Travel smart-Make the most out of a small budget
You’re not going crazy, it just means your brain is working and you may need a holiday.
The other day, a friend made a confession in hushed tones with sideways glances. “Yesterday I was driving, and ran a red light at the crossing as the school kids were crossing the road, am I going crazy?”
The answer is no, she is not going crazy. Occasionally everyone has minor problems integrating their memories, perception, identity and consciousness. I would refer to this as normal dissociation as it typically doesn’t disrupt everyday activities.
Weird thoughts are also something that is of worry to people. If you are one of these people then again, don’t panic. Sometimes you need to shake yourself free of a belief in thought and remember that there is a clear difference between thinking a dangerous or strange thing and taking action on that strange or dangerous thing. For example…
Of the thought of drinking all the water out of your toilet bowl jumps into your head. That’s one thing. If you find yourself actually drinking the water from the bowl, you may want to seek a professional’s help as well as some antibiotics.
So next time a crazy thought pops into your head, try this: Thank your brain for doing what it is supposed to do and then place the thought firmly in the recycle bin and remember that you are ok.
In my opinion, everyday life can be overwhelming at times but not everybody can just hop on a plane and lay horizontal for a week in the sun. This is why, after a long discussion with my husband, a heap of research and brainstorms over our personal experiments we have put together some of the cheapest holiday destinations out there.
So, while getting to some of these budget destinations might cost a few bob, once you’re there these countries offer great value.
How much money will I need for my holiday?
Strict average daily budget: £55
London doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. If you aren’t afraid to jump on a bus, tube or arm yourself with a map and walk you can stubble across some great bargains in some really exciting places. The tube is no doubt the best way of getting around so if you are there for a week or so then grab yourself a Travelcard (you will need a passport to get one) but this gives you access to the Underground (the worlds most extensive subway system), the red double decker buses and the British Rail trains- particularly good for reaching further towns. If you plan on staying in Central London only then buy a Zone One Unlimited pass for £15.30. There are six zones but a Zone four would get you to most places other than Heathrow Airport. These are called Oyster cards. You can go online and buy passes that are good for 1, 2, 3 or 6 days at a time. They will send you the card in advance of your trip. Alternatively, you can buy the card for £5 at any Underground station and pay as you go. Don’t worry about putting too much on the card because if you have money left at the end of the trip you can go to a ticket booth to get a refund. You can also give your Oyster card back and get your £5 reimbursed or save it for future trips. Buckingham Palace. The changing of the guard takes place every other day at 11:30. If you want to actually see the spectacle without climbing a fence, get there by 11am. Pretty cool and completely free. Another free activity that you can take advantage of is a free walking tour. Take one of two free tours of the city. Sandeman’s and Undiscovered London offer them. Don’t forget to tip your tour guide though as they actually have to pay the company a fee for each person who attends. Go to the museums, which are free for their permanent collections. There is usually a fee for special exhibits. Unless you’re a real museum enthusiast, you may want to ask at Information for a recommendation. Walk the Victoria and Albert Embankment from the Houses of Parliament to the Millennium Bridge and you’ll enjoy London at a more relaxed pace while still seeing some of the major sights. Check out a free concert at the famous Trafalgar Square. There are a number of lovely parks in London. Hyde Park is famous for Speaker’s Corner, which is often entertaining if not thought-provoking. Pack a picnic and relax with a book in the summer months then go for a walk down the Thames or check out the Big Eye. For food- you can’t go wrong with good old English fish ‘n’ chips. In my opinion there isn’t anywhere else in the world that does a chippy meal like Great Britain! Every time I step foot back home it’s the first and last meal I always have and its dirt cheap. If you are looking for extreme budget accommodation then I’ve heard that the YHA is a great option or check out Air bnb for something with a kitchen. Last time I stayed in the Saint George’s Hotel, which is close to Oxford Street (London’s luxury shopping destination) and only five minutes walk from Regents Park. Check out their website directly as they often have a promo code for 10% off when booking directly. If you are into nightlife then don’t miss out on going to Fabric but pre-book your tickets you avoid the ridiculous cues. A good friend of mine lives in London and once said to me that the reason why he loves it, is because he can take a slightly different route home from work each night and always come across something new- whether it be a new restaurant with an uncommon cultural background, a quirky op shop or brand new bar that was a war hammer shop the week before- there is always something to excite him about living in the big smoke. You could ponder for days. For a cheaper city break head to Liverpool-the city of culture. Have lunch at the Albert Docks, visit the Beatles museum and go for a fairly cheap pint on Matthew street. On the bank holiday weekend of August the city comes alive for the Liverpool music festival so head out around the bars during the day and if get hungry by night head up to China town. If you have a few quid to spare and cocktails are your thing then Alma De Cuba is a funky bar with a sophisticated swing. By this point you probably will be very drunk from all the cheap drink deals on offer around the town.
