Traveling doesn't have to break the bank. In fact, who says traveling can't be "affordable yet comfortable"? Your bank balance looking thin? Didn't get the fat bonus you were expecting? No worries. That doesn't mean you're going to be restricted to sleeping in dormitory's, living on some strangers couch, or surviving on a diet of self made tuna sandwiches.
Based on destinations we've already traveled to, "The Girl" and I (The Bald Guy) have streamlined our picks and come up with 10 travel destinations affordable enough for the average Singaporean able to afford the latest iPhone or donning the trendiest Hermes fashion accessories. And no, we didn't choose these countries based on their GDP (they have to be fun too!), else it would be a typical listicle like you find in most other travel blogs, with destinations consisting of the usual Southeast Asian countries (Borrrring..... Cambodia again?).
Yes. In these 10 countries, you can afford to go on reasonably priced tours, have a private room all to yourself, dine in restaurants, have a beer or enjoy a desert whenever you please. And most of all, they would be considered exotic; a key criteria on all our articles (and safe).
(In no particular order)
Consider Visiting: Lake Malawi (Cape Maclear or Salima), Liwonde National Park, Zomba Plateau
Accommodation: Private Rooms from USD $6 a night.
Cost of Food: Local restaurant $1-2 USD/ Tourist Restaurant $4-7 USD
Try Nsima, a thick maize porridge rolled into something like a maize ball, dipped and eaten with stew. (for Singaporean's, think of the rice cakes we eat with Satay)
Key Activities: Water/Beach activities (Kayaking/Snorkeling/Scuba Diving/Fishing) or Safari game drives. However, the "key thing to do" in Malawi is actually to simply "do nothing at all". Just chill by the lake with a beer or have a game of soccer with the locals.
Most Ideal For: Families, Couples, Friends who want a relaxing vacation being disconnected from the world (Power outages are frequent, WIFI is unstable. No way for your boss to bother you on vacation)
Danger rating: 3/5
(Malawi is known as the "Warm Heart of Africa". Locals are friendly, and it's not particularly dangerous for tourists. It gets a 3/5 because well, Africa is still Africa; even if it's "friendlier Africa")
Have you read: Planning to go on an African Safari?... Wait!... Don't Book Without Reading This First...(Part I)
9. Bosnia & Herzegovina
Consider Visiting: Mostar (the most touristy part of Bosnia) and Sarajevo (for it's history)
Accommodation: Private Rooms from USD $12 a night.
Cost of Food: Local restaurant $3-4 USD/ Tourist Restaurant $5 USD
Try Cevapi, a sort of minced meat "balkan kebab" accompanied with bread on the side. It's probably the cheapest "meat dish" around and really popular in the Balkans. For a local snack, try Burek, a dough pastry stuffed with meat or potatoes. You might want to share it though; it's really filling for a "snack".
Key Activities: Explore the old towns, visit museums (lots of war museums, memorials) cemeteries, fortresses, pay a local to jump off a bridge (in Mostar), and gawk at the bullet hole riddled buildings. Bosnia is perhaps the only country where bullet riddled buildings are actually an attraction in itself.
Most Ideal For: History/war geeks, cash strapped backpackers, and Singaporeans who are bored with "Touristy Europe" and want to experience a safe "Eastern European" country for a change.
Danger rating: 2/5
(Bosnia is one of the safer countries in Eastern Europe but be careful when self driving. Not all the landmines have been cleared so don't veer off the usual roads. Oh and don't wander into those bullet hole riddled abandoned buildings as well)
Have you read: Singaporeans Abroad - Exotic Europe Series (3) Bosnia & Herzegovina - Mostar
Consider Visiting: Kiev (one of the most impressive capital cities in the world), Lviv (arguably Ukraine's prettiest city), Odessa (the black sea), Chernobyl (this is a must go!)
Accommodation: Private Rooms from USD $9 a night.
Cost of Food: Local restaurant $2 USD/ Tourist Restaurant $3-5 USD
Try Varenyky (dumplings stuffed with potato/cheese/vegetables), Deruny (potato pancakes) and fill your belly with piping hot Borshch (red beet meat) soup.
