The 9 best travel bargains for 2018. And ladies, these are for you
Including Europe’s cheapest city for five-star breaks, writes Nick Trend
Last year the average price paid for a room in a five-star hotel in Istanbul was only £87. We get it, the economy isn’t great, money is tight. But choose your holiday carefully and you can still find exceptional value. Here are our predictions for travel’s best buys in the coming year.
Long haul for less than £1,000. Thailand is our long-haul tip for 2018
Overall, Thailand is my best tip for 2018. It has pretty much everything going for it. The huge choice of flights – both to Bangkok and to the region in general – keeps fares low (Norwegian’s new no-frills service to Singapore with returns from about £385 will only serve to keep the downward pressure on fares). Plan ahead and you can certainly find returns to Bangkok from around £400. Then there is accommodation. Hotels in the capital are among the best value in the world, averaging £103 for a five-star and £27 for a three-star during 2017. In fact overall, among the 10 most popular destinations for British travellers, accommodation in Thailand (averaging £57 per night) is by far the cheapest. So if you are planning a big trip in 2018, and you are looking for maximum value for money, look no further.
For an overview of fares and hotel options in Thailand, try Trailfinders (trailfinders.com)
Bargain city break. Whether you are a shopper, culture enthusiast or foodie you can obviously find excellent value in some of Europe’s nearer, smaller destinations, but let’s assume you crave the variety and sophistication of a capital – or at least a major historic city – for your weekend break.
If so, I predict the very best value for 2018 will be Istanbul. Last year the average price paid for a room in a five-star hotel in the city was only £87 (remember, that’s the average; it will be even cheaper at quiet times). Rates in three-star hotels are even more eye-catching, averaging just £31 per night. Prices are depressed by a drop in demand following a rough year of terrorist attacks in 2016, but the situation was been much more stable last year. It seems likely that, as has happened in Paris, tourism will now start to recover, but it will be slow. Bargains will persist, partly because of the weakness of the Turkish lira – down by about 30 per cent against the pound over the course of 2017. Airfares are also exceptionally good value: you can currently get a return from London in April for £100.
As with all destinations in these troubled times, check the latest FCO advice before booking (gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/turkey).
Tip: The Turkish lira has fallen by about 30 per cent against the pound.
Skiing for less than £600 all-in. The best-value holiday will depend on how well you ski. If you are a super-fit expert who likes to spend maximum time on the slopes, you’ll need a different type of resort from an intermediate who enjoys long lunches, or a beginner needing lessons. Either way, because of the way the holiday market works, you will almost certainly find the best bargains by starting with what tour operators can offer, rather than trying to find a cheap resort per se – a package which includes all or most meals, ski hire and lift pass will almost certainly offer best value.
Novices and nervous skiers are unlikely to find anything which costs less than the all-inclusive deal to Pamporovo in Bulgaria offered by Crystal Ski. The tresort has a relatively limited ski area (36km of slopes and 13 lifts) but it’s easy to navigate and offers reasonable variety. The package costs from £588 per person, departing this month and including lift passes, all equipment hire and tuition, flights, transfers and all-inclusive accommodation (with alcoholic drinks) in the four-star Hotel Perelik.
It’s hard to beat Pamporovo in Bulgaria for value. Crystal’s best-value alternative for experienced skiers is Niederau in Austria. The area lift pass covers not just Niederau but also the Ski Juwel ski area (Oberau, Auffach, Alpbach, Inneralpbach and Reith) which in total offers 135km of pistes. A week’s package in January costs from £645 per person including flights, transfers, half board at the three-star Hotel Harfenwirt, lift pass and and standard ski hire.
Rival operator Ingham’s best value is in Sauze d’Oulx in Italy, where seven nights at the three-star Hotel Hermitage costs from £742 in January – including half board (with wine at dinner), return flights, transfers, lift pass and ski and boot hire.
The prize for cheapest trip to the Mediterranean coast goes to the Costa Brava – at least if you fly into Girona (a few miles inland). Average fares to this Catalonian city were £94.93 in 2017 according to Skyscanner and, looking ahead to later in 2018, there are still plenty of returns in May and June for £60. The nearby sandy coves of resorts such as Tamariu, Llafranc and Callela de Palafrugell are some of the most attractive in Spain, and the bigger resort of Tossa de Mar is also an excellent bet.
Car hire in Spain is generally much cheaper than in France, Italy or Greece – and you should be able to find accommodation at a reasonable price, especially during the off and shoulder season. You can be sure you are getting top value overall. If you aren’t so attracted to the Mediterranean heat, the other real bargain is for flights to the lovely 19th-century resort of Dinard in northern Brittany. The average return fare here in 2017 was just £66. And when I checked advance fares for 2018, there were still plenty available for only £20.
Girona is served by EasyJet (easyjet.com), Ryanair (ryanair.com), Jet2 (jet2.com) and Vueling (vueling.com) from a total of 12 UK departure airports. Dinard is served by Ryanair from Stansted and East Midlands.
Nimes and Baden Baden
Short haul for less than £70 return. If your plans are more modest, and the cost of getting there concerns you most, there is a small clutch of destinations where you can pick up some exceptionally cheap flights. It’s too early to predict fares for 2018, but last year’s are a good guide. Figures from Skyscanner show there were six cities in Europe where the average airfare from the UK was less than £70 return. There is every chance that they will come up trumps in 2018 too.
Three in particular strike me as attractive options. I’ve included Dinard (average returns from £65) under “Bargain summer sun”, above, but both Baden Baden (£68) in west Germany and Nimes (£69) in southern France are excellent destinations for a short break. Baden Baden has a particularly rich cultural life, with regular festivals of classical music as well as its thermal baths dating back to Roman times. Nimes is one of the most attractive and under-rated of southern French cities, with spectacular Roman ruins of its own.
All these routes are served by Ryanair (ryanair.com). Nimes is a great lesser-known option in France.
If you prefer to be beside the sea, the cheapest luxury beach destination – is, of all places, Benidorm. It may or may not be your cup of tea, but five-star rates there average £113 a night.