There are lots of ways to get great value out of a holiday. Looking for destinations with a favourable exchange rate is the obvious one but you should also consider the cost of living — bigger and better known cities will always be more expensive for example. That said, some of the most notoriously expensive cities around the world are great at catering to travellers of all budgets so don’t rule them out just yet.
Where to go? Well Sri Lanka, Turkey and Egypt are consistently cheap because of the exchange rate, while southeastern European spots that don’t use the euro, such as Albania and North Macedonia, are great for value. Fancy something closer to home? We’ve found options in the UK, France and Portugal. Here’s our pick of the affordable holiday destinations for 2024, with average prices for coffee, an evening meal and a beer.
Main photo: alpacas in Uyuni, Bolivia (Getty Images)
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1. Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo has a reputation for being expensive — and it certainly can be, especially compared to other parts of Asia — but it’s also great at catering to travellers of every budget. Its capsule hotels for example offer horizontal cubicles at prices comparable to a bed in a hostel dorm room but with considerably more privacy, while a piping hot bowl of ramen in a typical restaurant costs as little as £4. There’s plenty to see without spending a penny, from the busy crossing at Shibuya to the Buddhist temple at Senso-ji.
Average prices Coffee £1.80, evening meal £5.50, beer £3
2. Jerez de la Frontera, Spain
Home of sherry wines, Jerez is a vibrant Andalusian city that’s managed to escape most of the tourist hordes of nearby Seville, which means prices here are comparatively modest too. At restaurants like Tabanco Plateros for example, you can get a flight of five sherries with matching cheese and charcuterie for just €10. And of course you can take advantage of the menu del dia, a set lunch menu that generally costs around €15 for two courses plus wine. Touring and tasting through the bodegas in the city is an essential part of any visit here but otherwise this is a laid back city where people watching from a terrace cafe is greatly encouraged.
Average prices Coffee 90p, evening meal £12, beer £1.70
Despite sterling’s well-documented struggles, it has gained ground on some other faltering currencies. Easily the biggest leap concerns Turkish lira; in 2023 for example, you could get more than twice as much for each pound as you could in 2021. Even allowing for soaring inflation, that means huge savings. The obvious places in Turkey to splash such bonus cash are buzzy, beach-speckled Turquoise Coast resorts such as lively Marmaris, busy Bodrum and quieter Dalyan.
Average prices Coffee £2, evening meal £6.50, beer £2.50
4. Lisbon, Portugal
The Post Office’s Travel Money department produces an annual City Costs Barometer charting the best-value European centres. In the most recent edition, Lisbon came top, having barely seen any rise in prices; the average total cost of two nights’ three-star accommodation over a weekend is now estimated at £121. Aiding the Portuguese capital’s status as western Europe’s most wallet-friendly option are numerous bars serving filling petiscos (small plates) such as octopus salad.
Average prices Coffee £1.50, evening meal £14, beer £2.50
5. Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka’s still-struggling currency is offering astounding value to desperately needed visitors. In the capital Colombo, opulent hotels with 40m rooftop infinity pools are barely £50 a night. Trains to the Portuguese-era fort city of Galle cost around £5 — in first class — while you can pay around £40 to look for leopards in Yala National Park or take a whale-watching cruise. Then, after glorious days on white-sand beaches, the finest crab curries should bring change from a tenner.
Average prices Coffee £1, evening meal £4, beer £1
6. The Gambia
Mainland Africa’s smallest country packs plenty in. Spellbinding sandy beaches are the Gambia’s most famous attribute, with Cape Point the most Instagram-worthy, but there’s much more to relish: bird, hippo and chimp-watching cruises in River Gambia National Park, leopard-patrolled wetlands and mysterious stone circles. Nevertheless, and despite some excellent beachfront hotels, winter sun packages to this West African country are absurdly cheap. With the shared GMT time zone, you needn’t even worry about jet lag.
Average prices Coffee £1, evening meal £7.50, beer £1
This volcanic, tropical Indonesian island can be startlingly affordable — especially if you travel in its shoulder seasons of April to June or September to October, when the weather is usually getting gradually drier or wetter. High-quality budget hotels proliferate, most of Bali’s beaches are free and activities tend to be a bargain: less than £30 for cookery classes or guided sunrise treks up Mount Batur. Taxis also cost little, as does zooming around on a rented scooter. Food-wise, stick to classic streetside snacks such as nasi jinggo (rice and side dishes such as sambal-fried peanuts, all wrapped in banana leaves) or dine in the affordable restaurants of Canggu and Ubud.
