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It’s definitely worth choosing these specific destinations in the future if you want to travel for less: Canadian travelers can get 23 completely free hotel nights in these 5 countries (or 11 nights without a travel buddy). And the best thing is that these spots are pretty amazing—and the hotels are beautiful too!

Here are the 5 best countries for Marriott category 1 hotels—AKA the 5 amazing destinations where you can easily get 11 free nights with the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card‘s welcome bonus (the points won’t expire and there’s no deadline to book at all)!

To be very clear, this is not the complete list of all your hotel options: you can check out the list of all 274 Marriott category 1 hotels if you want to see them all (with more recommendations and details to come).

If you want even more destination options, you can also instead get 13 free nights (6 without a travel buddy) in 1,100 hotels in 50 countries: you can see the 26 amazing destinations where you can easily get 13 free hotel nights or the full list of Marriott category 2 hotels.

And you can read the section at the end of this post that explains the deal… and why we only list 5 countries.

 

1. Indonesia

The heavenly island of Bali is extremely popular—and for good reason. But there are plenty of luxurious options on 6 different Indonesian islands.

Bali, Indonesia (photo credit: Harry Kessell)

 

You can build an itinerary that includes the following destinations, thanks to the 14 Marriott category 1 hotel options in Indonesia:

  • Bali
  • Jakarta
  • Belitung
  • Manado
  • Surabaya
  • Sumatra

You can see the detailed post about Marriott hotels in Indonesia (coming soon). A detailed itinerary for a cheap trip to Indonesia thanks to this deal will be one of the next posts we publish.

We loved our trip to the country. And these hotels are mostly well-located and they pretty much all look beautiful and luxurious (standards are high in Asia). If you want to get away from everything after this past year, Bali is the ideal place to go spend many free nights with its 2 beautiful eligible hotels.

In addition to the Four Points by Sheraton Bali Ungasan in the lush tropical greenery (on this post’s cover image above), the other one is a lot closer to the action and the beach in Kuta: the Fairfield Bali Legian.

Fairfield Bali Legian Marriott category 1 hotel (photo credit: Marriott)

 

To give just one other example, the Fairfield Belitung is a waterfront hotel on an island that seems very tempting.

Best Marriott Category 1 Hotels - Fairfield Belitung
Fairfield Belitung Marriott category 1 hotel (photo credit: Marriott website)

 

2. Malaysia

If you prefer a Malaysian island, Penang looks very nice (it is south of the Thai border). Also, I can tell you the Kuala Lumpur metropolis is so much fun.

Penang, Malaysia (photo credit: Geraldine Ng)

 

You can build an itinerary that includes the following destinations, thanks to the 7 Marriott category 1 hotel options in Malaysia (and flights to Indonesia are ≈ $50 if you want to experience both):

  • Kuala Lumpur
  • George Town
  • South Penang
  • Borneo

You can see the detailed post about Marriott hotels in Malaysia (coming soon).

If you are more of an urban adventurer, Kuala Lumpur is also literally one of the cheapest cities I’ve ever been to. Check out this epic view from the Four Points by Sheraton Kuala Lumpur Chinatown (and we stayed at the other one in the Puchong neighborhood, it was also very nice).

View from the pool at the Four Points by Sheraton Kuala Lumpur Chinatown (photo credit: Marriott)

 

While we haven’t been to Penang Island, we’ve heard only positive things. The Courtyard Penang is the one I’ll showcase since it’s brand new and within walking distance of a UNESCO World Heritage site and not too far from nice beaches (but the other option, the AC Hotel Penang, might be in a quieter spot).

Courtyard Penang Marriott category 1 hotel (photo credit: Marriott)

 

3. India

India is a huge country, and you can explore many parts of it with many hotels that are well located in interesting cities.

Hyderabad, India (photo credit: Prasanth Dasari)

 

You can build an itinerary that includes the following destinations, thanks to the 34 Marriott category 1 hotel options in India:

  • Hyderabad
  • Kochi
  • Chennai
  • Bangalore
  • Ahmedabad
  • Visakhapatnam
  • Jaipur
  • Madurai
  • Pune
  • and many others

You can see the detailed post about Marriott hotels in India (coming soon).

Everyone who has been to India says that the country is unlike anywhere else in the world. You can explore the less touristy places with hotels in many cities that look cool, with temples, historical sites, and even beaches.

