Top 2016 summer holiday destinations on a budget
Whether you’re looking to go abroad with your family, friends or partner, it’s always nice knowing that when you return from holiday, your bank balance still looks healthy.
Take a look at our guide to the best summer holiday destinations that will give you all the sun, sea and fun you want from a holiday but won’t break the bank!
Population: 7.2 million
Currency: Bulgarian Lev (BGN)
Flying time (from London): 3 hours 10 minutes
Average summer temperatures: 21 – 23 degrees Celsius
Bordering the two major summer holiday countries of Greece and Turkey lies Bulgaria, which has become increasingly popular with British summer holiday makers in the last ten years.
Flying to Bulgaria from the UK is extremely easy, with many tour operators offering package deals to the Bourgas Region (Sunny Beach/Obzor/Nessebar); with flights during the summer period from many regional UK airports.
Direct flights are available to the main cities of Sofia and Varna, but you’ll need to book these independently. Wizz Air offers direct flights from London to Varna and Sofia; with Ryanair offering direct flights from London to the capital. Just be aware that Wizz Air are even more stringent with luggage – even charging for carry-on cabin baggage!
If you’re interested in heading over to the beauty that is Bulgaria, then take a look at just some of the places you can visit…
Where to go
Without a doubt the most popular location in Bulgaria for summer holidays, the golden sands stretch for 10km by the Black Sea. Its shallow waters and golden sand has been awarded the Blue Flag international prize.
In the night, Sunny Beach becomes a haven for partygoers with numerous bars, clubs and pubs, often frequented by international DJs. Despite the popularity, you can enjoy an extremely cheap night out, with an average cocktail costing just £3, and a pint of beer for £1.20, making it one of the top budget holiday destinations.
If you’re looking for somewhere a little more relaxing and laid back, then nearby Obzor or Nessebar are the ideal alternatives.
Obzor too, boasts a sandy beach; and a nearby promenade lined with café’s and bars. The town square lies in the heart of the town, with outdoor cafés surrounding the fountain. With a main meal costing an average of just £4, you’ll have plenty of money to try the various restaurants and see which your favourite is!
Nessebar – referred to as the ‘Pearl of the Black Sea’ – is steeped in history, with its quaint Old Town contrasting with the modern beachside hotels. The beach is shingle, but has also been awarded the Blue Flag status, and is popular with families.
The Old Town is well worth a visit – a UNESCO World Heritage site, it is home to 44 churches, Roman ruins and two museums. It’s the perfect place to wander around in the evenings!
The largest of the sea resorts in all of Bulgaria, it’s a popular destination amongst Eastern Europeans. So if you’re the kind of person who likes to escape the hordes of British tourists, then this is the ideal alternative to Sunny Beach!
As it’s such a large city, Varna truly offers something for everyone. Golden Sands and St Constantine and Helena offer some of the best beaches, with fine golden sand and calm waters.
However, it’s Primorski Park that’s the real attraction. This vast green space stretches alongside 8km of sea, and is the perfect place for a stroll, or just sitting and watching the world go by. It’s also home to a mini zoo, with kangaroos and camels amongst the animals to be seen.
There are many restaurants, bars and clubs in Varna that are great for exploring at night – although the atmosphere is distinctively more laid back than Sunny Beach. If you’re looking for cocktails, then The Martini Bar is a great find – or Onyx, serving everything from coffee in the morning to alcohol at night. Both can be found right in the centre of Varna.
One thing that you can’t miss out on if you’re visiting Varna is the Varna Summer International Festival. Stretching from May to October, this festival is still going strong since 1926 (when it was founded), with various events taken place around the city including opera, ballet and jazz music. You can find out more about the festival here.
Situated below the Vitosha Mountain, Sofia can often be overlooked as a destination – but if you’ve got time to travel inland, then it’s certainly worth a visit.
The best way to reach the capital is by plane, with Bulgaria Air covering the route several times a day. You can fly direct from Varna to the capital for less than £80 return. With frequent flights lasting just 50 minutes, you could even fit Sofia in as a day trip – but to make the most of your time there, 2-3 days is ideal.
This laid-back, undiscovered capital has a clear East-meets-West feel to it, with Ottoman mosques interspersed amongst Soviet architecture; both contrasting against the glossy shopping malls and five star hotels.
Whilst the city is easily walkable, the metro system is cheap if you’d prefer to travel around that day; with single tickets costing approximately 64p, and a day ticket around £1.60.
