It’s only February, but we’re already clearing our schedules and dreaming of the next quick trip to take ? Whether you’re sneaking off to new locales during the long weekend, or blowing your entire annual leave on a big trip, it’s always exciting to think of where you’re going to go next.
For those of us with tighter budgets, there’s always that little worry that we won’t get as immersive a journey as someone else. But that isn’t true! Tailoring your trip to your budget is easier than ever these days, and we’ve compiled a list of 12 affordable and Muslim-friendly destinations to help you get started. ?
1. Hong Kong
Hong Kong is the destination that just keeps on delivering. From the Dragon’s Back to dim sum, it’s definitely a Muslim-friendly budget haven that’ll keep you on your toes. Make sure to brush up on your Cantonese before you get there - knowing how to bargain will definitely get you a long way ?
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The nature and hiking trails in Hong Kong cater to every experience level - from bird-watching at the laidback Hong Kong Wetland Park and Tsim Bei Tsui to the more challenging route through the traditional Hakka village of Plover Cove Country Park, you’ll be kept busy trying to keep up with all of the sights and sounds outside of the city centre. For creatives who want to keep their Instagram feed busy with bright colours and outstanding architecture, why not craft your own photo walk through some of the most eye-catching and unique locations throughout the islands?
#HHWT Tip: With so much to do in Hong Kong, it can be difficult to know where to start especially if you’re working with a tighter budget - check out our ultimate guide to affordable accommodations, transport, food, and everything in-between!
2. Siem Reap, Cambodia
Siem Reap is an old city that continues to grow amidst rapid change, and you’ll be able to see how history blends with the present and future amidst its streams and streets. A 4D3N trip may be enough to cover most of the major sights, but taking your time here will let you immerse yourself in centuries of history and tradition!
There’s no way we could write this without mentioning Angkor Wat. Though it’s only one of the structures within the larger Angkor Archaeological Park, the temple’s sheer size and scale make it an ancient marvel. You’ll need an Angkor pass to visit - prices range from 149,000 riels (USD37) for a 1-day pass to 290,000 riels (USD72) for a 7-day pass - but it’s worth it to get to really explore the entire complex, and you’ll get access to some other temples such as Phnom Krom and Wat Athvea too. The floating villages are another sight you can’t miss - just remember to do your research first, as each village is unique in its own way! After spending your days out under the sun, spend your evenings trawling the Old Markets to cool down with some refreshing fruit shakes, pancakes, or rolled ice cream.
#HHWT Tip: You might be tempted to purchase the pass online so that you can beat the queue - but online prices are higher than purchasing them over the counter! ? The pass purchase process is usually pretty fast, and once you have your pass in hand you’ll be able to visit the temples right away. There are day tours and guides you can hire for the day too if you’re a history buff who’s looking to learn more about the symbolism of the temples.
3. Perth, Australia
Perth has a bit of a reputation for being one of the pricier Australian cities - but this isn’t true! Thanks to the favourable exchange rate, if you plan your accommodations and itinerary well you can easily cut down on transport costs by walking around most of the time or hopping onto a tour that will be well worth the cost. If you’re just planning to visit the beach you’ll definitely be able to cut down on your costs, but Perth has so much more that will linger in your memories forever!
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The Pinnacles Desert in Nambung National Park is a surreal sight you can’t miss out on. The limestone pillars look like another world, and if you’re looking for a good photo op they’re a perfect background you can’t find anywhere else in the world. Just make sure to bring along your sunblock if you’re going there after mid-day, as it can get hot out in the sun! In the evening, cool down with some once-in-a-lifetime stargazing while you have the chance. Renting a car for the drive out to Lake Clifton will be well worth it to catch a glimpse of the Milky Way, and the rest of Western Australia has other sites where you can sit under the stars and get lost in your thoughts.
P.S. To get you started, check out our 5D4N Muslim-friendly itinerary full of fresh seafood and stunning IG-worthy spaces!
4. Hokkaido, Japan
Just like Perth, we usually don’t think of Japan when it comes to budget-friendly trips - but Hokkaido is the ideal Muslim-friendly location for nature-lovers who just want to enjoy the Japanese outdoors. If you’re staying in Sapporo, you can spend your days walking around to enjoy the sights - but if you’re visiting the smaller towns, check out our tip below for how to spend wisely on your transport! With some useful Hokkaido cost-saving tips on hand, you’ll completely change your mind about travelling on a budget in Japan!
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Flower fields might not sound so impressive - but the sprawling carpets of colours at Higashimokoto Shibazakura Park (adult entrance fee is only 500 yen) in Ozora town look completely out-of-this-world. Full bloom for the shibazakura tends to happen in the last two weeks of May, giving you a narrow period to witness this stunning and careful display. Farm Tomita is another must-see for nature-lovers - it has over a dozen fields of lavender, poppies, baby’s breath and much more that bloom throughout the year ? If you’re more interested in the classic wintertime holiday, check out these 10 ideas for the best winter activities in Hokkaido.
