Travel destinations with the most bang for buck
Holidays don’t come cheap, particularly when they involve an international flight, so we decided to take some of the guess work out of holiday planning by calculating how many days’ travel two people can squeeze out of just $5000. Factoring in flights, accommodation and $100 spending money a day, we looked at 11 popular destinations to see how they stacked up.
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Bangkok, Thailand – 15 nights
Bangkok topped the list as the most affordable place to travel, with a princely total of 15 days holiday for two people. Flights to Bangkok are plentiful and cheap, as is the accommodation at an average of $138 per night for a 4-star hotel. The best news is that your spending money will go a long way, especially if you limit your shopping to the bustling marketplaces and treat yourself to the smorgasbord of street food on offer. If you are stinging for the beach, Hua Hin is a popular getaway that will satisfy your craving for salt water and sand. Money is easily accessible in Thailand but it’s always a wise idea to weigh up your options. ANZ’s travel card will let you load Thai Baht directly on to your card while some credit cards, such as the 28 degrees Mastercard, are specifically designed for international travel, with no currency conversion fees. Compare each one online and select something well before you go.
Bali, Indonesia – 14 nights
Bali might be renowned for is affordability but with increasing numbers of high-end hotels, shops and restaurants springing up, it’s entirely possible to churn through the cash. While Bali is one of the shortest international trips you can make in Australia, peak season flights can really escalate in price, so if you are planning on taking this much-loved Aussie pilgrimage, start looking for Virgin and Jetstar sales which can sometimes cough up cheap deals. Accommodation is where you’ll probably make or break your budget, but if you refrain from staying anywhere south of Seminyak (and the hippy hotspot of Nusa Dua) then you’re more likely find deals reminiscent of the good old days. Alternatively if you’ve got a young family and you just want to laze about the pool(s), then there are some decent package deals to be had. While they might not offer you the most authentic Balinese experience, you won’t have to plan a single additional step (assuming you’re prepared to swim to and from the cocktail bar).
Delhi, India – 13 nights
A $5K trip to Delhi will give you 13 days to bask in the sensory overload this Indian city is famous for with beautiful architecture, history, art and food galore. Day-to-day living is cheap so don’t be afraid to get among the locals on the metro. Just keep bottled water handy and eat in recommended restaurants to avoid the infamous Delhi belly. Delhi is an eclectic mix of old and new and you can spend days switching between the two. Starting with the old – a sunset at Humayun’s Tomb for just ₹250 - is a must. It’s a magnificent garden structure and the oldest sample of Mughal architecture in India. A quintessential trip to the 17th-century Red Fort (₹250) and Jama Masjid (free) should also be on the bucket list. Switching to the present, board the Delhi Metro at Chandni Chowk towards Rajiv Chowk and find yourself in Connaught Place or ‘CP’ as the locals call it. It offers a good mix of old shops and food joints plus modern retail and restaurant chains. To experience local Punjabi food and fashion, Basant Lok Market is a buzzing middle-class shopping centre where you can test out the sensibility of your stomach at Punjabi by Nature (www.punjabibynature.in) or turn it up loud and large with vodka gol gappas, crispy shells filled with ingredients and a spiced vodka shot.
Singapore – 11 nights
Singapore ranks fourth on our travel hit list, largely because flights are very reasonably priced at $1,360 for two people. Singapore is still one of the more popular stopover spots for long haul airlines and this frequency of planes coming in and out helps keep costs relatively low. The problem with Singapore is that once you step outside the airport, your costs can skyrocket exponentially if you’re not careful. If you are on a budget, do not step foot on to Orchard Ave and avoid all skyline cocktail bars like the plague. The good news is that Singapore is a tale of two cities and you can find amazing food at hawker stands and great bargains in the lower key shopping centres, of which there are plenty. If you’re desperate to get high while in Singapore the Marina Bay Sands observation deck is spectacular but on the pricey side at SGD$23 per adult, or for the PG version you can explore the Gardens by the Bay at OCBC Skyway for just SGD$5 per adult. Things can go wrong in any country but in a place like Singapore, health care costs are through the roof so make sure you have travel insurance. Some credit cards offer free travel insurance so if you do have a gold or platinum card, its wise to check this first.
Las Vegas, USA – 10 nights
Ten nights in Las Vegas is a scary thought, especially as there’s no real way of distinguishing between night and day on the floors of most of the casinos. Needless to say $100 a day spending money is small change here, so it’s probably a wise idea to head towards natural light and explore beyond ‘Sin City’. The Grand Canyon will give you a guaranteed high without having to gamble your savings away, and while you can seriously blow your cash on helicopter rides and romantic resorts, the national park offers spectacular accommodation for a fraction of the cost. Closer to the bright lights, the Hoover Dam is a must see for history and architectural buffs, while shoppers can spend a day or two ‘saving’ money in the outlet centres, buying a year’s supply of shoes, clothes, bags and anything else that will fit into your suitcase.
