With cheap accommodation options and even cheaper food, Cambodia is as reasonable as any international destination can be. Once a tourist no-go zone, Cambodia today is hot property on the travel map – popping up ever so often on many a bucket list. And it is not just backpackers we are talking about. Even tourists looking for five star luxuries – without wanting to sell an organ – find themselves headed to this beautiful country. There are lots of fabulously priced accommodation options that are conveniently located – minutes from the Angkor Wat Archaeological Park – half the reason that most visitors head to Cambodia! A visit to this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a must, and preferably at dawn when you can watch the sun rise from behind the iconic temple. Entry to the site costs INR 1,095 for the full day, though paying the discounted INR 2,190 for three days is a better deal – you will need the time considering the number of temples that dot the compound; plus the fact that the you will have to duck into the shade – or air conditioning – once the mid-day sun hits!
Despite its growing popularity over the last few years, Vietnam is still undeveloped, unspoiled and most importantly, very affordable. INR 500 can actually see you through a day in this beautiful land – covering comfortable accommodation at a guest house, delicious local food, transport and even some drinking. No jokes here, a pint of the country’s most popular drink, Bia Hoi, costs a delightfully shocking INR 40. Hanoi, the capital city, has undergone many transformations – from being the headquarters of French Indochina to being the administrative centre of communist Vietnam. But it still retains its French essence from the years past – there are patisseries producing croissants that could be found in the Paris of today, and interestingly – such an establishment may share a common wall with a traditional pho noodle shack! Visit Hanoi’s Old Quarter when you are in the mood for some post-colonial charm and also some peace – locals get together every morning to practice Tai Chi. Head to the erstwhile French mountain resort town of Da Lat for a rural Vietnamese experience complete with flowing rice terraces and lush greenery. The city is a tourist hub, being the base for a number of motorcycle tours. The pretty flower farms, tofu factories and cashew nut plantations are all worth a visit; before you take off for Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon.
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The land of red and green curry, spectacular beaches and hospitality that defies human nature – Thailand is a tourist’s dream destination. It is probably impossible to do the whole country in one go, or even choose from the unending options; but every place in Thailand is a winner. Whether it is a city break with cheap shopping, great dining and relaxing massages that you wish for and decide on visiting Bangkok; or it is the beautiful beaches, exciting water sports and lounging in the sun that you are dreaming of, Thailand has it all. You could even take an affordable golfing break at one of the many hill resorts in the country. Choose from its many beach cities with their stunning resorts which become quite reasonable once the tourist rush passes – Phuket, Koh Samui, Pattaya or Krabi. Thailand is an all-weather destination, but the best time to visit is certainly the super expensive winter months. Deal seekers could wait it out till mid-January when the tourist hordes ebb and prices start to dip – that is the time for the best deals on hospitality coupled with favourable weather.
Remote Bolivia, also known as the Tibet of the Americas, is one of two landlocked countries in South America (the other one is Paraguay). Experience the Spanish colonial era on Calle Jaén, in the capital city La Paz. Wander around some beautifully preserved colonial beauties – whitewashed structures with tiny ornate black balconies. This area is also La Paz’s museum centre – a highlight being the former home of Pedro Domingo Murillo, the leader of the La Paz Revolution of 1809. You can actually museum hop for a grand total of INR 33. Once you have had your fill of culture and history, know that Bolivia is easily the cheapest place in all of South America for food and drink – we are talking a bottle of Paceña beer for INR 85 and a bowl of delicious chairo, or potato soup, for approximately the same amount! Bolivia is dodgy when it comes to the weather, so pack plenty of layers. Being surrounded by Altiplano mountains, La Paz, unlike the rest of the country which is hot and humid, remains cool through the year. Looking for some action? Make your way to Oruro, a city bang in the middle of the Altiplano, which is famous for its Carnival. The Carnival is an annual feature, held every February or March, in honour of the Virgin of Candelaria. Three hours by bus from La Paz is all it takes to be part of this UNESCO protected extravaganza which showcases indigenous and religious Bolivian culture, dotted with folk dance performances as well as a traditional parade.