Average prices Coffee £2, evening meal £6.50, beer £3
In the pint-sized Central American country of Belize you’ll find jaguar-filled jungle, marvellous Maya ruins, caves, coffee farms, Caribbean beaches and, to enable splendid snorkelling and diving, a portion of the world’s second longest barrier reef. Alongside some eye-wateringly expensive resorts for dot-com squillionaires come excellent boutiques in chilled-out beach towns. A good bet is Placencia, from which a two-dive outing will set you back as little as £125.
Average prices Coffee £3, evening meal £8, beer £3
According to the Post Office’s 2023 Long Haul Holiday Report, Jamaica remains the best-value destination in the Caribbean. That ranking is based on prices surveyed in the north-coast hub of Montego Bay, a destination for beach-goers, snorkellers and rainforest explorers. The reggae-loving Caribbean island also lays on waterfalls galore, with Viator tours starting from £33. Even Jamaican rum is inexpensive at the airport duty-free.
Average prices Coffee £3, evening meal £13, beer £2.50
Sightseeing trips are shockingly cheap in this landlocked country. Multi-day jeep tours to the epic Salar de Uyuni, salt flats that are turned by rains into a surreal mirror from January to April, can be priced as low as £80. Voyages on Lake Titicaca, taking in floating villages, are often less than £10, while Amazon jungle lodges tend to be more affordable than anywhere else in South America. In fact, the only expensive thing about Bolivia is getting there in the first place. A two-week tour with Exodus will deliver all the highlights; transport and most meals are included.
Average prices Coffee £2, evening meal £5, beer £2.50
11. Hong Kong, China
According to currency-card provider FairFX, sterling has enjoyed great recent growth versus Hong Kong’s dollar. Although bars and restaurants are often pricey, the vast array of accommodation allows for budget-conscious stays that can be fuelled by the output of the city’s sizzling street-food stalls; the likes skewered curry fish balls, egg waffles and stinky tofu are wonderfully affordable. Taxis in Hong Kong are also cheap compared with Europe or North America.
Average prices Coffee £4, evening meal £16, beer £5
12. Tallinn, Estonia
In homely La Prima Pizza, which has topped TripAdvisor’s rankings as the best restaurant in the Estonian capital, those titular pizzas cost from around £8. Serving a wider Italian cuisine than its name implies, the 50-seat venue throws in live music from Thursday to Saturday evenings. Elsewhere, you’ll find Nordic-inspired high-end dining — try Rataskaevu 16 — at prices considerably lower than for the same fare in western Europe, plus some superb rates at very cool design hotels. Most are close to the 14th-century old town in Tallinn — 2023’s European Green Capital — and its many free walking tours.
Average prices Coffee £3, evening meal £15, beer £4
Everyone knows that Eastern Europe is cheap, yet even by those standards prices in Albania are absurd. At a perfectly decent bistro here, couples can eat three courses of traditional food (try tave kosi — baked chicken or lamb in yoghurt), throw in a bottle of wine, and still struggle to spend a tenner. The same goes for entrance fees to the castle of national hero Skanderbeg or sunbeds on the Albanian Riviera amid Himare’s blissful, sandy shores. Luxury stays generally cost a pittance too.
Average prices Coffee £1, evening meal £7, beer £1.50
14. Brittany, France
Crêpes. Together with their savoury, buckwheat galette counterparts, these omnipresent pancakes are a key reason why Brittany is so doable on a budget. Open at all hours and never expensive, crêperies allow you to save up for splashier seafood dinners. Also helping to cut costs are direct ferries from Portsmouth, Plymouth or Poole, lower petrol costs and an abundance of self-catering accommodation including holiday parks. While here, spend your days on sandy shores or admiring standing stones older than the pyramids.
Average prices Coffee £1, evening meal £16, beer £5
15. Hoi An, Vietnam
Frugal travellers are thrilled by large portions of southeast Asia, including Cambodia, Laos and the original backpacker destination, Thailand. But, according to the 2023 Post Office Long Haul Travel Report, Vietnam brings the best value of all — indeed, the city of Hoi An was named the year’s cheapest long-haul destination. Because everything else is so cheap, it’s possible to stay in top-notch hotels and still subsist on £100 a day, including sunscreen, cocktails, coffees and a three-course dinner for two. Local draught beers are especially cheap, while renting a moped will cut taxi costs and help you get to the nearby beaches. Cua Dai’s stretch of white sand is only a couple of miles to the east.
