A Girl and A Bald Guy

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12 Holiday Destinations (not in Asia) That You can Visit Under $1k SGD And Still Feel Rich!

August 3, 2019

Yep, $1,000 Singapore Dollars (or 740 USD).

 

This isn’t one of those click bait articles that keep appearing on your newsfeed. 

 

You know, those articles that get your attention by shouting out some really low prices for a holiday only for you to discover it’s in Euros and not SGD?

 

Or those articles on “the best travel destinations” you should visit, by a writer who hasn’t actually visited the countries he/she recommended?

 

Now, we haven’t included the cost of air tickets because the price you can get them at is rather subjective. Some have a preference of redeeming points, or buying only when there are discounts, traveling only during off peak periods, and others, insist on only flying Singapore Airlines. 

So yes, “The Girl” and I have visited every single one of our 12 recommendations, and we have a specific methodology on how we arrived at these recommendations.

 

They aren’t based on where the standard of living is the lowest; else we’d just have listed Africa’s DR Congo, or Europe’s poorest country Moldova and call it a “European Vacation”.

 

We based our “Methodology” on the 4 criteria below; and took into account costs shouldn’t exceed $1,000 over 7 days.

 

[Cost of Living] 

You should be able to sit down for dinner and drinks without looking at prices and live it up in strictly private accommodation (no dorms).

 

[Quality of Attractions] 

Surely something more than just museums or taking pictures beside monuments just to show you’ve been there.

 

[Has to be safer than Paris] 

In our book, Paris is an overrated, hot bed of crime. But if you feel safe there, you’ll be fine traveling to any of our recommendations.

 

[Ease of Planning & Getting Around] 

You shouldn’t have to stress over any planning. The second you touch down, tours should be easy to arrange, self-drives should be affordable, and public transport should be convenient.

 

[The Middle East/Mediterranean]

When people hear the words, “The Middle East”, even if the word “terrorists” or “oil fields” aren’t mentioned, I am pretty sure “vacation hotspot” isn’t the first thing that come to mind.

 

Mention the words “Mediterranean”, and a romantic image comes to mind; perhaps Greece.

 

Well, both the Mediterranean and the region commonly known as “The Middle East”, are in fact, close. And our recommendation in this part of the world is a country in that's in the European Union, sits in the Mediterranean, but by proximity, is considered “The Middle East”.

 

1. Cyprus 

The island country of Cyprus was divided among the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots after gaining their independence from the UK in 1960. Naturally, the governments of Greece and Turkey backed their respective halves.

 

I visited Cyprus on one of my solo trips to the Middle East, and boy, was I surprised. With its sparkling blue water, rocky beaches and a smattering of archeological sites; Cyprus is without doubt one of the prettiest places I'd visited.

 

But a vacation in Cyprus is more than just lying on the beach.

 

Go trekking across the Troodos Mountains which cover 9 UNESCO sites, or let your hair down at Cyprus’s famous beachside town of Aiya Napa, (together with Spain’s Ibiza) the party capital of Europe (parties, beers, getting wild).

 

I enjoyed exploring the many archaeological sites across Cyprus, strolling through the old towns (just like in Europe), and on this island, you really get a good mix of Mediterranean life, Greek history, and Turkish culture. 

A decent hotel will cost just $25 -$40 a night if you share it with a partner, renting a car starts as low as $30 a day, public transportation is as good as any in Singapore, and eating out costs between $5-$10 a meal at cafes (that’s cheap considering Cyprus is part of the EU!).

 

If you enjoy the beach, checking out ruins, culture, trekking or café hopping; you’ll love Cyprus. The best part is, you’ll feel like you’re on a European holiday but at Bangkok prices. 

 

[Europe]

“Europe? Under $1,000 SGD a for a week? Eastern Europe la, I also know.”

 

Almost everyone we know refers to any European country they aren't too familiar with, as "Eastern Europe".

