure to go wine tasting in New Zealand’s robust wine country – guided tours leave daily from Auckland and smaller towns like Queenstown. Finally, don’t miss the chance to see the city from new heights in Auckland’s iconic Sky Tower, standing at over 1067 feet high.
Extra Credit: For MBAs interested in working in media, the growing city of Wellington is home to international film studios that created major blockbusters like Avatar and The Lord of the Rings. Tour a studio and then rent a car to visit the on-site locations for these films.
Heading back to South America, Brazil also offers unparalleled experiences in nature, such as exotic beaches, Amazonian wildlife, and even sand dunes dotted with swimmable lagoons. If you are traveling for spring break, you might be able to enjoy the Carnival celebration where the city of Rio de Janeiro shuts down for colorful week-long parades, performances, and dancing. You can enjoy the party in the streets or opt for more expensive booths along the parade route that include food and drink packages. And sports fans, check the schedule for when the local futbol teams will be playing at one of the many soccer arenas in Rio.
Extra Credit: Students interested in real estate markets should visit Sao Paulo, which in the past decade experienced a real estate boom as a result of thoughtful urban planning and investment in public spaces and transportation.
In a country with 65 cities that house over 1 million residents each (compared to just 11 US cities that can say the same), China can hardly be tackled in one trip.[3,4] But for starters, Bejing is home to an array of historical sites such as the Imperial Palace, Lama Temple, and more recently, the Olympic Park from the 2008 summer games. Drive about two hours outside of Beijing and you’ll find yourself at the Great Wall of China where you can spend the day walking a portion of the ancient barrier. If Beijing doesn’t strike your fancy, opt for Shanghai, where you can book authentic food tours, browse art museums, and observe the impressive skyline by boat on the Huangpu River.
Extra Credit: Don’t miss the Shanghai World Financial Center. Not only a notable hub for global industry, the tower offers a bird’s eye view of the city on its 100th floor observation deck.
Another country that is almost impossible to tackle in one fell swoop; India has righteously earned the #5 spot on CommonBond’s top MBA destinations. For historical sites and iconic locations, New Delhi is the place to go. The Lotus Temple, India Gate, and Humayun’s Tomb provide a sample of the local architecture and history. After exploring the sites in New Delhi, a day trip to the Taj Mahal will likely be due. Notably, the city of Mumbai boasts a growing high-end culinary scene, with Asian-fusion flavors dominating the menus. For the daredevils, we suggest a rickshaw ride through the city streets.
Extra credit: Outside New Delhi exists Gurgaon, a city known to be India’s hub of industry. Lean startups and established giants live here (see: Google and Nokia). Due to slow and limited local government, these companies run the city’s public services, from EMT to park upkeep.
#4. South Africa
Moving to the southern hemisphere, Cape Town offers a variety of outdoor activities, many inside Table Mountain National Park. Within the park, you can embark on hikes that end in sweeping views of the coast and city, ascend the mountain via cable car, or even peek at the endangered African Penguins in the Boulders Penguin Colony. For more animal sightings, you can book a guided safari tour through the many tour companies in Cape Town. South Africa’s expanding wine industry also deserves to be experienced – just outside of Cape Town you can explore the numerous vineyards and their grapes’ full flavors.
Extra credit: If you’re interested in venture capital, make the trip to Johannesburg, which is rich with growing startups and innovation.
Patagonia is a region located at the southernmost tip of South America, stretching across both Chile and Argentina. Compared to the other locations on this list, Patagonia is relatively remote. The region is famous for its jagged mountains, clear lakes, and massive glaciers. Los Glaciares National Park is a good place to start your trek. If you tire of hiking, book a boat tour of the glaciers for an alternative vantage point – some companies also take passengers to popular whale watching spots.
Extra credit: While you’re unlikely to encounter massive industrial hubs in Patagonia, check out this article about the more metropolitan areas of Argentina fostering the growth of “unicorn” tech startups.
As runner up to the top destination, Israel is ripe with ancient sites to explore. The Old City in Jerusalem contains holy sites for Jews, Muslims, and Christians alike and is not far from the super-salty Dead Sea, where you can take a float. The archaeological site of Magdala houses ancient artifacts and offers an unparalleled vantage point to the Sea of Galilee. Check out the numerous art and design museums in Tel Aviv and sample authentic hummus (and other cuisine) at the Sarona Market. Afterwards, head to one of the city’s 16 beaches.
Extra credit: For students interested in tech and innovation, Tel Aviv is considered Silicon Valley’s smaller counterpart. Here you’ll find home-grown companies that have seen sweeping popularity in the US, such as Waze, Wix, and Via, among others.
And the top destination MBAs are excited to travel to this year is: Japan! Soak up thousands of years of history within Tokyo city limits at the Senso-ji Temple, the Meiji-jingu Shrine, or the Tokyo Imperial Palace. Find a vast variety of bento boxes and other authentic prepared foods on the bottom floor of the department stores in Shibuya, where Japanese businesspeople can also be found scouting out lunch options. Then head outside to Shibuya Crossing to see the world’s busiest intersection. Traveling toward the countryside, you can hike Mount Fuji or view the active volcano from cable car. Take the bullet train to Kyoto, where you’ll discover the iconic "golden palace” (Kinkakuji) and dozens of other temples and shrines to visit in between meals at rotating sushi bars.
Extra credit: Techies should visit Tokyo’s Akihabara neighborhood, known as the electronics district. Gadget heaven, huge department stores sell every type of device you’ve heard of, and some you haven’t. Akihabara also serves as a type of informal cultural headquarters for the gaming industry.
And wherever you end up traveling to during business school, know that you can do it without breaking the bank. Here are a few tips CommonBond has compiled to help you see the world without seeing lots of dollar signs:
- If you are traveling with a big group, call the hotel sales team (ask the front desk to transfer your call to “bookings”) and ask to negotiate the price. Try to find previous promotions the hotel has run and use those numbers as a starting point. Even if you don’t have enough rooms for a block, usually they’ll work with you. If they can’t offer a price reduction, ask if they can cover transport to and from the airport.
- Aim to book your flights at least 2 months in advance. If you’re flying during a holiday, 3 months in advance is best. Once you land, research public transport options to get into the city rather than spend $50+ on a rideshare or cab.
- Apply for a travel credit card that allows you to earn flight and hotel points. Most airline cards also offer free checked bags and zero foreign transaction fees, which can help you save even more during travel.
- Don’t dine anywhere close to famous tourist attractions. These restaurants tend to be more expensive and less authentic. Instead, ask friends who have visited the city for recommendations.
- Find a local grocery store where you can stock up on breakfast and lunch items. Also, bring a reusable water bottle from home.
- If you have a flexible return flight, consider putting in a bid to be put on a later flight in exchange for credits or miles that you can use on your next trip.