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The 20 cheapest holiday destinations around the world, from Cape Town to the Costa del Sol

From a Vietnamese city to a Greek island, here are the best places when it comes to snaring an affordable break

Joanna Whitehead
Wednesday 29 March 2023 08:33 BST
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Related: EasyJet launches 28-day all inclusive holiday ‘cheaper than staying in UK’

Cape Town in South Africa has been named the cheapest holiday destination in the world, according to a new study.

Post Office Travel Money has revealed its 17th annual report, which compares the cost of eight travel items in 40 of the world’s most popular holiday destinations in a bid to rank the best-value locations for UK travellers across the globe.

Items assessed include the average price of a cup of coffee, a bottle of beer, a glass of cola, a 1.5L bottle of water, a glass of wine, a 200ml bottle of suncream, a bottle of insect repellent, and a three-course meal with a bottle of wine, to create a cumulative total.

Boosted by the South African rand’s sharp fall of almost 16 per cent against sterling in recent months and keen pricing in restaurants and bars, Cape Town has emerged as the best-value destination, up from fourth place a year ago.

A fall in prices of 8.4 per cent means that it’s the cheapest place in the world to get a three-course meal (£35.48) according to the Post Office study. Meanwhile, Reykjavek in Iceland ranked last – the most expensive destination surveyed – with an equivalent meal costing £135.87.

Only three European destinations have made the top 10 in the list of best-value destinations.

Despite a 19.2 per cent fall in the value of the Turkish lira, Marmaris in Turkey has dropped from the top spot to runner-up in this year’s barometer.

Prices have more than doubled since last year because of inflationary pressures and a 55 per cent rise in the minimum wage introduced in Turkey’s bars and restaurants.

In third place, Sunny Beach in Bulgaria is only marginally more expensive than Marmaris, but prices have also risen steeply by 20 per cent.

Similarly, prices have also risen by a third in Portugal’s Algarve region, which comes in fifth place.

The study reveals that millions of Britons who have taken trips abroad consider their holiday to be their biggest priority after paying for food, energy and other essential bills.

More than two in five (41 per cent) say they will dip into their savings to afford a holiday abroad, while more than half will do without home improvements or spending on cars.

While prices are up in 80 per cent of the resorts and cities analysed, the study claims that prices have fallen year-on-year in six of the lowest-price destinations.

Ed Dutton, portfolio director, financial services at Post Office, which accounts for one in four currency transactions, said: “Despite the volatility of sterling, it is still possible to bag a bargain with careful planning.

“Check exchange rate movements and the cost of holiday essentials before booking to see where you might get more holiday cash for your pounds but be aware that sterling gains can be cancelled out by big resort price rises as the increase in Turkey proves.”

Mr Dutton added that “it will pay to be flexible when deciding on a holiday destination”.

From idyllic Caribbean islands to bucket-list favourites in Asia, here are the most affordable places for UK travellers to visit right now.

The 20 cheapest holiday destinations

1) Cape Town, South Africa: £51.44

The Twelve Apostles mountain range, Cape Town (Getty Images)

With a breathtaking coastline that boasts 10 Blue Flag beaches, Cape Town is best enjoyed outdoors. Take a hike or cable car to the top of Table Mountain, gawp at the Twelve Apostles Mountain Range, and visit one of the world’s best botanical gardens at Kirstenbosch. Head out of the city to take a vineyard tour at some of the world’s most acclaimed wineries, or hit the road on Cape Peninsula, one of the world’s most scenic road trips.

  • Cup of filter coffee: £1.42
  • Bottle of local beer: £1.61
  • Bottle of water (1.5L): £0.66
  • Suncream (200ml): £5.43
  • Three-course evening meal for two, including bottle of house wine: £35.80

Read more: The best hotels in Cape Town

2) Marmaris, Turkey: £57.59

Located by the Aegean Sea, Marmaris in Turkey is renowned for its Mediterranean climate, beaches, limpid waters and forested mountains as far as the eye can see. A popular tourist resort, it’s also home to a lively nightlife scene.