India is home to the only Marriott category 1 hotel that is part of the Luxury Collection brand (one of the most luxurious of the 30 Marriott hotel brands), the 5-star ITC Kakatiya Luxury Collection Hyderabad.

ITC Kakatiya Luxury Collection Marriott category 1 hotel (photo credit: Marriott)

 

In the southern city of Kochi, there is also a rare Le Méridien-branded hotel in category 1 (the Le Méridien Kochi).

Le Méridien Kochi Marriott category 1 hotel (photo credit: Marriott)

 

4. South Africa

The best country for luxury hotels could very well be South Africa, with many options near natural attractions… including some with their own private game reserve on location!

Game reserve at the Protea Hotel Polokwane Marriott category 1 hotel (photo credit: Marriott)

 

You can build an itinerary that includes the following destinations, thanks to the 22 Marriott category 1 hotel options in South Africa:

  • Limpopo
  • Clarens
  • Kimberley
  • Johannesburg
  • Pretoria
  • Cape Town suburbs
  • and many others

You can see the detailed post about Marriott hotels in South Africa.

We both visited South Africa specifically to take advantage of these well-located and often luxurious hotels (and there are some in neighboring Namibia and Zambia too). It’s a wonderful and exotic destination.

The Protea Hotel Polokwane Ranch Resort above brings the safari to you: you can see 25 species of antelope and 200 species of birds at the hotel, which is in the Limpopo natural reserve.

You can also stay in a traditional rondavel-style room at the Protea Hotel Oudtshoorn Riempie Estate.

Protea Hotel Oudtshoorn Riempie Estate Marriott category 1 hotel (photo credit: Marriott)

 

If you are roadtripping, or if you want a quiet mountain getaway, the Protea Hotel Clarens might have been the most beautiful category 1 hotel I’ve ever stayed at. It’s in a pretty little artsy town.

Protea Hotel Clarens Marriott category 1 hotel (photo credit: Marriott)

 

5. Spain

It’s true that most options in Spain are in smaller less-touristy towns (typical for a more expensive and popular country), but they are quite nice and are centrally located in the cities and it will make for a more authentic trip and a typically Spanish experience—and it’s one of our readers’ favorite countries too.

Murcia, Spain (photo credit: Raul Soriano)

 

You can build an itinerary that includes the following destinations, thanks to the 10 Marriott category 1 hotel options in Spain:

  • Valladolid
  • La Línea (near Gibraltar)
  • Elda
  • Murcia
  • A Coruña
  • and many others

You can see the detailed post about Marriott hotels in Spain.

España is beautiful and there is no shortage of reasons to visit. But its abundance of Marriott hotels in lower categories is why I spent over 2 weeks there with my girlfriend in 2019, and we loved it. Some of these hotels are also great bases to explore the outdoors.

A nice one is the AC Hotel Palacio de Santa Ana in Valladolid, a historic luxury 5-star hotel built on the site of an 18th-century convent, north of Madrid. From here you can even day-trip to popular sites like Segovia, Salamanca, or Ávila.

AC Hotel Palacio de Santa Ana Marriott category 1 hotel (photo credit: Marriott)

 

If you’re more of a city-slicker, the AC Hotel Murcia is in one of Spain’s 10 largest cities, although it’s a little further from the center than the other options.

The AC Hotel Murcia’s facade (photo credit: Marriott)

 

Bonus: Turkey and more

Since we like giving you more for your money here at Flytrippers, we sometimes add bonuses to our lists.

So Turkey has a lot fewer options, but it’s a great example of what we mean in the following section—and it’s one of our favorite countries in the world too (after visiting over 60 in my case).

Ephesus, Turkey (photo credit: Bugra Karacam)

 

You can build an itinerary that includes the following destinations, thanks to the 4 Marriott category 1 hotel options in Turkey:

  • İzmir
  • Samsun

You can see the detailed post about Marriott hotels in Turkey.

We’ve visited both of those cities ourselves and had a great time (we’ll have a lot more content about Turkey soon) but these are definitely not the very top spots in Turkey. So maybe you’d want to combine these with a stay in Istanbul and in Cappadocia (instead of just sticking to Marriott category 1 hotels only like in the above 5 countries).