#HHWT Tip: If you’re visiting in the summer or autumn, grab some friends and split the cost of renting a car to get around - it’ll make things much easier especially in more rural areas. But if you’re going on a wintertime adventure - opt for an Inter City Bus Pass or Hokkaido Rail Pass instead so that you won’t have to drive through the blistering snow!
5. Komodo, Indonesia
Just a short flight away if you’re based in Southeast Asia, Komodo’s the perfect destination for a quick nature trip that won’t stretch your wallet out too much ? You can get hostel accommodations here or on Labuan Bajo for less than 351,000rp (USD25) a night if you’re willing to rough it out, and nature-lovers will love exploring all of the different islands and seeing the unique beauty Indonesia’s wildlife has to offer. (P.S. Komodo’s just one of Indonesia’s amazing backpacking-friendly locations!)
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Skip the expensive tour groups, and head to Komodo National Park on your own. The entrance fee is only 155,000rp (USD11) on weekdays and 295,000rp (USD21) on Sundays and national holidays - definitely worth it for getting a peek at the endangered Komodo dragons (just don’t get too close to these dangerous beasts)! You can even hike and swim without worrying too much about your budget - additional fees for activities can cost as low as 28,100rp (USD2) per person. End your days on the beach, and watch the sunset stand out against the pink sand shores ?
#HHWT Tip: Check Flores Komodo Expedition’s page to find out more about the different fees attached to the different activities. Though they may be affordable, make sure you have enough cash on you so that you’ll be able to do everything without worrying, as vendors may not accept other methods of payment ? And as the waves near the shore are known to be rough, make sure you pick an activity that’s appropriate and safe for you!
6. Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina is one of the hidden gems of Eastern Europe. While it isn’t an Islamic country, it’s still a place rich in Islamic history, halal food, and religious diversity. Flights here can be a little pricier than the other locations in the list, but the affordability of accommodations, transport, and attractions on the ground make this an ideal spot to head to for a meaningful and unique European getaway.
Known as the “European Jerusalem”, Sarajevo is a can’t-miss stop that’s also regarded as one of the most affordable and Muslim-friendly European cities! The iconic Mostar bridge is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that will leave you in awe - if the view from Žuta Tabija (Yellow Fortress) hasn’t already taken your breath away ? Once you’ve seen the beauty and history Bosnia has to offer, remember to feast on some authentic Bosnian cuisine to round up your trip - you have to try the Ćevapi (Bosnian-style kebabs served in a pita-like sandwich) before you go ?
P.S. As the public transport system in Bosnia isn’t super dependable, trips between locations may even stretch into hoursdepending on the location. Make sure to plan your itinerary in advance, and try to figure out a comfortable walking route to see the sights rather than depending solely on buses or taxis! If you want to conquer Bosnia and some of its neighbours during your trip, check out our 2-week itinerary that will show you the best of the Balkans (from personal experience!) ?
7. Belitung, Indonesia
Belitung is another hidden gem of an island that promises beauty and wonder without putting a strain on your budget. This island is still a little underrated compared to its larger counterparts (for now ?) but its calming blue waves, breath-taking scenery, and laid-back atmosphere will put all of your worries at ease.
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The Open Pit - a former tin mine - is a famous landmark of the island. Technically, it’s not ‘officially’ open as a tourist attraction, but that hasn’t stopped visitors from admiring the red cliffs, old caves, and awe-inspiring views ? It’s quite a hike up to the top of the cliffs, but the view you’ll get will make it worth the sweat! If you’re looking for a view that doesn’t require as much walking, try visiting Pulau Pasir at low tide, when this little ‘pulau’ (island) emerges from the sea. Because it’s so small, you can see all of the surrounding islands while you’re there - so set your alarms and make sure not to miss out!
P.S. Taxis are a common way to get around the island, but Street Taxi Belitung is the only licensed operator so be careful of unlicensed vehicles and drivers! If you’re travelling with friends and want to cover as much of the island as possible, it may be worth it to split the cost of a rental car tour - a day tour covering the major sights starts and including both driver and fuel starts at 548,000rp (USD39).
8. Krabi, Thailand
Krabi is a popular budget-friendly destination - and for good reason! You can get lots of island-hopping done at your own relaxed pace, spend your evenings exploring the night markets, and still have plenty of time (and allowance!) left over to dig into halal authentic Thai food ?
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There are fewer beaches in Krabi than the nearby Phuket, but you’ll still be spoilt for choice when you see the views at Railay or Ao Nang - the blue waters are tempting when it’s hot out, and in the blink of an eye you’ll find that you’ve spent a whole day just relaxing on the beach and soaking in the seaside atmosphere. There are even lesser known beaches such as Klong Muang and Tub Kaek nearby if you want some peace and tranquillity. Krabi is the perfect location for relaxation on a budget - just make sure to check what the weather will be like so you won’t get caught in monsoon season!
