Bar­gain breaks

Want a get­away with­out break­ing the bank? Conor Pope pinches some pen­nies while find­ing the best des­ti­na­tions, how to get there and what to do

The Irish Times Magazine - - TRAVEL -

What if you were to pick your hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion based purely on price? What if money was the sole ob­ject as op­posed to no ob­ject? Where could you end up? There are rock- bot­tom deals to be found in places that have been blighted by ter­ror at­tacks and nat­u­ral dis­as­ters – and we have even come across one per­son in re­cent days who ex­tolled the virtues of a cheap- as- chips trip to the shadow of Ch­er­nobyl where – he boasted – he was able to buy vodka for two cent a shot.

But trav­el­ling to places where prices have fallen be­cause the risk to tourists is deemed too high seems fool­hardy, while a trip to a re­gion laid waste by the worst nu­clear ac­ci­dent in his­tory is just fool­ish.

So what places would you go i f you planned your hol­i­day or city break around des­ti­na­tions you knew to be cheap for more be­nign rea­sons than ter­ror or catas­tro­phe? How would you get there? And would you have a good time? Is it re­ally pos­si­ble to spend less than 50 quid a day on your hol­liers and still live the life of Reilly?

These are the ques­tions we asked and then tried to an­swer with the help of price com­par­i­son web­sites such as ex­patis­tan. com, price­of­travel. com, num­beo. com, the Bri­tish Post Of­fice – weirdly – and the Econ­o­mist In­tel­li­gence Unit as well as ho­tel book­ing plat­forms, Airbnb and flight search en­gines.

But while money is im­por­tant, it is not every­thing and life is short – who wants to spend two weeks stay­ing in a sweat box over­look­ing the equiv­a­lent of the M50? With that in mind, we steered clear of places we’ve been told are cheap but ex­ces­sively grim and while some peo­ple did raise an eye­brow at our in­clu­sion of Kiev, we reckon what it lacks in beauty and charm, it makes up for in nov­elty and value for money.

Kiev

Mul­ti­ple sur­veys over re­cent years have ranked the Ukrainian cap­i­tal as the cheap­est ma­jor des­ti­na­tion in Europe. The web­site price­of­travel. com tot­ted up the cost of one night in a cheap Kiev ho­tel, two trips on pub­lic trans­port, a visit to a paid at­trac­tion, break­fast, lunch and din­ner and three lo­cal beers and de­clared that a per­son could get by on just ¤ 20 a day. And the good news for the bud­get con­scious is that Ryanair will make the city in­fin­itely more ac­ces­si­ble with the open­ing of 10 new routes to Kiev from Oc­to­ber.

While there are no di­rect flights from Dublin, any­one anx­ious to ex­pe­ri­ence the de­lights of the east will be able to fly via Stansted and with a re­turn flight from Lon­don in Novem­ber – ex­clud­ing ex­tras – cost­ing just over ¤ 55, to which we would have to add the cost of get­ting to Stansted, mean­ing we could get a win­ter week there for less than ¤ 200.

Kraków

Poland’s sec­ond city is widely recog­nised as its first when it comes to beauty, with an­cient squares and ram­bling mar­kets to keep the tourist busy. It is also close to Aus- chwitz which, for many, will be the most mem­o­rable part of any such trip. The area is not only beau­ti­ful and chal­leng­ing in equal mea­sure, it is also one of the cheap­est cities in Europe, and a de­cent ho­tel can be found for about ¤ 45 a night. A meal for two will cost less than ¤ 40, while a glass of wine or beer will come in at un­der ¤ 2. The cost of a sight­see­ing tour bus – if that’s your thing – is about ¤ 14. Ryanair flies from Dublin to Kraków with re­turn flights in May avail­able for not much more than ¤ 200.

Poland’s sec­ond city is widely recog­nised as its first when it comes to beauty, with an­cient squares and ram­bling mar­kets to keep the tourist busy

Bu­dapest

An­other city to the east where real bar­gains are to be found when it comes to food, drink, ac­com­mo­da­tion, bath houses, and

ran­dom dev­il­ment, as long as you veer ever so slightly away from the very well- worn tourist trail – and avoid all the tire­some stag par­ties. A combo meal in a well- known fast- food restau­rant will cost ¤ 4, but why would you bother when you can get a much bet­ter meal for two in a de­cent restau­rant for about ¤ 35, a price which in­cludes a bot­tle of wine.

De­cent- look­ing Airbnb ac­com­mo­da­tion for two in the old part of the city is less than ¤ 30 a night, while a re­turn flight from Dublin with Ryanair in June was avail­able for just un­der ¤ 190 when we priced it. That could see us hav­ing a Hun­gary week for two cov­er­ing flights, ac­com­mo­da­tion food, drink and entertainment for about ¤ 800.

Sri Lanka

How do you fancy stay­ing for five days in a suite in a fairly high- end beach re­sort for less than ¤ 100 and eat­ing four- course meals in de­cent restau­rants for ¤ 22 per per­son, a price which in­cludes a sub­stan­tial amount of beer? If that sounds good, than Sri Lanka is the place for you. While in­fla­tion has seen prices climb sig­nif­i­cantly in re­cent years, it still rep­re­sents great value for money and ex­patis­tan. com puts the price of din­ner for two in a lo­cal restau­rant at ¤ 17, while a cock­tail in a club will set you back less than ¤ 4. A lo­cal beer can be bought for less than ¤ 1.

On book­ing. com, seven nights i n four- star beach­side ho­tels in Septem­ber were com­ing in at less than ¤ 500, while dropping down a star or two saw prices fall to less than ¤ 200 in some in­stances. Re­turn flights via Dubai with Emi­rates were avail­able last week for ¤ 750 – so two peo­ple could travel some­where won­der­fully ex­otic and live like roy­alty for a week and still have change out of ¤ 2,000.

Kraków: Poland’s sec­ond city is widely recog­nised as its first when it comes to beauty, with an­cient squares and ram­bling mar­kets. PHO­TO­GRAPH: ISTOCK

Don­dra Head, near Matara, Sri Lanka: five days in a suite in a fairly high- end beach re­sort costs less than ¤ 100. PHO­TO­GRAPH: ISTOCK

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