Key Activities: Ukraine is home to some of Europe's finest cathedrals. The streets in major cities like Kiev and Lviv are beautiful and perfect for people watching or cafe hoping. Military tours are especially unique to the region. Fire a Kashnikov, explore missile silos used during the cold war, and even drive a soviet tank!
Of course, a tour to the Chernobyl Nuclear reactor and its surrounding "ghost town" is an absolute must! At night, visit the opera theater or soak up the atmosphere by going to a stadium to catch a Ukrainian football match.
Most Ideal For: History/military geeks, cash strapped backpackers, couples, people who want a "soviet like" experience without the hassle and cost of applying for a Russian visa. Oh, and lonely men looking to score a Ukrainian wife (Ukrainian women are perhaps among the most beautiful I've come a cross in the whole of Europe).
Danger rating: 3/5
(The main "touristy" cities like Kiev, Lviv and Odessa are really safe. Even Chernobyl is safe to visit as long as you're on a tour. The dangerous parts are the Crimea or Donetsk region which tourists avoid anyway. Unfortunately, the situation in those cities push up the "danger rating" of the country as a whole)
Have you read: Make The Former Soviet Union Your Next Travel Destination; You'll Be Amazed At What It's Become! (Part 1)
Consider Visiting: Marrakesh (most touristy part of Morocco), Fez (the medical capital), Chefchaouen (the "Santorini of Africa"), Essaouira (the ancient seaside town), Agadir (for it's beaches)
Accommodation: Private Rooms from USD $15 a night in a Riad (when in Morocco, you MUST stay in a Riad).
Cost of Food: Local restaurant $2 USD/ Tourist Restaurant $4-6 USD
Try Couscous, a sort of "rice like" dish mixed with meat and vegetables. We preferred Tagine though, a sort of clay-pot spicy meat stew tasted absolutely divine when eaten with bread.
Key Activities: Get yourself well and truly lost in the souks (bazaar) of Marrakesh before finally arriving in the main square Jamaa el Fnaa; the "icon" of Marrakesh. The smell of street food fills the air as you indulge in the experience of watching magicians and snake charmers ply their trade. Marrakesh is possibly one of the best places in the world to "people watch" over a cup of Moroccan Mint Tea. Unwind with a relaxing scrub in the many Hamman's (steam-bath) about the city.
Key Activities (continued): The ancient city of Fez is also a sight to behold. If you've watched "The Amazing Race", you'd have noticed one of Fez's key attractions; the Tanneries (really smelly though). What you really have to do though, is sign up for a "Sahara Tour". You'll get to spend the night in a luxury Desert Camp, and sleep with the stars as your roof. This is perhaps one of the most memorable experiences "The Girl" & I will always remember.
Most Ideal For: People who are sick of Europe, want to experience Africa but in a subtle way. Morocco has enough European influences for a typical Singaporean to feel "comfortable" while opening the door to an African experience at the same time. This is a country for everyone. The backpacker, the die hard Luxury Traveler, the history geek, families, adventurers. Every should and MUST visit Morocco.
Danger rating: 3/5
(Touts can be aggressive at times, and single women will probably get catcalled; perhaps some minimal harassment. Taxi drivers drop you off at wrong destinations and demand for higher fees and even the children give you wrong directions to get you lost on purpose so you'll have no choice but pay them to find your way out again. Still, these minor annoyances can be solved with a "sporting attitude" and a little money. Overlook these "minor annoyances" and you'll find Morocco one of earth's most fascinating and enjoyable destinations.)
Consider Visiting: Tbilisi (the capital), Batumi (black sea), Kutaisi (home to a couple of UNESCO sites), Kazbegi, and Svaneti (the mountainous part of the country).
Accommodation: Private Rooms from USD $8 a night
Cost of Food: Local restaurant $1-2 USD/ Tourist Restaurant $3-5 USD
Georgia is known as the "birthplace of wine", so yeah, think you're a wine connoisseur? You haven't had wine till you've sipped Georgian wine (only Moldovan wine is it's equal).
Georgian cuisine is the most famous among the former USSR states. Try Khachpuri, a sort of bread with cheese and egg, and Khinkali, a huge meat stuffed dumpling (think a mega sized "xiao long bao").
