03 May 2017
Hoping to make your money stretch a little further this year? Whether you’re dreaming of sunshine and white sands or an adventure, we’ve chosen a few places you might not have thought of travelling to. And, you might be surprised to find there are destinations that are both long-haul and closer to home.
Isn’t long-haul more expensive, though? Not necessarily. Your flight to far-flung shores might be more expensive than a short-haul hop a couple of hours away but costs once you’re there can be much lower than a European resort.
Similarly, it’s worth remembering that though currency markets rise and fall, this doesn’t always mean that the country you’re visiting will be much more expensive. Some destinations offer great value holidays regardless, so you’ll find that your Euro does actually go further than you’d think.
Read on to discover 7 holiday destinations to help make the most of your holiday budget this year…
While a flight to South Africa might be more expensive than a short flight to Europe, the country is amazing value for money. And you might be (very pleasantly) surprised at how much your holiday budget gets you.
As Travel Counsellor Sarah points out, using the word “cheap” doesn’t do this beautiful country justice, “pretty much everything in South Africa is exceptional value for money, and I mean value. I don’t like using the word cheap as it implies the standard of what you are getting is not great but in South Africa this is just not true. You will be astounded as how high the quality of accommodation is, and how much you get for your money in terms of food and drink.”
South Africa is a breathtaking blend of gourmet food and wine, wildlife and epic landscapes, and cosmopolitan cities and beaches. It’s an incredible destination for everyone in the family because there’s so much to do, and you won’t experience jet lag as the time difference from Ireland is a mere GMT +1.
Perhaps more noted for its great value ski resorts than its beaches, Bulgaria is a delightful country to visit in the summer months. Expect spectacular mountains, bright green forests, beautiful seaside resorts, and sweeping blankets of roses. Why roses? Bulgaria is one of the largest producers of rose oil in the world and the Valley of Roses lies at its heart.
Nestled in the southeast of Europe, next to the Black Sea, Bulgaria’s coast stretches for a huge 236 miles. This sprawling coastline offers sandy beaches, warm waters, and large, modern resorts with charming seaside towns tucked amongst them.
The mountains, meanwhile, take up over half of Bulgaria, with the capital city of Sofia lying at the bottom of one of the mountains, Vitosha. Hikers should make a beeline for the Pirin Mountains and the Pirin National Park, listed by UNESCO, and Rila National Park, in the Rila Mountains.
Aside from the delights of cosmopolitan Sofia, founded over 7,000 years ago, Travel Counsellor Ann Marie recommends Nessebar for culture and sightseeing: “This old-world village has real charm and character and is worth a visit to stroll around the ancient cobbled streets and marvel at the old architecture. There are many restaurants here to choose from and each has a unique feel to it, an ideal way to spend an evening overlooking the peninsula.”
And spending money while you’re here? The Bulgarian currency is the Lev (BGN) and on average, you’ll pay €35 for a meal for two with wine in a high-end restaurant and €1.50 for a cappuccino in a café in tourist areas.
Dreaming of a tropical paradise with dazzling beaches, luxurious accommodation, and incredible food, that won’t blow your entire holiday budget? Head to Thailand.
With bright blue waters, white sand, stunning resorts and hotels, Thailand offers everything you’d expect of a tropical paradise. Add warm, welcoming locals to the mix and you’ll soon see why Thailand is known as The Land of Smiles.
Once you’ve paid for your flights to Thailand, what other costs can you expect? On average, a two-course dinner with drink in a restaurant in around €15, while a big bottle of water is 50c.
Thailand is a family friendly destination, too. Travel Counsellor Jeanette loves to visit Phuket with her family: “Like so many other travellers I love Thailand and something keeps pulling me back. Apart from the obvious, the delicious Thai Food, endless pristine beaches and the wonderful Thai hospitality, it has so much to offer. Phuket has now been mapped as one of my favourite holiday destinations with the children. Not only do the locals make children feel so welcomed, they cater for all your family needs. If, like myself, you have a fussy eater then most restaurants offer Western dishes alongside the ever popular Thai dishes that are a must try whilst on the Island. Many hotels offer a Children's Club, Family Rooms and great facilities for children.”
And if you need more convincing, we think Travel Counsellor Andre perfectly describes the wonders of Thailand: “It’s a cocktail with a little bit of everything thrown in; culture, authenticity, 5* service, true friendliness, stunning beach and island locations.”
China is a fascinating country with so much to see and do, so don’t let that long-haul flight put you off! And, while you might think your flight will take a good chunk of your holiday budget, you might be surprised at the value of everything else, from luxury hotels to food. Add to this moves in the currency markets over the last 12 months, and that wish-list adventure to China might be closer than you think!