  • Cup of filter coffee: £1.45
  • Bottle of local beer: £2.84
  • Bottle of water (1.5L): £0.15
  • Suncream (200ml): £6.48
  • Three-course evening meal for two, including bottle of house wine: £40.39

3) Sunny Beach, Bulgaria: £58.30

Sunny Beach in Bulgaria (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Sunny Beach is a lively spot on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast. Home to an 8km-long shoreline, this destination offers the opportunity to enjoy water sports such as paragliding and jetskiing, as well as bobbing around in the briny deep. It’s also a popular choice for families, with two aquaparks, playgrounds and minigolf.

  • Cup of filter coffee: £0.96
  • Bottle of local beer: £1.91
  • Bottle of water (1.5L): £0.65
  • Suncream (200ml): £9.57
  • Three-course evening meal for two, including bottle of house wine: £36.12

4) Mombasa, Kenya: £58.96

This historic coastal town is best known for its world-class beach resorts, but travellers can also visit Fort Jesus, one of the most well-preserved 16th-century Portuguese forts in the world,or go snorkelling and diving at Mombasa Marine National Park. Just under two hours away sits the Shimba Hills National Reserve, where visitors can spot wildlife including elephants, giraffes, hippos and zebras.

  • Cup of filter coffee: £2.36
  • Bottle of local beer: £2.09
  • Bottle of water (1.5L): £0.49
  • Suncream (200ml): £8.34
  • Three-course evening meal for two, including bottle of house wine: £58.96

Read more: What it’s like to walk through Kenya’s Maasai Mara with lions for company

5) Algarve, Portugal: £59.95

Bengali sea cave, Algarve (Getty Images)

The Algarve is renowned for its pristine beaches, natural beauty and towering cliffs. Its Atlantic coastline also makes it one of Europe’s most popular surf spots – and it’s beloved by golfers, too.

  • Cup of filter coffee: £0.81
  • Bottle of local beer: £2.26
  • Bottle of water (1.5L): £0.59
  • Suncream (200ml): £7.23
  • Three-course evening meal for two, including bottle of house wine: £39.30

6) Hoi An, Vietnam: £59.99

A former port, Hoi An is often described as Vietnam’s prettiest city. A melting pot of beautifully preserved architectural styles, temples and some incredible food, its Ancient City is also a Unesco World Heritage Site. Hire a bike and cycle to An Bang beach for soft sand and sea.

  • Cup of filter coffee: £1.61
  • Bottle of local beer: £1.73
  • Bottle of water (1.5L): £0.50
  • Suncream (200ml): £4.42
  • Three-course evening meal for two, including bottle of house wine: £44.49

Read more: How to do Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi by train

7) Kuta, Bali: £68.10

Kuta, Bali (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Kuta is Bali’s major resort town and a bit hit with Australian tourists. With a lively nightlife scene and watersports galore, it’s also one of the best places on the island to catch a stellar sunset.

  • Cup of filter coffee: £2.08
  • Bottle of local beer: £2.08
  • Bottle of water (1.5L): £0.36
  • Suncream (200ml): £11.87
  • Three-course evening meal for two, including bottle of house wine: £44.81

8) Tokyo, Japan: £71.49

One of the world’s great global cities, Tokyo is a veritable feast for the senses, melding contemporary and traditional life to sublime effect. Visit temples, eat street food, go bar hopping in Golden Gai, watch sumo at Ryogoku Kokugikan, snap cherry blossom… It’s impossible to do it all, but simply pounding the pavement and soaking up the buzz is part of the thrill.

  • Cup of filter coffee: £2.30
  • Bottle of local beer: £4.27
  • Bottle of water (1.5L): £0.66
  • Suncream (200ml): £4.34
  • Three-course evening meal for two, including bottle of house wine: £50.07

Read more: Eight ways to save money when travelling around Japan

9) Colombo, Sri Lanka: £73

Colombo, Sri Lanka (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

For many travellers, the Sri Lankan capital is often a stop-gap on their way to the multitude of other riches this incredible country has to offer, but it’s worth staying a few days to explore. Check out the ornate Sri Kaliawasanathar Swami Devasthanam Temple, the pretty Gangaramaya Temple, shop at the Pettah Floating Market, and eat like a king at the many kitchens and restaurants around the city.