Funky fact: The people of Oslo, Norway present the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree each year in gratitude to the people of London for their support during the Second World War.
Strict average daily budget: €100
Flight prices to Ireland have tumbled over the past few years, meaning you can get to Dublin for less than you might think. Whether you are flying from London or Sydney you can pick up a pretty decent fare. If you are flying from Europe you can’t go wrong with a cheap Ryanair flight. Once in the Irish capital, stay at the central Generator Hostel and you could pay just €7 for a dorm. Free things to do in the Irish capital include visiting the Chester Beatty Library, to check out its world-famous and dazzlingly expansive collection of rare books and manuscripts, and taking a walk with the deer herd in Phoenix Park – this is the largest enclosed recreational space in any European capital so there’s plenty to explore. Pick up some bargains at the weekend Blackrock Market. Apparently the Cheapest pint in the central city is just €2.70 in the Pavilion Bar (Student bar) at the cricket pitch in Trinity College. This is a beautiful college and brings back memories of tedious study for my husband. He studied dentistry here for 5 long years. Temple Bar is a famous hotspot in Dublin with a great atmosphere and traditional feel. Drinks aren’t the cheapest here but this little area shouldn’t be missed. Grafton Street is the main shopping hub, which is also close to the tram line (Luas). The Luas together with the train system (Irish Rail) can conveniently get you to outer city suburbs. While Grafton Street shops tend to be on the pricey side there are some great buskers and you can pick up an Irish Carvery for a couple of Euros. If you’d rather get out into rural Ireland, head to Galway, where prices are lower than the capital across the board and a weekend break could cost you about 20% less. You could spend some of your saved Euros on the city’s lively nightlife with a trawl through the city’s pubs – where Guinness is around 15% cheaper than in Dublin – and the live music sessions at trad music pub An Pucan are free.
Funky fact: The Irish report the lowest annual number of UFO sightings in Europe.
Strict average daily budget: 90 Lev
Bulgaria’s Black Sea resorts have undergone a bit of a boom with European visitors in recent years, probably because they offer a total bargain compared with traditional summer sun holidays. Stag doo’s have become increasingly popular…So single ladies…get yourself over there and crack on with his mates! If you prefer city breaking to beaches, the capital Sofia offers good food, stiff drinks and a comfy bed for as little as 45 Lev a day (£20). Just a 20-minute subway ride from the airport terminal (30-40 minutes if you’re travelling in by bus) you can satisfy your inner culture vulture in Sofia – the second oldest city in Europe is jam packed with museums and galleries. Visit the Cathedral Saint Alexandar Nevski and the beautiful Vitosha Mountain. Soak up some summer sun at Liulin Beach, with its three outdoor swimming pools, a sand area and a footie field – there’s even a canteen to grab a post-exercise snack. Despite becoming a booming holiday destination, many places outside of Sofia remain relatively untouched by bargain-hungry holidaymakers. The further east you go, the cheaper it gets. Head for Nesebar, a UNESCO World Heritage site a few hours south of Varna and a great spot to start your budget tour of Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast. Although much of Nesebar’s ancient city of Messembria has collapsed into the ocean, there are still plenty of old churches to admire and cobbled lanes to stroll along. You will find a great taste of culture here. You can buy locally produced lace to take back as a souvenir, just watch out for cheap tourist tat versions. If you aren’t a fan of lace then how about a crochet table cloth! Neither of these things particularly excites me but the option is there for a souvenir Granny will love. If you take the Nesebar old town walking tour then you can ask your guide for recommendations of the best places to buy.
Funky fact: Bulgarians shake their head for yes and nod for no- so make sure you keep this in mind while discussing prices for your table cloths!
