Su­per spots on a shoe­string

See­ing the world needn’t cost the Earth, writes Ben Ground­wa­ter.

Sunday Star-Times - - Destinations -

Any­one who has trav­elled on a bud­get would al­ready know that low funds does not equal low fun. You can have an amaz­ing time with very lit­tle money.

Some of the world’s best des­ti­na­tions and most mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ences are avail­able to bud­get trav­ellers.

Even your ev­ery­day ex­pe­ri­ences will be more mem­o­rable when you travel on the cheap. You’ll meet more peo­ple. You’ll have more authen­tic en­coun­ters with lo­cal life. You’ll see, taste, and feel things that the clois­tered sur­rounds of a fancy ho­tel and an air-con­di­tioned pri­vate car could never al­low.

For bud­get trav­ellers, 2019 is shap­ing up as a great year. There are plenty of amaz­ing des­ti­na­tions to visit that will only cost you the equiv­a­lent of a few smashed avo brunches in New Zealand dol­lars. These are the value-for­money des­ti­na­tions you want to be vis­it­ing.


In­done­sia isn’t Bali. It doesn’t be­gin and end on that uber­pop­u­lar is­land (though ad­mit­tedly, Bali is easy to do on the cheap).

For real value for money in this huge and di­verse coun­try, how­ever – as well as an es­cape from the touristy hordes – fo­cus your at­ten­tion on the likes of Sum­bawa, Raja Am­pat, Tan­jung Put­ing, Flores, and Su­ma­tra, where you’ll get ho­tel rooms for less than $20, and meals for $2 to $3, plus all the hik­ing, scuba-div­ing, surf­ing, and ex­plor­ing you can han­dle.

South Africa

South Africa is cheap – it’s se­ri­ously cheap. It’s even cheap to get to. It used to cost more than $3000 to fly to Jo­han­nes­burg but these days, if you keep an eye out for sales, you should be able to get there for $2000 or less.

And when you do, you’ll dis­cover a very af­ford­able coun­try, where one New Zealand dol­lar still buys just un­der 10 South African rand.

That means you’ll be able to af­ford to stay in de­cent ac­com­mo­da­tion, eat out most nights, and even hire a car to see as much of the coun­try as pos­si­ble.


Yes, Italy. It might seem crazy to ad­vise bud­get trav­ellers to go any­where near western Eu­rope, but the truth is that some coun­tries – in­clud­ing Italy – can be sur­pris­ingly cheap.

To sur­vive in this coun­try on a tight bud­get, avoid the likes of Rome, Florence, Mi­lan, and the Amalfi Coast, and head to Naples, Verona, south­ern Si­cily, Puglia, Cal­abria, and Le Marche. In these places you’ll find cheap lodg­ings, high­qual­ity, af­ford­able food and less crowded at­trac­tions.


Ge­or­gia is the lit­tle coun­try that could, a for­mer So­viet strong­hold that, these days, boasts amaz­ing nat­u­ral beauty, charm­ing old vil­lages and towns, great wine, high-qual­ity food, and an at­mos­phere of ad­ven­ture – all this, and it’s also ex­tremely cheap.

You could get away with a bud­get of $30-$40 a day in Ge­or­gia, and that will get you a com­fort­able bed, three good meals and plenty of sight­see­ing. Get there be­fore ev­ery­one else does.


Bo­livia will al­ways make my lists of af­ford­able and de­sir­able des­ti­na­tions be­cause it’s just so amaz­ing.

First, the costs. Get­ting there, ad­mit­tedly, isn’t easy. Once you’re on the ground, how­ever, ex­pect to pay around $10 a night for a dorm bed, $3-$5 for a de­cent lo­cal meal, and $1-$2 for a short taxi ride.

Next, the at­trac­tions: Bo­livia is peak South Amer­ica, a place where indige­nous cul­ture thrives, where you can hang out in cities such as La Paz, Cochabamba, Salar de Uyuni and Po­tosi, and feel like you’re in an­other world.


The best meal of your life, and it will only cost $2. That’s what’s on of­fer in Viet­nam ev­ery time you sit down for break­fast, lunch or din­ner. The food is just so good and cheap. Viet­nam has al­ways been pop­u­lar with bud­get trav­ellers, and jus­ti­fi­ably so. In fact, plenty of peo­ple have al­ready vis­ited. If that’s you, it’s time to go back in 2019, and dig a lit­tle deeper. Head out into the Mekong Delta. Ex­plore the high­lands around Dalat. Check out Bong Lai Val­ley. You won’t be dis­ap­pointed.


There’s so much to talk about when it comes to travel in In­dia – the 29 states of­fer vastly dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ences, the 23 of­fi­cial lan­guages to get your head around, the seven ma­jor re­li­gions, the vast­ness and di­ver­sity, the colour and the chaos – that peo­ple tend to for­get how af­ford­able this coun­try is. You can get a room in a guest­house for about $10; eat a meal in a restau­rant for $3; take a long-dis­tance train ride for $8.


Now is a great time to visit Tur­key. The coun­try’s tourism in­dus­try has been hit hard re­cently by var­i­ous fac­tors, most of which have been out of its con­trol, such as iso­lated ter­ror in­ci­dents and its prox­im­ity to hu­man­i­tar­ian dis­as­ters.

It’s on the slow road to re­cov­ery, which means prices are down, and tourists are wel­come. En­joy cheap cruises in the Aegean, af­ford­able trans­port and high-qual­ity, cheap lo­cal cui­sine.


Steer clear of touristy heavy-hit­ters, Can­cun, Playa del Car­men and Cabo. If you want to see Mex­ico on the cheap, head to places such as Mex­ico City, Guadala­jara, Puerto Val­larta, San Miguel de Al­lende, and Oax­aca City, where you can grab tacos for 50 cents each, beers for $2, and guest­house beds for $20. Mex­ico is a lot of fun and sur­pris­ingly safe – well worth hav­ing on your list for 2019.


Though coun­tries such as Italy can def­i­nitely be done on the cheap, for real value for money in Eu­rope, head to Bul­garia. This for­mer Eastern Bloc coun­try has plenty of his­tory in its towns and cities, a beau­ti­ful coast­line, sur­pris­ingly good food and wine, and a re­li­ably warm wel­come. It’s also very cheap, and a great place to head in win­ter if you want to ski with­out pay­ing the as­tro­nom­i­cal prices charged in the likes of France and Italy.

Viet­nam is a great des­ti­na­tion for the bud­get trav­eller. The amaz­ing Salar de Uyuni land­scape in Bo­livia. Verona, in Italy, is hard to beat on a sunny day, with plenty to see but with­out the crowds you’d find in the likes of Rome. A city view of San Miguel de Al­lende, Mex­ico.

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