P.S. Not convinced Krabi should be your next Thailand trip? Check out our comparison between Phuket and Krabi to find out which one is more your speed! If we’ve managed to convince you, why not get your planning started by looking at out 4D3N Krabi getaway itinerary under 8,500 baht (USD270)?
9. Chiang Mai, Thailand
For those who are really on a shoestring budget, Chiang Mai is a backpacker's heaven! With lots of affordable hostels or dormitories to choose from and affordable food and transport easily within reach, you won’t need to sacrifice cost for comfort in order to enjoy yourself in this exciting town.
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If you’re planning to shop till you drop, give the malls a pass and head right to the Walking Streets and Bazaars! The Saturday and Sunday Walking Streets are a weekend delight, full of accessories, art, handicrafts and buskers who line the streets. The Night Bazaars are also a visual feast, brimming with everything from handmade trinkets to cheap clothing that’ll be perfect for your summer wardrobe! Just remember to brush up on some handy bargaining phrases before you go ? If you really don’t plan to spend much, treat yourself to a tour around the Old Town which is full of temples and monuments within walking distance of each other! Wat Chedi Luang is one of the most famous ones, but there’s also the Three Kings Monument, Chiang Mai City Museum, and Wat Chiang Mai and many more that you could visit over a day or two.
#HHWT Tip: Make sure to get some halal authentic local food while you’re there, which reflect the diversity of cultures that have collided in the area - Thai beef biryani, anyone?
10. Chennai, India
Chennai is one of those cities that doesn’t have anything particularly iconic or spectacular about it - so why’s it on this list? Because you’ll get to fall in love with its rich history and heritage and experience its melting pot of cultures without having to break the bank ? As it’s still a major city, transport infrastructure around the city is pretty good - if you’re using the metro rail a lot, make sure to get a reloadable metro card that comes with a 50 rupee refundable deposit!
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The old neighbourhood of Mylapore is one of the defining places in the city. Besides visiting the 17th-century Kapaleeswarar Temple or the Portuguese-built San Thome Cathedral, you can learn more about traditional Indian culture by catching a performance of Carnatic music, or catching a walking tour around the neighbourhood! Chennai is also known for being a great base location if you want to take some day trips to nearby cities - there’s Pondicherry’s French and Tamil quarters, Coorg’s lush green hiking trails, and the former princely state of Mysore’s palaces and paintings.
P.S. If you want to start exploring the vast Indian sub-continent, why not begin with some 10 amazing destinations that showcase the diversity of this country?
11. Sekinchan, Malaysia
For many of us, road trips or day trips over the weekend to somewhere nearby are a budget-friendly way to take a quick break from the stress and rush of work and city life. Sekinchan is famous for their rice production and fisheries, giving you a hint as to the laidback lifestyle here that’s in touch with nature and a more traditional way of life. Plus it’s only about an hour and a half’s drive from Kuala Lumpur!
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If you time your visit to coincide with harvesting season (mid-May to early June, or in November), you’ll also get to see the normally green padi fields all decked out in gold! If you’re craving something a little sweeter, there are also plenty of fruit farms and orchards you can visit to buy fresh produce right off the branch. The kampung (village) life here is really something most of us don’t get to experience, and if you stay out till after sunset, you may even get to see the stars across the night sky as a perfect way to end your trip ?
P.S. Sekinchan is known as the “land of rice and fish” so seafood is definitely something you’ll have to get before you leave! There are plenty of seafood eateries and vendors to choose from, and since the catch is so fresh you’ll be paying an affordable price for some premium taste ?
12. Busan, South Korea
Busan is one of the most Muslim-friendly coastal cities in South Korea, with plenty of things to do that won’t cost a single cent ? There’s the beaches, coastal walks, and Hwangryeongsan mountain right in the middle of the city - and we haven’t even begun talking about the cheap market neighbourhoods full of bargain buys and eats!
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For a breathtaking view of the city to start off your trip, take a day to hike up Geumjongsan to see the sweeping views of the city from the top. There are different trails up to the peak, some lasting for as long as 6 to 8 hours depending on your starting point, but conquering this trail should definitely be on your Busan bucket list. As for Busan’s famous beaches, while Haeundae is the most famous one try skipping it in favour of the less popular Dadaepo or Songjeong beaches which the locals tend to favour. These two tend to be less crowded and busy - and Songjeong is as close to the city centre as Haeundae is!
P.S. Did you know it’s possible to book a round-trip ticket to Busan for less than USD300 if you’re flying in from Southeast Asia? ? Just make sure you book at least three months ahead and know what the weather will be like before you get there. The summer months are the best time for a beach vacation, but with temperatures reaching a scorching 40 degrees Celsius in early August you might want to time your trip a little earlier so that you won’t melt under the sun!
Travelling on a budget doesn’t have to be a bad thing - it can actually help you prioritize what you want to see and experience! Plus with some smart planning, you can still get the most out of your trip without feeling too guilty to check your bank account ?