World's best destinations on a budget for 2013
This article initially appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.
Words: Ben Groundwater.
Sweden is not one of them, in case you were wondering. I'm there at the moment and, fantastic country that it is, it ain't cheap. We're talking $10 beers, $20 meals, $40 dorm beds... It's not the ideal destination for the budget-conscious.
There are, however, countries much better suited to a cheap holiday. And as the Christmas break disappears into the ether like a sunny dream, it's probably time to start thinking about the next trip away.
If you're planning a backpacker-friendly break in 2013, this is where you want to be heading.
Not all of Germany, settle down. I'm talking Berlin, the city known for being "poor but sexy". It is both of those things, sometimes in equal measure – it's also ridiculously cheap for a western European capital, and, just to top it off, it's the best city in the world (discuss). Dorm beds go for as little as 10 euro a night; beers in the coolest little bars you've ever been to cost spare change. Many attractions are free. Public transport is cheap and efficient. Can't recommend it highly enough.
Southern India in particular is so cheap you'll think you've calculated the exchange rate wrong. The best lunch known to man – a thali – costs about $1.20. Coffees cost 20c. Train and bus travel is an adventure, but it's also a cheap adventure. And most accommodation tops out at around $10 to $15 a night for a private room. All of this comes with one of the most memorable experiences you can have on the road: being in India.
Fiji has always been a great spot for budget travellers in search of a little Pacific island sunshine, but Samoa is a worthy alternative. If staying in a little beach shack run by local villagers sounds like your idea of a good time, then this is your place. Those beach shacks are inexpensive, too, and there's plenty more to keep you occupied on the cheap, like surfing, fishing, diving, golf... All the stressful things really.
Often forgotten in favour of its more famous neighbour Kenya (or ignored due to those World Vision ads people still remember from the '80s), Ethiopia is inexpensive and amazing. Heard of the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela? Neither has anyone else. Then there are Rastafarian villages, soaring mountains, volcanic lakes, ancient mosques... And everything is super-cheap. Like, spend-$10-a-day cheap. You won't find that in Kenya.
Northern Spain is fairly standard, price-wise, for Europe, but once you go south things start getting much cheaper. Seville, for example, is perfect for budget travellers, a place with excellent, inexpensive food (a tapa of jamon iberico for $3; full lunches for less than $10), great-value accommodation, and a standard beer costs the equivalent of $1.50. You can't beat that in Europe.
The country is crawling with backpackers, simply because it's an amazing destination for people on a budget. All of the good things in a travellers' life – beer, food, accommodation, transport, local attractions – come at a price of pretty much nothing in Laos. If the boozing, backpacking hordes at Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang don't appeal, try getting off the beaten track to places like Phonsavanh or Vieng Xai.
Ah, the almighty Australian dollar. It won't always be so strong, so you might as well hop on a cheap flight to the US now and get your spending on. California is the first stop and it could easily be your only one. Hit the beach in Huntington, go drinking in Venice, take a drive up Highway 1, wander around San Francisco, have a surf in Santa Cruz. It all costs much less than its equivalent in Australia.
Brazil isn't as cheap as you might think. Argentina is good value, but prices are still higher than average for South America. Peru can be a little pricey in the tourist centres. Bolivia, however, is perfect for those without much cash to spare. Not only is the country loaded with sights and culture, activities and adventures, but you can get away with spending about $30 a day while experiencing it. The highest cost will be getting there.