Top of your list of places to see is the Alexander Nevsky Church. Google ‘Sofia’ and it’s probably the first thing you’ll see! Representing Bulgaria as a nation, building began in 1882, and it symbolises the Bulgarian struggle for independence, in which 200,000 soldiers lost their lives.
In fact, if you’re into history, then there’s lots you’ll want to see in Sofia, including the Museum of Socialist Art, with outdoor sculptures saved from the Communist times. Alternatively, Boyana Church, a UNESCO Heritage site offers pretty grounds, and guided tours are sometimes offered in the church.
For the best views of the city, take the lift up to Aleko (a resort in the Vitosha Mountain). Popular amongst skiers in winter and hikers in summer, the view from the top is breath-taking.
Currency: Euro (EUR)
Flying time to capital (from London): 2 hours 40 minutes
Average summer temperatures: 22 – 25 Degrees Celsius
In the heart of the Balkans by the Adriatic Sea lies the breath-taking beauty that is Montenegro. Literally translated to ‘Black Mountain’ (‘Crna Gora’ in Montenegrin), this country has long been overshadowed by its northern neighbours Croatia, as a holiday hub.
This has been in Montenegro’s favour however; as the lack of tourist crowds and high rise hotels means this country retains its rustic charm; and makes it one of the best summer holiday destinations on a budget.
Flights to Montenegro aren’t quite as frequent as they are to more popular destinations such as Spain or Greece; but it’s still easy to travel to.
Tivat airport is the most convenient if you’re heading onwards to Budva or Kotor, both reachable within half an hour. Direct flights run to this airport from the UK with EasyJet and Montenegro Airlines.
Ryanair offers direct flights from the UK to Podgorica, but if you book a package holiday to Montenegro, then it’s likely you’ll fly into Dubrovnik, and then take a coach across the border, which is extremely hassle-free. It takes around 2 – 2.5 hours to get from Dubrovnik airport to Budva.
Now that you’re sold on the idea of visiting possibly the most beautiful country in Europe, it’s time to decide where you’re going to stay…
Where to go
If you’re looking to laze around on a beach during the day, followed by an evening of wining and dining, then Budva Riviera is perfect.
Several beaches make up this 35k strip of coastline; all of which are connected with a pathway dotted with charming restaurants and souvenir shops.
Slovenska Plaža - with its close proximity to the marina – is probably the most popular beach. However, for more relaxed, sandy shores, it’s worth heading further afield.
Bečići beach is a 15 minute walk from the Old Town of Budva. Voted one of the most beautiful Mediterranean beaches, its shallow waters make it extremely popular with families.
Alternatively, Jaz – approximately 1.5 miles away from Budva – also boasts shallow waters and sand, and is a great place to laze around all day.
When it comes to the evenings, Budva offers something for everyone. Its Old Town, with quaint cobblestone streets housing numerous restaurants, bars and boutiques, is a great place to while away the hours. Walk to the top of the town walls for a beautiful view of the Adriatic Coast, and backdrop of mountains (as 70% of Montenegro is made up of mountains; wherever you are in the country, you’ll always have a breath-taking view!)
The New Town offers an array of outdoor bars and clubs that are open well into the morning. With bottles of beer costing around £1.20, and cocktails £4.30, you won’t have to worry about running out of money!
If you’re not so bothered about the beach, then Kotor (‘Boka Kotorska’ in Montenegrin) – situated 30 minutes away from Budva – is the perfect alternative.
Its UNESCO heritage Old Town was built around the 12th – 14th century, and hosts many squares – one of which is home to Sveti Tripun (the Cathedral of Saint Tryphon). There’s a huge café culture here, so be sure to sit out at one of the outdoor cafés, whilst sipping your drink (a cappuccino only costs around £1.30!)
The Bay of Kotor is a popular destination for cruise ships, so it can get very busy during the summer months. Ditch the crowds and head to the top of the mountain for the best view of the bay – accessed by the Serpentine.
This name is certainly apt: the narrow road snakes up the mountain with no less than 25 bends – slightly scary when two tour buses meet, driving opposite ways; but the view at the top makes it worth it!
One final place to put on your list of places to go in Montenegro is its capital, Podgorica. Speak to many a Montenegrin, and they will speak ill of their capital, but it’s such a worthwhile experience.
Whilst Kotor and Budva are charming and rustic; Podgorica shows what life is like for most of the population, with its communist style blocks and Soviet architecture.
Podgorica is easily reachable for a day trip. Buses connect the capital from both Budva and Kotor multiple times a day, with one way tickets costing just a few Euros.
