Satisfy your wanderlust with these budget friendly travel ideas

Travel Goals

Just because your ambition for adventure surpasses your annual leave allowance, it doesn’t have to surpass your bank balance. This is our guide to easily-accessible, budget travel gems.

Words by Ferdinand Godinez

“Mine is a generation that circles the globe in search of something we haven’t tried before”

-Alex Garland, The Beach, 1996

If you’re one of those people that are deeply passionate about circling the globe, you’ll know that if you want to try as much of the unfamiliar as possible, you need to keep the cost of each individual trip down.

The good news is that there have been a number of developments in recent years that have helped open up the world. We’ve seen new flight paths and budget airlines, travel comparison and auction sites being set up, the advent of AirBnB, Tripadvisor and travel blogs.

The real issue can be making sense of these travel trends and how to use them to your advantage. And then there is the additional minefield of visa restrictions in many countries.

This travel guide aims to provide inspiration for destinations that are easily accessible from the UAE, and relatively soft on visa requirements.

(Please make sure you check with the relevant embassies about your own passport nationality for the up to date visa requirements, as we cannot guarantee entry requirements)

 

Georgia

Georgia

What to expect: Georgia has a multi-layered history rich with influence form both the east and west. Echoes of the Persian empire can still be seen, as can the footprint of the still-living memory of the USSR’s soviet regime. The ideal months to visit are mid-May to mid-October. If you travel outside of this time, be prepared. It gets VERY cold over winter months. Flight time from UAE: approximately 3.5 hours (direct) – Exchange rate: AED 1 = GEL 0.65.

What to explore: The capital Tbilisi holds a variety of architectural attractions. Famous for its cathedrals, both Sioni and Sameba are striking examples, well-worthy of a visit. So too are Paliashvili Opera Theatre, Narikala Fortress, Jvari Monastery, Svetitskhoveli Cathedral and the Georgian National Museum #nofilter #juststunning. The Dry Bridge Flea Market offers the chance to glimpse regional history from another angle.

It’s worth mentioning Georgia has a love affair with waterfalls, Dubai Week personally challenges you to find the miniature one in the city’s main park. Tbilisi has a metro system, and the price of a taxi is comparable to the UAE (a GEL 25 / AED 90 from the airport to the city centre (transfer time is +/- 30 minutes).

The real beauty for us however, was found stepping out of the city. The breathtaking views afforded in the mountainous regions in the Caucuses such as Gudauri and Kazbegi (about 2-3 hours from Tbilisi) make the perfect pit stop for those with a life-long yearning to experience the magic of deep, powdery snowfall. Fore the apres crew, It’s also worth noting these resorts offer long ski seasons too.

There are plenty of guided tours that can take you to areas outside of the capital and going on group tours often keeps the cost down. If you aren’t traveling as part of a large group, why not book an escorted one before you go? These trips can be purchased online, but it might be worth speaking to a travel agent to find the most appropriate one for you.

Visas: If you hold a UAE residency visa, most passports are able to obtain a visa on arrival. However as suggested above, make sure you contact the embassy to confirm before you book your travel.

Where to stay: In Tbilisi, Hotel Orion Econom has rates below AED 100 per night.

Flights from AED 1,500 with Fly Dubai. For more information, including visas, visit: mfa.gov.ge

 

Armenia

Armenia

What to expect: Sandwiched between Asia and Europe we find Armenia, with a rich ancient heritage and long history of conflict. Around 301 AD, Armenia became the first country in the world to embrace Christianity as its official religion, explaining the many churches and cathedrals that remain standing to this day. Years of rule by Ottoman, Iranian and Russian empires have also left lingering influence not just on structures but the overall culture as well. The best time to visit is from March to June. Again, if you travel in winter months, make sure you pack double the amount of socks you will need. IT IS COLD. Flight time from UAE, approx 3.5 hours.

What to explore: The capital Yerevan has unmistakeable neoclassical currents throughout. Visit the Yerevan Opera Theatre; the Tsitsernakaberd Armenian Genocide Museum for a glimpse of the country’s turbulent past; Victory Park, where the iconic Mother Armenia statue stands. For a tour de cultural force finish up with the Mesrop Mashtots Institute of Ancient Manuscripts, which houses a collection of early documents from literature and history to philosophy and art.

