When we talk about bargain destinations, plenty of familiar names come up, including India, Thailand, Morocco, Vietnam, and Mexico. But some of the world’s most infamously “pricey” destinations offer fantastic values. With the US dollar riding high, it’s time to move some of those dream trips off the bucket list and onto your holiday planner. Here are some affordable travel ideas for the savvy globetrotter.
Never mind the flight time. Australia’s sheer cost has been intimidating would-be travellers for several years now. That is, until recently, when the country’s dollar lost almost a third of its value. Hotels in Sydney and Melbourne were already a bargain compared to many popular western cities, and the shift in currency has driven costs even lower. On top of this, many of the best attractions in these major centres, including the beaches, galleries, gardens, and some museums, are absolutely free. Gas prices in Australia have also taken a tumble, giving your self-drive itinerary the freedom to go further. Costs will naturally run much higher in remote regions such as Western Australia or the Northern Territory, but most of Australia’s popular stops remain very accessible, both geographically, and financially. Best of all, a wide range of flight-inclusive Australia vacations will get you there for even less.
In one of the world’s most technologically advanced societies, one 80s relic persists – Japan’s pricey reputation! Unforgettable $200+ tasting banquets can certainly be had at Tokyo’s hottest sushi bars and Michelin-starred restaurants (assuming you can get a booking). But you can just as easily chow down with the workers on cheap and delicious rice and noodle dishes, pick up a perfectly balanced bento box for a picnic in the park, or take in the atmosphere and delicious meals at an authentic Japanese pub. Likewise, accommodation runs the whole gamut from exclusive ryokans and spa resorts, to the cheap and cozy capsule hotel (not recommended for those over 6’3″, but a uniquely Japanese experience!). Splash out on top-notch traditional entertainment (Or…not so traditional. Where else can you enjoy dinner while watching robot fights?), or pick up a one-act ticket at Kabuki-za, for a budget-friendly taste of this unique theatrical form. In addition, many of the popular sights, attractions, and temples in Tokyo, Kyoto, and other popular stops on your Japan tour are either quite cheap or free.
Safari in Africa
At first glance, the cost of an Africa safari can come as a rude shock, and the further you get from “civilization,” the ruder it is. Never fear. This is one bucket list item you can fulfill at almost any fair price, provided you’re willing to be flexible on where you go, and on your level of accommodation. Those on a modest budget determined to see Africa’s classic Big 5 – elephants, rhinos, Cape buffalo, lions, and leopards – will find a wide range of options in South Africa, where parks are plentiful and tourism is well developed at all price points. That’s good news for animal lovers discouraged by prices in neighbouring Botswana (where the safaris are spectacular, but often come at a matching cost). Less developed East Africa is likewise typically more expensive, though those willing to rough it somewhat by camping can keep their costs down. Namibia is another strong budget alternative, offering a unique range of both landscapes and endemic wildlife. Keep in mind that this means seeing unique, localized subspecies of some of the more popular animals, such as Kalahari lions. The country also boasts the highest concentration of cheetahs in the world.
14-Day East Africa Safari Super Special
The cost of a dream honeymoon in Tahiti can add up fast. But there are many ways to save, provided you don’t have your heart set on exclusive, high-end properties. Prices in Tahiti (or more accurately, French Polynesia) vary wildly, from affordable stays on the main island to the famous overwater bungalows of Bora Bora, right up to exclusive resorts like The Brando. Honeymooners may find the islands of Moorea and Huahine a comfortable midpoint, delivering much of what makes Tahiti famous at an accessible price. But even Bora Bora can be more affordable than its reputation suggests. Most resorts offering overwater bungalows also offer cheaper options, and will happily switch you if you just want to splash out for this luxury experience for just one night. When it comes to food, Tahiti blends the best of Pacific, French, and other cuisines. Again, this doesn’t have to break the bank, particularly at famous Les Roulettes, an outdoor dining experience that could even teach Los Angeles a thing or two about food truck cuisine. You can also save a bundle by booking air-inclusive trips that couple low airfares with special room rates.
8-Day Bora Bora Vacation with Airfare
London is one of the most expensive cities in the world, especially for visitors. But here’s the thing, once you’ve paid for accommodation, meals, and transport, you can enjoy several days of world class sightseeing here without spending a penny. The British Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, The National Gallery, The Tate Modern, Hyde Park, the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, The Natural History Museum, The London Museum, and many more are absolutely free. Even the world famous theatre scene can be a bargain if you’re willing to forego a few comforts. Pick up a £5 “Yard” ticket (standing) to Shakespeare’s Globe, or a cheap same-day ticket to a world class West End show. The rest of the UK might not offer so many free options, but the hotel and restaurant bills come down considerably, helping to balance your budget. You can even net a discounted airfare in conjunction with certain small group Britain tours.
14 FREE Things to Do in Britain
Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands
There’s no pretending that a cruise in the Galapagos Islands is cheap, especially not if you opt for a boutique vessel with a small number of suites. But it’s definitely worth the price tag, especially when you consider the cost of keeping tourism here sustainable. It’s also not unusual for high-end cabins to be offered at a discount, particularly in the low to mid seasons. This takes a little planning and a sharp eye for bargains, but it can save you thousands of dollars per couple if timed right. Opting for space on board a larger vessel will also reduce the cost, provided you don’t mind sharing your experience with a large group of fellow wildlife lovers. If your Galapagos experience is part of a longer South America tour, you can also save by choosing affordable destinations once you’re back on the mainland. Ecuador is one great option, and since it administers the Galapagos, you’re already there! This small Latin American gem offers fascinating cities with architecture every bit as beautiful as its more famous neighbours, plus charming villages where generations old handicrafts are still produced today. You can stand astride the equator itself, or trek into the Amazon if you’re craving another encounter with nature.
8-Day Cruising the Galapagos (Majestic)