Best value destinations

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

Our essential annual hot-list of where in the world to go for wallet-friendly wandering, whether you’re hunting for a bargain or in search of old-school cheapness. Splurgers, look elsewhere.

1. Estonia

Tallinn

Tallinn, Estonia


If you’ve just got off the ferry from Stockholm or Helsinki then Estonia can feel like the promised land. Why? That chunk of change in your pocket you’ve had since last leaving the eurozone will buy you a round of drinks. Upsizing from a hostel to hotel might seem like a good – and affordable – idea. Best of all, what you get in exchange for your hard-earned cash is experiencing a gloriously distinctive slice of Europe, where Eastern and Nordic influences mix together. Beyond the irresistible capital of Tallinn there are little-known Baltic islands and the seashore and forest delights of Lahemaa National Park, which holds the distinction of being the first national park in the old Soviet Union.
The most cost-effective way to reach Estonia is to take a low-cost flight from a European hub. Shop around: Skyscanner (www.skyscanner.net) is a good place to look for fares from a multitude of carriers.

2. Ho Chi Minh City & Hanoi, Vietnam

Vietnam which is also suggested by two companies

The Price of Travel’s Backpacker Index (www.priceoftravel.com), ranking 31 Asian cities by price, confirms what many travellers have known for a while – Vietnam’s cities are tops for budget options. Both Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi (second and third in the list respectively) are in that most magical of price brackets for the budget traveller: US$20 per day or less for food, lodging and sights. Finding these prices will take you firmly into the territory of living like a local, which is another vote in favour of making a super-cheap city trip at some point this year.
Bia hoi, Vietnam’s famously low-priced beer, can be had for a few cents a glass across the country. You’ll need a few to get any buzz, and quality varies, but you can afford to try a few. Every day.

3East Africa

elephant in kenya

The outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa has, unfortunately for other areas of the continent, had a knock-on effect in terms of bookings for 2015. So listen up: London, Madrid and Paris are hundreds of miles closer to the outbreak in West Africa than East Africa’s tourism heartland. Africa is a massive continent (the United States would fit in the Sahara Desert), so you’ll be doing yourself and tourism in East Africa a favour if you take advantage of the cracking deals on offer to Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and the rest of the region. And in the process experience some of the world’s great  wonders, from gorilla encounters to Rift Valley scenery to squeaky-sanded beaches.
Explore Africa has a blog post offering Ebola information, perspective and a sobering geography lesson: www.exploreafrica.net/news/no-you-wontcatch-ebola-from-a-giraffe-in-kenya.

4. New Mexico, USA
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Looking for a beautiful, affordable, active, foodie corner of America’s southwest? Look no further. New Mexico powers your budget further. Dry, sunny weather is a near constant. Albuquerque’s Breaking Bad sights can be explored for the price of a trolley ride and washed down with a cheap eat from a hole-in-the-wall taqueria. Elsewhere, the winter sports are good and cheap and the outdoors is outstanding (and free): hiking in Alpine forests, petroglyph sites to track down and free wild hot springs. Given the richness of attractions all found within one state, New Mexico offers value from a time as well as monetary perspective.
For deals, coupons and bargains see the New Mexico website: newmexico.org/deals.

5. Bosnia & Hercegovina
sarajevo-zima-noc
All it takes to make Europe’s big hitters feel very pricey is for a few currency fluctuations to work against you. Thankfully there are still a few places where regardless of where you come from you’ll feel like you’re getting a good deal. Bosnia and Hercegovina is one of those. Inexpensive accommodation, meals and intercity transport combined with historic cities (Sarajevo and Mostar) and affordable adrenaline pursuits (rafting on the Una River and skiing) reward both the impecunious and those seeking a less well-travelled Europe.
Bosnia and Hercegovina can easily be combined with Balkan neighbours. Buses are the easiest way to get around.

6. Galicia, Spain
Spain-Flag-ss
Spain. Mapped by travellers? Not completely. Galicia in the northwest of the country is arguably Spain’s last frontier. Once you get beyond Santiago de Compostela, this wild region fragments into rocky coastline met by spectacular rías (inlets) and an interior of countless unspoilt villages. The region’s value comes not only from the lower costs compared with more-visited parts of Spain, but also from the quality of seafood and meat found in abundance in tapas bars, meaning tasting the good stuff in small portions costs less. And if you’re keen to save while sleeping over, aim for self-catering properties around the region, especially outside the school holidays.
Santiago gets the lion’s share of flights into the region, but Vigo and A Coruña are also affordable gateways to Galicia from around Europe.

7. Québec City, Canada

walking through Quebec City to my first foodie experience

walking through Quebec City to my first foodie experience

What to do if you live in North America and want to visit Europe, but lack the time and funds? Consider Québec City. Yes, we know it’s not in Europe. But there’s enough of the exotic in this Francophone city to remind you of the Old Continent. In a few days you can tour the beautiful, Unesco-listed old town, dine in old-school bistros and get thoroughly lost in the timeless cobblestone streets. With a little more time and your own wheels, Montmorency Forest and Jacques-Cartier National Park offer a wilder taste of the province and superb wildlife-viewing opportunities surprisingly close to the city.
Québec’s annual Winter Carnival (29 January to 14 February) is a hugely exciting cold-weather event. You’ll find parades, ice sculptures and outdoor winter sports events and banquets.

8. Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast

A costa Rican beach - one of the attractions for visitors from North America

Looking for a Costa Rica that’s more Tico than tourist, but with everything that makes the country such a big draw? Get to the country’s Caribbean coast and you’ll find a still-evolving destination that’s likely to become a big noise over the next few years. Here you’ll find nesting turtles at Tortuguero, rafting on the Río Pacuare and diving in the reefs of Manzanillo. Surfers and fans of laid-back black-sand beaches should aim for the southern coast. For now, this is a land mostly visited by independent travellers and those seeking out birdlife. Not sold? Two words: sloth sanctuary.
A wise investment for wildlife spotters is a good set of binoculars. They are easier to source from overseas, and they transform rainforest walks into bird-spotting adventures.

9. Timor-Leste
If you’re pondering a little-known and highly affordable destination then Timor-Leste (rather than East Timor, if you please) might just be the budget destination for you.
Away from the pricey hotels of the internationally-influenced capital of Dili, you’ll find bargain beach shacks on the pristine beaches of Jaco and Atauro Islands plus misty hill country and affordable guest houses. Despite ongoing security concerns, travelling round Timor can be an old-fashioned adventure, complete with bumpy roads and packed local transport. As an added bonus, you will be able to stare down any travel bore with Asia’s newest country added to your roster.
The most expensive part of a trip to Timor is likely to be the airfare. You can reach Dili from Darwin, Denpasar and Singapore. Book early for the best fares.

10. Western Australia

Perth, Western Australia

Currency fluctuations mean that the Australian dollar is a better deal for overseas visitors than it has been for a few years, and that Aussies may scale back overseas plans. This puts the dream-like landscapes of Western Australia, out of reach of some travellers thanks to the mining boom of the last few years, firmly back on the map. Beyond cosmopolitan Perth, iconic natural sights abound here, from the rocky coast and winelands of the southwest to the outback treats of the Kimberley, Kununurra and the Pinnacles.
Perth’s premier cultural institutions are free, so wallet-friendly exploring can be had at the Western Australian Museum, Art Gallery of Western Australia, State Library of Western Australia and Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts.

Words: Tom Hall

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Reproduced with permission from Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2016 © 2015 

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