The good old days when sterling was king and your pound was guaranteed to net you $2 or 1.5 euro are long gone. So with the dollar and the euro flexing their financial muscle against sterling, it's becoming more and more difficult to find somewhere to visit on the cheap.
Some of the old holiday favourites - like France, Spain, Italy and the United States of America- are no longer on the map for the budget conscious traveller who is very much looking elsewhere. These days, countries outside the eurozone are increasingly popular destinations, as are some of the more unexpectedly cheaper holiday destinations. Read on to find our choice of cheap (or cheaper) countries that offer better value for money than some of the usual suspects. There are bargains to be had - you just have to get off the well beaten tourist path to find them.
The slide of the Mexican peso and favourable exchange with sterling has made Mexico a good option for the traveller. Flights to Cancun are cheaper than they've been for some time. Visitors can explore the Yucatan Peninsula and enjoy the exotic beaches, world-class snorkelling and scuba diving or opt to explore the remarkable Mayan ruins left behind by the last Mexican natives. Things are relatively cheap, even in the tourist areas, but if you stay in an area that is not one of the tourist hot spots, it will be cost you much less and give you a proper taste of local life.
Iceland has never been noted for its cheapness - until now. Financial meltdown of the country, which saw it effectively made bankrupt, has seen Iceland go from mega-expensive to affordable. Basics like food and hotels have near halved in price, which while still not considered exceptionally cheap when compared to other bargain destinations, is still a damn sight more affordable than it has been in years. For anyone wanting to check out the country's lava landscapes or bathe in natural hot springs such as the geothermal 'Blue Lagoon' - the time to do it is now.
Relative stability in currency markets between the pound and the Turkish lira have meant that Turkey remains a good cheap option, so much so that people are even using the likes of Istanbul for a weekend city break. Unlike shopping meccas like New York, you can still haggle yourself a shopping bargain in the Grand Bazaar or the antique district of Cukurcuma. While the cost of living has shot up in Turkey, being outside the euro zone means that prices are still low compared to the majority of Europe. And with experts predicting that hotel rates are going to rise in coming years because of continued popularity, there really isn't a better time to take advantage.
South Africa is a good holiday destination for UK travellers looking to get a bit more for their pound. Depreciation in the value of the rand against sterling, as opposed to the falling value of the pound against the euro, makes a trip much more affordable to visitors. While flights might be relatively expensive, there are plenty of budget accommodation options combined with a low cost of living (a beer will cost you around £1), which make South Africa a good choice for the budget conscious. Try a budget safari break in the Kruger National Park, with tented accommodation being a good cheap option.
Bulgaria is one of the cheapest destinations in Europe, but that that could all be set to change. In preparation for the currency the 'lev' being ditched for the euro (which is tentatively planned for 2012), general prices have started to rise, but not enough to prevent you securing a bargain break. A good cost-effective option is a private villa or apartment. And don't forget that Bulgaria has plenty of budget options for those intended to hit the ski slopes, with Bansko being a great cheap ski destination - and that's before you've sampled the budget priced après ski. Simply put, visit Bulgaria now before it enters the eurozone.
The low-cost Egyptian pound makes Egypt one of the best value countries at present to the UK traveller. While previously for some, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Egypt is open to even the most budget conscious of travellers. Fine sandy beaches and some of the world's best historical sites make Egypt a hot destination in many more way than the excellent sunshine hours of summer. Don't forget that Egypt has some of the best scuba diving and snorkelling around and the likes of Sharm el Sheik is now one of the first places that people will take the plunge if they want to learn to scuba dive.
Another North African option, Tunisia enjoys fine sunshine which sees it as a popular spot for both winter and summer sun breaks. Accommodation and eating out are great value, making Tunisia a great choice for the budget traveller. Resort hotels around Hammamet, Sousse and Port el Kantaoui are good options, and provide opportunity for some bargain pampering spa sessions at a fraction of the price that you would normally expect. Another good destination is Monastir where you can delve into Tunisia's past (including the well preserved Ribat (fortress) used in Monty Python's Life of Brian, plus chilling out for free on the gorgeous beach.
Croatia still remains outside the eurozone, so is good value for money compared with the likes of France or Italy. The weakness of the Croatian kuna against the pound, makes it one of the cheapest destinations in Europe. If you are on a budget, there's no lack of cheap accommodation in Croatia, from campsites to private guest houses, while even the more up-market hotels still offer good deals. The easiest way to do this is to travel outside of the peak season (June to August) - instead travelling in April/ May or September/October, when you should still experience good weather but find room prices far cheaper.
British travellers to Thailand had been in for something of a shock in recent times as the pound lost almost a third of its value, meaning that the holiday hot spot was no longer the cheap option it has always been. The good news is the pound has recovered some of its strength against the Thai baht, and is likely to improve further, so that a visit will hopefully become cheaper and cheaper. Political unrest in the country has indirectly helped reduce demand for flights and holiday packages, and as a result, prices have fallen. For many, Bangkok is a must, and with plenty of flights to choose from, airfares are generally low.
An off the wall suggestion
Open up your range of cheap options by utilising some of the schemes available to really do things on the cheap - such as temporarily swapping your home or sleeping on a stranger's sofa! These ideas might not seem as strange as you might first think and are options used by an increasing number of people. Such schemes include the likes of Homelink International, Intervac GB, Home Exchange, and Holswap, which allow people to stay anywhere in the world by temporarily exchanging their home for someone else's. The other option is to use something like the popular www.couchsurfing.org which enables people to find others who may be willing to put you up for free on their couch - but make sure you have a backup plan should you and your host not hit it off.