It’s a good time to be a traveller using Australian dollars. Earlier this year our currency was deemed one of the best performing major currencies in the world as it continued to hit highs. Uncertainty in the major markets of the UK and US have also helped see our dollar riding high, so where are some of the best-value places to travel overseas?
Whether or not Brexit is good for Britain, it is great for Australian travellers. After the UK voted to leave the European Union last June the pound began a freefall, dropping to its lowest point in over three decades. For Australian travellers doing the “London thing” that means the pints in Soho are cheaper and eating out can mean more than a sandwich at the famous Pret a Manger sandwich chain. Check out Switch House, the latest addition to the Tate Modern (Bankside, London SE1 9TG; tate.org.uk), a 64-metre high tower that brings several new galleries to the industrial-chic space. Or take a regional trip to the Cotswolds just around two hour’s drive from the capital. The picture-perfect villages like Upper and Lower Slaughter are fairy-tale beautiful and driving between the hamlets you will find arboretums, fabulously converted old pubs and antique shops.
Often overlooked for its better-known neighbour Kenya, Tanzania offers interesting and affordable options to head out on safari.
The Ngorongoro Crater in the north of the country is a huge volcanic caldera, that cradles a host of African wildlife in a sheltered basin surrounded by mountains. So protected are these animals that the crater is often referred to as a “zoo”, and there are 250,000 animals that live there. Expect to see gazelle, wildebeests, zebras, flamingo and buffalo. The beauty of being inside the crater is just as mesmerising as the wildlife with mountainous walls on all sides – and the views over the salt lake at the crater’s heart as you climb out are unforgettable.
The northern city of Arusha is a great town to make your base, and it is also the place where you can tackle Mt Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain.
In the past year or so, the Argentine peso has fallen and the Australian dollar has risen, so this South American destination is excellent value for money at the moment. Argentina is a huge country and varies in climate from the glaciers of Patagonia to the more tropical capital city of Buenos Aires. Hang out at the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, the city’s huge central square lined with 19th-century buildings and alive with cafes and restaurants. Or head to the San Telmo neighbourhood that is famous for its tango shows and the huge Sunday market at Calle Defensa.
Adventurers can take on the iconic Andes Mountain range that offers scenic lakes, great alpine hikes and the range’s highest mountain Cerro Aconagua often called the “roof of the Americas”.
Ho Chi Minh City can seem chaotic when you are first dropped into the arterial flow of cars and bikes that course through the city. Then, there are the people who are crammed into parks, sitting around fountains, sprawled out on cardboard on a median strip; laughing riotously, eating heartily from street stalls and open-fronted local diners.
But Vietnam is a great value spot to travel to, especially with the Australian dollar doing so well. Base yourself in the tree-lined expat area of District 2 where you will find bars like The Deck (38 Nguyễn Ư Dĩ, Thảo Điền, District 2; thedecksaigon.com) overlooking the Saigon River that gives the place its name. This low-slung, high-end bar attracts the expat cocktail set that assemble at sundown to watch the water lilies float by.
The northern city of Hanoi is also great for money-conscious travellers with cheap and cheery bia hoi, local beer bars offering “fresh beer” (usually made that day) for next to nothing.
This Indonesian island has long been a favourite for those on a budget, and with the strong dollar it continues to offer great value. While many Australians don’t stray far from Kuta exploring the island further can reap rewards.
The north of Bali is one of the last places to feel the long shadow of development; the villages cling to the roadside and traffic can come to a standstill during village festivals.
A new resort, the Menjangan Dynasty Resort, Beach Camp and Dive Centre (mdr.pphotels.com), Bali’s first glamping resort, claims to be “the Maldives of Bali” but for a fraction of the cost. The resort is at once striking and in keeping with the natural surrounds, reception has the sweeping lines of a traditional thatched alang alang roof and the dining area and bar has great cocktails using fresh local ingredients. In these warm island waters you will find a reef swarming with angelfish, surgeon fish and trumpet fish – and you can also spot deer on the nearby Menjangan (Deer) Island, that sometimes bathe in the ocean.
Laos is regularly overlooked in favour of its neighbours, Thailand and Cambodia, and as such remains a bargain. In Luang Prabang – the northern Laotian city that sits in the shadow of the PhouThao and PhouNang mountains – twenty years of UNESCO World Heritage protection have kept a cap on development while allowing the small town to evolve organically.
Cycle down Sakkaline Road, that runs along the centre of a small peninsula carved out by the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, you will find a laconic city that seems untouched. But there has been subtle modernisation such as 525 Luang Prabang (Kingkitsarath Rd, Luang Prabang; 525.rocks), a modern cocktail bar. British expat Andrew Sykes recently opened this speakeasy-style cocktail bar away from the main drag. It is a bit of an effort to find, but well worth the time when you are enjoying classic drinks and buffalo sliders.