Favourable exchange rates mean you’ll get great value in these long-haul destinations
For the past few years the South African currency has stretched far for British travellers, but in 2015 things got even better, with a pound buying about 21 rand (compared with 12 rand to the pound in 2011), making it a great place to go on the cheap. Save money on flights by flying indirectly; for example, Turkish Airlines (turkishairlines.com) has return fares to Cape Town on some dates in 2016 from £445, if you book before next Thursday.
Where to stay: B&B doubles at Villa Zest (villazest.co.za) near Green Point, which is walking distance from the shops and restaurants at the V&A Waterfront, start at £75 per night. Or try Loloho Lodge (loloholodge.com), tucked away on a quiet road in Sea Point with B&B doubles from £50.
Where to eat: Eating out is one of the biggest pleasures in Cape Town; the website eatout.co.za is a great source of inspiration. For breakfast downtown try Clarke’s (clarkesdining.co.za), where a Nutella-stuffed, egg-baked croissant with bourbon bananas and bacon is yours for less than £4. For lunch, head to Hout Bay for a large plate of calamari and chips on the terrace of Chapmans Peak Hotel (chapmanspeakhotel.co.za) for £6.50, or pig out at the Pot Luck Club (thepotluckclub.co.za) in Woodstock, where springbok carpaccio with pine nuts and burnt honey is £4.50.
A pound buys about A$2.05, up from about A$1.50 just a few years back. More bang for your buck is noticeable all over the country, which is a pleasant change from the “how much?” reaction of most UK visitors when buying a coffee in 2013.
If you’ve done the east coast, try Perth, which is a shorter flight from the UK; the city is closer to Singapore than it is to Sydney. Round The World Flights (roundtheworldflights.com) can get you there from Edinburgh (via Doha) on Qatar Airways from £629 for travel in February if you book by December 15.
Where to stay: A B&B double at the boutique Alex Hotel (alexhotel.com.au) in Northbridge starts from £103 a night, or you could get a flat for two near Kings Park, with its own car park space and shared pool, from £46 per night (airbnb.com).
Where to eat: Start your day with breakfast at Bib & Tucker on Leighton Beach in Fremantle (bibandtucker.net.au); a stack of toast and jam is about £3, while the view of lifeguards working out in the waves costs nothing. Back in town, the newly renovated State Buildings were reopened by Prince Charles last month; choices run from the Michelin-starred chef David Thompson’s Long Chim (longchimperth.com) to Beer Corner at Petition (petitionperth.com), where a plate of chilli pepper king prawns costs £4.50.
With the Namibian dollar tied directly to the South African rand, you get the same great value there too, although flights are more expensive. Expect to pay about £1,000pp, outside the Christmas peak, with South African Airways (flysaa.com) from Heathrow to Windhoek via Johannesburg.
Where to stay: In 2011, the tour operator Expert Africa (expertafrica.com) offered the 14-night self-drive “Caracal” safari, with a mix of half-board and B&B, for £1,723pp; in 2016, this same itinerary will cost from £1,072pp, excluding flights.
Where to eat: In Swakopmund you can enjoy half a dozen fresh oysters at the Tug restaurant (the-tug.com) for £5, with fish of the day (such as kabeljou) for £7.
There’s never been a better time to go to Japan for value for money. A weak yen against the pound, plus falling local prices, mean that Tokyo is 50 per cent cheaper than it was in 2013, according to the Post Office Long Haul Report. Don’t just stay in Tokyo, though; bullet train tickets for the rest of the county cost £152 for a seven-day pass. The cheaper international flights are indirect ones; Qatar Airways (qatarairways.com) has returns for under £600 on some dates.
Where to stay: Toyoko Inn (toyoko-inn.com) is a chain of clean, comfortable Japanese business hotels near train stations across the country, with doubles from about £40 a night. For a more traditional experience, try a guest house, with tatami-matted rooms and futons, or family-run B&Bs called minshuku that cost £25 to £50 a night (seejapan.co.uk).
Where to eat: Conveyor-belt sushi restaurants have dishes from about £1, and you won’t find yourself struggling with the language as you help yourself to whichever dishes you fancy. Our favourite is Nemuiro Hanamaru (sushi-hanamaru.com/la_en), in Tokyo’s Kitte department store. Ramen bars also offer great value; Tokyo’s Tsuta has just gained a Michelin star but sells ramen from £4.50 a bowl.
You get more baht for your pound than a couple of years ago —about 53, compared with 45 in 2013. What really gives Thailand extra value, though, are the deals available as tour operators try to lure visitors back after a few years of not-so-great newspaper headlines, and the glut of flight deals via the Middle East (between them Emirates, Etihad, Oman Air and Qatar have at least 15 services a day).
Where to stay: Trailfinders (trailfinders.com) offers three nights in Bangkok, followed by eight in Phuket (both B&B), including nonstop British Airways flights from Heathrow and internal transfers, from £699pp for travel next May.
Where to eat: Eating out in Bangkok is still a tremendous treat for your wallet; if you’re adventurous, try the open-air restaurants next to Lumpini Park. It’s unlikely anyone will speak English, but you can get by pointing at other people’s dishes, and a delicious meal for two with beers will set you back about £7 in total. Even pushing the boat out at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel’s swanky Sala Rim Naam, by the banks of the Chao Phraya River, costs only £30-£40 a head and includes a performance of traditional Thai dancing.
The value of Argentina will certainly leave you feeling “blue” in a good way; the locals give that name to the unofficial exchange rate. At the official rate you’ll get just under 10 pesos to the US dollar, but the blue market rate is about 15; just avoid old and torn notes. No one knows yet if the election last month of the conservative Mauricio Macri will change the situation. Ask your hotel concierge in Buenos Aires where to change dollars, or try directly at restaurants. Even hotels will often oblige, but best avoid the characters shouting out “cambio, cambio” on Calle Florida. Ebookers (ebookers.com) has return flights from Heathrow to Buenos Aires (on LATAM Airlines via Sao Paulo) from £526 on selected dates in 2016.
Where to stay: The owners at the boutique Home Hotel (homebuenosaires.com) will give a discount if you pay cash in US dollars outside peak season. Their (before-discount) B&B double-room rates start at £106 a night.
Where to eat: Perhaps the best steak of your life will cost you £10 at La Carniceria (facebook.com/xlacarniceriax), just off Plaza Italia. There are two sittings, at 8.30pm and 10.30pm, and making a reservation is essential. Or for Peruvian food in a really lovely setting in Palermo Hollywood, head to La Mar (lamarcebicheria.com.ar), which is equally good value.