With so many jaw-dropping places to visit in China, where do you start? Shanghai? Beijing? The Great Wall? Well, a tour to see the highlights might be the best option. You’ll be able to relax and enjoy the country, without worrying about getting from place to place and working our Mandarin!
Travel Counsellor John opted for a tour when he visited China. John travelled around China on a 19-day tour, which included, “visiting many of the wonderful sites: Shanghai, Beijing, The Great Wall, Terracotta Warriors, Nine Village Valleys, Chengdu (the Pandas) and stopping off in Hong Kong for three days on the way back. I have to say this has been long on my list of places to visit for a long time and it didn’t disappoint me.”
Mexico might have been in the news a lot recently but it’s a truly stunning holiday destination. Picture sweeping stretches of white sand, twinkling turquoise waters lapping at your feet, and glorious sunshine. All topped with towering Mayan ruins, delicious food, and activities from eco-parks to swimming with turtles.
All-inclusive resorts offer amazing luxury and brilliant facilities, and if you can drag yourself away from the on-site amenities, there are lots of easy day excursions to help you explore this dazzling country!
Croatia’s no longer the hidden European gem it used to be but with good reason – exquisite beaches, beautiful architecture, and forest-covered mountains. All of which make Croatia a fantastic holiday destination for sunseekers, culture-lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.
The coastline hugs the deep blue of the Adriatic Sea and Croatia has 1,185 islands, islets and reefs. Inland, you’ll find mountains and castles, with cities built on the sites of ancient Greek and Roman settlements.
Croatia also boasts a beach that is often named as one of Europe’s best beaches, Zlatni Rat on Brač Island. The beach stretches 500m vertically into the sea, with a pine grove behind the sand and those deep blue waters of the Adriatic Sea surrounding it.
It’s often cheaper to visit in spring or autumn but the beaches are absolutely glorious in the summer months. Though when Travel Counsellor Donna visited Croatia in August 2016, she found it excellent value for money: “We found the people to be very friendly, the food delicious and excellent value for money, the Adriatic Sea crystal clear and warm, the landscape breathtaking and so much culture to take in – some places look like the Romans only moved out recently!
To get a flavour of Croatia, we decided to visit three areas along the southern Croatian coastline encompassing the gorgeous city of Dubrovnik staying in nearby harbour town of Cavtat, Makarska and the stunning cultural city of Split, staying in nearby Stobrec.”
As with travel to exotic destinations such as Mexico, China, South Africa and Thailand, flight times and prices to Vietnam can make it feel as though your budget will barely touch a holiday here. However, you might be surprised at how far your pounds and pennies will go here.
In Vietnam, you’ll find an intriguing country that will fascinate everyone from history buffs to foodies. There are highlands with breathtaking landscapes, ornate temples and colourful pagodas, colonial architecture, rolling plains, and the vast Mekong River. And, you’ll also find incredibly friendly locals and mouthwatering cuisine.
From stunning Halong Bay to Ho Chi Minh to the Mekong Delta, there are many places to explore in Vietnam. Travel Counsellor Mary’s favourite place so far is Hoi An, “It's actually really hard to put into words the feeling of being in Hoi An. It is unlike anywhere else in Vietnam. It feels like Vietnam from days gone by and seems to run at a much slower, less rushed pace. The massive markets on the riverfront are sprawling and full of smells, colours and flavours that you really need to experience. I could spend days in a place like this just wandering aimlessly!”
Mary says, “Hoi An Town is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a Southeast Asian trading port dating from the 15th to the 19th century. Its buildings and its street plan reflect the influences, both indigenous and foreign, that have combined to produce this unique heritage site.
The Old town is magnificent - cobbled streets and ancient buildings wind around the river. The lack of motorised traffic in the Old Town makes for easy exploring compared to other cities in Vietnam where you feel as if you are taking your life into your own hands just crossing the street! The colours are vibrant and the food is out of this world. Try the Cao Lau, a simple delicious Hoi An specialty. And did I mention the shopping? What a town for tailors! If you need something made, they will measure you up, make the garment and fit you - then deliver it to your hotel all in 2 days!”
And for spending money while you’re in Vietnam? Dinner for two in a local Vietnamese restaurant is around €16, a domestic beer in a bar is around €1, and a two-piece suit made by a tailor is around €100.
Tempted to explore one of these fascinating destinations? Get in touch with your Travel Counsellor today to plan your tailor-made trip!