  • Cup of filter coffee: £1.55
  • Bottle of local beer: £1.80
  • Bottle of water (1.5L): £0.57
  • Suncream (200ml): £5.67
  • Three-course evening meal for two, including bottle of house wine: £54.90

Read more: Why travellers should put Sri Lanka back on the bucket list

10) Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt: £73.32

A popular beach resort with 35km of sandy beaches, Sharm is not only a great option for a fly and flop holiday, it’s also home to some excellent diving opportunities, with wrecks and reefs to explore for both novices and more experienced waterbabies. Alternatively, journey into the Sinai Desert for camel rides and sandboarding down some major dunes.

  • Cup of filter coffee: £1.25
  • Bottle of local beer: £2.96
  • Bottle of water (1.5L): £0.31
  • Suncream (200ml): £10.90
  • Three-course evening meal for two, including bottle of house wine: £46.39

11) Costa del Sol, Spain: £73.99

Malaga, Spain (Getty Images)

A beloved stretch of the southern Spanish coastline, the Costa del Sol has long been a hit with British holidaymakers – and for good reason. With more than 150km of beaches it’s an ideal swimming and sunbathing spot, but those after a culture fix are also catered for in Malaga, once the home of Pablo Picasso. Explore Alcazaba, Spain’s best preserved Moorish fortress palace, the Centre Pompidou Malaga for modern art – or head up the coast to the Nerja Caves to gawp at the largest stalagmite in the world.

  • Cup of filter coffee: £1.45
  • Bottle of local beer: £1.99
  • Bottle of water (1.5L): £0.53
  • Suncream (200ml): £12.65
  • Three-course evening meal for two, including bottle of house wine: £49.92

12) Paphos, Cyprus: £78.08

In addition to being a favourite with package holidaymakers, Paphos was the 2017 European Capital of Culture. Enjoy the sun and heat, but don’t leave without a visit to its Archaeological Park, home to some of Cyprus’ most important historic ruins. And a trip to the 10th century Agios Neophytos Monastery, carved into a mountain rock just north of Paphos, makes for a fascinating break from the beach.

  • Cup of filter coffee: £2.62
  • Bottle of local beer: £2.89
  • Bottle of water (1.5L): £0.33
  • Suncream (200ml): £7.45
  • Three-course evening meal for two, including bottle of house wine: £54.89

13) Corfu, Greece: £81.35

Porto Timini beach in Corfu (Getty Images)

Known as the Emerald Isle, Corfu is one of Greece’s greenest islands, carpeted with olive groves, cypress trees and wild flowers. Explore the Unesco-listed old town with its Asian art museum (Greece’s only one), swim in the Channel of Love near Sidari to solidify your romance (allegedly) – or, if you fancy a challenge, take on the 220km Corfu walking trail in the cooler months.

  • Cup of filter coffee: £2.26
  • Bottle of local beer: £3.16
  • Bottle of water (1.5L): £0.45
  • Suncream (200ml): £13.81
  • Three-course evening meal for two, including bottle of house wine: £50.15

Read more: The best hotels in the Greek Islands

14) Funchal, Madeira: £85.02

While Madeira’s green interior makes it a popular destination for hiking, picturesque Funchal is also worth a visit. Shop for souvenirs at Mercado Dos Lavradores, ride the cable car for the best city views, snap the painted doors along Rua de Santa Maria, and admire the remarkable cedar ceiling and tiling at Sé Catedral do Funchal. Don’t leave without sampling Madeira’s most famous export at Blandy’s Wine Lodge.

  • Cup of filter coffee: £1.58
  • Bottle of local beer: £2.26
  • Bottle of water (1.5L): £0.54
  • Suncream (200ml): £9.94
  • Three-course evening meal for two, including bottle of house wine: £58.28

Read more: Going to ground: Embracing the agritourism life in Madeira

15) Phuket, Thailand: £85.33

Big Buddha, Phuket, Thailand (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

As well as white-sand beaches, buzzing nightlife and mouth-watering cuisine, Phuket is also home to several night markets selling everything from fashion to food and handicrafts, floating restaurants, Wat Chalong – the largest and most revered temple on the island – and a 45 metre marble Big Buddha.