Rome, Italy – 8 nights
Rome is one of the most iconic European destinations and a must-see for all food and history enthusiasts. Eight nights is plenty of time to see all the major sites, most of which are reasonably priced. The Pantheon, St Peter’s Basilica and the Trevi Fountain are all free (aside from any coins you might toss into donation boxes or the bottom of the fountain), while the Colosseum won’t break the bank at €12 per person. A walking tour is another affordable way to see the best Rome has to offer, and with so many operators vying for your business, it’s easy enough to find a good deal. The real problem with Rome is once you start sampling the cuisine you’ll never want to leave considering flights to Europe don’t come cheap. If you have the cash, it’s worth extending your holiday and sampling a bigger slice of Italy while you’re there.
Tokyo, Japan – 8 nights
$5K won’t go far in Tokyo but it could be just enough to get a taste of this crazy culture, particularly if you explore it both by day and by night. Accommodation is pricey so be on the lookout for good deals but try and stay away from some of the more notorious hot spots where trouble will find you, not vice versa. If you’re adamant about getting a real Japanese experience, you could book a capsule hotel where you’re allocated a pod to sleep in, in a large communal space. One night in a capsule goes for around AUD$25 for one person and $AUD50 for a double. You can also save money by going to free activities such as a tour of the early morning Tsukiji Market or a morning sumo training session. Saving money on accommodation and activities does mean you can go a little bit nuts on the finer things this city has to offer, such as food. While you’re there soak up as much sashimi and Sapporo as you can because you’ll dream about it as soon as you step back on the plane. While Tokyo is about as cutting edge as you can get, the ATM’s have a real thing about international eftpos cards. Keep an eye out for 7-Eleven stores as their cash machines seem to work better than most, and try and carry a few different money options with you just in case.
Cape Town, South Africa – 7 nights
This jaw-droppingly spectacular town might be hard to get to but it’s worth every penny if you plan your trip right. While there is plenty to do in the town itself, if this is your one and only African jaunt, head straight out of town to a game park. Chasing after lions and cheetahs doesn’t come cheap but if you’ve travelled all that way it’s an unmissable experience. There’s plenty of competition in this space so do your research before you book. Outside of the game parks, accommodation is economical so you can save money here, although you might want to stay in the more touristy spots where it is generally a bit safer and there are more things to do at your fingertips.
London, United Kingdom – 5 nights
London is a long way to go just to see red buses and post-boxes so it’s a good idea to uncover some long lost relatives who can give you some free accommodation and a tour of the city’s finest waterholes. If you happen to hit London in summer, which admittedly can last for less than a month, head straight to the park to hang out with the locals who’ll be soaking up the rays like they’re going out of fashion. London also boasts an impressive collection of museums and art galleries including the Tate Modern, the National Gallery and the British Museum. Another thing the Brits do well is put on a good market, the top pick being the ones at Camden. They’re open every day but really heaving on weekends and even if you don’t buy anything it’s still fantastic people-watching. While London has plenty to do in 5 nights don’t be afraid to tack a few more days (or weeks) on to your trip and use the city as a launching pad to other European destinations.
New York, USA – 5 nights
There’s no good way to break bad news – the truth is that $5K will only get you a tiny nibble of the Big Apple, which means after just five days you’ll probably be hungry for a lot, lot more. Consider using AirBnB to save a bit of money on accommodation and load up on all the free tourist sites such as Central Park, Brooklyn Bridge and the Chelsea Markets. Most museums offer discounted entry on certain days or you can pick up a NYC Pass for discounts to all the attractions. If you’re feeling lucky enter the Broadway Ticket Lottery to win free show tickets, or to see Lady Liberty for less, skip the crowds and cost of a Hudson River cruise and take the free Staten Island ferry instead. If you’re hopeful that our dollar will rise back to the travellers’ glory days of parity, by all means, wait it out until then. That way you’ve got plenty of time to save up a couple of extra thousand dollars for this bucket-list trip by making regular payments into an online savings account.
Cancun, Mexico – 4 nights
Ranked as the most expensive destination on our travel list, it might be a good idea to save this one for your honeymoon, unless of course you happen to find yourself in the neighbourhood. Travelling during the wet season is a good way to avoid the crowds and exorbitant hotel rates. If you’re in the mood for a holiday that’s all about great meals and plentiful cocktails, consider an all-inclusive hotel package, most of which will satisfy even the biggest foodies. That said, the food and drinks at this paradise on the Caribbean Sea are as cheap as tortilla chips, if you’re willing to eat like the locals from food carts. Getting around is cheap too – many hotels offer free bike hire to guests or you can pick up a low-cost rental by the beach and ride between the many natural wonders that the area has to offer – from the beaches and the jungle to the cenotes and ancient Mayan ruins, the latter which require only a small donation for entry.
By Sally Tindall, RateCity Money Editor
RateCity.com.au is Australia's leading financial comparison website, designed to help people find financial products that suit their needs and save them money.