Dreaming of a long-haul adventure but not sure you can afford it? Check out our roundup of global hotspots where even after paying for your flight you can still eat, sleep, and have fun without busting the daily budget.
Your daily budget: £25
For a relaxing beach getaway: Ko Lanta, Thailand – fly from £298
The Thai island of Ko Lanta is dream territory for anyone on a limited budget, with accommodation easy to find for as little as £5 a night. You won’t have to slum it either – at the highly rated Mook Lanta Eco Resort, for example, the air-con bungalows on stilts which are 80 metres from the beach, start from around £7 a night. You could easily while away whole days here, just lazing on the sand and spending hardly anything except a few quid here and there for a dish of noodles or a fruit shake, which would leave plenty in the kitty for days when you wanted to splash out on a massage or yoga class (around £8 each) or (if you’re up for an adventure and not afraid of spiders, bats, or enclosed spaces) a visit to Khao Mai Kaew Cave (entry £5).
For a fast-paced city break: Mumbai, India – fly from £336
You can find hostel beds in Mumbai from just £2 a night, but in this huge sensory onslaught of a city, there’s a lot to be said for upping the accommodation budget and getting a private room. Splitting the cost between two people keeps things within budget, and you’ll be more likely to get a good night’s sleep. Traveller’s Inn Hotel in Fort (well placed for exploring) has air-con doubles from £28 (or £21 with a fan). Then make savings elsewhere: eat at street food stalls for next to nothing and get some of the best entertainment entirely free. Discover some early morning action at Dadar Flower Market, where vendors sit at stalls piled high with blossoms and string marigolds into golden garlands, and the late-afternoon scene on Marine Drive, where picnicking families and romantic couples come to enjoy the sunset.
For a countryside retreat: Vang Vieng, Laos – fly from £388
Once party central for backpackers behaving badly, Vang Vieng has cleaned up its act to become a centre for outdoor adventures. The surrounding karst countryside offers endless scope for hiking, climbing and caving in the mountains, bathing in waterfalls and clear blue lagoons, or tubing and kayaking along the Nam Song River. Hire a scooter for a fiver a day to explore, then visit the caves and other sites for about £1 a time. For river activities, expect to pay around £8 each time. Food here is a bit pricier than in neighbouring Thailand, but if you stick to the backpacker mantra of always eating local, you can fill up for under £2. No need to spend a fortune on accommodation either: popular backpacker haunts include Pan’s Place, where a double room can be yours from around £10 a night.
Your daily budget: £50
For an exotic beach getaway: Punta Cana, Dominican Republic – fly from £327
With pricey resort hotels lining much of its white sand coast, Punta Cana isn’t an obvious place to head with limited funds. But don’t fret, there are ways to make things more budget-friendly. Travel off-season (May to June and September to October) and look for accommodation that’s set back from the beach or outside the main tourist areas. Head a little northwest from popular Bavaro, for example, and you come to the quieter Playa Macao where nearby Macao Beach Hostel has simple rooms from around £19 per night. You can buy in supplies from the supermarket and self-cater in the communal kitchen, but a meal from one of the local cafés will only set you back around £3. Live frugally for a few days and you’ll have money in the kitty for the odd surf lesson (starting at around £68 for two hours) or a boat trip to snorkel on the reef (£46).
For a culture-filled city break: Mérida, Mexico – fly from £448
Most tourists go to the Yucatan Peninsula to laze on the beach, but if you swap the big resorts for the Yucatan capital of Mérida, your pesos will stretch further. Twice named the American Capital of Culture, it has good galleries and museums, including the Grand Museum of the Mayan World (£6), where you can discover centuries of Mayan heritage. It costs nothing to admire the palatial colonial mansions along the Paseo de Montejo or wander the cobbled streets of the historic centre (where there’s good people-watching in the shady plazas and the buildings are prettily painted in shades of pistachio and pink or azure and apricot). Eat cheaply in the markets, including Mercado 60, where you get music and events alongside 18 food stalls, and bed down somewhere central with a bit of character, such as Nomadas Hostel, an 18th-century house with dorm beds from around £8 per night and en-suite doubles from £30.
For a countryside adventure: La Fortuna, Costa Rica – fly from £465
If you’re looking for adventure, La Fortuna is definitely the right place. The surrounding countryside, all rainforest, waterfalls and volcanoes, is full of possibilities – from river safaris to zipline canopy tours. The priciest activities will admittedly be a stretch on a £50-a-day budget, but there are some cheaper alternatives. Instead of forking out £70 to bathe in the Tabacon hot springs, head downriver to a spot where you can do the same thing for free; and rather than pay £84 for a day’s guided cycling tour, rent a bike for around £19 and follow your own route. Budget accommodation options include Arenal Backpackers Resort, which has two-person tents from £35 a night and dorm beds from £12, and you’ll find the cheapest eats at sodas (small local cafés) where you can get a filling meal for £3 or £4 per head.
Your daily budget: £150
For the dreamiest beach holiday: Hawaii, USA – fly from £551
Hawaii’s big attractions – sunshine, surf, Lost World scenery, and beaches – are, happily, free. After that, things can get pricey, but not impossible on this daily budget. Forget about island-hopping and stay on Oahu. International flights land here (so no need to pay for onward connections); it’s also the island with the best public transport system (a one-day bus pass costs £4.20) and the best choice of accommodation. At Waikiki Beachside Hostel, double rooms cost around £67 a night, while Kuhio Banyan Hotel has rooms with kitchenettes from a tenner more. Food is costly, but you can eat for under £10 a pop by sticking to market stalls, food trucks, and fast food joints, or getting ingredients from grocery stores. Then, blow your extra money on a scuba diving trip (from around £76) or a day’s car hire (from £77) to discover off-the-beaten-track places the bus can’t reach.
For a jam-packed city break: Perth, Australia – fly from £511
You can find a double room in a Perth hostel for £25-£35 a night, but with a £150-a-day budget, why not go wild and upgrade to a four-star hotel instead? Both the Doubletree by Hilton Perth Northbridge and the Quality Hotel Ambassador Perth, for example, have doubles from under £60. Free city buses run around central Perth and Fremantle, and there are ways to keep busy without spending a cent – from exploring the magnificent Kings Park to simply soaking up the sunset from the beach. Food and drink will make more of a dent in the budget, but head to Northbridge for a choice of places to eat for less than £10 a head. After a couple of days of penny-pinching you can splurge on treats such as a trip to the Pinnacles Desert (from £75) or a foodie tour of the Swan Valley (from £60).
For a safari-filled adventure: South Africa – fly from £391
A safari will never be the cheapest of holidays, but it doesn’t have to break the bank, especially if you head to South Africa, where the exchange rate is still working in favour of UK travellers. Keep costs down by going during the southern winter (May to September) and choosing a reserve near one of the big cities (to avoid pricey plane transfers). It can also be cheaper to stay outside a reserve and make day trips in. At Halstead Farm (from £60 per night B&B) for example, you’re one hour’s drive from Port Elizabeth (hire cars cost from £10 per day) and 10 minutes from the Addo Elephant National Park where resident species include elephants, Cape buffalo, lions and assorted antelopes. Park visitors pay a conservation fee of £16.50 per day and a full meal in the bistro here costs less than £10 a head, while a two-hour guided game drive costs £21pp.
Now your daily budget and itinerary is sorted, it’s time to book your flights! Need inspiration? Search ‘everywhere’ below.
All flight and prices mentioned in this article are estimates of the cheapest prices based on Skyscanner’s flight search tools. These are subject to change and were correct at time of writing on 8 April 2019.