Strict average daily budget: 10,000 Forint
Budapest, the historic Hungarian capital on the Danube, is a definite must-see on anyone’s European tour. It isn’t as cheap as it was before the budget airlines got there but prices here will still leave plenty of cash to play with. Indulge in divine cakes, get tipsy on strong spirits and sweat it out in the famous thermal spas. Stop for a sweet treat at Gerbeaud’s for gourmet pastries, which are almost too pretty to eat. Visit a traditional kávéház (coffee house) for a slice of kürtőskalács or chocolate chimney cake, because who counts calories on holiday? With meals for 738 Forint (£2) train tickets for 369 and rooms for 3688 Forint, which is a beautiful bargain. And you can visit the beautiful bathhouses, such as Gellert, for 3688 Forint, with massages you can pay for with the loose change at the bottom of you handbag. If you’re after a quiet countryside retreat, check out Lake Balaton in Transdanubia, western Hungary. The biggest lake in central Europe, it’s a popular summer retreat for local families looking to escape the big smoke during the summer heat – it’s an easy one and a half hour train ride from Budapest and the biggest resorts are found in the cities of Siófok and Balatonfüred. Take a walk in the northern hills, swim in the lake and enjoy some locally produced wines from the vineyards dotted across nearby Badacsony Hill. Jeeze… I’ve just realised how much I talk about alcohol.
Funky Fact: It’s hot! Literally, since Budapest has more thermal springs than any other capital city in the world. An amazing 70 million liters of thermal water rises to the surface daily. The hot springs have given birth to dozens of medicinal baths and to a bathing culture dating back to Roman times.
Strict average daily budget: €60
Due to the country’s ongoing economic difficulties, the cost of holidaying in Greece is lower than it used to be. While it’s still pretty pricey to stay on famous Greek islands like Santorini or Mykonos, pick a quieter Greek getaway like Paros or Skiathos and you can reduce costs by up to 40%. While my favourite Greek Islands are Santorini, Los and Mykanos you can read all about my travels there in my other blogs. Just take a look under my Europe tab and you can read all about what to expect over there. For Paros and Skiathos you can still spend the days in 28 degree heat, sipping ice-cold Mythos (between about €1.75 and €4.70 a pint depending on where you stay). If you’re all about pool parties and super-cheap shots, then Los is the island for you, famous for its all-night raves and young crowd. Again- check out my Los blog for more info. Not got time for a full-on island-hop? Settle for a day trip to the Sardonic Gulf island of Hydra, just one and a half hours by catamaran from Athens and the spot for some of the best souvlaki (kebabs) you’ll find anywhere else in the Aegean Sea. You will save yourself a small fortune on ferries if you stick to one destination and maybe a day trip. Sail across to Kefalonia for that holiday feeling that consists of freedom and relaxation. Most of you have been dreaming about your getaway for a while now… and you deserve it. Ferries run regularly between the islands, but if departing from Athens head to the port of Piraeus to check the boards for updated prices and schedules – most of the Aegean Islands take about four or five hours to reach by high-speed ferry, six to eight on a regular one. The regular ones are cheaper so if you are on a tight budget then what the hell, download some movies, check out the views and take some time to do absolutely nothing. When was the last time you did that?
Funky Fact: Greeks are the most sexually active in the world! According to multiple official surveys conducted by Durex, the Greeks have won the title of the most sexually active nation for the past decade. According to last year’s Durex survey the results showed that Greeks have sex 164 times a year while Brazilians rank second with 145 times. For the record, Japanese ranked last with only 48 times per year.
Strict average daily budget: 950 Rupees
Don’t be fooled that India is all super cheap. Mumbai is so cosmopolitan you wouldn’t believe and a shopping spree in the designer shops and a stay in an international hotel is going to cost you as much as it would in Dubai, but away from these traps the cost of living is ridiculously low. Even if you travel first class on the trains (the Rajdhani or the Shatabdi Express are the most comfortable to travel on, being fully air-conditioned with meals included in the ticket price) and take taxis everywhere, you’ll be hard pressed to spend a lot of money here and it’s possible to live like a raj on just about 1,500 rupees a day. The sleeper trains are a great budget way to get around, but be warned… This could be a real eye opener to you if you haven’t travelled in a county with crazy hustle and huge poverty. India is the seventh largest country in the world, so unless you’re planning an incredible six-month sojourn, it pays to plan which of the 29 states you want to visit. Head to western India to Rajasthan for an assault of the senses in the state capital, the Pink City, Jaipur, or kick back on the white sands of Kerala in southern India. You can’t fly all that way without seeing what may well be the most famous tomb in the world, the Taj Mahal, in Agra, Northern India – just don’t go on a Friday, it’s closed. And don’t worry about Delhi belly, you’ll find some of India’s best street food here in the capital. High populations of native Indians are vegetarian so grab yourself a rajma or paneer curry for something a little different than your usual from the local Indian restaurant at home. You won’t find anything like that in India- here you are about to taste some of the most devine and authentic food in your life. Pick your stall wisely – make sure they look clean and if they’re busy it usually means the food is fresh, but it’s still a good idea to pack the Immodium, just in case. If you head to Goa then try and Goan fish curry. I have tried to make this serval times following the recipe of celebrity chef Rick Stein. For some reason my curry always comes out looking a completely different colour and sure a completely different taste too. While staying in to save on your upcoming weekends- download the documentary Rick Stein in India to give you some travel inspiration and hopefully determine if India is a destination for you.
