[Updated 29 January 2020]
With a new year comes new opportunities for travel and discovery! And thankfully, many destinations these days no longer cost you an arm and a leg to visit. ? Whether you're travelling on a shoestring to keep costs low, or just challenging yourself to spend a little less on your adventures in 2020, budget travel lets you see the world without feeling the pinch in your wallet! ?
To help you get started, here are our top 12 budget-friendly recommendations for 2020 - complete with budgeting tips and hacks for extra savings! ? And if you're still brainstorming for vacation plans here are even more Muslim-friendly destinations we think are worth a visit in 2020!
P.S. Couples and those looking for a beautiful 2020 honeymoon destination can also check out these 12 romantic destinations that are perfect for just the two of you. ?
1. Hat Yai, Thailand
Hat Yai was one of the breakthrough destinations in 2018 and 2019 - and for good reason! You don't even have to book a plane ticket to get there from Malaysia or Singapore as it's accessible by KTM train. ? The 4th-largest city in Thailand, Hat Yai's most famous attractions are its lively street and night markets, and beautiful sights at Samila Beach, Songkhla Old Town and more! This 3D2N Muslim-friendly Hat Yai itinerary will help you get started on your next adventure. Don't forget to tuck into some Hat Yai-style fried chicken to satisfy your foodie cravings! ?
Budget Tips: Try to learn some local Thai words and phrases before haggling down prices in the street markets. You can sometimes get a cheaper price if the vendors think you're a local! Maybe it's time to make learning Thai a travel resolution for 2020? ? Or if you're not confident in your Thai, don't be afraid to haggle the price down!
2. Nagoya, Japan
With Tokyo 2020 coming up it's the perfect time to get out of Tokyo and see a new side of Japan. ? Nagoya is located between Tokyo and Osaka/Kyoto, making it a great place to go for a balance of countryside tranquillity and convenient day trips to the bigger cities. Its own citizens call it the 'most boring city in Japan' but it's actually the 4th-biggest city in the country with lots to see! Whether you're visiting Nagoya Castle or the Meiji Village for a step back into old Japan, or visiting the ultra-modern railway park, Nagoya is somewhere new that's worth a visit this year!
Budget Tips: Get a regional JR pass if you're planning to add day trips into your itinerary. Inter-city shinkansen rides can be pretty expensive! Look out for the JR Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass (includes Nagoya, Osaka, Kyoto, and Kanazawa), and JR Osaka-Nagoya 'Ise-Kumano-Wakayama Area Pass' (includes Nagoya, Osaka, Nara, and Mie) which are perfect for visiting Universal Studios Japan in Osaka and more. ?
3. Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
If you're looking for a new nature retreat in 2020, Kota Kinabalu might be the place for you! From climbing Mount Kinabalu to catching the breathtaking sunset at Segama Waterfront, KK is a place you can't miss if you're hoping to visit East Malaysia and Borneo! You can even take a day trip to Kundasang to visit the Desa Dairy Farm and Poring Hot Spring for a nature retreat away from the city. ?? Our 4D3N KK-Kundasang itinerary will help you experience the best that KK has to offer - time to start planning!
Budget Tips: Visit during the off-season (Sept-Nov) to find cheaper accommodation rates. You might experience some intermittent showers here and there - but it won't be enough to put a damper on your day! ?
4. Nusa Penida, Indonesia
Nusa Penida has been a popular day trip add-on to Bali for a while, but if you're looking for an island retreat that's not as crowded as Bali it's worth extending your stay here to 2 or 3 days! The island is full of breathtaking sights such as the Kelingking Beach limestone formations, and of course underwater marvels that you can see up close on diving or snorkelling tours. ? We've even included it on our best Muslim-friendly destinations of 2020 list - that's how much we think it's worth a visit!
Budget Tips: There are many beaches and attractions to visit around the island, but do check with the locals if they're safe to visit before you go! Booking a tour for water activities is also worth it to have a local guide around. High tides and strong waves have led to unfortunate accidents at popular spots such as Angel's Billabong - remember that your health and safety are worth any savings out there. ?
5. Macao SAR, China
The name 'Macao' might conjure up expensive resort hotels and price tags in your mind - but it's actually way more affordable than you think! There are direct flights there on Scoot and AirAsia, and almost all of their major attractions such as the Ruins of St Paul, Mount Fortress, and Lou Kau Mansion are free. ? So you can even afford to treat yourself to some delicious meals and still come in within budget! Our Muslim-friendly guide to Macao will help you find out what you can eat, see, and do! Don't forget to check out our 4D3N Muslim-friendly itinerary to Macao to get started on planning your trip!
Budget Tips: Taking taxis between the islands might end up eating into your budget. Check out the local buses instead, as many services run between the Macao Peninsula, Taipa Island, and Coloane. Bus tickets cost just MOP6 for a flat fee - much cheaper compared to a cab ride between the islands that can cost MOP100 or more!
6. Maafushi, Maldives
You don't have to give up overwater villas, stunning dive sites and more to have a budget-friendly trip to the Maldives. ? Maafushi is one of the Maldivian islands that's known for being more wallet-friendly, and you can find a whole range of activities including canoeing and fishing here for a low cost. With careful planning, you can even have a 4D3N getaway on Maafushi for less than RM2800!
Budget Tips: Skip staying at a resort for the entire trip, and opt for a day pass instead. Many resorts issue day passes that will let you have all-access to their swimming pools, water sports equipment, restaurants and more - without the costly nightly rates attached! Check out even more Maldives cost-saving tips for a paradise getaway that won't break the bank. ?
7. Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Also known as 'Jogja', this city is an epicentre of Javanese history, arts, and culture. Its most famous sight is probably Borobudur temple, which is stunning in the day but especially breathtaking during sunrise or sunset! But it's not short on stunning views and jaw-dropping beauty - near plenty of halal eateries too. Whether you're looking for traditional markets, a nature escape, or traditional palaces, Jogja has all of that and more. ?
Budget Tips: For cheaper eats and shopping options, head to a neighbourhood near one of the many university campuses around Jogja. The prices tend to be cheaper as they're usually frequented by students. ?
8. Seoul, South Korea
Seoul is definitely one of our favourite destinations - and what makes it even better is it can be enjoyed at any budget or price point! ? Whether you're planning a trip with your best girl friends or doing some K-pop 'seoul'-searching you'll definitely have an amazing time in this dynamic city. It's full of free attractions (near halal food!) and lots of cheap shopping so make sure to leave some room in your luggage for all the goodies you'll want to bring back! ? Our ultimate guide to Seoul for Muslim travellers has all you need to make it a trip you'll never forget.
Budget Tips: If you're planning to visit Seoul's most famous attractions (such as Lotte World, Gyeongbokgung Palace, or N Seoul Tower) you can get a Discover Seoul Pass for free entry, amazing discounts to popular shows, and even exclusive discounts at selected duty-free malls! Find out more about the pass here along with 17 more budget-saving tips for your Seoul adventure!
9. Balkans (Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Credit: Syazana Kahardy
If you're hoping to explore Europe on a budget, the Balkans are definitely the way to go. ? Not only are they full of rich history and culture, but the prices are much cheaper compared to Western or Northern European countries! The most popular Balkan countries are typically Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo. Parts of Greece, Italy, and Turkey also fall within the region so you can adjust your itinerary to include stops in these iconic countries too. Our 12D11N Muslim-friendly Balkans itinerary takes you around the most famous sights of the region - time for some travel inspo! ?
Budget Tips: Look out for local markets to find fresh produce you can use to cook your own meals. Though there are Muslim-owned eateries throughout the Balkans, cooking simple meals (if your accommodation allows it) can help you really stretch your money to its max!
10. Langkawi, Malaysia
Langkawi was definitely making it onto our list - especially after its first-ever water theme park just opened in December 2019! The island is a classic and popular getaway if you're looking for a seaside escape, where you can expect delicious local food, scenic views, and exciting activities to keep you occupied. ? You can even find plenty of accommodations starting from below RM100 a night - time to plan your next weekend adventure.
Budget Tips: Combine your Langkawi trip with a short visit to Koh Lipe in Thailand to make the most of your long weekend. Click here for a 4D3N Langkawi-Koh Lipe itinerary that'll make you wish you're relaxing on the beach right now. ? Consider visiting during the low season (May-October) to try and get a better rate on accommodations - it may be a little rainy, but with fewer crowds around you can have a more laidback, personal trip all to yourself!
11. Taipei, Taiwan
Any city in Taiwan is great for the budget traveller, but we're highlighting Taipei as the capital city still has so much to offer. ? From historic monuments like the Chiang Kai-Shek memorial in the city to charming towns on the outskirts such as Jiufen, Houtong, and Shifen, Taipei has something for every sort of traveller. There are an increasing number of Muslim-friendly and Muslim-owned eateries in Taipei too - think Taiwanese beef noodles for lunch every day! ? Thanks to the fast and affordable High-Speed Rail (HSR), you can even transform your trip into a 5D4N Kaohsiung-Taipei adventure or venture into the mountains to spend 3D2N in Alishan or Taichung and the Tri-Mountain National Scenic Area.
Budget Tips: Taiwan is the perfect place to try out a multi-city flight plan! AirAsia and Scoot fly to both Kaohsiung and Taipei, so you can start your holiday at one end of the island and fly back from the other. ?
12. Da Nang, Vietnam
Da Nang is the place to head to if you're looking for laidback European vibes without breaking the bank. The former colonial port is known for the Ba Na Hills French Village that overlooks the sandy beaches and is full of classical European architecture ?, as well as the Golden Bridge which appears to be propped by a gigantic set of hands. The temperature in Da Nang is also nice and cool throughout the year, so it's a great escape when the weather at home gets too hot! ?
Budget Tips: Halal-certified food can be a bit difficult to find in Da Nang, so bring along your own ready-made meals or meals that can be heated up for extra convenience. You can also look out for accommodations with kitchen facilities so you can cook yourself simple meals using ingredients from major supermarkets such as Big C!
Bonus: Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Umrah
A popular travel trend that emerged in 2019 was the concept of a DIY Umrah. While booking with a tour company is more convenient, they often cost in the thousands! The good news is there are now tips and guides out there to help you in your DIY planning. ☺️ Some companies such as Poto Travel (MY) and Shahidah Travel (SG) are even offering more flexible or free-and-easy options so you can plan a more flexible Umrah. Just make sure to start planning early so you can apply for your Umrah visa, and try to avoid peak seasons (school holidays, Ramadan, etc.) when prices will be sky-high. First-timers, make sure to check out these 12 useful tips on what to expect!
Budget Tips: Many Umrah packages are also more expensive because you'll be booked into a 5-star hotel, so if you're DIY-ing it on your own, look out for more affordable options. If you're travelling with children or older relatives, make sure to weigh your options to balance comfort and price for a once-in-a-lifetime family experience. ?
And that rounds up the destinations we think you can visit on a budget in 2020. ? Getting to travel is an incredible privilege, and it's truly amazing that you don't have to spend too much to see the world!