The 7 Best Budget Travel Destinations in 2018


A couple enjoying their tropical holiday on the beach

Whether you are a family or a young single, the holiday savings account might not cover the decadent European getaway you’ve been dreaming about. All the talk of lotto jackpots recently has probably had you checking out luxury hotels on Instagram. But, if your lotto numbers haven’t come up, don’t despair - there are plenty of places around the world you can visit this year without breaking the bank.   

Some of the countries on this list are riskier than nations you may have been before. While planning a trip to any overseas destination you are unfamiliar with, do your research. Visit the Smartraveller website for the latest information on the security of the region take precautions while you are there. Smartraveller also allows you to register your details so it’s easier for Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to contact you in an emergency.

Asian Destinations

It’s no surprise that Asia features heavily on the list of budget holiday hotspots. You don’t have to settle for yet another trip to Bali - try one of these affordable destinations instead.

Penang, Malaysia

Penang is a melting pot of cultures with its incredible architecture, street art and food. The island of Penang also has beautiful natural sights to take in.

Best time to travel

March and April are considered the low season in Penang. Enjoy cheaper accommodation and attraction ticket prices as well as smaller crowds.

There are buses available to and from the airport so no need to take a taxi. George Town is a big city to get around on foot so hire a bike to cover the kilometres or purchase a Rapid Passport for unlimited travel on Penang’s Rapid buses.


Hostels offer cheap options particularly if you are travelling with a group of friends and are happy to share a dormitory room. Otherwise, there are plenty of hotel rooms available for all budgets.


One of the best things about Penang is the mouth-watering range of food on offer. There’s a wide variety of well-priced, local food to try in Penang including Malay, Chinese and Indian dishes.

What to See and Do

George Town has heritage houses and buildings, street art and museums to explore.

Take a funicular railway ride to get to the top of Penang Hill to enjoy the views of the city, day or night. Escape Park offers tree climbing and swinging.


Xi An, China

Xi An is the start of the Silk Road with its culture and history and home to one of the eight Great Wonders of the World, the Terracotta Warriors and Horses.

Xi An China the start of the silk road

Best time to travel

There are considerable savings to be made if you are willing to travel in China’s off-peak season. Flights, hotels and some attractions can be a fraction of the cost during winter between November and March. China’s winters are very cold, but they are the driest time of the year. Apart from saving some yuan, you’ll also be avoiding the tourist crowds and some of the stress.  

Rather than taking internal flights in China, take the bullet trains for half the price or long distance buses.  


It is cheaper to stay in small rather than large cities and further to the west. Staying in the popular cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong may be outside your budget.      


Eat like the locals. You will not only experience authentic Chinese food, but you save yourself a fortune. Western food is priced higher in China than it is in western countries so if you can embrace rice for lunch rather than white bread, you will be on a winner.

What to See and Do

The Xianglu Temple near the city offers excellent views of the Yellow River, Buddhist culture and Ming architecture for just 10 yuan.

A Tibetan tour is on the wish list of many travellers to China, but it’s expensive. You can have a similar cultural experience by visiting the Tibetan areas in Sichuan or Yunnan.   


Surabaya Indonesia

Not as well known as Bali, Lombok or Jogjakarta, Surabaya is an attractive, budget option.  The second largest city in the country, Surabaya has old religious buildings, colonial period constructions, theatres, museums and palaces.

It also boasts the country’s largest spiral bridge, the Suramadu National Bridge, which connects the city with the island of Madura.

Best time to travel

Cheap airline tickets are available to Surabaya's refurbished international airport. Once you arrive, take a ride on a trishaw around the city or a train if you are going further afield.  


Choose somewhere on the outskirts of the city, there are plenty of budget hostels or hotels to choose from.


Authentic Indonesian food is cheap and plentiful. Try fish curry, chicken satay, beef ribs, and of course the classic nasi goreng.

What to See and Do

Surabaya is the history epicentre where Indonesia battled for independence, so there are plenty of interesting museums. If you prefer to take in the natural wonders, there are the views from Ijen Crater with its blue lake and blue flames just before sunrise.

Sunrise at Ijen volcano


Deemed the playground of the rich and famous, the Maldives has become a popular destination for Australians particularly honeymooners. This doesn’t mean you can visit the Maldives on a tighter budget - while villas overlooking the aqua blue ocean can cost $10,000 per night, there are plenty of accommodation options that are more realistic.