 

The Czech Republic? Oh, that's Eastern Europe. Croatia & Hungary? Also "Eastern Europe". But Vienna sits further East than Prague does, so why is Prague widely considered "Eastern Europe" while Vienna is not? Most of Croatia is also further West than Vienna is. But Croatia is referred to as "Eastern Europe" yet Austria is "Central Europe"?

 

Regardless, $1,000 SGD a week will see you comfortably "across Europe"; and here, are our "European" recommendations. 

 

2. The Balkans, Macedonia

Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, and Slovenia; these 10 countries make up the Balkan Peninsula; Europe’s once hidden gem.

 

Today, Croatia and Slovenia have been invaded by the tourist hordes, and have already had their prices bumped up to level that borders on the expensive rather than cheap side.

 

“The Girl” and I have visited every country in the Balkans, and while each have their merits, we’d like to recommend Macedonia; the home of Alexander the Great, who expanded his kingdom as far as India and Africa, and in more recent history, was also part of the former Yugoslavia. 

Macedonia's capital of Skopje was one of the most interesting capitals we’d ever visited.

 

In 1963, an earthquake destroyed 80% of the city. And in 2010, the government had the city rebuilt with a “classical themed façade”; monuments and “ancient” buildings had sprung up, and it was like an archeological site had gone through a time reversal and appeared in the modern world.

 

Macedonia’s other huge attraction would be Lake Ohrid, one of Europe’s most beautiful lakes, with a smattering of archeological sites, fortresses, and churches.

 

Love the mountains, old towns, treks through the forests and bathing in waterfalls? You’ll get to enjoy that in Macedonia’s National Parks. It’s a small country, easy to get around, at packs a punch.

 

Prices wise? Well, it’s as cheap as neighboring Bulgaria, and $5-$10 SGD will score you a great meal. And guess how much the attractions cost?

 

Well, to put things in perspective, in “tourist Europe”, the entrance fee for an attraction would set you back $10 Euros ($16 SGD). And in Macedonia? We paid 0.50c Euros. 

 

Have You Read: Macedonia (The Jewel of the Balkans)

 

3. The Caucasus, Georgia

The Caucasus is a mountainous region where the East meets the West (refer to picture below). Geographically, I guess you could call it Asia, but it’s generally viewed as part of Europe.

 

The Caucasus is made up of Southern Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia, and easily ranks among the most beautiful countries we’ve visited. Think of it as a European vacation but at South East Asian (ex Singapore) prices.

 

In this part of the world, Armenia is the cheapest country to visit, and Azerbaijan the most expensive. And Georgia? Well, let’s just say it the perfect mix of cheap prices, fantastic activities, beautiful scenery, great food, and feels European enough. 

We’ve visited more European Capitals than most, and I would most definitely rank Georgia’s Tbilisi as one of the most fascinating capital cities everyone should visit.

 

Its “old town” is really well preserved, and the “old world feel” really hits home as you stroll along the maze of old cathedrals, forts, and medieval homes. In the mountains of Kazebegi, and the UNESCO World Heritage region of Svaneti, you’ll be blown away by beautiful alpine scenery that rivals Switzerland’s.

 

You’ll enjoy the best wine in the world for a couple of dollars, go on full day tours that cost under $50 SGD (never seen before in Europe), stay in private accommodation as low as $30 SGD ($15 each!), taxi rides under $3 SGD, and ride on trains for $0.50c SGD. Even taking a cable car into the mountains both ways cost us $3 SGD!

 

For a $1,000 over a week? You’ll live life like Donald Trump!

 

Have You Read: Azerbaijan, Georgia & Armenia; A 10 Day European Vacation Under $1.8k SGD! (Including Airfare!)

 

4. Central Europe, Poland

Yes, Poland IS “Central Europe”. It ISN’T Eastern Europe. Please, stop classifying every European country you aren’t too familiar with as "Eastern Europe".

