Travel

Start Planning Your Post-Iso Itinerary With These 8 Budget Destinations

By Bridget O'Donohue
22nd Apr 2020

Crystal clear waters lapping over an Albanian beach.

We’re all dreaming of a holiday right now, and once international travel is opened back up, you’ll be needing a destination that ticks all your wanderlust boxes on a post-corona budget. Add these amazing countries to your itinerary and make those hard-saved dollars really count. 

Bosnia & Herzegovina

If you’re a fan of Hamish and Andy, you would have glimpsed Bosnia & Herzegovina when the boys jumped off the Mostar Bridge back in 2012. The 500-year-old Ottoman UNESCO heritage site is famous for its 25-metre drop into the toe-cramping waters of the Neretva river. A trip to this Balkan gem is worth it alone to watch locals dive off Stari Most and risk fractured shins, but the rest of Bosnia & Herzegovina has a huge amount to offer. Locals are generous with their time, the sites are jaw-dropping and getting around the country by bus will cost you less than weekend brunch.

Cevapi (grilled meat) with flatbread and a shot of rakia will only set you back a few dollars, but beware Balkan cheese unless you like it a touch on the sheepy side. Be sure to hit up the capital Sarajevo where you can explore the abandoned sites of the 1984 winter Olympics and start to understand the complexities of the Balkan war. When in Mostar, stop off at the diver’s club for thick Bosnian coffee and VIP views of the bridge jumpers. If you’re there in September you can catch the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series which takes things up a notch. 

With beautiful blue skies, the picture is a view from above of stunning Mostar with the famous bridge take centre stage.

Albania

Like the introverted sibling of a rowdy family, Albania is the quiet coastal paradise that should be on your Mediterranean itinerary. Isolated from its neighbours Greece and Montenegro by strict communism until the 1990s, the country has only recently opened up its incredible mountains and crystal clear seas to tourists. 

There’s still a lot to be desired with public transport, but car hire is a steal at about $100 a week. That means you’ll have plenty of change left to stock up on fresh seafood and baklava. Wild camping is legal in Albania, so grab a sleeping bag and explore the southern riviera at your own pace, with plenty of empty beaches easily on par with Hvar and Corfu. Albania is also home to Kala, a summer beachside music festival usually held in mid-September.

Georgia

Skip the Swiss Alps and Courchevel for your European ski plans and instead hit the slopes in Georgia. Nestled in Eurasia and bordering Turkey and Russia, Georgia’s high altitude and proximity to the Black Sea means plenty of snowfall and a nice long season for skiers and snowboarders. Depending on your destination, a day pass can set you back between $14-$30, which is the same price as a hot chocolate at some ski resorts in central Europe.

With accommodation often including meals, you can save your dollars for all of the apres-ski. Our resort pick is Gudauri, which is an easy trip from the capital Tbilisi and more English-friendly than most of the other mountains. If your vision of a good holiday is more sipping than shredding, Georgia also has an 8,000-year history of winemaking, making it the birthplace of the humble grape. If you know your skin-contacts from your pet nats, then add Kakheti to your wishlist. The wine region is packed with well-priced hotels and restaurants so you can live your most luxurious life on a tiny budget. 

Georgian ski slopes with clear blue skies in the horizon.
Morocco 

Just a short flight from Central Europe to North Africa, Morocco is the desert adventure you’ve been waiting for. Ancient Marrakesh should be first on your list and just exploring within the walls of the bustling ancient city is activity enough. Markets go on forever and you can find anything from henna and argan oil to locally made leather bags. 

If it all gets a bit much, slipping back to your luxurious riad complete with an interior leafy garden will leave you feeling breezy. Or, take a break from the bustle of the city, the laid-back surf coast of Taghazout and Agadir is dotted with surf camps and yoga retreats where you can fine-tune your downward dog for an absolute bargain. Coffee is served nous-nous (half milk and half coffee) and cafes offer the OG shakshouka, baked eggs packed with coriander, cumin and tomato. 

Colombia  

South America as a whole is good for the wallet as a travel destination, so when we say Colombia is a cheap travel destination you can imagine the budget we’re talking. Skirted by the Caribbean sea and host to the Amazon Basin, you’ll find plenty of iconic spots that cost less to visit than their neighbours. 

The northern Sierra Nevada mountain range hides Ciudad Perdida, an ancient city 600 years older than Peru’s Machu Picchu and a fraction of the price to trek. Head to the peaceful Tayrona National Park for a Caribbean-esque getaway or explore the Amazon from the comfort of a bungalow or villa. Make sure you time your visit with Barranquilla Carnival (usually held in mid-February) where the drinks cost less than your morning espresso and the streets are packed with parties and parades. 

Nepal 

Being burrowed down inside right now, we can’t really picture a better holiday destination than the home of mountaineering and the birthplace of Buddha. Nepal’s Kathmandu has an exorbitant amount of ancient temples to explore and most sites will cost you less than a yoga class. The Monkey Temple is worth the step count for sunset views of the city, plus it’s good practice for your base camp trek, right? Seriously though, you can’t go to Nepal and not head to the Himalayas, and there are plenty of affordable and low-key alternatives. For experienced hikers, the 18 day Annapurna Circuit takes you through mountain villages, jungles and alpine passes to Thorong La summit. If you want the views without the altitude sickness, the Poon Hill Ghorepani trek takes three days and $300 will get you a guide, food and incredible panoramas of the Himalayan mountains. 

After all your hard work hiking, there’s nothing better than heading back to Kathmandu to eat your bodyweight in momos. They’re cheap, they’re delicious and they’re filled with anything from buffalo and beef to paneer and cabbage. For accommodation bargains and curries that cost pocket change, stay in the Thamel backpacker district. It’s also home to the highly Instagrammable chocolate momo from Momo Queen.

Turkey 

This one should come as no surprise, Turkey has been the affordable travel destination of choice for decades, but it still deserves a mention for being MVP. Access to most of the ancient and natural wonders cost only a few Lira, from the white natural terraces of Pamukkale to the rocky valleys of Cappadocia, where you can watch the famous hot air balloons descend on an ancient city. 

Even cruising the Mediterranean is doable, with sandy coves like Bodrum and Fethiye offering boat hire or sailing holidays for less than it costs in neighbouring Greece. No trip is complete without eating your way around Istanbul with the classic döner and kebab, pides filled with minced meat, eggs and spinach, finished off with a sweet börek dusted with icing sugar. 

Hot air balloons rising over the mountains of Turkey

Laos

Laos sometimes gets overlooked being trapped between two tourist powerhouses like Thailand and Vietnam, but with natural stunners like the Kuang Si waterfalls and Kong Lor caves, Laos is the go-to for epic adventure holidays on short funds. 

Luang Prabang’s at the top of the list, with French colonial buildings and roadside cafes selling Laos’ version of the banh mi for a couple of dollars. Grab your cossie and head to the Tat Sae Waterfalls where you can spend the day dipping into clear pools and snacking in a treehouse cafe. If you want some of that adventure, you can kayak or white water raft down the Vang Vieng river before ending up in a hammock at the blue lagoons, longneck in hand. Glamping and eco villas are low-cost and the millennial accommodation of choice with access to bikes, hiking paths and a low environmental impact focus. 

While you’re dreaming up your next holiday, here are 10 Of The Most Grammable Places To Stay Around The World.

Image credit: Polina Rytova, Vruyr Martirosyan, Daniil Vnoutchkov, Kenneth Sonnta | Unsplash

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