Best value destinations 2015

By | Category: Travel destinations

Bang for your buck and pizzazz for your pound: here’s where to stretch 2015’s travel budget until it oozes contentment

Tunisia

Camel caravan in the Sahara Desert of Tunisia Image by Niko Guido/Vetta/Getty Images

Camel caravan in the Sahara Desert of Tunisia
Image by Niko Guido/Vetta/Getty Images


When it comes to Tunisia, the conversation has moved on from safety to recovery for tourism, and
a renewed appreciation of why the country is such a compelling destination. Travel warnings have been dropped and travellers are once again tuning in to North Africa’s most compact package. This year prices will remain tempting to lure travellers back, and lower crowds will mean that those who do come will get a more rewarding experience whether they stay in cosmopolitan Tunis, head for Saharan Star Wars sets or explore the Roman remains that dot the north of the country.
Seasonal charters from European airports to Djerba can be an excellent-value gateway into Tunisia.

South Africa

Aerial view of the V&A Waterfront and Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa Image by Mark Harris/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Aerial view of the V&A Waterfront and Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa
Image by Mark Harris/Digital Vision/Getty Images


Currency fluctuations mean that for certain travellers South Africa is more affordable than it has been for many years. Instead of just rejoicing in the undercooked rand, consider what South Africa offers value- seeking travellers at any time. How about fantastically accessible wildlife watching for all budgets, bargain public (and traveller-friendly) transport and free entry to many of the country’s museums? Most visitors will find something to please their budget, whether it’s a cheap-and- cheerful Cape Town seaside cafe or an affordable safari campsite.
Come in South Africa’s shoulder seasons (February, March, September and October) for the best combination of low crowds and comfortable weather.

Shanghai

Boats at Zhujiajiao, historic water town, Shanghai Image by Mark Horn/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Boats at Zhujiajiao, historic water town, Shanghai
Image by Mark Horn/Digital Vision/Getty Images


For all the upscale new openings in China’s most famous coastal city, Shanghai remains reassuringly affordable for budget travellers. No-nonsense dorms start at less than US$10, and the pleasing pricing continues through budget and mid-international big names and trendy boutique accommodation. It’s a similar story when eating out: characterful street-treats for a dollar, and big portions in popular restaurants for little more. Best of all, walking the city’s safe and buzzing streets is the best way to take the pulse of this fast-changing metropolis. SmartShanghai (www.smartshanghai.com) is a great place to keep pace with new happenings in this ever-changing city.

Samoa

Upolu, Samoa Image by Alejandro MC photo collection/Moment Open/Getty Images

Upolu, Samoa
Image by Alejandro MC photo collection/Moment Open/Getty Images


It feels like we’ve heard this one before: ‘Beautiful, undeveloped tropical paradise seeks underfunded travellers for discreet liaison. Applicants must enjoy no-nonsense budget buses and simple, idyllic beach hut accommodation (fales), owned by local families, who tend to throw in dinner. So as with so many places before it, we’d say get to Samoa soon. Best visited by jumping off from New Zealand or Australia, these islands are one of the best travel deals in the Pacific.
The markets of Apia, Samoa’s capital and largest town, offer a great introduction to everyday life. Maketi Fou, the biggest, is the place to come for souvenir hunting and Samoan street food.

Bali

Taman Ayun Temple, Bali Image by Elvera Venus Tandog/Moment/Getty Images

Taman Ayun Temple, Bali Image by Elvera Venus Tandog/Moment/Getty Images


While many budget-traveller favourites have grown up and got proper jobs running overpriced resorts, Bali never stopped delivering the goods. In fact, while backpacker- friendly beachside bungalows and other affordable digs still abound, with reasonable costs for food and transport thrown in. Bali is also pretty stonking value for mid-range adventurers who delight in air conditioning, distinctive Balinese style and a large range of quality places to stay. And of course, Balinese spa treatments are rightly famous, and cheaper than in many other places.
Bali’s international popularity is evidenced by the large number of winter flights from Russian cities – offering the unlikely combination of a snowy Trans- Siberian journey and a week on a Balinese beach

