12 Holiday Destinations (not in Asia) That You can Visit Under $1k SGD And Still Feel Rich!
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”.
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? 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!
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.
Instead, everyone is having a ball of a time in what is possibly Europe’s most underrated country.
Have You Read: My Trip To The Most Radioactive Place On Earth; Chernobyl
The United Nations considers “Central America” and “The Caribbean” as part of the North American Continent. For easy reference, let’s segregate the 3 regions leaving North America to be made of Canada, The USA, and Mexico.
No prices for guessing which of them will see you live like a king for $1,000 SGD.
Mexico is a tricky one.
When on vacation, the 3 of the biggest factors that dictate how much you end up spending are air tickets (not part of this post), accommodation, and transport. Food and drink, unless you’re an alcoholic don’t chalk up too much damage for most people.
In Mexico, even in the Yucatan and Cancun area, the most expensive region of Mexico, car rental starts from as low as $30 SGD a day (I rented a Jeep Renegade for around $40 SGD), and hotels are as low as $40+ SGD a night. Split that by 2 people and it barely dents your $1,000 SGD.
On the flip side, food, drinks and entrance fees, however, are a killer. The entrance to Chichen Itza (wonder of the world) is the most expensive at almost $50 SGD, and food at a proper restaurant will set you back $20 SGD per meal.
Still, if you were to tour Mexico City instead of the expensive Yucatan Peninsula, your $1,000 would see you live it up like a king.
Oh, and forget Narcos Mexico, it’s nothing like what you saw on TV. We drove around at night, didn’t get carjacked, lots of police around, and while most locals don’t speak much English, as long as you stick to the touristy parts (I’m sure you will), you’re bound to come across someone who speaks English who can help you out.
We found Mexico a great place to visit and would recommend it especially for families. Beaches, clubs, shopping, Mayan archeological sites, kid friendly waterholes for swimming, jungles for trekkers, and foodies will love Mexican cuisine; there’s something for everyone.
The continent of South America is made up of 12 countries. It’s far from Singapore, rumored to be dangerous, and that puts people off. If that wasn’t enough, the worldwide reception of popular Netflix series “Narcos” hasn’t exactly helped repair South America’s image either.
But say the drugs lords and cartels have retreated into the shadows? And what if it’s safer than Paris today? Would you visit?
Like Mexico, Colombia is no longer that hot bed of crime depicted on popular Netflix series Narcos.
In fact, Colombia today is so safe, I’d have no qualms about letting “The Girl” visit on a solo trip if she wished to.
Colombia is a huge country, and a week is too short a time to experience all this country has to offer. But armed with $1,000 SGD and 7 days of leave, you can pay to save time, and that is sufficient to experience 3 of Colombia’s most popular cities; its capital Bogota, Pablo Escobar’s home town of Medellin, and the Caribbean walled city of Cartagena.
A decent hotel will cost anywhere from $70-$100 SGD, and prices of food at restaurants vary from $5-$10 SGD. But portions are huge, and you’ll get along fine sharing meals. This way, you’ll get to sample more of the local delights without breaking the bank; and wasting food.
Bogota and Medellin are relatively affordable, it’s the walled city of Cartagena that really eats away at your cash reserves. Still, considering most day tours cost just $40-$50 (with the exception of the Escobar tour which costs around $100), your $1,000 will go a long way.
How far would $1,000 SGD get you in Europe? For that kind of money in Colombia, you could even get yourself chauffeured from one attraction to another. Yes, and still be able to live it up in hotels.
Ah, the Caribbean, home to blue water and white sand beaches.
It’s hardly the cheapest place to visit, but you wouldn’t know that, it’s too far for you to contemplate. And what’s there to do beside lying on the beach?
Hmm, but you wouldn’t be in a position to claim that if your knowledge of the Caribbean was limited to the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise like most people would you?
Cuba is a paradise of 3 specific groups of people.
The “Instagramers”, because who doesn’t want a picture in a vintage retro convertible of with colorful colonial houses as a backdrop?
The alcoholics. The average cocktail in Singapore cost $15+ and up. Beers at a bar costs $8 during happy hour and even $20 for a pint if you have a drink in town. In Cuba, Mojitos, Daiquiris (shaved ice sort of cocktail), Havana Clubs (rum), Cuba Libra’s (Rum & Cola), cost between $1.50 SGD to $8 SGD (at really swanky places).
