Whenever one of your colleagues is on leave, there’s a 95% chance he’s not shaking a leg at home but gallivating on an overseas holiday. It’s no secret that Singaporeans love to travel—in a survey conducted by Visa, 95% of the Singaporean respondents said they had travelled overseas in the last three years.
But with the Singapore dollar set to slide dramatically this year, getting your regular holiday fix could soon cost more. Thank heavens there are lots of affordable destinations less than a three hour flight from Singapore.
No matter what kind of holiday you like, here’s how you can enjoy it on a budget in the region.
Beach holiday – Da Nang
Forget about slumming it. Sometimes you just want to lie on the beach. While everyone else is heading to Phuket or Bali, take a Jetstar flight to Da Nang.
This Vietnamese coastal city is popular amongst domestic tourists for its beaches and resorts. It also has the bonus of being home to some of the country’s friendliest people.
The best thing is that hotels can be dirt cheap and still reasonably nice if you’re on a budget. For instance, you can stay at the very comfy Dang Ha Hotel for 14 SGD if you book on Agoda right now. The property is within walking distance of the beach. On the other end of the scale, there’s Naman Retreat and Residences, a luxe five star resort (hint: use The Entertainer to get a free night when you book your stay).
Shopping holiday – Chiang Mai
Bangkok is Singaporeans’ favourite budget shopping destination thanks to Chatuchak Weekend Market and Platinum Mall. But Chiang Mai up north is also a great place to spend your hard-earned cash.
There are two huge weekend markets patronised by tourists and locals alike, one on Saturday and one on Sunday, where you can browse all sorts of clothing items, homeware and crafts.
But the real gems can be found on the streets off Nimmanhaemin Road, which is where all the fashionable locals hang out. Nestled in between hipster cafes and bars are a variety of boutiques selling unique local designs at affordable prices. There are also big malls like Maya Lifestyle Shopping Centre, for those who can’t survive without air con and escalators.
Adventure and outdoors – Kota Kinabalu
You don’t have to go all the way to New Zealand to enjoy the great outdoors. Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia is one of the world’s best outdoor and adventure destinations, with lots of resorts and hotel infrastructure to cater to tourists.
Not only can you scuba dive and snorkel off the coast departing from Kota Kinabalu or attempt to climb Mount Kinabalu itself, there are also Lok Kawi Wildlife Park, Klias Wetland Mangrove Forest Reserve (take a river cruise if you don’t want to get your feet wet) and numerous hiking opportunities.
Foodie holiday – Penang
If you wanted to spend your entire holiday eating, you could just have stayed in Singapore. But we know you’re not going to, so head to Penang instead. As much as we love Thai and Vietnamese food, the sheer variety of dishes in Penang is hard to beat.
Those on a budget will be pleased to know there are many hawker centres that charge 30% to 50% the price of their Singapore counterparts, and deliver three times the flavour. Don’t always head to Gurney Drive—there are so many more must-visit foodie destinations such as the New Lane hawker stalls and the hawker centre at Padang Kota Lama.
Historical holiday – Sukhothai
While other people’s idea of a great holiday may consist of eating and partying, you much prefer nosing around cultural monuments and temples.
Instead of battling the hordes of tourists at Angkor, head to Sukhothai instead. This underrated UNESCO World Heritage site is worth every baht you pay for the entry ticket. Rent a bicycle and cycle amongst ancient temple ruins dating back to the 13th to 15th centuries. When you cycle to the outer zones, you’ll find yourself almost all alone in the Thai countryside, not a single tourist in sight.
Have you been to any of the above destinations? Share your experiences in the comments!