Average prices Coffee £1.50, evening meal £5, beer £1
In its 2023 study, travel-money specialist Eurochange compared the pound’s strength against various countries’ currencies, looking at its value in late 2022 in comparison to the two preceding years. One of its tips was for India, where British currency converters benefitted from an additional £217 worth of rupees for every £1,000 exchanged. From the beach resorts of Goa to Keralan canal cruises or boutique hotels in pink-hued Jaipur, the south Asian country is a great option for anyone economising — aided by its affordable, excellent vegetarian food.
Average prices Coffee £1, evening meal £3.50, beer £2
According to the 2023 Post Office Ski Resort Report, prices at most European pistes are steadily increasing. Brilliant value for families, however, is Vallnord-Pal Arinsal in Andorra — a petite, Pyrenean principality wedged between France and Spain — courtesy of free pre-booked lift passes for children aged under 11. These allow a family of four to save over £400, and reduce the weekly cost to an estimated total of £1,784. Not bad for somewhere with a decent range of runs across handsomely wooded slopes.
Average prices Coffee £2, evening meal £14.50, beer £2
18. Bamburgh, UK
Among more than 100 seaside towns investigated by the consumer body Which? in 2023, Bamburgh was one of just four to receive five stars for value for money. Dramatically overlooked by its namesake Norman castle, Northumberland’s most memorable resort also scored full marks for the quality of its sandy beach, for its tourist attractions — including a golf course — and, unsurprisingly, for that scenery. On days out, visitors can go dolphin-watching in the Farne Islands or cross the causeway to mystical Lindisfarne.
Average prices Coffee £2.50, evening meal £14, beer £3
19. Marrakesh, Morocco
Having analysed 41 prominent holiday locations, the money-saving website Savoo named Morocco’s most famous city as the cheapest all-inclusive destination outside Europe in 2023. Overlooked by the Atlas Mountains, Marrakesh offers affordable riads around its souks, then bigger, resort-style places in leafier suburbs. Petits taxis are a cheap way to get around and haggling on every price is positively expected.
Average prices Coffee £1, evening meal £9.50, beer £3
20. North Macedonia
Another of eastern Europe’s secret gems, North Macedonia delivers canyons, mountainous national parks and Ottoman-era villages announced by narrow minarets. The standout sight is beach-lined Lake Ohrid, below its clifftop church. Despite all of that, few tourists come, meaning absurdly low prices for Britons, further aided by the absence of the euro.
Average prices Coffee £1, evening meal £6, beer £2
Avoid peak season (December to February) and holidays in Egypt can be extremely cost-effective, especially with the pound strong against the local dollar. From £2 shakshuka breakfasts to 50p fava bean falafel wraps, meals sell for a song. Cross-country trains are not only eco-friendlier than flying but far cheaper — 12-hour Cairo to Aswan services can begin at £36, for example. Shop around for well-reviewed excursions — a Nile sunset cruise or a Luxor tour — and consider the Luxor Pass; it’s both decent value and mighty convenient. As for the Red Sea, skip pricey hotspots such as Sharm el-Sheikh in favour of more authentic Dahab.
Average prices Coffee £1, evening meal £5, beer £1.50
22. Mombasa, Kenya
Rather overshadowed by the country’s safari offerings, Kenya’s stunning coast currently ranks as second cheapest in the Post Office’s 2023 Long Haul Travel Report. A string of gorgeous, pearl-white beaches await in and around the city of Mombasa, as do plenty of other cost-efficient options: an old town with elegantly carved wooden doors, diving in the Mombasa Marine National Park and Reserve (entry £14pp), crocodile farms and giraffe-filled wildlife sanctuaries. Use Ubers to get around and visit in October, November, March or April for the best rates.
Average prices Coffee £1, evening meal £5.50, beer £1.50
23. Cape Town, South Africa
South Africa’s most popular city is another place where prodigious Ubers are a cheaper bet than taxis. There’s no charge to walk up Table Mountain (though cable car return tickets from £16 will tempt) and a staple “Gatsby” (a long sub with salad, fries and, often, masala steak) provides stodgy fuel for a song. In July and August many Cape Town restaurants offer special deals, perhaps helping you afford a Winelands tour or trip to see Boulder beach’s penguin colony.
Average prices Coffee £1.50, evening meal £11, beer £2
Additional reporting by Qin Xie