While Brazil’s travel scene burgeons as the World Cup rolls into town, Uruguay looks a better-value choice for a short excursion into South America. This proud buffer state has much to enjoy: sizzling steaks, laid-back Montevideo and a hip beach scene that tempts travellers further round the sandy coast each year. While you should watch out for peak-time costs on the coast, this remains an underrated, affordable corner of South America.
The sleepy riverside town of Fray Bentos is home to a memorable museum: the former factory of the world-famous beef processor of the same name.
That Portugal’s Algarve region trumps prices at other European resort areas isn’t a surprise to regular visitors. This surf and family-friendly region remains the destination of choice for a more-than-sun seaside holiday, and it’s not all that great-value Portugal has to offer. Lisbon as happening as Barcelona with fewer crowds, and cheaper, is set to get a whole lot more accessible as low-cost airline Ryanair opens a base in the Portuguese capital. Head anywhere in the country off the tourist trail, and costs come down further.
For a great-value tour of Lisbon hop on tram 28, which rattles around taking in many of the city’s highlights, including the Alfama district and the views from the Miradouro de Santa Luzia for €2.85.
Taiwan delivers great all-round value. Taipei is significantly cheaper than Hong Kong, Seoul or Tokyo, and while hotels are a big expense, dorm beds and homestays abound in Taiwan and camping is common in a lot of the island’s national parks and forests. Rail passes are standardised and cheap on fast and modern lines. Admission to many attractions and temples is cheap, and even major museums are affordable. Eating, perhaps the main attraction in Taiwan, is accessible to all whether tucking into dumplings at a street stall or enjoying high end fare at lower prices than comparable cities.
A large bottle of Taiwanese beer will set you back around NT$120 (US$4), or much less if you get one from a grocery shop.
Eastern European nations frequently appear in best-value lists, but in Romania’s case the entry is entirely warranted. Now vigorously connected to the rest of Europe by budget airlines, accommodation compares well in all price brackets to bigger-name destinations in the region. Bucharest is a case in point, where hotel beds largely welcome business travellers, so holiday season is, unusually, low season. Away from here there are budget-friendly homestays in medieval villages, spectacular castles and the unique Danube Delta, best explored by inexpensive, if slow, ferries.
Private vans known as `maxitaxis, together with buses and minivans, form the cheapest way to get around Romania. See www.autogari.com for routes, times, fares and departure points.
Burkina Faso remains a rare gem. Little known, but producing sighs of wanton desire to return from anyone who’s been. Those in the know will tell of colourful markets, friendly locals, spectacular rock formations and the immense fun of Ouagadougou, the tongue-twisting capital with a lively arts scene. With costs affordable and surprisingly good wildlife-spotting in the south you’d be hard-pressed to find a more satisfying introduction to West Africa.
At the top end of travel around Burkina are reliable air-conditioned buses, with guaranteed departures and advance ticketing. At the other are more ramshackle taxi-brousses (bush taxis) which cover more remote stops.