 

In May 2018, LOT Polish Airlines launched its first direct flight from Singapore to Poland. That’s great news, because now, you don’t have to fly to Germany just to get to Poland.

 

Because as far as Central Europe is concerned, most tourists are still stuck wandering about Germany, Austria and Switzerland; hence, a vacation across Poland is a journey through what we would consider as one of Central Europe’s “relatively unspoiled” landscapes.

Poland welcomes tourists with mountains for skiing, valleys and forests for trekking, beautiful lakes you can swim in, farm stays, horseback riding, museums, churches, castles, magnificent old towns and a whole lot more. 

 

The most significant “must see/do” would likely be the Auschwitz memorial, a sort of “dark tourism” experience where you walk amongst the concentration camps the Nazi’s used to gas the Jews during WWII.

 

“The Girl” and I particularly enjoyed the experience of wandering underground in the Wieliczka salt mines. It was an awesome enough experience that year’s later (2019), we signed up for similar experience in Colombia’s Zipaquira Salt Mines.

 

Think of a vacation in Poland like vacationing in Austria and Germany, but probably at 3 times less the cost. Relatively same feel, but hurts your wallet less.

 

5. The Baltics, Lithuania

The Baltic’s is another part of Europe we’ll probably have to indicate on a map (see below) so you’ll know which part of Europe we’re referring to.

 

Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia were once part of the U.S.S.R but were among the first countries to break away from the Soviet Union in 1991 and today are part of the European Union (and use the Euro).

 

I have relatively fond memories of this part of the world because “the Baltics” was were I had experienced my first solo trip. I still remember being amazed that I could get coffee and donuts for $1.20 SGD, in Europe, just few hours away from expensive Scandinavia!

Of the 3 countries, Estonia is the most expensive, Latvia in the middle, and Lithuania the cheapest. I’m not recommending Lithuania because it costs the least, but because unlike Estonia and Latvia (nearer to Finland and the tourist hordes), Lithuania offers likely the most authentic experience of how life in the Baltics are like.

 

They don’t speak much English and it isn’t as easy to get around as opposed to Latvia or Estonia, but that’s the fun of it. Like Estonia and Latvia (and most of Europe), you do get the typical “old towns” in Lithuania; nothing close to the standards in Georgia, but decent enough.

 

What I really thought was great about Lithuania was it’s historical attractions. I visited the KGB museum, learnt about Lithuania’s role in WWII, and visited the “Hill of Crosses”, one of the top Catholic pilgrimage sites in the world. You can read more about it in my post below.

 

Have You Read: The Hill Of Crosses - Eerie Or Holy? You Be The Judge

 

6. Eastern Europe, Ukraine

Ah, the country of Ukraine, now THIS (Kiev, Lviv, Odesa), is Eastern Europe; not Prague, not Budapest, not Dubrovnik. Those cities are NOT Eastern Europe.

 

Now, I have been asked many times, “what’s your favourite country in Europe?”. "Favourite", would be a tough one; but let's just say the Top 5 European countries I’d recommend for a vacation would definitely have Ukraine in it.

 

No, not because restaurants sell pasta for 2.5 Euros and steaks at 5 Euros. And certainly not because the country is home to some of the most beautiful women in the world.

 

For instance, think of Kiev as a Paris, that’s just as beautiful, but safer, cheaper, more interesting (it’s hard to beat a Chernobyl Tour) attractions without stuck up locals, and overall, offering a greater bang for your buck.

Its cities are decked out in magnificent, golden domed cathedrals and colourful streets. Its countryside is as beautiful as any in Europe and so are its beaches on the black seacoast.

 

It’s museums aren’t the typical boring kind, and you get to experience a whole host of interesting activities; such as riding a WWII tank, firing an AK-47 rifle, exploring the “Cold War” missile silos, and of course, Chernobyl, the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster.

 

And no, Ukraine isn’t a dump, it isn’t in the middle of a war, and tanks and soldiers aren’t patrolling the streets, picking up tourists as human shields.