Key Activities: Georgia is especially famous for its ancient churches, many perched along the slopes of the Caucasus mountains. Tbilisi is one of Europe's most interesting capital cities; a weird mix of ancient and ultra futuristic looking buildings. For a capital city, I'd say it deserves at least 3 days; and that saying a lot. Enjoy sulphur baths and drowning yourself in Georgian wine. The mountainous regions of Svaneti are certainly worth a visit (the whole region is a UNESO site).
Most Ideal For: Wine connoisseurs, history geeks, backpackers, couples, families even with young children, and Singaporeans who want a "different sort of Europe" while still staying safe. Exotic travel is apparently on the rise in Singapore, and European countries don't get much more exotic than Georgia.
Danger rating: 1/5
(We felt practically zero danger vibes in this country, encountered no aggressive touts, and practically everyone we met was friendly and open to foreigners. Georgia is one of Europe's safest countries; definitely way safer than France since all the bad dudes of Europe seem to have migrated there. I would even let "The Girl" visit on her own if she wanted to. Just don't drive across to the Russian - Georgian border; the two countries aren't the best of friends nowadays.)
Have you read: Azerbaijan, Georgia & Armenia; A 10 Day European Vacation Under $1.8k SGD! (Including Airfare!)
Consider Visiting: Semonkong, The Sani Pass, Sehlabathebe National Park
Accommodation: Private Rooms from USD $30 a night.
Cost of Food: Local restaurant $2 USD/ Tourist Restaurant $7-10 USD
Try Ugali (I don't like it though), the staple food in this part of the world. It tastes like satay rice without the satay sauce, eaten with meat; similar to Nsima, what we ate in Malawi.
Key Activities: Pony trekking, waterfall abseiling, hiking, skiing, fishing, and doing nothing in particular. If Malawi was about chilling by the lake, Lesotho is about chilling in the mountains (Lesotho has the highest low point of any country in the world!)
Most Ideal For: The adventurer, all guys trip, the mountaineer, any Singaporean intent on finding the "meaning of life". For interest sake, Lesotho is also known as "The Kingdom in the Sky"
Danger rating: 2/5
(Lesotho is one of Africa's safest countries. Sure, I wouldn't suggest walking alone in the dark; but I wouldn't do that in any part of Africa either. Exercise basic commonsense and all should be fine. Lesotho is as safe as an African country could ever hope to be)
Have you read: 11 Days Luxury Travel In Africa @2k SGD Nett! (Including Airtickets)
Consider Visiting: Sofia (the capital), Plovdiv (Europe's oldest city), Burgas/Varna (black sea), Rousse (Little Vienna)
Accommodation: Private Rooms from USD $18 a night.
Cost of Food: Local restaurant $2-3 USD/ Tourist Restaurant $4-5 USD
Bulgarian cuisine has a mix of Turkish and Greek influence and is particularly known for its soups and salads. Food is really cheap, tastes pretty good, and costs almost nothing (by European standards)!
Key Activities: Vacationing in Bulgaria is like indulging in a host of "European activities"
Visit the countries monasteries (many of which have impressive fresco's), admire old Roman architecture (like you do in Rome), go skiing in the Vitosha mountains (similar to the Swiss Alps) easily accessible from Sofia, hiking in the mountains, enjoy cheap shopping, and possibly have a wild night out.
Most Ideal For: Singaporeans who want to experience a widely varying European vacation; it's like an "all in one country". History geeks, beach bums, families, photographer wannabe's and men looking for cheap sex.
Danger rating: 2/5
(It's not uncommon to find random people trying to pester you to buy staff or the occasional "non meter" haggling taxi driver. But minor annoyances aside, Bulgaria feels pretty safe so long as you dont swagger about with a gold Rolex on your wrist)
Have you read: Singaporeans Abroad - Exotic Europe Series (2.1) Bulgaria - Plovdiv
Consider Visiting: Sundarbans (Tiger spotting) and Cox Bazaar (worlds longest beach)
Accommodation: Private Rooms from USD $20 a night.