And the smokers. Cuban cigars cost barely anything compared to those we get in Singapore. 4 Euros for a Montecristo? That’s like $7 SGD!
Most tourists choose to stay in a local casa (apartment) for an authentic Cuban experience, which offers privacy, clean rooms with air conditioning for between $35-$70 SGD for an entire apartment!
Meals cost between $1 (for a whole pizza) to $10 (for a steak), or $15 if you want a lobster for yourself.
Everyone should visit Cuba, but come with an open mind, because it isn’t like what “Instagramers” make it out to be. I wont go into details, but for more information on Cuba, check out this post instead.
When people think of Africa, two sorts of stereotypes come to mind;
Positive: Tarzan, Safari’s and Wildlife
Negative: Rebel forces, Blood Diamonds, Aids, Ebola, War, Danger, and Starving Kids (typical Singaporean saying; “don’t waste food ah, you know many children in Africa are hungry?”)
Well, $1,000 a week isn’t enough for a week of Safari game drives, so check out some of “the other” vacation ideas that await you should you put aside the stereotypes and set foot on the African Continent.
So Morocco’s no longer that exotic a destination now that it’s overrun by the tourist hordes, but still, it’s an amazing country for a holiday that offers great value for money.
For “The Girl” and I, Morocco was the first time we set foot on the African continent. Now, 17 African countries later, we still feel that Morocco offers one of the best travel experiences on the planet.
Desert camping in the Sahara, the sights and smells in the Marrakesh street bazaars, getting lost in a maze of blue in the town of Chefchaouen, having a whiff of the tanneries in Fez, and getting a scrub in a hammam, Morocco is a truly a travel destination that arouses all five senses and is actually safe enough for the virgin African tourist.
Chicken Tagine and Couscous, both of traditional Moroccan meals, cost between $5-$8 SGD. The restaurants offer free flow of bread and the portions are large enough you can share. Mint tea and orange juice costs less than $1 and tours cost under $80 on an average per day.
Accommodation costs as low as $6 SGD if you don’t mind a dorm, but even for a private room, $30-$50 will get you private accommodation in a Moroccan riad, divide that with your partner and you won’t even notice the cost.
For $1,000, you could live like a king in Morocco for not just a week, but 10 full days, which should let you comfortably experience more than half of the “must do’s” in this French African nation. For more information on Morocco, check out the post below!
Tunisia is the 2nd French African country on our list, also in Northern Africa. We’re actually pretty torn between Morocco and Tunisia because they are so similar, yet different.
We did a self-drive for a week in Tunisia. It cost just $40 SGD a day and it’s the recommended way to travel because the key attractions are scattered all over the country.
It has the edge over Morocco because of its proximity to the Sahara; that means you have an easier time experiencing the Sahara (no long drives like in Morocco).
What Tunisia has to offer that Morocco doesn’t, are the original Star Wars film sets. We aren’t fans but it felt wonderful to be at the various film locations of one of the most successful films of all time.
Tunisia’s mountain oasis remains one of the most memorable places we’d ever swam in, and in it’s El Jem Amphitheatre, they have an archeological wonder that rivals Rome’s colosseum at half the price.
Prices are similar to Morocco but I’d have to say the variety on offer in Tunisia gives them a slight edge. For more information on Tunisia, check out the post below!
When most people visit Africa for the first time, they tend to stay rooted in South Africa alone, which is a waste, because the rest of “Southern Africa” has a lot more to offer.
Zimbabwe/Zambia (I’m putting the both of them together because they are just a 15min border crossing away and they share similar sorts of activities), is home to the Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, and also the worlds largest waterfall.
In the wet season, you get the experience of being drenched by the spray and mist which rises to a height of 400m. In the dry season, you get to admire the falls proper, as well as swim in the “devils pool”. But there’s way more besides just "the falls".
Read This Too: Visiting The Devil's Pool? I Suggest You Read This First
Besides the typical safari game drives, you’ll also get to enjoy “horseback safari’s”, “boating safari’s”, and camping on a houseboat along the Zambezi River. There’s practically something for everyone.
Adrenaline seekers can look forward to bungee jumping, ziplining, swimming in the “devils pool” and water rafting. Families can enjoy the experience of having a dining experience in an actual African steam train.
A night in a private room costs $70 SGD and up, but attractions will eat away at your $1,000 more than anything else (depending on your choice of activities) and cost upwards of $50. Meals cost $5-$10 SGD which isn’t expensive considering that the Victoria Falls region is Africa’s No.1 Natural attraction.