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Sample Europe Hungary style – head to Budapest, the country’s capital, on the Danube. It is a must stop for any European tour on a budget. Though not as cheap as it used to be, Budapest is still easily do-able on a not so elaborate budget. Get your fill of delicious cakes, sample the strong liquor and then go detox your indulgences at the famous thermal spas. Try the too-pretty-to-eat sweet treats at Gerbeaud’s or stop at a traditional coffee house for that famous chocolate chimney cake. Budapest is quite the traveller’s bargain, given that you can explore the city on INR 85 for train tickets, gorge on sumptuous food for under INR 200 and get rooms at about INR 850 a night. Even a visit to one of those iconic bath houses for a relaxing massage will make you lighter by only about INR 850. A quiet country side visit on your mind? Head to Lake Balaton in Transdanubia, in western Hungary. A very popular lake retreat, it gets a lot of locals looking to escape the summer heat. Only an hour and a half by train from Budapest, the biggest resorts are in Siófok and Balatonfüred. Enjoy country side hiking in the hills, swimming in the lake or sailing on the lake; after which you could sample local wines straight from vineyards from nearby Badacsony Hill.
Bargain alert! There is Belize, Costa Rica and even Guatemala for those of you looking to explore Central America. But the real deal in this region has got to be Honduras. Honduras may not be on most visited lists, but get here to discover what you have been missing. Beaches that rival the beauty of the Maldives, diving comparable to the Red Sea and super cheap food and drink. You can have the best time at some INR 1,600 a day. For a complete Caribbean style feel, head to the idyllic beaches along the northern coast of Honduras. One of the best locations here is Puerto Cortes, a lively port with a dominating Spanish heritage which has survived till today. You could also go to Omoa, a pretty as a picture seaside town with a colonial fortress worth an exploratory trip. If you are looking for more post-colonial beauty, head to Comayagua’s historic town centre with its quaint Spanish influence houses, cathedral and plazas. A small city about two-hour drive from the capital Tegucigalpa, Comayagua was once a political and religious hub, so the rich heritage in the form of buildings and structures. No visit to Comayagua is complete with a stop at one of the plaza cafes for a traditional Honduran baguette or bistek sandwich break – try cafe La Casa de Sandwich where you can get your fix for about INR 125 and also picnic at the Parque Central nearby.
Get your south of Spain styled break at non-south-of-Spain prices. Bulgaria’s Black Sea resorts offer quite the bargain if you are looking for an affordable European beach break. If it is a city break that you prefer, capital city Sofia is your destination. Great food and drink and comfortable accommodation options – all yours for under INR 2,000 a day. The second oldest city in Europe, Sofia is dotted with museums and galleries. You can do the museum run starting with the likes of the Museum of Socialist Art and the National Literature Museum. Despite shooting up the holiday destination charts, Sofia is still a good deal – specially many places outside of the city which are still untouched by tourists. The further east you go, the cheaper your holiday gets. If you want the sun and the sea without breaking the bank, head to Nesebar which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site a few hours to the south of Varna. This is a perfect spot to begin your budget exploration of Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast. Though a lot of Nesebar’s old city of Messembria has toppled into the ocean, there are still many ancient churches that you can check out as you walk the cobbled lanes. Do remember to buy some locally manufactured lace to take back as a souvenir.
