13 November 2018Last updated


Five of the best budget breaks

Explore castles in Romania, relax on unspoilt beaches in Lombok, or take a volcano hike in Nicaragua. These destinations are perfect for spend-savvy travellers who want their money to go a long way, says Rachael Bruford

By Rachael Bruford
7 May 2015 | 12:00 am
  • Alishan National Scenic Area is a stunning resort and natural preserve located in the mountains ofChiayi County in Taiwan.

    Source:Getty Images Image 1 of 2
  • Taiwan.

    Source:Corbis Images Image 2 of 2

Hot springs in Taiwan

Taiwan is easy to get around due to its high-speed rail network. Famous for its vibrant night markets and tasty-yet-pocket-friendly street food known as ‘little eats’ (xiaochi), there’s also plenty of nature to explore across the country; from cliffs, gorges and tropical forests, to the overflow of hot springs (Taiwan has one of the highest concentration of hot springs in the world). To get the best value for your money, grab a guide book and stay at mid-range hotels, such as Hotel Éclat Taipei, from Dh763 per night including breakfast. Alternatively, book a tour through Viator to discover countryside towns and lakes, including Sun Moon Lake, the largest body of fresh water in Taiwan, and the mountains of Alishan National Scenic Area.

Need to know

Return flights to Taipei start from Dh2,589 on Cathay Pacific. A three-day tour through Viator starts from Dh1,555.


Return to simplicity in Lombok

Long overshadowed by its neighbour Bali, a visit to Lombok is like stepping back in time and catching a glimpse of what the Indonesian hotspot used to be like before mass tourism began in the 1970s. As a result, prices are comparatively lower, making Lombok an appealing destination for those on a budget. Surfers and sun worshippers will enjoy Kuta Beach in the south of the island, which boasts pristine white sand and bright blue waters bordered by tropical green cliffs. The more adventurous can climb Mount Rinjani, Indonesia’s second-highest volcano. Those wanting to get away from it all can go to the nearby Gili Islands, where the only transport is by foot or horse and cart.

Need to know

Flights to Lombok from Abu Dhabi with Garuda Indonesia start from Dh5,200. 
A night at the Sheraton Senggigi Beach starts from Dh330.


Let your jaw drop in Myanmar

Situated between Thailand and the Andaman Sea, a slow journey towards democracy has seen sanctions being dropped and an increase in the number of tourists visiting Myanmar since 2011. The former British colony is a land of tradition, simplicity, and a spectacular array of temples. Travelling by bus is the cheapest way to get around, though not the most comfortable. Thankfully, internal flights are very reasonably priced. Visit Mandalay, hire a bike and cycle to 
U Bein Bridge, believed to be the oldest teak bridge in the world. Guides are available from Dh37 at all major sights. Trekking is also an inexpensive way to learn about this magical country.

Need to know

Flights to Yangon cost from Dh2,108 with Thai Airways return. Treks are available from local guest houses and cost from Dh75 per day, including accommodation and meals.


Romania by rail

For an enchanting mix of culture, history and natural beauty, head to Romania, the largest country in south-east Europe. The capital, Bucharest (known as ‘little Paris’), actually sees a drop in hotel prices in July and August, due to a decline in the number of business trips, so prices become more competitive. From the Black Sea in the west of the country to the forests and mountain ranges in central areas, there’s something for everyone. The best way to travel within Romania is by train, and good-value rail passes are available. Be sure to visit Transylvania and Bran Castle, commonly associated with Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Nearby Braşov is a handy base for those who wish to ski or trek, and has a relaxed, bohemian vibe perfect for people-watching.

Need to know

Flights from Dubai to Bucharest start from Dh1,851 return with Fly Dubai. Rail passes start at Dh367 for three days of first-class travel.


Get adventurous in Nicaragua

The initial cost of a flight to Nicaragua is more than made up for by the range of inexpensive accommodation and activities on offer in Central America’s cheaper alternative to Costa Rica. Known as ‘the country of lakes 
and volcanoes’, Nicaragua has 19 active volcanoes, some of which can be explored and even ‘boarded’ down. The cities of Granada and León, as well as Ometepe Island, (located in the middle of Lake Nicaragua) are easily accessible, even for those on a tight budget, as bus journeys can be taken for less than Dh20. Alternatively, join a two- or three-day hike with Quetzaltrekkers León – a non-profit, outdoor association run by volunteers that asks for minimum donations of around $100 (Dh367).

Need to know

A flight to Nicaragua’s capital is cheapest via Houston. Fly with Emirates from Dubai direct to Houston from Dh4,595 and then United Airlines from Houston to Managua for Dh1,884 return. For trekking see for details about projects, activities, and volunteering. Prices at most four-star hotels – such as Patio Del Malinche in Granada – start from Dh250 per night.

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By Rachael Bruford

By Rachael Bruford