The best budget holiday destinations of 2018
Break-in your new suitcase without breaking the piggy bank. Sea, snow, or city – pick your next trip among our list of favourite budget holiday destinations and start planning
Holidays shouldn’t rhyme with worries and restrictions – that’s best left at home. Go abroad and let loose going to a destination where you’ll get more for your buck. Affordable drinks, great food without sacrifice, free museums, and walking tours – sounds like a winning ticket for a holiday on a budget.
To help you find that getaway that fits you best, we’ve picked a bouquet of the best budget holiday destinations for every month of the year. Taking into account the price of a meal, local beer, taxi fare, and a night at a 3-star hotel* for a family of two adults and two children, we propose below destinations with a budget of less than £200 per day. At this price, you might even treat yourself to discovering more than one of these places this year!
January – Sofia, Bulgaria
Sofia is an idyllic getaway during wintertime when all the buildings wear a pristine snowy glow. After you’ve visited Sofia’s iconic gold-domed Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, grab the family and strap on some ice skates at Ariana Lake. Each year the lake in Borisova Garden freezes and becomes a giant ice rink, accessible throughout the winter months and early spring.
Surrounded by mountains, escape the city for a day to ride some snowy slopes. In a 30-minute drive, Vitosha Mountain is yours to conquer. January offers good skiing conditions – stay warm after a day on the snow at one of the many mineral spas in region.
February – San Antonio, Texas, USA
Welcome to San Antonio, Texas, home of the Battle of the Alamo. The 1836 battle for independence from Mexico remains one of the city’s main attractions, so book a Battlefield Tour around the mission grounds. Everything’s bigger in Texas, they say, so catch a rowdy rodeo or visit the Natural Bridge Caverns, three kilometres (2 miles) of underground tunnels.
Stroll through the Hemisfair, an area of urban parks and landmarks like the Tower of Americas observation tower or the outdoor Market Square. Mariachi performances or Hispanic festivals bring to life the stalls selling foods and clothes that remind you how close you are to the Mexican border. No matter the season, San Antonio’s River Walk (promenade along the San Antonio River), lined with restaurant terraces and oozing with southern charm, comes alive in the warm evenings even throughout winter.
March – Valparaíso, Chile
Aboard the Artilleria funicular railway, take in the view of the colonial UNESCO World Heritage city of Valparaíso. In Cerro Artillería, shops have everything you need for souvenirs like alpaca wool products and aquarelles. The hilly residential areas like Cerro Bellavista with its Museo a Cielo Abierto, open air museum of murals, or Cierros Alegre and Concepcion with their painted houses are the perfect places to get a hint of the chaotic ambiance of the city.
With temperatures around 23°C, the seaside is tempting. Head to Viña del Mar for sandy beaches and nice beachside bars. The season is opportune for wine harvest festivals, so wine-lovers should head along the Valparaíso-Santiago Route 68, also known as the Casablanca Valley wine route, for a taste of the refined white wines of Casablanca Valley.
April – Braga, Portugal
Plan ahead if coming to Braga during Semana Santa (the week before Easter) – hotels are a hot commodity but the festivities are well worth that extra stretch of budget. Just outside of the city at Tenões join in the fervour of pilgrims zig-zagging up the hill to the baroque-style church Bom Jesus do Monte (Good Jesus of the mount). To head back home, grab the funicular, dating back to 1882, that links the sanctuary to the city of Braga.
Braga has all the charm of old-town Portugal with the perks of a youthful university city thanks to the student crowd from Universidade de Minho. Cathedral towers keep a watchful eye on the narrow streets that stream through the city, lined with restaurants and bars. The 12th century Sé de Braga (Cathedral of Braga) is the country’s oldest cathedral. Scattered throughout the old centre, peek into one of the many chapels, the Capela dos Coimbras (Chapel of the Coimbras) to see a typical azulejo fresco.
May – Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain
Beach, sun, and Spanish cuisine – what more could you ask for? Open your appetite with a seaside stroll along Paseo de las Canteras that hugs the beach by the same name. Bathing is high on the holiday agenda in Las Palmas, especially at low tide when the reef, known as La Barra, transforms Las Canteras into snorkeler’s paradise. Take the Avenida Maritima that leads to the fishing village San Cristóbal which is said to have the best seafood eateries in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.
Enjoy the pedestrianised streets like Triana and Pérez Gáldos for shopping, or head to Vegueta, the oldest quarter, for an afternoon refreshment.
June – Yerevan, Armenia
Give in to the minibus chaos to criss-cross your way through the city – for 100 Dram, and a loudly shouted “stop!” you’ll be dropped off at the Yerevan’s prized monuments. The pedestrian Northern Avenue takes you from the opera to the fountains at Republic Square. Imposing Soviet era buildings by day, elegant backdrop to a light and water show at night, the Republic Square is inevitably a must-see.
