Australia is a long way from pretty much everywhere, so Aussies can end up spending a lot on airfares when travelling.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t holiday overseas affordably – just choose places that are cheap once you’re there.
Plan a wallet-friendly trip to one of these spots, where you’ll get more bang for your AUD.
With a bowl of pho costing around $1 and a glass of ‘bia hoi’ – locally brewed beer served on street corners – just 40 cents, Vietnam is surely the Holy Grail for budget-conscious travellers. And it’s not just good value when it comes to food. A basic hotel can cost as little as $30 a night, or if you want to splash out it shouldn’t cost more than a $100. From frenetic cities Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, to natural wonder Ha Long Bay, to a journey down the Mekong or an adventure in the mountains of Sapa, Vietnam really does have it all, and it won’t cost you much to experience it. It’s also a great place to get quality tailored clothes made at great prices – the best place is beach town Hoi An.
It’s easy to find a bargain pretty much anywhere in Mexico. Mexico City is more cosmopolitan than many expect, and food, hotel and attraction prices are all reasonably priced, especially compared to other major cities in North America. For a cheap Mexican beach vacation, steer clear of Cancun, Playa Del Carmen and go for not-far-off-the-beaten-track spots like Tulum, Isla Holbox, Puerto Escondido or Puerto Vallarta, where an ice-cold Corona on the sand shouldn’t cost more than $2. Restaurant prices can vary wildly, but Mexico’s famous street food is always a bargain – expect to pay $1 a taco. You shouldn’t be concerned about getting sick as long as the ingredients look and smell fresh. If you want to be extra cautious give the meat a sniff before it’s cooked or just go vegetarian. And always, always use hand sanitizer.
From chaotic cities to chilled-out coastal areas and everywhere in between, they say you’ll never be the same after India. And what a bargain price for a transformative experience. Costs are higher in New Delhi and Mumbai (expect to pay at least $150 per night for a four-star hotel), so spend minimal time in India’s metropolises and head to Jaipur, known as ‘The Pink City’ for its distinctive-hued buildings and excellent bazaars, the sandy shores of Goa to do a whole lot of nothing, Udaipur, famous for its brilliant lakes and palaces and Agra, where the Taj Mahal must be seen (and selfied) to be believed. Expect to pay around $5 per person for dinner at a typical restaurant, although it’ll be more if it seems intended for tourists rather than locals.
Unless you’re climbing Mt Everest, which is far from cheap, Nepal is one of the most affordable places on earth to travel to. The picturesque and peaceful country in the Himalayan Mountains, rich with Buddhist history and culture, is still recovering from the 2015 earthquake that devastated the country, so tourism is eagerly welcomed. Whether you wander the streets of Kathmandu, dotted with temples and the smell of incense in the air, relax in the serene lake region of Pokhara or trek through Annapurna, a hostel shouldn’t cost more than $5 a night, or a luxurious hotel shouldn’t set you back more than $100. Expect to pay about $5 per person for dinner and $2 per bottle of beer.
The Czech Republic, and especially its romantic capital city Prague, is one of the last European destinations where the Australian dollar still gets you reasonable value – especially thank to its world-renowned lager, which is less than $2 a glass (much better than getting stung for a six-euro beer in Paris). Hotels become better value for money if you don’t mind staying a little further out of the city centre, or opt for a hostel, some of which are more glamorous than typical backpacker haunts. It also helps that one of the best things to do in Prague is wander the cobblestone streets and bridges and admire the incredible architecture, which survived World War II bombings, unlike some other European cities like Paris or Berlin – an activity that doesn’t cost a cent.
Portugal is another country that’s a bit of a bargain compared to most other European countries. From its charming capital Lisbon to other coastal spots, you’ll pay far less for hotels, food and drink compared to neighbouring nations. Spend a couple of days in Lisbon in a nice hotel for under $100 per night, before heading south to the beaches of Lagos and Faro, where thanks to the hotel boom you can nab a five-star room for $100 a night or less, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the value of food and drinks, including fresh seafood. Plus, swimming in the stunning blue water or lying on the sand is free – as long as you avoid posh hotel beach clubs with day bed charges.
A long-time favourite of Australian travellers who want their dollar to stretch further, Bali is a bargain hunter’s dream. Unless you want to stay at one of the very best resorts in Kuta, Seminyak or Ubud, you can easily find something luxurious for $100 a night, and something pretty good for half of that. Whether you want to take surfing lessons (around $10 an hour) or treat yourself to a massage (about the same), everything is much cheaper than back home, unless you hang out at uber-hip spots such as Potato Head Beach Club in Seminyak, where cocktail prices are similar to Sydney or Melbourne.
Surrounded by South America’s main tourist magnets Peru, Brazil and Chile, Bolivia tends to get overlooked by many travellers, which is why it’s one of the most affordable places to visit in the region. Get a taste of Bolivian city life in La Paz, where you can find nice hotels for well under $100 per night, and eating as the locals do only costs a few dollars a meal. A three-day tour of the Uyuni Salt Flats, the largest in the world where the reflective, flat ground makes for breathtaking sunrises and sunsets as the salt reflects the colours of the sky, (not to mention hilarious perspective trickery photo opportunities) is great value compared to similar experience in other parts of the continent – it should be no more than $150. Lake Titicaca, the largest lake in South America, is another unmissable Bolivian spot where a full-day guided kayak tour should cost less than $100, or rent equipment on your own for much less.