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The popular online travel guide Lonely Planet has released its Top Travel Destinations for 2018 guide and the results couldn't be more exciting. Destinations included everything from Singaporean favourites such as Taiwan and South Korea to more far flung cities in Brazil and South Africa. Below, we look at a few of their picks as well as how much a trip to these destinations would cost Singaporeans.
Destinations in Asia & Asia Pacific
According to Lonely Planet, some of the top destinations for 2018 in Asia were Kaohsiung, Taiwan; Hunan, China; Canberra Australia; Seoul, South Korea and Dunedin, New Zealand. Kaohsiung, Hunan and Seoul are more budget-friendly, as they are the cheapest options on this list due to the affordable airfare. Wealthier Singaporeans may be interested in Canberra or Dunedin as these destinations have costlier flights due to their distance from Singapore. Regardless of airfare, accommodations in all of these destinations can be very affordable, with 3-star hotels costing under S$300/night and private Airbnbs averaging between S$41 and S$133 per night.
Kaohsiung is a great choice for young Singaporeans looking for a fresh take on Taiwan, due to Kaohsiung's burgeoning urban centres, food and art scene and proximity to fulfilling activities such as swimming in the South China Sea, sailing to Cijin Island, cycling and visiting Fo Guang Shan, the largest Buddhist monastery in Taiwan. Also, China's Hunan province offers cheap food and accommodations in Changsha while impressing travellers with its magnificent natural park, Zhangjiajie. Seoul offers a great balance between its trendy urban scene, various K-pop festivities, and nature with its recently unveiled Seoullo 7017 (an overpass-turned-garden) and plenty of nature parks.
Travellers bored of Sydney and Perth can find much to do in Canberra, Australia's capital city. Canberra has a great food and wine scene, is close to nature reserves and has plenty of affordable museums. Singaporean steampunk and Northern Lights enthusiasts can get a thrill from Oamaru, South Island. Not only is it known as the 'steampunk capital of the world', it is also a great northern lights destination with airfare and accommodations costing 35% less than Iceland.
Destinations in Europe
While more expensive than their Asia Pacific counterparts, there are some European destinations that can still be great value for the average Singaporean. Some of the top European destinations of 2018 include cities like Tallinn, Estonia; Krakow, Poland; Matera, Italy; Antwerp, Belgium and Seville, Spain. Europe's main cost advantage is its fairly affordable and quick ground transportation, which can save tourists quite a lot compared to flying to smaller, more expensive airports. For instance, while a flight to Antwerp is expensive and extremely long, flying to nearby Brussels and taking a 45 minute train ride to Antwerp can save you around S$400.
Value-seeking travellers will find Tallinn's affordable accommodations, cuisine and attractions deserving of Lonely Planet's ranking of Tallinn as one of the best value destinations in 2018. Accommodations cost between S$64 for an Airbnb to around S$100 for a 3-star hotel, and museums cost around S$10. Similarly, Krakow offers affordable attractions, historical landmarks and a taste of Eastern European culture. Matera is one of the oldest cities in the world where you can find 9,000 year old monasteries and churches, most of which you can explore for under S$10. However, it works best as a stop on a tour of Europe or Italy because flights to its nearest airport are double what you would pay to fly to a major city like Rome.
Destinations in the Americas & Africa
For those living in Asia, travelling beyond Europe and the ASEAN can be intimidating due to the extremely long flights (some are almost 48 hours) and general unfamiliarity with the region. However, South American and African destinations have consistently ranked as top destinations and are on many a bucket list. Some of the top Lonely Planet choices you can consider are Salvador, Brazil, Santiago, Chile and Cape Town, South Africa. While these trips can be very expensive, costing up to S$3,500 for a week, their beauty and unique experiences can definitely make them contenders for a once in a lifetime trip.
Brazil and Chile have very expensive airfare from Singapore due to their almost 24 hour long flights, but these trip will definitely be worth the money. While Salvador has had a facelift due to its hosting of the 2014 World Cup, even before then it was a city full of rich Afro-Brazilian history, UNESCO historical sites and streets full of good food and live music. Chile's bustling art and food scene is a great option for trendy Singaporeans, with museum passes costing less than S$5. Accommodations in both cities are on par with ASEAN destinations, costing between S$30 and S$50 for a private Airbnb. Cape Town is a great African destination and can fit whatever itinerary you want, whether you want to explore the city or go hiking while exploring the surrounding villages. You can also sign up for Cape Town's iVenture City Pass to get discounts or free admission on attractions, restaurants and experiences.
How to Save On Your Vacation
Despite a few options on the list being quite affordable, most of the destinations may be a little costly for the average Singaporean household that spends around S$2,285 per year on vacation (S$662 per person). However, there are ways to bring down the cost of travelling to these destinations to make them more economically feasible. First, you shouldn't neglect the points you've racked up on your travel credit cards. Generally, 1 mile is worth roughly S$0.01 (and almost S$0.02 for long haul flights), so point hoarders may have saved up enough miles to offset a big chunk of their vacation cost. Even if you don't have enough miles to fully cover the trip this time around, some of these cards provide special discounts at online travel booking sites. Plus, your booking may add enough to help cover the cost of your next holiday.
Second, consider alternatives to traditional vacationing. As we have seen above, Airbnbs are around 35% cheaper (and often much nicer) than a 3-star hotel, saving you almost S$300 on a week-long trip. You can also consider eating at less tourist-trodden, local eateries. These places usually cost much less than international chains and will offer authentic, quality cuisine. Furthermore, you can check out neighboring airports and consider taking a bus or train for the last leg of your journey instead of flying directly to your destination.
Lastly, you can also save money through risk prevention. There's nothing worse than saving up all year for a trip and then getting your wallet stolen or having to replace all of your lost luggage. To prevent these sunk costs, you can consider getting a travel insurance policy. These plans are fairly affordable, ranging from S$18 for 1-week ASEAN trip to S$70 for a 1-week global trip. However, for that price, you will get thousands of dollars in trip cancellation, travel delay, lost baggage and hospitalisation coverage.
Whether you have thousands of dollars at your disposal or you spent a few years saving up for the ultimate trip, exploring a new destination can be a great way to step out of your comfort zone and experience a new culture. Being frugal while on holiday can also help you save money for future trips and avoid inauthentic and overly expensive tourist traps, leading to discoveries hidden gems you may otherwise have missed. What are your some of your best money saving travel hacks? And which destinations on here have you been to already and which ones are still on your bucket list?