Cost of Food: Local restaurant $1-3 USD/ Tourist Restaurant $6-8 USD
Food is pretty similar to the Indian Cuisine you get in Singapore (but their prata is less oily). I ate a lot of Prata and Briyani (their chicken is extremely skinny though, barely any meat on the bones) but a particular type of fish (Hilsa) is their main staple. There were too many bones for my liking though, so halfway through my meal, I gave up and decided to just focus on plain rice with dal and egg instead.
Key Activities: The Sundarbans are the home of the famous Bengal Tigers. Get yourself to Khulna via the 100 year old Rocket Steamer (an amazing experience), and kick off your jungle trek. Besides tigers, crocodiles, leopards and cobras form the bulk of the "game spotting" thrill. Not into that much adventure? Head to the worlds longest stretch of beach, the cox bazaar to chill over a beer.
Most Ideal For: adventurers, backpackers, river enthusiasts (forget the Amazon River, this is closer & cheaper) and Singaporeans who are really game for a raw adventure experience (India feels like Switzerland compared to Bangladesh).
Danger rating: 3/5
(Judging by the way the locals milled around me, taking photos of me, and grabbing my arm to check out my tattoos, I get the feeling Bangladesh isn't exactly popular among tourists. Curiosity overload aside, I felt safe in Bangladesh. Many stares yes, but nothing threatening, in fact, it was like I morphed into Tom Cruise for the week!)
Have you read: Bangladesh For A Vacation? You Must Be Crazy!
Consider Visiting: Hlane National Park (the country's largest game reserve), village visits
Accommodation: Private Rooms from USD $26 a night.
Cost of Food: Local restaurant $2-3 USD/ Tourist Restaurant $6-11 USD
Try Maize porriage (a staple but I didn't like it) and grilled chicken. A wide variety of western food is available in Swaziland; but as the saying goes, "when in Rome, do what the Romans do". And when in Swaziland? Eat what the locals eat.
Key Activities: Let me be honest. Save for Hlane National Park, there isn't a whole lot to do in Swaziland. The Safari game drives are relatively cheap though, and you do get to see the Big 5. Visiting the local tribes is what I would really recommend though. I thought it was an interesting experience to see how the "stereotypical African" lives their life.
Most Ideal For: budget travelers who want to see the Big 5 but can't afford the Safari costs of visiting the Serengeti.
Danger rating: 2/5 to 5/5 depending on your choice of activity.
(Swaziland ranks as one of Africa's safest countries. Yes, it's safe even for solo female travelers. However, Swaziland has the highest AIDS prevelance in the world. 1 out of 3 are AIDS infected. If you'd like your stay in this country to be somewhat safe, it's simple; Don't have sex; not with the locals at least)
Have you read: 18 Days Africa & Europe Under 2.2k SGD Nett! (Including Airtickets)
Consider Visiting: Tirana (the capital), Berat/Gjirokaster (Ottoman period castles and architecture. Both are UNESCO cities), Sarande/Vlore (The Albanian Rivera)
Accommodation: Private Rooms from USD $12 a night.
Cost of Food: Local restaurant $3 USD/ Tourist Restaurant $6-12 USD
Albanian Cuisine in general has a Turkish influence about it (thanks to 400 years of Ottoman rule). Stew forms part of a typical local meal and Byrek (a sort of cheese filled pie) Food is pretty cheap in Albania. I had a steak in a restaurant overlooking the river for just $6 USD! A real steak!
Key Activities: The Albanian Rivera is perhaps even more beautiful than the over hyped French Rivera. Visiting the seaside towns by the coast is always recommended. Explore old castles and take historical tours about the Ottoman period towns.
Most Ideal For: History geeks, backpackers, beach lovers, couples and even families.
Danger rating: 3/5
(If you've watched the movie "Taken", you'd have seen Albania painted as a one of the worlds most dangerous countries. Kidnappings, jihadists, gangs and what nots. While I will say that Albanians are not used to tourism, it's extremely unlikely they would bother any "vacationer". We got stared at, weird looks at times, but it was nothing like what the movie portrayed Albania to be)
Have you read: 27 Days In Europe "COMFORTABLY" Under 2.8k SGD or 1.8k Euros! (Including Airtickets)
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