Travel tips

The local ferries are cheap. For a few dollars a trip, you can hop between the islands. Avoid the pricey speed boats and seaplanes that take passengers to the resort islands.  


The mega-expensive resorts are built on their own island so you don’t get to experience local life and what the rest of the country has to offer. A private room in a guesthouse is a far more modest $50 a day.


Many of the guesthouses offer a substantial breakfast so you may only need to pay for one main meal a day and that can cost less than $10. Not surprisingly many of the local meals feature fish.

What to See and Do

Swim and snorkel to discover the magnificent tropical fish and sea turtles of the Maldives. If you have your ticket, book a dive trip or even stay on a dive boat. Take a manta ray or whale shark sightseeing trip in season.  


Budget Destinations Further Afield

If you are looking for an affordable holiday that is a little different, try one of these destinations. Some of these locations aren’t your typical tourist meccas. Before booking any overseas trips, check the Australian government travel website to ensure there isn’t a travel warming listed for the region you are travelling to.  

Argentina, South America

While Argentina isn’t as cheap as its neighbours Chile, Peru and Bolivia, there are still ways to save money.

Argentina boasts some amazing natural sights including the Perito Moreno Glacier and Iguazu Falls, one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the world. There are also beautiful landscapes around Buenos Aires.

Best time to travel

Argentina is not geared to tourism like many other countries, so there aren’t high and low peaks.  For the best time to travel, you should consider the weather first. Travel to southern Argentina in the warmest months of the year December to March. Travel to the north between September and November or March to May.

Because of the considerable distance between locations, travel costs can eat into your budget. Buses are the cheapest and most efficient mode of transport thanks to a tax on foreigners taking domestic flights.


The cost of accommodation rises the further south you travel to Patagonia so for budget options you should spend more of your time in the north. If you are hiking, buy yourself a tent and camp out to save on accommodation costs.  


The cheapest eats are empanadas, pizza and hot sandwiches. If you have cooking facilities in your accommodation, buy ingredients at a supermarket and cook your own. If you are a vegetarian, this might be your only option as vegetables are hard to find on restaurant menus which favour steak. If you like a drink or two after a long day of travel stick to wine which you can buy cheap at supermarkets rather than liquor or beer which are expensive.  

What to See and Do

Hiking and exploring the outdoors is one of Argentina’s big attractions with many cities, natural parks and nature reserves to enjoy. On Sundays, there are free tango events in Buenos Aires and cheap dance and music shows on other days of the week.  

A hiker observing the mountain views of Argentina, South America

Ghana, Africa

With an amazing coastal landscape, wildlife, architecture and history, discover everything the capital city Accra and Ghana has to offer.

Travel tips

Flooding can occur during the wet season from May to October. Public transport is limited, and boat travel may be unsafe so use taxis, preferably one that has been arranged by your hotel. Try to travel with a companion at night for safety.  


Choose from a wide variety of budget hotel accommodation throughout the city.  


Local foods are soups, stews and sauces based around tomatoes with a side of starchy vegetables. The local cuisine is cheap, but if you want a different meal, you will pay far more.  

What to See and Do

Visit the Cape Coast Castle, one of the slave castles, the Kakum National Park to discover hundreds of bird species and elephants, antelope and monkeys. Take a Ghanian Village Experience tour to find out how the locals in rural settings live.



Made up of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean, Seychelles is a relaxing paradise.

Best time to travel

There is never a wrong time to travel to Seychelles with its warm tropical climate throughout the year.  The distance between the islands is small, so you can take a ferry or catamaran ride.

A woman walking along a tropical beach


Choose from a range of self-catered apartments, hotels, guest houses, B&Bs and of course an island resort depending on your budget.


If you love seafood, you are in luck in Seychelles. Indian, Chinese, Creole and Italian cuisines are readily available.

What to See and Do

Water activities are an obvious choice while in Seychelles. Indulge in a spot of fishing, go snorkelling, sailing or diving at most times of the year. If you prefer dry land, there are walking trails and bird watching.  


Travel Insurance Wherever you Go

Wherever in the world you decide to travel, don’t forget your travel insurance. Take out a policy as soon as you buy your flights or pay a deposit, so it’s one less thing to do just before you leave home.

For more information, call HIF on 1300 134 060 or you can get a no obligation instant quote for travel insurance online.

Tammy George

Please note: Tammy's blog is general advice only. For further information on this topic please consult your healthcare professional.


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