Funky Fact: Shampoo was invented in India, not the commercial liquid ones but the method by use of herbs. The word ‘shampoo’ itself has been derived from the Sanskrit word champu,which means to massage.
Strict average daily budget: 5500 Rupees
With fine sands, cloud-wrapped mountains, waterfalls, tea plantations and palm trees wafting in the breeze, Sri Lanka is the picture perfect paradise. I’d say that this small but exciting country would be the perfect trip for an adventurous couple seeking the opposite of spending days on the beach sinking piña coladas. We’ll concentrate on feasting on fish curry, trekking in the jungle and staying in hotels on the beach for next to nothing. You can live like royalty for less than 4820 Sri Lankan rupees a day (£25) Somehow this idyllic beauty managed to stay on the sidelines of many travellers Southeast Asian itineraries, so it’s still possible to pick up a low-cost luxury bargain. If you are looking for getaway without much travel then see if you can pick up a cheap flight and hotel combo. If you can bear to drag yourself away from your air-conditioned luxury, the temples and monasteries offer a window into Sri Lanka’s Buddhist culture – 70% of Sri Lankans are Buddhist. There are three main types of Buddhism, which in my opinion is a beautiful religion so take the time to learn something new and connect with your inner peace. If you don’t fancy days on end temple traipsing, stick to the highlights: the Sri Maha Bodhiya (Bodhi Tree Temple) in Anuradhapura and the Sri Dhalada Maligawa (Temple of the Tooth) in Kandy, arguably the most sacred places on the entire island. Take a scarf with you to cover your shoulders as a sign of respect, you may not be allowed in otherwise.
Funky fact: Sri Lanka was the first country in the world to democratically elect a woman as the head of state.
Strict average daily budget: 892,000 Dong
Unspoiled and undeveloped, despite its rise in popularity in the last few years, Vietnam is still super cheap, as well as a beautiful country. The one thing that put a downer on my trip was being extremely ripped off by a taxi from the airport to my hotel. I recommend pre-booking a taxi through your hotel prior to landing otherwise you will be swarmed with drivers and pay over the odds. Despite me paying nearly six times to standard fare it really wasn’t that much, but the principle bugged me for days! I would have probably tipped him the difference anyway. Despite my initial experience with the taxi, the rest of my trip was absolutely wonderful. You can easily get by on 148,391 Dong a day (which is about £5), including a guest house, local food, transport and a bit of drinking – a pint of Vietnam’s most popular brew, Bia Hoi, costs as little as 14,840 Dong (50p!). Take an overnight cruise around Halong Bay in Hanoi and wake up to do Tai Chi on the deck at sunrise. I did a cooking lesson while on my 4 nights cruise and made my first ever rice paper rolls! Take a look at my recipes section to see how I whip up these healthy but tasty delights. Experience Vietnamese rural life and see for yourself the lush, green rice terraces. Check out the cashew nut plantations, and of course the iconic rice paddies are worth stopping by to take a look, before heading on along the coast southwards to Ho Chi Minh City- formally called Saigon. I’d highly recommend visiting the war museum here, you can pick up a tour of the city in a pedlo for next to nothing where you will stop at the major attractions. This is a great day out and very informative.
If like me, you love fashion and you have a spare bit of cash for shopping then Hoi An is famous for textiles and having clothes made to fit. But don’t expect it to be as cheap as the Christmas sales as you can still pay around 1,483,910 Dong (£50) for a dress. However they are beautifully made and you know that you won’t see anybody else wearing the same.
Funky fact: The Vietnamese language has six different tones. A change in tone changes the meaning of the word. This makes their language somewhat difficult to learn.
Strict average daily budget: 130,000 Riel
With dorm beds for 5422 Cambodian Riel (£1) and lip-smacking food for less than that, Cambodia is so cheap you can almost feel guilty for paying. Cambodia is now very much on the Southeast Asia travel list, particularly among backpackers and, increasingly, holidaymakers looking for five-star luxury without the price tag. You would have all heard of the famous Angkor Wat Archaeological Park and you can’t leave Cambodia without visiting this iconic ancient site, preferably at dawn to watch the sun rise behind Angkor Wat temple itself, a soothing and spectacular experience. Entry to this UNESCO world heritage site costs just 70,500 Riel for a full day, although it’s worth paying the 141,000 Riel for three days as there are just too many temples to squeeze into one day. I’ve heard people say that once you have seen one temple you have seen them all- I strongly disagree and usually de-friend these people as soon as they have finished their sentence. The midday sun gets quite strong so if you have children with you this might be a good time to find some shade and come back the following morning.