Places of interest include the Clock Tower – built in 1667, it’s one of the few Ottoman landmarks that survived the bombings during WW2. This contrasts with the modern, in the form of the Millennium Bridge – particularly impressive when it’s lit up at night.
Republic Square is in the heart of the city, with the connecting streets lined with shops, bars and restaurants. ‘La Scala café’ lies on Niegoševa and serves a great selection of cold drinks, cocktails and food – perfect for any time of the day!
If it’s green spaces you’re after, then Podgorica has plenty of parks, including Njegošev and Kraljev Park, where you can find statues and an impressive fountain.
Population: 2.95 million
Currency: Euro (EUR)
Flying time to capital (from London): 2 hours 40 minutes
Average summer temperatures: 21 – 22 Degrees Celsius
Lithuania is definitely not a country that springs to mind when thinking of a summer holiday. But if you’re looking for somewhere that’s a little different, is cheap and has a mixture of beautiful beaches and rich history; then it’s somewhere you should put on your list of places to go.
When flying from the UK, it’s easiest to go to Vilnius – Wizzair and Ryanair both offer direct flights from various British airports at low prices. Wizzair also offers direct flights to the coastal city of Palanga, but these are less frequent.
If you want to spend some time travelling around Lithuania, then the best option may be hiring a car. Although Lithuania is small, the public transport doesn’t connect the coast to the cities particularly well.
The good news is, is everywhere is driveable! Palanga to Vilnius is three hours away on the road, so even if you flew into Vilnius airport, you could still drive and stay in Palanga. The roads in Lithuania are easy to drive on, and are usually quite empty. There are many car rental companies available such as Europcar and Lithuania Cars Rental, offering a week’s rental for less than £200.
So if you’re ready to experience a holiday with a difference, read on to find out about the places you should visit in Lithuania!
Where to go
Whilst the coast of Lithuania may be relatively small (the shore measures 99km), it’s sure got a lot to offer.
Perhaps the most famed seaside resort in Lithuania is Palanga, where the locals flock to in the summer, to enjoy the golden sands, as they know it's one of the best summer holiday destinations!
Aside from a spot of sunbathing, there are jet skis and surfboards to rent by the pier. If you’d like to alternative relaxing on the beach with some more relaxing, then book yourself in for some treatments at the many local spas.
Half an hour south lies Klaipeda – the third biggest city in Lithuania. Home to a major port, many ferries transport passengers to and from the country to Scandinavia and Germany.
Klaipeda is also home to the Lithuanian entrance of the Curonian Spit National Park, which is a truly beautiful sight to see, and one not to be missed. Here, you’ll see mounds of sand dunes and lagoons, right by the edge of the coast. The pine forests that these back onto are home to deer and elk.
The Curonian Spit crosses the border from Lithuania into Russia via the Kaliningrad region, although you’ll need a visa if you want to cross over.
Whether you make it your base or take a road trip from the beaches, you need to make sure Vilnius is on your list of places to go when in Lithuania.
The combination of old meets new and lack of crowds is a great draw for this city, and it’s anything but just a stag do destination – take a look and see.
The Old Town is charming with its rustic restaurants, pastel coloured buildings and cobblestoned streets; and is a beautiful place to go for a walk. All roads lead to Vilnius Cathedral, next to which lies Gediminas Tower. Climb up Gediminas Tower for view of the city – on one side the Old Town, and the other side, the new, with its tall glass buildings and modern infrastructure.
The main area of the New Town is Gedimino Prospekt, which is lined with shops and restaurants.
Vilnius is particularly good for nightlife – both food and drink – without a stag do in sight! Traditional Lithuanian fare can be found in the abundance of taverns in the Old Town. However, there are great eateries in the New Town too, with Soul and Pepper in particular deserving a mention – sit outside on the outdoor patio during the summer sun.
If you like cocktails, head straight to Alchemikas – it’s got sophisticated vibe to it, but drinks are extremely affordable at around 5 EUR. Studio 9 is also worth a visit – the drinks menu is vast, the atmosphere is laid back, and they have local DJs playing every Friday and Saturday night.
Depending on how you enter Kaunas in the first place can throw you off. Much like Vilnius, it has an old town and a new town, and to be honest, the Old Town is most worthy of a visit. If you drive into the city you can find it, but if you come by train from Vilnius, then you’ll be dropped off right at the edge of the new town. So you’re best off getting one of the buses that come by the station (unless you want to walk for an hour!)
