10 Surprisingly Budget Places To Visit For Your Year-End Vacation


Cheng Sim •  Mar 08, 2017

Travelling on a shoestring budget doesn’t always equate to limited holiday experiences. Truth be told, some of our memorable getaways are done without a pocketful of cash. Think a relaxing day by the beach, a historical excursion in a local museum, a street food dinner, and a retail therapy at a flea market.

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Don’t believe us? Here’s a round-up of our favourite budget destinations that you should visit this year.

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1. Yogyakarta, Indonesia

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Being the home of Borobudur and Prambanan sites, Yogyakarta is a magnetic destination for budget travellers who are looking for historical excursion. Nicknamed as Jogja, there are various inexpensive attractions to visit such as the Presidential Palace, Fort Vredeburg, and Taman Sari Water Castle.

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Dining is a must! Look out for ice cream rojak, soto, bakmi jawa, and gudeg that are easily spotted in local restaurants and street stalls. Yes, please help yourself to their sweet treats and desserts as well.

[Planning a holiday in Yogyakarta? Here’s our amazing 5D4N itinerary and fun activities to do for first timers!]

#HHWT Tip: If you’re tired from walking around, hop on the local bicycle-rickshaw called ‘becak’ where rates are between 10.000 and 20.000 IDR.

2. Sofia, Bulgaria

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Who knew that Sofia would be a lovely destination for budget travellers too? Known as the capital of Bulgaria, Sofia is well-loved for the snow-capped Vitosha mountain, scenic Boyana waterfall, and historical landmarks in the city.

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There are plenty of free walking tours in Sofia that will take you to local food market, historical museum, and cathedrals. Since the city is reasonably small, take advantage of the affordable MRT services to commute from one attraction to another.

[Learn more about the amazing Bulgaria from our #HHWT Explorer Elena here!]

#HHWT Tip: If you’re planning to explore beyond Sofia, opt for local buses instead of trains. Although train rides are relatively cheaper, it takes longer to reach your destination.

3. Istanbul, Turkey

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Muslim travellers saunter through the arrival halls of TAV Istanbul Ataturk Airport for Istanbul’s local dining, lively street markets, and beautiful mosques.

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With so much sightseeing to do, explore and admire the colours of the Spice Bazaar, visit the Istanbul Modern Museum (free admission on Thursdays), take snapshots of the gorgeous Blue Mosque, and stroll with the romantics on the Galata Bridge - all for free.

[Check out 7 incredible places in Turkey that will make your jaw drop!]

#HHWT Tip: Take the bus to maximise its wallet-friendly fares. Most reputable bus companies at Büyük Otogar terminal offer Wi-Fi connectivity and long journey snacks onboard too!

4. Bangkok, Thailand

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‘Bangkok on a budget’ is a common theme among backpackers visiting the Land of Smiles. The capital city’s burst of energy and affordable travelling have become their main appeals for many years now.

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Street food abound in this bustling destination, so feel free to savour them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They’re also known for their amazing shopping scene such as Chatuchak Weekend Market, Talad Rod Fai Market, and Pratunam Market. Prepare to be overwhelmed!

[On a super tight budget? Here's 10 absolutely free and awesome ways to discover Bangkok!]

#HHWT Tip: Haggling is a norm in Bangkok’s shopping scene. Get the best deals by haggling graciously and politely.

5. Yangon, Myanmar

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We can all agree that Yangon is the one of many underrated destinations in Southeast Asia. Opening their doors to tourists is a welcoming move by the government to promote Yangon's hidden beauty and treasure to the world.

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It’s also the best city to take it nice and slow. You can chill for hours at the Shwedagon Pagoda, take a walk down the Chaungtha Beach, enjoy their delicious Shan noodles, and sip piping hot Burmese teas without hurting your wallet.

#HHWT Tip: Eating around Yangon is cheap and normally costs around USD 1-3 for a simple meal and USD 5-10 for restaurant-quality food.

