One of the biggest mistakes that some people make when budgeting for their holiday is not considering the cost of those miscellaneous expenses on the ground when they arrive at their chosen destination which can often add up to more than the actual cost of the trip itself. Travelers can often get so obsessed with the headline cost of a package that they forget that it is but one component of a much bigger figure. Things like meals, entertainment, shopping, local transportation, resort fees, visa and inoculation costs — believe me, they all add up to a considerable amount so never underestimate them when planning your next trip abroad.
This of course leads me on to the obvious secondary question: which destinations represent better value for money than others when it comes to your spending power abroad? Destinations like India always come high on many people’s lists but that’s only true if you’re planning to backpack and let’s be honest — your average traveller is not going to be doing that. If you’re going to be staying in four or five star hotels and dining out in similar standard restaurants, then India doesn’t necessarily fare much better than many other destinations. Where you’ll get better value for money (in my opinion) is in South East Asia where countries like Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos offer exceptional value for money. The general rule of thumb here is that the less developed the destination, the cheaper the cost of living but be prepared to put up with standards less than what you may be used to at home!
In Europe, the further east you go, the lower the costs on the ground so think of places like Turkey, Greece, Romania and Bulgaria. In South America, all roads lead to Bolivia although many of the popular destinations such as Peru, Colombia, Argentina, Chile and Brazil all represent excellent value for money, depending on how native you want to go. Bear in mind though that because many South American countries peg their local currency to the US dollar, prices can sometimes be much higher than you expect because of currency rate fluctuations.
South Africa in particular represents exceptional value for money at the moment because of the low value of the Rand and the product on the ground (accommodation, infrastructure, dining out, tours etc.) is extremely high so definitely one to consider if you’re planning on going long haul. At the other extreme, places like French Polynesia (Tahiti, Bora Bora, Moorea) can be very, very expensive!