Most of the attractions can be found in the Old Town and are easily walkable. Wander into the Cathedral of St Peter and St Paul – whilst it may not look like much on the outside, you’ll soon change your mind once you’ve seen the inside!
For views of the city, head to the top of Aleksotas Hill – just cross the bridge and start the walk up. Alternatively, if you’d rather give your feet a rest, you can catch the funicular railway instead!
Population: 11.03 million
Currency: Euro (EUR)
Flying time (from London): 3 hours 50 minutes
Average summer temperatures: 26 – 28 degrees Celsius
As one of the top holiday destinations for British holiday makers, whilst some islands are more expensive than others (we’re looking at you Mykonos and Santorini), there are many others that are extremely affordable.
But what is it that draws us back to Greece time and time again? Beautiful beaches aside, the locals are warm and hospitable; the sun always seems to shining, and there’s an exciting atmosphere like nowhere else.
If you’re looking to go somewhere that’s perhaps not so crowded with tourists like Spain, Greece is the ideal alternative. With holiday companies offering flights from most UK airports to various islands, it’s very easy (and affordable) to travel to Greece.
But with so many islands, it can be difficult choosing where to stay. Not anymore: here’s where we recommend for holidaying on a budget…
Where to go
The biggest of the Ionian Islands, Kefalonia was featured in Hollywood film ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’. Despite the draw of being a backdrop in a Hollywood film, Kefalonia’s natural beauty is just waiting to be discovered.
If you like to be centrally located, then Lassi is perfect. Not only does it boast two sandy beaches (Makris Yialos and Platis Yialos) and a great choice of tavernas, bars and shops, it’s only a mere 10 minutes away from the island’s capital, Argostoli. Plus, the drive from the airport is 20 minutes, which means your transfer time isn’t long at all.
The prices in Kefalonia makes it one of the top budget holiday destinations. The town of Argostoli is centred around the marina, and provides a beautiful backdrop for having a drink at one of the nearby tavernas (a beer will only set you back by £2.30!). The promenade is lined with palm trees, and the Drapano Bridge – a 900 metre long stone bridge – can be seen connecting Argostoli to Drapano (another Kefalonian resort).
From Kefalonia, you can take the boat to other seaside resorts on the island. If you have time, cross over to the other side of the island to Xi. Its beach is backed by white rocky hills with clay, which is said – if you put it on you – will make you look 10 years younger.
The largest of all Greek islands, Crete is great if you like to alternate relaxing on the beach with sightseeing, as there are so many things to do!
Saying that, the island boasts 650 miles of coastline, with plenty of golden sandy beaches on offer. One of those places is Elounda, whose beach looks out onto Spinalonga Island. The island is certainly worth a visit, as it plays an important part in Greek history – leprosy sufferers were quarantined here until 1957.
The resorts surrounding Chania offer plenty of tranquil beaches – most noticeably Aghia Marina; where traditional tavernas lining the sands are great places for a bite to eat. In the evenings, head to Chania’s Old Town: it’s like stepping back in time with its ancient architecture, and rustic market selling local produce.
If you’d prefer to stay away from the crowds, then spend some time in the village of Piskopiano. Situated at the top of a hill, around a 20 minute walk from busy Hersonissos; the friendly locals, amazing food and charming sixteenth century church all make it popular with families – and if you visit, no doubt it’ll become a firm favourite of yours too.
Situated on mainland Greek, with the warm Aegean Sea surrounding it, Halkidiki isn’t as well-known as other Greek destinations, but that’s what’s so great about it. If you’d like to switch up your days relaxing on the tranquil shores of Halkidiki, the city of Thessaloniki is only a 90 minute ride away – perfect for a day trip!
For a beautiful beach, try Sani – its shallow waters and safe settings have earned it a Blue Flag title; and with Mount Olympus in the distance, you’ve got a beautiful backdrop. While Sani’s marina is a popular place for yachts to park, don’t be fooled – it’s an extremely affordable resort, with traditional tavernas offering mouth-watering food and great prices.
Alternatively, you could try out the beach in Kriopigi, which is backed by olive groves and lush woodland. The village centre is rather quaint too, with its town square and amphitheatre steeped in history.
Population: 46.7 million
Currency: Euro (EUR)
Flying time to capital (from London): 2 hours 20 minutes
Average summer temperatures: 21 – 25 degrees Celsius
With every UK tour operator offering endless package holidays for various Spanish resorts from nearly every single airport in the UK; and low cost airlines (we’re looking at you Ryanair and EastJet) running several flights a day to the most popular regions – getting to Spain is really cheap.
