Some holidays demand that you blow the budget: honeymoons, birthday celebrations and trips where the dial is firmly set to “splurge”. You can’t always put blinders on when it comes to the budget, however, so we’ve rounded up some of the world’s most affordable places to visit (including some surprising cities that aren’t always as expensive as you would expect).
Image credit: Dimitris Kiriakakis
Average price for espresso: 1.10€ (AUD$1.80)
In spite of the peak summer crowds, there are still plenty of bargains to be had in this bustling ancient city. Take the entry prices to Athens’ famed attractions, which are reasonable, comparative to other European bucket-list dwellers: it’s just 10€ (AUD$16.27) to visit the Acropolis and its adjoining museum in the off-season, while transport on the city’s metro remains achievable – a five-day ticket to traverse the city’s underground network will set you back just 8.20€ (AUD$13.50).
Image credit: Despina Galani
Average price for a Turkish coffee: 25TL (AUD$1.89)
Istanbul is characterised by its sprawl up from the mighty Bosphorus; the strait that slices the city into two continents. It’s a rite of passage (pun intended) to explore Istanbul by boat and, at no more than 15TL (around AUD$1.5), you can take a round trip around the edges of the glittering harbour. Having a traditional, sesame seed-dusted simit bagel in hand is part of the fun and they also cost only a few lira. Once you dock, you’ll find other affordable gems: big ticket sights such as the Grand Bazaar and the Blue Mosque don’t cost a cent to visit.
Image credit: Jonathan Chng
Average price for an English breakfast tea: £2.40 (AUD$4.50)
Stay with us on this one. Although London has an enduring reputation for being one of the most expensive cities for Australians to holiday in, especially when it comes to accommodation, there are still plenty of clever ways to stretch your travel budget. The British Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Tate Modern, the National Gallery and The Wallace Collection are some of the world’s best – and they’re all free to visit. Wandering through Little Venice, Hyde Park and watching the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace is free of charge, too.
Image credit: Carlos Aguilar
Mexico City, Mexico4/19
Average price of a beer: 25MXN (AUD$2.10)
Mexico City’s food culture is legendary and, thankfully, it’s also incredibly affordable. Recent spikes in pork prices aside, the Mexican capital’s most emblematic snack, tacos, will take between eight and 15 pesos (a max of AUD$1.25) from your wallet. Accommodation is also within reach of the budget conscious: the hip Downtown Mexico, with its rooftop bar and 17th-century manor setting, has rooms in the heart of the ciudad (“city” in Spanish) for 3345 pesos (AUD$285) for two.
Image credit: Mitchell Henderson
Average price of a baguette: 1€ (AUD$1.65)
With its graceful, heritage buildings that straddle the peaceful Rhône river, Lyon looks like a little Paris, divided into its own charming arrondissements. You won’t find the capital’s exorbitant prices here, however. Two hours south of Paris by train, Lyon is often said to be the gastronomic capital of France, thanks to its Michelin cred and variety of restaurants. The city’s bouchons, or bistros, serve a set menu of traditional local classics at a fixed price – generally between 30€ to 40€ (AUD$49 to AUD$65), inclusive of four courses (cheese being one, of course). Trust us: it’s hard to go hungry in Lyon.
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Average price for pint of beer: 4€ (AUD$6.50)
An under-the-radar city built around its namesake river, Ljubljana is a peaceful, student-centric capital. That often means student-friendly prices, especially across the city’s many eateries. The green Michelin-starred Gostilna Krištof, which serves regional classics with hyper-local produce, has a menu of mains that max out at 27€ (AUD$44) – considerably less than other Michelin-crowned eateries in Europe. Accommodation is within reach, too – Antiq Palace Hotel is just 108€ (AUD$178) for a palatial room.
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Average price of udon bowl: ¥1000 (AUD$11)
Japan’s capital can be prohibitively expensive – especially if you’re bunking at a top hotel or dining at one of the city’s many restaurants with Michelin’s nod of approval. The saving grace? The sheer number of eateries in the city – around 140,000, compared to Sydney’s approximate 20,000 – which means you can find a snack to suit every budget. Additionally, the city’s many ryokan (traditional homestays) where delicious meals are often included in the room rate can help to alleviate pressure on your dollars, too.
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New Orleans, USA8/19
Average price for a trio of powdered sugar beignets: USD$7 (AUD$10.50)
As one of the first cities to get into the luxury hotel game, there’s a long history of aspirational accommodation in New Orleans. These days, it’s the boutique property game that’s strong, with beautiful boltholes such as the exquisite Peter and Paul, offering rooms from just USD$149 (AUD$225). And don’t even get us started on the food: trucks dishing up everything from Cajun to Creole dishes line the streets and the humble (and reasonably priced) beignet can see you from breakfast to dinner in all its delicious iterations.
Image credit: Wallace Heng
Average price of Hainanese chicken rice: SGD$5 (AUD$5.60)
Considering Singapore tied with New York as the most expensive city in the world to live in, locals could rightly disagree with this placement. For visitors however, a trip to Singapore can still give the holiday budget a soft landing. The city’s famous hawker centres are hives of delicious – and Michelin-approved – food for single-digit dollar amounts, while many of the city’s attractions are outdoors (aka free). Even cocktails at Marina Bay Sands’ LAVO, one of the glitziest hotel bars in the city, are comparable to Australian bars. An Aperol spritz may set you back SGD$23 (AUD$26) but those views are priceless.