Enjoy the long summer nights in the pink city, as it’s called due to the pinkish stones of the buildings, at the café terraces, while snacking on lamehjun (Armenian-style pizza). Rebuilt to hide the scars of wars and natural disasters, most of Yerevan’s current attire is only a century old. Yerevan’s oldest heritage lies along the outskirts of the city where the Hrazdan River and deep gorge create a natural border.
July – Belfast, Northern Ireland
As you wander around Belfast, by foot or aboard a Black Taxi, you won’t be able to miss the peace lines (walls between Protestant and Catholic neighbourhoods) and commemorative murals. You’ll also see many reminders of Belfast’s shipbuilding history – don’t miss the Titanic Belfast, tribute to the launching of the Titanic in 1912, and the Titanic Memorial on the grounds by City Hall.
In the July sun, grab a famous Belfast Bap (round bread sandwich) from St George’s Market and join the office workers on their lunch break sprawled across the grass. End the day with a chilled pint at Kelly’s Cellars, the oldest traditional pub in Belfast, complete with live Irish traditional music.
August – Lviv, Ukraine
Wrapped in the warm breeze of a Ukrainian summer, explore the streets of Lviv as they lead you to the heart of the city. It’s here at Rynok Square that you’ll find people cooling off by the four fountains adorned with figures of Greek and Roman mythology. Only a few steps away, the wings of the Chapel of the Boim Family shelter coffee shop terraces – make sure to go to Світ кави (Coffee World) for its varieties of coffee and cosy interior.
Folklore and legends hide around each street – the Lviv Opera is said to have cost its architect his life when he was so ashamed the structure sunk by half a metre on inauguration day. Carried by the sounds of street performances, float through the city centre and up to Lviv Castle hill for a view over the city’s rooftops.
September – Pristina, Kosovo
Spared from tourism, rich in tradition, and focused on writing their history as a recognised state, Kosovo and its capital, Pristina, challenge you to an open-minded visit far from preconceptions. First and foremost, partake in locals’ favourite hobby – enjoying a good cup of coffee. Grab a macchiato at the bookshop Dit’ e Nat’ before going to the neighbourhood north of the city centre, lined with mosques and the old clock tower, remnant of the Ottoman Empire rule.
In front of the Palace of Youth and Sports, the “Newborn” typographic sculpture unveiled after Kosovo’s independence from Serbia in 2008 is painted each year in representation of current events. From Grand Hotel Prishtina’s rooftop bar, 13 Rooftop, catch a view over the city’s National Library – once housing refugees of the Yugoslav wars, or serving as control centre for the Serbian Army. The structure of domes and metal, a blend of Byzantine and Islamic architecture, is food for thought as locals argue the style is an attempt to reconcile Serbians and Albanians by injecting style references from both cultures.
October – Panama City, Panama
Barely arrived in Panama City, hop on a boat through the famous canal, floating under the Bridge of Americas, built as part of the Pan-American Highway connecting the North and South Americas. On land, meander through the UNESCO World Heritage Site ruins of Old Town Panama, victim of total destruction in 1671 to “save” the city from a pirate attack. You can still see the city’s foundations and cathedral tower, but a scale model of the city at the Visitor’s Centre gives you the full picture.
Panama’s riches lie in its biodiversity – a cable car ride through the jungle of nearby Gamboa or a visit to the colourful Biomuseo designed by Frank Gehry place Panama’s spectacular nature in centre stage. October announces the beginning of the rainy season, so seize any chance you get to soak in the rays of sun on Panama City’s postcard perfect beaches.
November – Kalamata, Greece
Start your visit to Kalamata via the shores of the Mediterranean. Sea kayak along the cliffs and by rock formations, taking breaks to dip into the warm waters of the Messinian gulf. In-between beach breaks, visit Kalamata’s historical centre, wandering through the gardens leading up to Kalamata Castle on the hill dominating the city. To make the most of the last warm nights of autumn, join the crowds on Latropoulou pedestrian street for a late night snack – the lalagia, sweet fried dough strips will do just the trick!
Olive-lovers rejoice – Kalamata as its name suggests, is home to the Kalamata olive harvested form the endless olive tree fields that cover this area of the Peloponnese peninsula. In oils, soaps, or in brute form, shops around the city sell local olive products to bring home.
December – Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Hosts of the Winter Olympics in 1984, Sarajevo knows how to do winter. If snow has started falling in December, skiiers can catch the slopes on Mount Jahorina and rent equipment at an affordable price.
On sunny winter days, sit at a terrace in Baščaršija, Sarajevo’s historical Ottoman city centre. Reminders of the Siege of Sarajevo in 1992 are inevitable as you visit the rest of the city – learn and experience a bit about the recent war by visiting the Sarajevo Tunnel Museum built around the tunnel that served as a vital artery in supplying occupied Sarajevo with food and medical care.
Those looking for a day hiking through amid Bosnia’s natural landscape should head to Lukomir, a remote village on the Bjelasnica Mountain. Stone houses roofed in wooden tile are homes to a small community specialised in sheep-herding, wool sock kitting, and wood carving. If you come during the summer months, sustainable tours can be organised with Green Visions to spend time with local families, chatting around home-made burek (savoury pastry).