Uruguay

Uruguay cityscape and beach Image by Lucas Brentano/Moment/Getty Images

Uruguay cityscape and beach Image by Lucas Brentano/Moment/Getty Images


While Brazil’s travel scene burgeons as the World Cup rolls into town, Uruguay looks a better-value choice for a short excursion into South America. This proud buffer state has much to enjoy: sizzling steaks, laid-back Montevideo and a hip beach scene that tempts travellers further round the sandy coast each year. While you should watch out for peak-time costs on the coast, this remains an underrated, affordable corner of South America.
The sleepy riverside town of Fray Bentos is home to a memorable museum: the former factory of the world-famous beef processor of the same name.

Portugal

Praia do Benagil, Lagoa, Portugal Image by Valter Jacinto/Moment/Getty Images

Praia do Benagil, Lagoa, Portugal Image by Valter Jacinto/Moment/Getty Images


That Portugal’s Algarve region trumps prices at other European resort areas isn’t a surprise to regular visitors. This surf and family-friendly region remains the destination of choice for a more-than-sun seaside holiday, and it’s not all that great-value Portugal has to offer. Lisbon (pictured overleaf), as happening as Barcelona with fewer crowds, and cheaper, is
set to get a whole lot more accessible as low-cost airline Ryanair opens a base in the Portuguese capital. Head anywhere in the country off the tourist trail, and costs come down further.
For a great-value tour of Lisbon hop on tram 28, which rattles around taking in many of the city’s highlights, including the Alfama district and the views from the Miradouro de Santa Luzia for €2.85.

Taiwan

Taipei, Taiwan Image by Balmung/Moment/Getty Images

Taipei, Taiwan
Image by Balmung/Moment/Getty Images


Taiwan delivers great all-round value. Taipei is significantly cheaper than Hong Kong, Seoul or Tokyo, and while hotels are a big expense, dorm beds and homestays abound in Taiwan and camping is common in a lot of the island’s national parks and forests. Rail passes are standardised and cheap on fast and modern lines. Admission to many attractions and temples is cheap, and even major museums are affordable. Eating, perhaps the main attraction in Taiwan, is accessible to all whether tucking high- end fare at lower prices than comparable cities.
A large bottle of Taiwanese beer will set you back around NT$120 (US$4), or much less if you get one from a grocery shop.

Romania

Black Church in Brasov, Romania Image by Holger Mette/ E+/Getty Images

Black Church in Brasov, Romania
Image by Holger Mette/ E+/Getty Images


Eastern European nations frequently appear in best-value lists, but in Romania’s case the entry is entirely warranted. Now vigorously connected to the rest of Europe by budget airlines, accommodation compares well in all price brackets to bigger-name destinations in the region. Bucharest is a case in point, where hotel beds largely welcome business travellers, so holiday season is, unusually, low season. Away from here there are budget-friendly homestays in medieval villages, spectacular castles and the unique Danube Delta, best explored by inexpensive, if slow, ferries.
Private vans known as ‘maxitaxis’, together with buses and minivans, form the cheapest way to get routes, times, fares and departure points.

Bukina Faso

Gurunsi painted villages in Burkina Faso Image by Anthony Pappone/Moment Open/Getty Images

Gurunsi painted villages in Burkina Faso
Image by Anthony Pappone/Moment Open/Getty Images


Bukina Faso remains a rare gem. Little known, but producing sighs of wanton desire to return from anyone who’s been. Those in the know will tell of colourful markets, friendly locals, spectacular rock formations and the immense fun of Ouagadougou, the tongue-twisting capital with a lively arts scene. With costs affordable and surprisingly good wildlife-spotting in the south you’d be hard-pressed to find a more satisfying introduction to West Africa.

At the top end of travel around Burkina are reliable air-conditioned buses, with guaranteed departures and advance ticketing. At the other are more ramshackle taxi-brousses (bush taxis) which cover more remote stops.
BestInTravel2015

 Extract taken from Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015 (£9.99; out now;  www.lonelyplanet.com/best-in-travel)

 

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