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Average price of glass of wine: 6€ (AUD$9.75)
Spain’s alcohol attracts one of the cheapest tax rates in Europe – one that hasn’t been revised since 1992. The result? Great wine for exceptional prices. In Barcelona’s many bars, the plonk can be paired with various affordable tapas – small, snack-like plates – which can stave off even the hardiest of hunger pains for a few euros a piece. Don’t forget that some of the city’s most impressive architectural attractions – Casa Milà, Sagrada Familia, Parc Guëll – can also be enjoyed from the outside, if the 25€ (AUD$40) entry fee proves too exorbitant.
Image credit: Liam McKay
Average price for a pastéis de nata: About 1€ (AUD$1.65)
Opting for luxurious accommodation in the heart of a European city can take an almighty chunk out of your travel budget. Not in lovely Lisbon, however, where grand boutique properties charge half of what they might had they been stationed in the centre of New York. Hotel 1908, a 36-room property ensconced in a grand Art Nouveau building has rooms from 188€ (AUD$300), while the colourful LX Boutique Hotel can house you at the intersection of the Chiado, Baixa and Cais do Sodré neighbourhoods from around 99€ (AUD$162). The city’s stately buildings and charming cafes are all within walking distance too, saving you money on public transport.
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Christchurch, New Zealand12/19
Average price of a 1L bottle of local artesian water: NZD$2.99 (AUD$2.80)
Like so many cities in New Zealand, the beauty of Christchurch is found outdoors. This historic South Island city has so much to experience before reaching for your wallet: take a wander down a walking trail that loops around the peaceful Avon River and the Botanic Gardens, or venture deeper into Canterbury where the mountains of “Middle Earth” tower over glacial valleys and pristine rivers. All you’ll need is a pair of hiking boots and a well-stocked backpack.
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Average price for a can of Singha beer at a supermarket: 35THB (AUD$1.50)
Stuffing your itinerary with sightseeing can be pricey, especially if you’re prone to skipping public transport. In bustling Bangkok, the ubiquitous tuktuk zooms visitors between many of the city’s sights for around 200 baht (AUD$8.80), or even less if the distance is short. If you’re navigating to a street food wonderland such as Or Tor Kor Market and Khlong Toei Market, a ferocious appetite won’t break the bank either – favourite dishes here begin from just a few dollars (around 100 baht).
Image credit: Florian Wehde
Hong Kong, SAR14/19
Average price of a medium bubble tea: HKD$17 (AUD$3.30)
Housing unaffordability may have earned Hong Kong a placement on the list of the world’s most expensive cities to live in but visitors don’t have to contend with mortgages. The city’s vast and varied food culture gives it an edge for travellers, who can sample everything from Michelin-starred street food to sweet local tea from humble cha chaan teng (local “canteens”) for very little – think less than HKD$80 ($AUD15) for main dishes. Accommodation options in Hong Kong are just as diverse, from luxury hotels to reasonably priced boutiques lodgings: the very chic Eaton HK can set you back just HK$1360 (AUD$260) per night for two.
Image credit: Cristofer Maximilian
Portland (Oregon), USA15/19
Average price of a doughnut: USD$4 (AUD$6)
The US capital of quirk may have seen increased interest thanks to its unique brand of whimsy but the eco-friendly city still offers a great deal for visitors. Getting a feel for the city’s unique vibe is what a visit to Portland is all about – and wandering the Portland Saturday Market or snaking through one of the city’s many gardens doesn’t cost a cent. It’s also beloved for its food culture, which leans heavily on fresh and local produce, easily found at the window of a food cart or at the stall of a farmer’s market.
Image credit: Kevin Perez Camacho
Average price of a five-piece portion of pierogi (Polish dumpling): 30ZL (AUD$11)
A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1978, the mediaeval old town of Krakow is stunningly preserved – and often overlooked for other historic centres throughout Europe. Similar to the more popular Prague or Brussels (but far less expensive), the compact city is wonderfully walkable, saving you money on transport. There’s also a highly accessible street food culture in the city, where sausages hang from stalls and local sandwiches (zapiekanka) are stuffed to the brim for just a few złoty. Don’t miss the free walking tours offered by locals who’ll lead you around the best vodka and pierogi spots in the city.
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Average price for a Bintang in a restaurant: INR50,000 (AUD$5)
A combination of affordable flights, accommodation and food cements the island of Bali as one of the most beloved holiday spots for Aussies on a budget. Bang for buck can be found everywhere, from luxury beachside resorts to sprawling private villas, which are generous with facilities and reasonable with cost – rice paddy views and infinity pools in Ubud can cost just AUD$150 per night (or less). Traditional Balinese restaurants (warungs) spruik delicious food for very little outlay.
Image credit: Jeffrey Eisen
Average price of small plate of poutine: CAD$8.5 (AUD$9.50)
Although Canada isn’t typically classed as an affordable country to visit, its distinct seasons and abundance of outdoor activities can tip the balance in your budget’s favour. In spring and autumn, when the weather is mild, the cost of accommodation drops (as do the crowds). With an average daytime spring temp of around 18°C, shoulder seasons are spectacular for visitors looking to explore the outdoor beauty. There are trails that snake through picturesque canyons (Capilano Canyon is postcard territory, for example) as well as sun-drenched coastal trails. The challenging Stawamus Chief hike skims Howe Sound and reaches an elevation of 600 metres… and the views and sense of satisfaction are free.