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2012's Top Value-for-Money Vacations

Indians too are now travelling abroad a lot more frequently than they did say a decade ago and they are looking aggressively for deals, discounts and freebees.

travel Updated: Dec 23, 2011 18:05 IST

Indians too are now travelling abroad a lot more frequently than they did say a decade ago and they are looking aggressively for deals, discounts and freebees. While there are budget holidays which are cheap and affordable there are 'value' holidays which apart from offering some great financial bargains also have a "value" proposition, in that they have something that is interesting, fun-filled, exciting and valuable to the traveller. So while Bangladesh may offer a less than a dollar meal choice, it may not have the requisite 'value' for a person looking at a rejuvenating break. So, depending on what you are seeking, you can opt for any of the places listed below which have a combination of both 'budget' and 'value'.

1. Argentina

This dimensionally immense country has a lot on its plate. From boat rides in the Iguazo waterfalls to wine sampling in the cellars of Mendoza, to year-round Tango shows and eclectic theatre, it has a charm, completely different from any other Latin American nation. The cost of living here is cheaper than in cities in the United States, but inflation is an issue with prices rising over the past few years. There are other equally exciting cities that are cheaper than Buenos Aires like say Cordoba, Salta, and Jujuy. The best time to go to Argentina would depend on where you want to go. For instance, if it is the mountainous Lake District, you can do so anytime of the year, since it enjoys neutral temperate weather though November to March would be ideal. Then if it is Southern Patagonia that you want to go to, note that May to September will be cold with most facilities shut down. The perfect time would be the summer months of March to April.

2. Egypt

If the recent political unrest does not unnerve you, Egypt could be a value destination. With tourism accounting for nearly one-third of its economy and the industry taking a major hit, there are some great bargains to be made. Travel operators and hoteliers are offering massive discounts on excursions, tours, and daily hotel rates. Also, great deals are on offer at the Great Pyramids of Giza, where room rates have slid 45 percent since 2010, and in the Red Sea resorts of Sharm El Sheikh, where prices slumped 26 percent to $104. Summer is the best time to visit (March to May and September to November) and it would be more economical to take flights that offer the option of stopovers rather than direct flights.

3. Croatia

This Adriatic country's recession hit economy is all set to have a record breaking year in so far is tourism is concerned. Already between January and July 2011, it has had 6.2 million tourists. This former Yugoslav republic is set to join the European Union by 2013 but before that there is a lot up for grabs. On various tourist lists, it has ranked as one of the Top Ten Cheap Vacations where hostels go for about $10 per night. Some exotic sights and experiences that veteran travellers suggest include swimming in its crystal-clear water and seeing the bright orange roofs of buildings bombed during the Yugoslavian War from 1991 to 1995. While food and lodging are relatively cheap in the "Pearl of the Adriatic," language could be an issue. So, the first thing you can do is buy a Croatian phrase book.

4. San Diego

This picturesque Pacific coastline has ideal golf weather and family-friendly attractions (Sea World, San Diego Zoo, a LEGO-Land theme park). San Diego has remained as one of America's top 10 most-visited cities for more than a decade. And unlike other more buzzing cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, it relies on numbers to up its tourist traffic by offering attractive bargains on hotels, car rentals and golf resort bookings. If into museums, the best time to visit is February, when the San Diego Museum Month is inaugurated. Prime beach season runs from April to October, when the temperature is perfect and does not dip below 69 degrees.

5. Jamaica

Jamaica with its mosaic of African, European and Asian cultures has plenty of luxury and budget options with a bunch of things to do - from bird watching, lazing on the beach, taking cruises, indulging in adventure sports, going for long walks, taking off on bicycle tracks and just lounging around doing nothing. Thanks to the island's new international airport, deals on 3,000 new hotel rooms, and clean beaches, it is being seen as a one of the top budget travel destinations for 2012. International airfare too has come down and there are better connections today. The only thing to avoid is the hurricane season (July and August). Winter is good to visit too with plenty of sunshine to soak in.

6. Atlantic Canada

The provinces lining Canada's eastern seaboard tempt the outdoor loving adventure traveller--from scenic kayak rides around Prince Edward Island to whale watching in the Bay of Fundy to wilderness hikes in the glacier-specked Torngat Mountains. A big attraction this year is the 100th anniversary of the Titanic's sinking off the coast of Newfoundland. There's a full calendar of events in Halifax to commemorate the tragedy including a town parade, concerts and film festival. Along with two other eastern cities (Charlottetown and Fredericton), Halifax is on the Hotels.com's list of cheapest Canadian cities in 2011, with rates averaging $145.

If wanting to go through the Titanic experience (with a happier ending) take any of the Carnival Cruise Lines' new four- and five-day voyages from Boston to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Saint John, New Brunswick, on the Glory, launching in June; departures from New York will follow in the fall (carnival.com, from $73 per night). Hurricane season officially spans June through November, but since September and October are the highest-risk months, you can feel safe travelling here in June, when humidity is low and temperatures peak between 65 and 77 degrees.

7. Taipei

This cosmopolitan capital city has the right blend of the modern and traditional. With an emerging culinary scene, a lot of young energy and bright and modern construction within Taipei, it also gives you the options of taking off to the countryside with lush hot springs, majestic mountains, and golden-sand beaches. The government launched Taiwan Tourist Bus Travel Service, runs cheap day trips to several island attractions. A must do is an excursion to Taiwan's alpine Sun Moon Lake which has a cable-car ride, boat tour and electric-scooter rental. Rooms here are 11 percent cheaper than they were in 2010, with an average rate of $144 per night. May through August are Taipei's wettest months, with rainfall averaging eight inches; summer is sweltering and humid. October and November are much more pleasant, with less than four inches of rainfall and average high temperatures in the mid-70s.

8. Poland

There is so much to see and do in Poland. Castles, churches, monuments, museums and memorials bring alive different eras in its 1000-year old history. With new airport terminals coming up from Warsaw to Gdansk, a hotel-construction boom is already pulling in names like Hilton and Westin. June 2012 will see tourists and sports buffs thronging with the UEFA Euro 2012 soccer tournament coming up. Here, five star hotels are already among the cheapest in the world (in Warsaw, they average $135 per night) and are not likely to see a major spike in tariffs

Poland's traditional dishes include beetroot soup, cabbage rolls (cabbage leaves stuffed with meat and rice) and pierogi (dumplings stuffed with cabbage and mushrooms) are certainly a must-try. The warmest weather, with averages in the low 70s, arrives from May to October. Ideally, July to August would be good to hit the Baltic beaches. By September, the crowds and soccer tournaments disappear, leaving tranquility and lo