Funky fact: Cambodian flag is the only national flag that has an image of a building – the Angkor Wat.
Strict average daily budget: 700 Lempira
The whole of Central America is tempting but for a real budget trip then Honduras is the one. Manas went there on a boys trip during Uni so if students can afford it then so can most of you. The country isn’t up there on the most-visited lists, but if you do decide to give it a go you’ll uncover white sandy beaches comparable with of the Bahamas, diving to rival the Red Sea, and super cheap food and drink – all while spending less than 800 Lempira a day (£26). The Northern Coast has some pristine beaches for the ultimate unwind. One of the busiest centres along this idyllic stretch is Puerto Cortes, a bustling port famous for its trade in bananas with strong Spanish heritage traits of which survive to this day. Omoa is a picture-postcard seaside town with a colonial fortress to be explored. The capital city Tegucigalpa has lots to offer- El Picacho and the Catedral de San Miguel.
Funky fact: In addition to receiving gifts at Christmas, children are celebrated and receive gifts on 10 September, day of the Honduran Child.
Strict average daily budget: 896 Peso
From the jungles of the central plains in La Pampa, to the rugged Andes Mountains on the western border with Chile, there’s plenty to see and do in Argentina, the world’s eighth largest country. City lights don’t get much brighter in this part of the world than in Buenos Aires, which has earned its reputation as one of the most exciting cities on the planet, thanks to its vibrant and appealing nightlife. Experience the colourful, flamboyant life of the Argentinian capital by staying away from its most exclusive hotspots and you can easily get by on 496 peso a day (£25). Tour the bright and bold murals that adorn many of Buenos Aires’s buildings, and come sundown slink along the streets of San Telmo and enjoy the cool bohemian vibe in the restaurants and bars in this part of town. Check out La Boca, it’s a neighbourhood with an extremely European feel with many of its early settlers coming from Italy. If you want to get away from it all and see some of the world’s most spectacular scenery, then it doesn’t get much more impressive than a trip to Patagonia in southern Argentina, home to Tierra del Fuego, the most southerly city in the world. If you are on a big adventure then this is a popular departure point for excursions to the Antarctic. You can get there by bus from Buenos Aires – a journey which takes anywhere from 24 to 36 hours – or hop on a fairly cheap internal flight to save time, although this is usually a more expensive way to travel. Prepare yourself for plenty of cute penguins, dolphins and whales in the UNESCO protected nature reserve, Península Valdés; the entrance fee for non-residents is about a 198 Peso. Southern Argentina is also much much cheaper than hanging out in the Capital city.
Funky fact: Tango music’s birthplace is in Argentina. Its sensual dance moves were not seen as respectable until adopted by the Parisian high society in the 1920s, and then all over the world. In Buenos Aires, tango-dancing schools (known as academies) were usually men-only establishments.
Strict average daily budget: 2770 Paso
The Caribbean is pricey, right? Not if you fly to the Dominican Republic, where 1825 pesos (£30) a day will cover accommodation, travel and food if you’re thrifty. Eat where the locals do and you’ll find dishes – and beers – for under 60paso, while taking the local bus into town can be done for less than 30pesos. Check in to the Bavaro Hostel and for just 791 pesos you’ll get a bed within a three-minute walk of the white sands and swaying palms of Bavaro beach. Plus free wifi and free coffee. If free coffee isn’t enough and you want all-day dining and activities, the Dominican Republic offers some incredible deals for all-inclusive holidays. I stayed at The Iberostar Grand Bavaro, which has five different restaurants, from gourmet Caribbean to casual beachfront grill, three swimming pools and watersports from water skiing and parasailing to banana boats and scuba diving. The staff are fantastic here, I formed a great relationship with a few of them while sitting myself at a bar stool on the beach for most of my stay doing shots of oozo and encouraging other holiday makers to take part in the drinking game ‘tappy tappy’ Despite my drinking habits this resort is the perfect holiday destination for couples and families too. You cant really blame me for taking full advantage of the all inclusive bar though, I was just preparing my appetite for when the fisher men came in and started cooking up a feast of freshly caught sardines on the BBQ. Santo Domingo- The Capital city has plenty of things to do, The 3 Eyes National Park and Zona Colonia being quite popular for tourists.
Funky fact: The flag of the Dominican Republic is the only national flag in the world to feature the image of a bible.