8. Sri Lanka
Descriptions of Sri Lanka are very often picture post card like – pretty sandy beaches, mountains hidden in clouds, waterfalls around every corner, tea plantations and lines of breezy palm trees. Very rightfully so. Tourism to this idyllic island in the south Indian Ocean has been a regular feature for a while, but somehow Sri Lanka has remained on the sidelines of the tourist map. Perfect for bargain hunters who like the idea of a little bit of jungle trekking punctuated by fish curry feasts – while staying in low cost 5 star luxury on the beach. Take for example the Cinnamon Lodge in Habarana, which is right in the centre of Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Kandy. The suites here offer stunning views of the tropical Habarana Lake – you could turn the experience up a notch by seating yourself in your private jacuzzi as the on call butler serves you champagne. Competing for your attention outside of your affordable 5 star air conditioned luxury is the surrounding countryside – dotted with temples, monasteries and stupas – which give you an insight into Sri Lanka’s Buddhist culture. Don’t wish to leave the comfort of your low cost luxury deal? Step out to visit only two of the most famous places on the island – the Sri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhapura and the Sri Dhalada Maligawa in Kandy.
There is a lot to see in Argentina, the eighth largest country in the world – from the central plains in La Pampa all the way to the Andes and its mountainous western border with Chile. The capital city of Buenos Aires, with its reputation of being one of the most exciting cities around the world, is all bright lights and thumping nightlife. Get a taste of flashy Buenos Aires without spending big bucks by staying away from the exclusive party places and you could get by on about INR 2,100 a day. Spend your days getting an eyeful of the bright and bold murals that are draped over various buildings around the capital, or explore the streets of San Telmo and enjoy the Bohemian vibe at the bars and eateries in the area. This is much easier on the pocket than a night out at any of the hotspots in tourist magnet Recoleta. Head to the southern tip of Argentina to experience some of the most spectacular scenery anywhere in the world. You can take a cheap though long bus trip – 24 to 36 hours – from Buenos Aires, to reach Patagonia and visit Tierra del Fuego. Internal flights will also take you to Tierra del Fuego, though they will be more expensive. This is the most southerly city in the world and a base camp for excursions to the Antarctic. Spend time checking out penguins, dolphins and whales in Península Valdés, which is a UNESCO protected nature reserve.
With politics playing an important role in bringing Greek holiday costs down, partying on islands like Santorini and Mykonos is still quite pricey. So head to quieter places like Paros or Skiathos for the same experience for about half the price, great weather and cheap drinks. If it is pool parties and shots that float your boat, then head to Ios – the place for young backpackers and all night raves. If you haven’t got the time for a complete round of the islands, make sure you hop across from Athens to Hydra, the place for the best kebabs anywhere in the Aegean. You could also sail over to Kefalonia for some traditional meat pie. But if you have the time, then you must island hop and complete the whole circuit – visit each island for its specialty. Ferries run between all the islands, so it is a good idea to check on the ferry schedule and price updates.
A holiday in the Caribbean has a way of sounding expensive; but not if you head to the Dominican Republic. About INR 2,500 a day – if you are a wise spender – will take care of your accommodation, travel and food. Of course, you will have to figure out where the locals eat to get your hands on those dishes and beers under INR 85. Get conversant with bus routes and take a bus into town for INR 40. Hostel options offer proximity to the beaches, complimentary Wi-Fi and even free coffee in some cases. There are other, more elaborate and reasonable deals as well, where hotels offer all-inclusive holidays in resorts with multiple dining areas, swimming pools and water sports packages.
Flying to Ireland has become more affordable over the last few years, making an exploration of Dublin way cheaper than you would have imagined. Try a hostel for accommodation and start with the free things to do in Dublin list. Visit the Chester Beatty Library and be dazzled by its huge collection of rare books and manuscripts, or take a walk with a herd of deer at Phoenix Park – which is incidentally the largest enclosed recreational space in a European capital. You could budget shop over the weekend at Blackrock Market, which is the city’s oldest; or head to the Pavilion Bar at the cricket pitch in Trinity College for what is rumoured to be the cheapest pint in Dublin – at just INR 190. In the mood for some rural flavour? Head to Galway, where prices are about 20% lower than the capital, across the board. If it is action that you seek in the rural setting, then sample the city’s pulsating nightlife, thanks to the student population! You could spend the better part of your evenings pub hopping and listening to live music – all the time being partial to Guinness which is about 15% cheaper than in Dublin.
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Adapted from an original article by Catherine McGloin