  • Cup of filter coffee: £2.30
  • Bottle of local beer: £2.81
  • Bottle of water (1.5L): £0.51
  • Suncream (200ml): £8.96
  • Three-course evening meal for two, including bottle of house wine: £61.28

16) Mallorca, Spain: £86.03

Forget the unfair ‘Brits abroad’ tag that has besmirched this beautiful Balearic island: Mallorca has so much more to offer than all-night discotheques and karaoke bars (although these can be fun). Home to more than 300 beaches lapped by turquoise waters, Mallorca is also home to the Tramuntana mountain range, crammed with superb trails to explore. Elsewhere, the Mallorcan capital of Palma is home to a majestic gothic cathedral, Es Baluard, an excellent contemporary art gallery, and some mouth-watering food.

  • Cup of filter coffee: £2.12
  • Bottle of local beer: £3.16
  • Bottle of water (1.5L): £0.34
  • Suncream (200ml): £11.52
  • Three-course evening meal for two, including bottle of house wine: £56.29

Read more: The best hotels in Mallorca

17) Montego Bay, Jamaica: £87.71

Montego Bay, Jamaica (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

A popular choice with all-inclusive holidaymakers, Montego Bay is home to some of the Caribbean’s most idyllic beaches. Powder-white sand and pristine waters make this an iconic place to simply laze around with a rum cocktail in hand, but there are ample opportunities to snorkel, dive, horseride, water-ski and parasail. Head to Rockland’s Bird Sanctuary to get up close and personal with hummingbirds, while Greenwood Great House offers a sobering and insightful perspective on the island’s colonial history.

  • Cup of filter coffee: £3.11
  • Bottle of local beer: £3.02
  • Bottle of water (1.5L): £0.86
  • Suncream (200ml): £7.11
  • Three-course evening meal for two, including bottle of house wine: £62.47

18) Poreč, Croatia: £88.08

The most popular resort on the Istrian peninsula, Poreč has a rich history that’s worth exploring. Marvel at the glittering gold mosaics at the Euphrasian Basilica, a pristine example of early Byzantine architecture, quarrel over modern art in the gothic interior of the Zuccato Palace, or hike or cycle the 129km Parenza trail. Don’t leave without snapping a picture of the baby-pink Villa Polesini for the ’gram.

  • Cup of filter coffee: £1.40
  • Bottle of local beer: £3.25
  • Bottle of water (1.5L): £0.80
  • Suncream (200ml): £7.77
  • Three-course evening meal for two, including bottle of house wine: £62.52

Read more: The best hotels in Croatia

19) Punta Cana, Dominican Republic: £89.51

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Sugar-sand beaches and aquamarine sea are the order of the day in Punta Cana, whose picture-postcard 48km coastline is one of the Caribbean’s longest. Popular with all-inclusive holidaymakers keen to lie back and develop their tan, Punta Cana is also well-served for watersports, such as jet-skiing, diving, parasailing and yachting. And with 10 golf courses located in the region, it’s also a hit with those wanting to work on their birdie.

  • Cup of filter coffee: £1.35
  • Bottle of local beer: £4.28
  • Bottle of water (1.5L): £1.64
  • Suncream (200ml): £6.58
  • Three-course evening meal for two, including bottle of house wine: £63

20) Sliema, Malta: £90.85

This resort town sits across the harbour from Valetta’s Unesco-listed cathedrals and castles, but it’s well worth a wander around Sliema. Explore this Catholic nation’s many churches, such as the baroque Stella Maris, feast on the Maltese national dish of stuffat tal-fenek, take a dip in the “Roman Baths” - man-made baths carved into the coastline - or simply take a gentle stroll along the promenade. Don’t miss the sunset from Fort Tigné, one of the oldest polygonal forts in the world.

  • Cup of filter coffee: £2.48
  • Bottle of local beer: £2.94
  • Bottle of water (1.5L): £0.61
  • Suncream (200ml): £13.10
  • Three-course evening meal for two, including bottle of house wine: £60.16

Read more: Seven unmissable beach spots in Malta and Gozo

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