Located outside the city is the Monastery of Geghard, a UNESCO heritage site carved out of the cliffs and renowned for its elegant stone works. It’s best to explore by foot although taking the bus or trolley bus will only cost AMD 100.

Again, the mountainous regions of the caucuses provide a backdrop of magnetic natural beauty. Why not combine Armenia and Georgia with a road trip between the two? Booking the flights and accommodation is now super easy, but as always – if you need assistance, contact an expert.

Visas: If you hold a UAE residency visa, most passports are able to obtain a visa on arrival. However as suggested above, make sure you contact the embassy to confirm before you book your travel.

Where to stay: SD Hotel with rates under AED 100

Exchange rate: AED 1 = AMD 130. Flights from AED 1,050 with flydubai. For more information, including visas, visit: uae.mfa.am

 

Zanzibar

Zanzibar

What to expect: This Tanzanian island off the East coast of Africa may be famous for it’s beautiful Indian Ocean-lapped beaches, but it is so much more than that. Hewn from an array of contrasting and complimentary cultures – Persian, Omani, European, Indian, Arab and Chinese – the result is a patchwork identity that naturally embodies the word ‘exotic.’ Flight tine from UAE six hours.

What to explore: As we’ve mentioned. Baby’s got beach. Stunning beach. On all sides of the island, each with interesting quirks and access to abundant marine life, sapphire waters and horizons that stretch into forever.

For a spot of history up close, head down to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Stone Town, which features canons and ancient forts. A meander through the old town’s cobbled alleyways should be a universal travel goal. With the ornate, elaborately-carved doorways. The dalla-dallas (eccentric mini buses) are a popular mode of transport and for short trips often cost less than TZS 2,500.

You can also bolt on a trip to the mainland by boat, to visit the ancient wonders of Dar Es Salaam. Or for a once-in-a-lifetime multi-stop itinerary, the plains of the mighty Serengeti and the mysterious, mist-hemmed depths of the Ngorongoro crater lay further inland. Safari and unforgettable encounters with the ‘big five’ roaming free await.

Visa: Most nationalities are able to obtain a visa on arrival for Tanzania. As always – check with the embassy before you travel as depending on where you are traveling from you may need to bring photos or supporting documents (e.g. vaccination certificates).

Where to stay: There are plenty of basic yet perfectly-appointed, clean guesthouses (often with great deals on half board/full board) on the coastline surrounding Zanzibar, for example: Zanzest Beach Bungalows, from AED 159.

Exchange rate: AED 1 = TZS 610. Flights from AED 1,700 with Fly Dubai (direct) and Oman Air (indirect). For more information, including visas, visit: tanbizdubai.com

 

Nepal

Nepal

What to expect: Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, was born here. Unsurprising then that it’s a destination synonymous with serenity. There is of course an active yang to contrast the soothing yin. Famous for its Himalayan treks, paragliding and base camp cricket matches. Good months for trekking are March to April and October to November. Flight time from UAE +/- 4 hours.

What to explore: Nepal’s trekking routes attract both novice and experienced climbers alike, with Everest Base Camp and Manaslu being two of the most popular because of their uniquely picturesque routes. But beware, a full Everest summit ascent is only for the most intrepid souls, the world’s tallest mountain still claims an average of 10 lives each year.

For those who wish to take a different path, the country is bursting with spots for nature lovers to enjoy: the Chitwan National Park, is home to one-horned rhinos, Bengal tigers, elephants and various species of migratory birds. Bhote Koshi River is beset with challenges for earnest kayak and reacting enthusiasts. And for those seeking views from the top of the world, without having to drag oxygen canisters up sheer cliff face, you could always hop aboard one of the helicopter tours of Mount Everest.

Once you’ve had your outdoor fix, don’t forget to visit top cultural spots including Pashupatinath Temple and the many temples in Patan town. Modes of transport include cycle-rickshaws for around NPR 96.

Visas: Almost all nationalities can get a visa on arrival. Check with the embassy before you travel.

Where to stay: Kasthamandap Boutique Hotel offers rates as low as AED 150

Exchange rate: AED 1 = NPR 27. Flights from AED 1,400 with Jet Airways (indirect). For more information, including visas, visit: ae.nepalembassy.gov.np

 

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