Plus, Spain is popular for last minute holidays (you’re more likely to get somewhere there than Bulgaria!), with Brits rating it one of the top summer holiday destinations.
With an abundance of resorts and range of things to see and do; Spain truly offers something for everyone: whether you’re travelling as a family, group of friends, couple or even solo!
The biggest of the Balearics, it’s a firm favourite amongst tourists, and it’s not hard to see why! Gorgeous beaches, vast pine forests and amazing shopping – there’s so much to do, it can be difficult trying to fit everything in!
For beaches, Alcudia and Palma Nova offer some of the best, with gentle waters and golden sand. There are plenty beachfront bars and restaurants to relax at; and Alcudia even has an historic Old Town. Enter through the gates, and wind down the cobblestone streets until you reach the busy squares bursting with outdoor cafés.
Palma – situated to the west of the island – is by far the biggest city, and is well worth a visit, with buses connecting it to all of the resorts. For resorts closer by, taxis are quite affordable, with a one-way journey from Magaluf to Palma costing around £19.
The main attraction in Palma is no doubt, Le Seu. An imposing Gothic cathedral by the sea, whilst some claim that the exterior view is much more impressive than the interior view, it’s worth making your own mind up, with entry costing just €4 (approx. £3.20).
It’s not just Palma’s architecture that makes it such a popular place to visit. Its shopping facilities are fantastic, with a mixture of independent boutique and internal brands; and there are plenty of tapas restaurants to pick from when it comes to dinner time – food is extremely affordable, with an average meal costing around £8.
Costa de la Luz
The lack of high rises and crowds make holidaying in Costa de la Luz an authentic experience. Situated right on the south of the Atlantic, this resort is close to the Portuguese border, meaning you can fly into Faro if it’s more convenient.
There are two main areas to Costa de la Luz. The first is Chiclana de la Frontera: the long sandy Barossa Beach is a firm favourite amongst sunbathers. What’s great about the beach though, is that whilst some sections offer a range of shops and restaurants; other sections aren’t built up at all, so you can choose the area you prefer.
The centre of the resort has an array of tapas bars and places where you can even try Flamenco dancing – hardly surprising, considering this is the area many Spaniards go to for their holidays!
Isla Canela is the other main resort: a separate island, it’s a fifteen minute drive away from the mainland. Nevertheless, the tranquil beach, traditional eateries and sophisticated bars means this island has more than enough to keep you occupied during your stay; and with its reasonable prices (you’re looking at around £7.50 for a main meal), you won’t break the bank!
450,000 tourists flock to Tenerife every year – even Queen Victoria used to come on holiday here back in the 1800s! Those that visit says that there is a clear mix of African and Spanish influences, which isn’t surprising, considering Tenerife is level with the south of Morocco.
Playa de las Vistas in Los Cristianos is one of the most popular beaches in Tenerife, with sandy shores and tonnes of watersports on offer. The harbour of Los Cristianos lies at the end of the beach, where yachts are often parked; with luxury apartments and sophisticated restaurants lining the streets.
For a holiday with a difference, head to Las Caletillas in the North East. It’s a much more peaceful resort, with the black beaches reflecting Tenerife’s volcanic past. In fact you’ll have a clear view of Mount Teide (the world’s third largest volcano) – not a bad backdrop at all!
Despite its quiet location, it’s a great base if you’re looking to travel around the island. The capital of Santa Cruz is a mere 20 minute bus ride away, with a one way ticket costing around £1.85. You can find out a full list of bus timetables and fares across the island here.
In fact, no trip to Tenerife is complete without a visit to its capital, Santa Cruz. Set in the foot of the Anaga Mountains; the historic port is perhaps the most well-known area of the city. However, the city is also great for shopping – just take a trip to Plaza de España or Plaza de Candelaria and you’ll see! – as well as being home to the beautiful Playa de Las Teresitas beach, which is lined with palm trees and is pure bliss.
Of course, once you've decided where you want to go and have booked your holiday, you'll need to arrange your travel money. If beach breaks aren't your thing, but you want to discover somewhere new, then take a look at our alternative European city breaks. If you're looking for a low cost trip with a little luxury, then you might want to consider home sharing on your next adventure - read more about it here.
For more money saving tips and advice, be sure to check out the rest of our blog!
Remember, do not buy what you can’t afford, and think carefully before taking out a loan for any non-essential purchases.
*Please note: all flight routes and costings are correct as of Thursday 22nd June 2016.