Seven on Sunday – Countries for the Budget Conscious (Part Two)
Last Sunday I started with this post, talking about seven countries that are great for those keen on keeping a tight budget. I soon realised it was pretty long and then decided to split it over two posts. So last week was 7 to 4, now for my top three J I hope it’s useful and interesting to all those reading!
Last week I talked about a backpacker’s favourite in Thailand, today I stay in the south east Asian region with a country that has really emerged as a travel destination in the last 15 to 20 years. Today Vietnam is an exceptional destination, still very well priced where your dollar will go a fair way.
Let’s start with accommodation. It’s always going to take a fair chunk of the daily budget and for me it’s the basis of my budget. In Vietnam for US$10 to about US$25 you’ll find yourself in a very comfortable room with a fridge, air conditioner and TV. There are many ‘mini-hotels’ in all the cities across the country. And of course, you can find cheaper, much cheaper if you’re willing to go dorm as hostels have also opened up around the place.
Again street food will get you by with dinner for a buck or two, But you should be able to eat a decent restaurant meal for $5 or so. This is all going to depend on where you and what kind of place you naturally. Book you transport tickets direct at stations and with bus companies (REALLY cheap if you take local buses) and you’re only left with entry fees, which can vary from free to probably $10 for the more ‘exclusive’ sites. Hoi An for example has plenty of free things to see and do.
The highlight of Vietnam is the friendliness of the people. If you head to the parks in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi especially, you will meet dozens of people wanting to meet foreigners and practice their English. And yes, that IS totally free.
Iran is one of my favourites, and it’s very affordable. Start with your bus rides, they are extremely cheap as the place has so much oil it doesn’t know what to do with it all. When I was there in 2004, I think it was around 5 cents a litre. YES FIVE CENTS. I believe it’s not quite that cheap today, but it’s insanely cheaper than in the west.
If you’re lucky enough to be ‘kidnapped’ by an Iranian family, you’ll find not only you’ve free accommodation but if they let you pay for anything it’ll be rare. Even on your own you’ll find rooms for under $20 a night, and food is again inexpensive with lots of little hamburger shops (which sell other things as well) abounding allowing you to eat for very little.
Iran is also a cheap place for carpets too if they tickle your fancy, but that’s more relative I guess to the price of carpets elsewhere and then you’ll have to get them out of there on your own. Iran is absolutely brimming with sights to see as well such as the ancient ruins of Persepolis and the Iman Square in Esfahan, not to mention the mud-brick buildings of Yazd and historic Shiraz. Combine that with the friendliest people you’ll ever meet and the prices, it’s winner winner chicken dinner!
The country most travellers think of when they think ‘budget destination’ is probably India. Not only can you great deals on rooms for under $20, the food is delicious and well-priced for the wallet. If you, like me, are pretty fond of dahl then in most places you won’t need more than $2 for a meal with a drink which is pretty hard to beat.
The only caveat is probably Mumbai, where it can get pretty hard to find a budget room, but you’ll be able to find a budget bed for $10 I daresay if you’re okay with dorms. Delhi is getting a bit more pricey as well, but if you’re on a budget of $US30 a day and get out of those two cities you’ll be more than fine.
Personally, to give an indication of what India’s been like for me, I took a budget in 1999 of $AUS20 a day there – at the time that’s less than $US15, and I came in under budget and that’s for everything, hotels and transport included. The India Railways, if you keep away from first class AC, are incredibly good value. As for the pictured Taj, well, that’s expensive today but really it’s so majestic you can’t afford to miss it. When I went there, there were a couple of times a week when it was free to enter (I think it was Friday morning I went) but I don’t think they have those times anymore. It certainly helped me keep the budget down!
In Palolem, Goa in 2001 I shared a room with a friend and we paid around $US2 each. Yes, it was basic and had a bucket shower, but when you walked to the main beach and saw how beautiful the spot was, it really didn’t matter all that much.
What are your best budget destinations? Where have you been able to stretch your dollar that little bit further than in other countries? Please comment below, and May the Journey Never End!