The 5-star Sheraton Grand Samsun Hotel is located on the Black Sea and it was a very luxurious stay last fall. In the summer, it must be very nice, with the beach just next to it.

Sheraton Grand Samsun Marriott category 1 hotel (photo credit: Marriott)

 

And we loved İzmir in the Aegean region (a great base for daytrips to Ephesus or the beaches facing the Greek islands). The Four Points by Sheraton Izmir is modern and close enough to the city center (a quick train ride).

Four Points by Sheraton Izmir Marriott category 1 hotel (photo credit: Marriott)

 

And in other countries, the hotels are even better and in ever better locations in even better destinations, but sometimes…

  • There is just one hotel in the country (like the Aloft in downtown Panama City, Panama)
  • There are not many well-located hotels in the country (like the AC Hotel on the waterfront in Veracruz, Mexico)
  • The destinations are more off-the-beaten-path (like the Renaissance 5-star waterfront hotel in Kazakhstan)
  • Or a combination of all those factors (like the Four Points chalet-style mountain resort in Montenegro)

Other highlights that didn’t quite make the cut include:

 

Why we’ve narrowed it to just these best countries

You can obviously combine any of the 274 hotels in the list of all Marriott category 1 hotels any way you like; this post is just to give you concrete examples of the top spots where you can go for your epic trip without having to spend a dime on lodging at all.

In other words, places:

  • With many eligible hotel options in the same country
  • Where the hotels are luxurious
  • Where the hotels are well-located in cool destinations that many travelers enjoy

But there are many more Marriott category 1 options if you want to:

  • Discover authentic cities (for example, if you want to experience China there are plenty of options there in less popular cities)
  • Stay longer in just one place (regular travelers might not want to stay in Paraguay, but long-term travelers might)
  • Combine them with non-Marriott hotels/hostels (booked with Hotels.com to get 10% back), or Airbnbs in other cool destinations nearby
  • Combine them with some of the many Marriott category 2 hotels (if you don’t mind getting a bit fewer nights for your points to get more destination options)

 

How to take advantage of these 23 free nights

As a reminder of the basics, unlocking the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card‘s welcome bonus will give you 73,000 Marriott points. That’s 146,000 Marriott points if your travel buddy also gets one.

That’s enough for a whopping 23 completely free nights in over 250 hotels around the world: Marriott category 1 hotels.

Marriott Bonvoy American Express® Card
Flytrippers Valuation
of Welcome Bonus alone
≈ $
minimum income required: $0
spend $1,500
in 3 months
Terms and conditions apply. Flytrippers editorial opinion only. Amex is not responsible for maintaining the content on this site. Please click "Apply Now" to see most up-to-date information.
Marriott Bonvoy American Express® Card
Flytrippers Valuation
of Welcome Bonus alone
≈ $
minimum income
required: $0
spend $1,500
in 3 months
Terms and conditions apply. Flytrippers editorial opinion only. Amex is not responsible for maintaining the content on this site. Please click "Apply Now" to see most up-to-date information.

That’s as easy and great a deal as you’ll ever find! It’s one of the best in Canada—if not the best. We’ve taken advantage of it ourselves and it really works.

And if the minimum spending requirement is too hard to reach twice (once on each card) despite our tips

Even if you just get 1 card now and get the 2nd one later, you’ll still be able to get almost as many free nights (or easily make up the difference with what you earn with your spending after the welcome bonus).

Have a question? Ask me here.

 

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Summary

These 5 countries are the best options to get 23 free hotel nights, at least for most travelers. The welcome bonus on the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card is a great opportunity to travel for less if you plan your trips around these Marriott category 1 hotels.

What would you like to know about these destinations? Tell us in the comments below.

 

Explore awesome destinations: travel inspiration

Learn pro tricks: travel tips

Discover free travel: travel rewards

 

Featured image: Four Points by Sheraton Bali Ungasan (photo credit: Marriott)

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Andrew D'Amours

Andrew is the co-founder of Flytrippers. He is passionate about traveling the world but also, as a former management consultant, about the travel industry itself. He shares his experiences to help you save money on travel. As a very cost-conscious traveler, he loves finding deals and getting free travel thanks to travel rewards points... to help him visit every country in the world (current count: 62/193 Countries, 46/50 US States & 9/10 Canadian Provinces).

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