You don’t need to give your credit card a bruising to enjoy luxury travel. There’s nothing worse than ripping through your travel fund on the first day of activities only to realize you’ll have to double down on those extra hours when you get home just to pay for your vacation. Snap up a break in one of these spots and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you can get without the wallet-busting prices.
Luang Prabang, Laos
Laos, a landlocked country squeezed between Thailand, Vietnam, China and Myanmar, remains one of Southeast Asia’s last untouched paradises. Steamy jungle, remote mountain villages and Instagram-worthy paddy fields make it one of the most authentic, too. Skip the largest city, Vientiane, and make a dash for the ancient capital Luang Prabang which lies along the banks of the Mekong River. For under 100 bucks a night, you can stay in the luxury boutique splendor of The Apsara and take a private cruise along the mighty Mekong.
Siem Reap, Cambodia
While you’re in the region, why not compliment your trip to Laos with a visit to Siem Reap in Cambodia. You’ll find a ton of 4-to-5-star digs without the high price tags. Try the ever-trendy Viroth's Villa or the delightfully modern Solitaire Kamreuk. It’s simply unthinkable to visit Siem Reap for the first time and not visit the mighty Angkor Wat, but how about seeing the behemoth temple from above? For under 100 dollars, you can take a private helicopter flight over the vast complex. Just remember to bring your camera.
There’s some serious luxury to be found in India’s northern region of Rajasthan. In the Lake palace city of Udaipur, you could nab one of the boutique haveli townhouses like Jagat Niwas Palace whose rooftop featured in the blockbuster flick The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Or there’s the exclusive Shahpura House, a heritage hotel in the heart of Jaipur. You don’t need to have deep pockets to have an enriching travel experience. Head out west to the deserts around Jaisalmer to take a camel safari out to the rolling dunes and your luxury camp. A two-day experience costs just $55 per person.
Istanbul might not be known for low-cost luxury, but there are some fine places to stay and things to do without the high price tag if you know where to look. The highly-rated Georges Hotel Galata lies in the heart of the city housed in a renovated 19th-century apartment building. Or there’s the Romance Istanbul Hotel, a boutique property in bustling Sirkeci. You don’t need a cent to get lost in the Grand Bazaar, the world’s greatest market. It might be hard to resist bagging one of the bargains though.
Marrakesh might only be a stone’s throw from Spain, but it’s a world away. The exotic city full of snake charmers and winding souks is also filled with hidden bohemian riads and traditional spas. For just over 100 bucks a night, you can score a stay in the opulent Dar Hanane by Pure Riads which was fully restored by the renowned architect Christophe Siméon. If you can tear yourself away from your urban oasis, drop into Les Bains de Marrakech for a day of pampering. Expect steamy hammams, massage rooms and a long list of specialist treatments for cheap prices.
Safaris are notoriously expensive. Fear not. There are several camps around Nairobi that offer luxury at a low cost. In fact, you don’t even need to go that far from the city. The exclusive Nairobi Tented Camp is nestled in a riverine forest just 5 miles from the capital and costs just $160 a night per person including airport transfers, all meals, a game drive each day and a visit to the nearby Elephant Orphanage. Oh, and you can finish off the day with a gin & tonic sundowner at the camp each evening.
The Greek island of Milos disproves the theory that you can’t do affordable luxury in Europe. Forget pricy Santorini or Mykonos and head straight to this Aegean Sea island which has dozens of achingly beautiful beaches, hidden coves and typical white-washed towns. The Artemis offers elegant double rooms with private ocean-facing balconies, a beach bar and an infinity pool for under $150 a night. Away from the hotel, you could dive into the crystal-clear Aegean waters with scuba gear or lace up your boots to go trekking along some of the most spectacular coastal trails on the continent.
Believe it or not, there’s luxury to be found in Japan without paying dearly for it. Away from the pricey capital Tokyo, you can find some elegant digs in Osaka. Try the uber trendy Flag Shinsaibashi, a modern hotel that looks like it just jumped out the pages of a design magazine. Its proximity to the sea keeps Osaka restaurants stocked with freshly-caught seafood. In typically simple but elegant surroundings, you can dine on seafood banquets accompanied by Japanese wine for around $35 a head.