6. Penang, Malaysia

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Penang is a paradise for backpackers who seeks inexpensive sightseeing and street food. Check out the local tourism board for their free guided tours in the ‘Last Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of the Month’ programme. A small number of cultural and heritage attractions in Georgetown also comes with cheap admission rates.

[Unwind at these 12 trendy and unique hotels in Penang!]

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Georgetown may be known for their concentration of delicious local food, but you can score cheaper meals outside of the tourist circle. Take the bus to Air Itam, Seberang Perai, and Butterworth for wallet-friendly asam laksa, pasembur, nasi kandar, and more.

[Discover Penang’s iconic local dishes that you need to try here]

#HHWT Tip: Commute around Georgetown via Rapid Penang’s extensive bus services. Look out for free CAT shuttle bus and Rapid Bus 101 that covers major attractions and tourist hot spots.

7. Mumbai, India

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Dubbed as the epicentre of Bollywood, it's hard to believe that you can enjoy the sights and sounds of Mumbai on a shoestring budget. Densely populated with friendly smiles, travellers frequent Mumbai to experience the attractions such as the Gateway of India, Haji Ali Dargah, Siddhivinayak Temple, and Sanjay Gandhi National Park.

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The main highlight is the glorious Indian delicacies and street food! Go for the vegetarian Maharashtrian meal, South Indian tandoori, gurda cheese rolls, and patrel biryani that are generally kind to the wallet. Aside from backpackers hostel, you can also splurge on budget hotels and traveller inns to spend the night.

[Enjoy a long weekend in Mumbai with our 4D3N itinerary!]

#HHWT Tip: When exploring the city, you’re encouraged to carry around traveller’s cheques instead of cash, which can be exchanged at the local money changers.

8. Luang Prabang, Laos

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Being Laos’s ancient capital, add Luang Prabang into your list of budget destinations to visit this year. Neighbouring the famous Mekong River, there are many attractions to explore such as Mount Phousi, Wat Xieng Thong temple, and the Royal Palace.

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Accommodation and dining rates vary according to your selection. To stay within budget, book a night in a guesthouse with basic amenities and dine at local restaurants for their rice and vegetable meals. Street food is generally priced between USD 2-3 per meal and tourist-concentrated restaurants are priced between USD 3-4 per meal.

[Did you know that Laos is the best place to explore the great outdoors in Southeast Asia? Read on!]

#HHWT Tip: Since Laos is a predominantly Buddhist country, it’s best to behave respectfully when visiting temples and religious sites.

9. Hanoi, Vietnam

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The shy and serene sibling of the famous Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi is another backpackers' favourite for their affordable options of stayovers and street food in Vietnam.

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Stay within budget by hopping on their local buses and motorbikes. There are also plenty of backpackers hostel for overnight stays and delicious pho for awesome breakfast.

[Indulge in the best halal eateries in Hanoi here!]

#HHWT Tip: Situated on the Northern side of Vietnam, temperature can drop as low as 10 degree Celsius during winter. Remember to pack a jacket when travelling between December and February!

10. Colombo, Sri Lanka

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Colombo is regularly overlooked as a budget destination, but we highly encourage backpackers to explore this side of the map. The trick is to stay in guesthouses and move around using public transportation to stay within the budget line.

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Food wise, Sri Lankan delicacies are generally affordable, especially their curries. Keep an eye out for their deviled fish curry, dhal curry, young jackfruit curry, and vegetarian kottu.

[Did you know that Colombo has one of the most breathtaking mosques in the world?]

#HHWT Tip: If you’re rushing to your next destination, hire a car or take a seaplane instead of the laid-back commuting of tuk-tuk and local buses.

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Travelling across the continent on a shoestring budget is possible with proper itinerary planning, cheap accommodation options, and local food selections. Whether you’re planning a trip to Mumbai, Sofia, Luang Prabang, or Colombo, you’ll have a great travel experience regardless of the amount of cash you have in your pocket.