From short getaways to grad trips, the minuscule budget of a student is often a pesky hindrance. We’ve dug out a list of more uncommon yet affordable places for you to enjoy a novel travel experience, be it with family or friends. Who said exotic destinations had to break your bank?
1. Thailand: Koh Tao
This is a considerably cheaper alternative to beach vacations with the likes of Maldives or Mauritius. Nang Yuan Island (or Koh Nang Yuan), situated 10-15 minutes away from Koh Tao, is made of three islets interlinked by sandbars. With an entry fee of only 100 Baht (SGD4), think pristine white beaches with clear turquoise waters scintillating under sunlight, teeming with corals and wildlife. There are a number of activities over there that can keep you occupied for a day or two like snorkeling, ziplining, and taking a hike up to the viewpoint of the three islands’ highest peak for a spectacular panorama of postcard dreams. Arrive extra early or stay late to enjoy abandoned beaches! Do note that Koh Nang Yuan has a strict no plastic policy, so make sure to not bring any plastic bottles onto the island.
2. Indonesia: Surabaya/Malang
Instead of heading to the beaches of Bintan and Batam, why not catch a breathtaking view of the sunrise from a volcano crater? Mount Bromo is an active shield volcano among a cluster of other dormant and active volcanos situated between Surabaya and Yogyakarta. As the roads up the mountain can be really steep and slippery, you can opt for the Bromo Sunrise Tour where you charter a jeep to drive you up to the point overlooking said volcano. Or if you’re the adventurous sort (and fit as a fiddle), you may consider hiking! Another attraction that is a must-see is the Coban Rondo Waterfall. Falling from a height of 60metres, it’s nothing like the Niagara Falls, but its air of grandeur is still undeniable. As both attractions are situated in the highlands, be sure to dress warmly.
3. Vietnam: Hoi An
For an off-the-grid adventure, Hoi An is the perfect destination for soaking in the wondrous nature. Hoi An is known for its 18th century merchant houses, museums, the tailoring industry, handmade lanterns and of course, the Banh Mi sandwich made insanely famous when world-renowned chef Anthony Bourdain proclaimed it to be the best sandwich he’s ever had. The best way to immerse in the unique culture is to participate in a motorcycle tour at dawn – the wind seeping between your outspread fingers, fresh air caressing your skin, wide acres of paddy fields instead of a concrete jungle. Be enchanted at the sight of the streets at night lit mostly by the soft glow of colourful lanterns.
4. Philippines: Palawan
Take your thrill level to a high with spelunking and zipline escapades at the Ugong Rock, a 75-foot limestone formation that is part of a community-based tourism sustainable development project. Also, what’s a trip to Puerto Princesa without visiting the Underground River? Hailed as one of the Seven Wonders of Nature, the limestone landscape is considered one of the most complex cave systems in the world. The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park offers a 45 minute canoe tour of the Underground River which allows tourists a magnificent spectacle of the stalactite and stalagmite formations.
5. Myanmar: Mandalay/Bagan
The Dee Doke Waterfall, ensconced 48km outside of Mandalay is a picturesque natural pool with ten different pool plateaus. The lagoon at the peak is the most beautiful of all, so do make sure to trek all the way up! Rich in minerals, the pools are an ethereal pellucid light blue – so remember to bring your cameras! Get lost in Myanmar’s cultural glory in Bagan, an ancient city that houses 2200 temples in varying deterioration states. Now officially named the Bagan Archaeology Zone, explore the vast plain of unique pagodas either by hiring bicycles or horse carriages.
6. Cambodia: Siem Reap
Of course, Siem Reap is best known for the Angkor Wat and the Angkor Wat ruins, which is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site. A magnificent structure with an ornate design, the Angkor Wat is surrounded by a moat which helps to stabilise its foundation. Catch the view at either sunrise or sunset to capture stunning shots of the famous view, where the structure is reflected in the moat’s water. For a less commercialised adventure, head out to a floating village for a glimpse of the lives of Cambodian fishermen. It will provide us city-slickers with novel perspective of the world around us.
7. Hong Kong
Hong Kong is a melting pot of food and culture waiting for you to explore, so instead of only going to Disneyland, why not discover hidden gems where fast fashion, scrumptious street food and impressive photography spots abound? For an eerily dreamy photography masterpiece, certain parts of Hong Kong’s beaches like Shek O’s seashore, has been sighted to be awash with seawater tinged fluorescent blue by algal bloom. Though the algae bloom is potentially toxic, the arresting aesthetic is sure to cure wanderlust feels – just be careful not to touch any of it! Go trigger-happy, you shutterbugs! For the fashionistas, squeeze your way through throngs of people at Argyle Centre to grab the hottest sartorial trends for cheap!
Taiwan need not be just about unhinged shopping sprees or Taipei 101. Step beyond Taipei to visit the Rainbow Family Village, where an old man started daubing the surfaces in the village with colourful figures to achieve the vibrant mural it is today. The colourful parade has helped save the settlement from threats of demolition, so go get inspired by the vivid graphics and the story behind them. Visiting Taiwan night markets are a requisite, so be spoilt for choice with the wide array of delectable local delicacies like the stinky toufu, oyster omelette, stir-fried squid, iced desserts, etc. Don’t forget to have a taste of the super tall soft serve ice cream and “Iron Eggs” at Danshui!
9. Australia: Adelaide
Gold Coast, Perth and Sydney are not all that there is to Australia. Pay a visit to Adelaide, where the intriguing Whispering Wall lies. Word has it that the architectural engineering of this dam at the Barossa Valley Reservoir is so ingenious that words whispered from one side of the wall can be clearly heard across a 100 metre stretch! And just a short distance from Adelaide, appreciate the incredible wonders of nature that is the Umpherston Sinkhole at Mount Gambier. Previously a cave, the limestone structure collapsed to form a sinkhole with terraces. Marvel at the lush verdant garden by day, and feed possums by dusk.
Do you have any other suggestions on countries where students can vacay within budget? Let us know in the comments section!