Travel bloggers always seem to travel to the most luxurious destinations. Our Instagram feeds are full of bloggers incredible snaps that give us a serious case of wanderlust. But want to know a secret? Just because it seems like luxury travel doesn’t mean they pay a fortune to travel to these places. I am always on the hunt for destinations that offer a slice of luxury on a backpackers budget. Places where you can get amazing luxury hotel rooms for the price of a hostel, can indulge in a spa day for the price of a cup of coffee, and that offer so much beauty without the hefty price tag. I asked 7 travel bloggers for their favourite luxe-for-less destination, and their secrets are in. How many have you been to?
Title image: Sri Lanka by Gabby at packslight
Recommended by travel blogger Karen from WanderlustingK
Sabah, Borneo is one of the best places in the world to travel like a luxury blogger on a budget. We spent three amazing days in the Borneo rainforest staying at an all-inclusive eco-resort where we would go out 3 times a day in search of wildlife by boat with expert guides who were amazing at spotting wildlife. Quite a few people took similar tours, but there were approximately 15 people in their boats, so it made it super special to have a private guide (or have 2 others with us) most days. If going on a safari is on your bucket list, Borneo should be on your list as you might get lucky enough to see wild pygmy elephants, orangutans, and numerous other monkeys. You can also do night treks to see the nocturnal animals, including civets. For about $300 per person for three days, we had an experience that was unforgettable! (It’s possible to do this for even cheaper [$150] if you’re willing to stay at a hostel.)
Recommended by Bryony from travelsandmore
Cartagena, Colombia provides a certain budget luxury that is very rarely found in Latin America. From the wet and grey sands of the Boca Grande to the more aesthetically pleasing Old Walled City. Cartagena boasts a wide spectrum of quality and luxury that can’t always be found on the road, especially across South America. Read Byrony’s full post and top tips for how to have a luxury-for-less vacation in Cartagena here. Still not convinced? Read 8 reasons why you should visit Colombia here.
Recommended by travel blogger Suzie from I Am But Wandering
My choice for a luxe for less trip is China. Not only does your money go a long way, there are a lot of areas of the country that do not have huge amounts of tourism, and the cultural expectation is of kind, friendly and welcoming hospitality, so there are some fantastic gems to be found. One of my all time favourite places to stay was Sudder Street Guest House in Yangshuo. We stayed in a private double balcony room with views out over the karst hills and rice paddies for only 14 GBP per night. The rooms are very minimal-modern in design, with polished concrete floors and dark wood furniture. Food is great value for money too, especially if you eat in local restaurants rather than international chains. Portions are always large, particularly when rice based, and incredibly tasty. The country offers a lot of history and culture as well as a lot of relaxation opportunities at spas. A lot of transportation systems have been updated in recent years, especially the train lines and consequently travel around the country is extremely comfortable and modern.
Recommended by Leigh from Campfires & Concierges
South East Asia is a great place to find luxury for less. I traveled all over Thailand and Cambodia, staying at Starwood properties for far fewer points than I would have used elsewhere. The final stop on my 2-week trip was the Westin Siray Bay in Phuket. I found an advanced purchase deal for just under $93 USD per night. Upon arrival, I was upgraded to a 2-room suite. The room included two ocean-view balconies, a king bedroom, living room and kitchenette. The property featured 3 pools, a restaurant, spa and gift shop. I loved this resort so much that I only left the property once during my 3-day stay. You can read about my visit to Phuket here.
Recommended by Liza from Tripsget
For me the best luxury for less destination is Cambodia. Despite the fact that Cambodia is a very poor country, the hotels there are fabulous and not so expensive (as it usually happens in some poor but amazing countries like Maldives or Cuba). I visited Cambodia during our 12-day trip in Asia last year and it was our connecting point between Singapore and Thailand. Cambodia, in fact, was the only country, where we could afford a 5* hotel during this trip and this amazing 5* hotel was cheaper and better than a 3* in Singapore and a 4* one in Pattaya, Thailand. In Cambodia, you can visit amazing restaurants with a very limited budget (the night out in a restaurant would cost you anything from $5 to $15 dollars) and even enjoy Cambodian nightlife having fancy cocktails for as low as $2-$4. You can even have a pint of local beer for $0.5!
You can also take a local taxi (tuk-tuk) everywhere for $1-4 and even hire it for the whole day to bring you to the amazing Cambodian temples and lakes for $15-20 a day. Isn’t this luxury? Read all about Liza’s 12 day luxe-for-less trip to Cambodia here.
Recommended by Georgina from Georgina Does
Vietnam is the perfect destination for budget travel. After I had paid for the flights to get there, I spent £250 on food, accommodation and activity for ten whole days whilst I was there earlier this year. My biggest win though was booking the brand new Vietnam Backpackers hostel in Hoi An, at the time it had no reviews but I knew everyone stayed at their Hanoi hostel so I was interested in trying this new out. Turns out it was the most incredible hostel I have ever seen – it would totally rival some hotels in London and it only cost me £30 a night. Amazing!
Recommended by Gabby from Packslight
Sri Lanka is a very underrated place to ball HARD on a budget! I did a Groupon trip there, and aside from the flight the prices locally were incredibly affordable! 5* hotels, amazing quality breakfast and dinner buffets, cheap but picturesque tours, and once in a lifetime experiences. 10/10, would absolutely recommend to someone who is tired of cliché-Bali, Thailand, and Vietnam, bust still want an exotic island with surfer towns, party spots, and quiet meditative moments galore.You can see in my photos some of the awesome things I experienced: temples on temples, 25 cent pedicure-by-fish session, and stunning scenery! You need to go and see for yourself how amazing this country is.