Even if you’ve managed to bag cheap flights for your holiday, no-one wants to have to sell an organ just to finance sundowners in that swanky rooftop bar once you’ve arrived. So, we’ve scoured the globe for low-cost holiday destinations that offer great value as soon as you land, from steamy salsa lessons in South America to booze and baked goods in the Balkans.
There’s a reason why Thailand remains so popular with backpackers – it’s got idyllic islands, a rich culture, beach-huts aplenty, tantalising cuisine and adventures galore, and all available at often staggeringly low prices. Despite the well-trodden routes through the country, it’s not hard to get away from the crowds – check out Nakhon Si Thammarat for some of the very best food the country has to offer, or hire a motorbike to make the 600km trip along the Mae Hong Son Loop through the forested northern mountains.
One of the great things about travelling in South Africa is that it’s possible to have a safari experience here – complete with the Big Five – without encountering a budget-breaking bill. Head to Hluhluwe-Imfolozi to see white rhino and to avoid the crowds of Kruger, to the Drakensberg for superlative hiking, and don’t forget to factor in at least a few days in amazing Cape Town.
Despite a remarkable rate of change over the decades since the end of the American War, Vietnam remains amazing value for Western visitors. The country’s greatest attraction is its sublime countryside, from the limestone karsts of the north to the waterways and paddy fields of the Mekong Delta, with blissful beaches and frenetic cities crammed in between. Then there’s the cuisine – pull up a stool at a pho stall and for only a couple of dollars you’ll eating some of the best food on offer, shoulder to shoulder with the locals.
If you’ve already visited Brazil and Argentina, or are just looking for a better value destination, head instead to neighbouring Uruguay. You’ll be relieved to hear you can still find excellent steak here; plus, there plenty of lovely beaches to choose from – head to Cabo Polonio for quieter sands and abundant wildlife – and the gorgeous old capital of Montevideo.
Since relations between Cuba and the US started rapidly warming up, there’s never been a better time to visit this Caribbean island. Go now before it changes beyond recognition – and before the prices start to go up and up. Hit the salsa clubs of Havana, get caught up in the heady July carnival of Santiago, or dip your toes in the warm Caribbean at Varadero Beach – whatever you do, you’ll find it hard not to leave utterly intoxicated.
.6.Prague, Czech Republic
Despite being firmly on the tourist – not to mention bachelor party – trail these days, Prague remains one of Europe’s cheapest capital cities to visit. For just a few Czech Crowns you can enjoy a hearty meal, washed down with decent local beer, of course. The city itself is a beauty, crammed full of history and perfect for leisurely explorations by foot.
Don’t be put off Greece by the country’s economic crisis – if anything, the current financial situation is all the more reason to travel here and to support the local people. The situation does mean that prices are currently cheaper than usual, which is no bad thing if you’re on a budget, and means that you might be able to squeeze an extra island or two into your itinerary. Pay by credit card in advance, but take enough cash with you for your travels, and you’re pretty much guaranteed an amazing trip.
It’s hard not to fall under the spell of Guatemala and its compelling mix of natural beauty, Maya traditions and colonial legacies. Rock-bottom prices make this one of the best places to study Spanish; once your linguistic skills are up to scratch, jump onto one of the country’s famous camionetas or “chicken buses” to explore, soak up the sights of graceful Antigua, or be wowed by the monumental Maya temples of Tikal.
Often unfairly overlooked as a holiday destination, Bulgaria has a lot to offer budget travellers – not least some of the most deserted beaches in Europe, at bargain prices. In addition to its appealing coastline, there’s also lots of lovely old towns, including Varna on the coast and ancient Plovdiv, and a number of dramatic mountain ranges that are perfect for exploration on foot or by bike.
India remains one of the ultimate destinations for budget travellers – there are few countries where you can still travel so extensively and eat so well for so little. If you’re after a beach break, eschew Goa for the gorgeous beaches of the temple town of Gokarna; for amazing food, it’s hard to beat the puris and kebabs of Mumbai’s street stalls; or head to the Golden City of Jaisalmer from where you can explore the seemingly endless sands of the Thar Desert.