Travel - 5 affordable, exotic places to visit

5 affordable, exotic places to visit

Plan your next trip without breaking the bank

Mar 06, 2024
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Travelling is one of the greatest pleasures in life but it can be costly to set off to parts unknown for an amazing holiday. That’s where budget travel destinations offer the perfect opportunity to fill you up on wanderlust. But why stop there? These five exotic destinations are the ideal countries to visit if you’re looking for fun, sun, and everything in between at a fraction of the cost.

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1. Hoi An, Vietnam

1. Hoi An, Vietnam

Tailor-made delights, lantern-lit adventures, and immersive street explorations

Vietnam holds the distinction of being an exotic yet affordable country that many Singaporeans love to visit, as evidenced by the country winning several World Travel Awards in previous years including Asia’s Leading Destination Award three consecutive years in a row (2021, 2022, 2023).

Amidst Vietnam’s enchanting medley of rich history mixed with a diverse culture and picturesque landscapes, Hoi An stands out as a rather nondescript gem that is one of the cheapest places to travel in the country.

As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hoi An offers a plethora of unique activities. Dive into the town's rich history by indulging in tailor-made clothing — a tradition deeply ingrained in Hoi An's history. Known as the tailoring capital of the world, you can acquire custom-made pieces starting from just S$5 (~S$7). The streets adorned with lanterns also create a magical ambience, and engaging in lantern-making workshops adds a personal touch to your visit. Express lantern-making classes are available from S$15.

That’s not all there is to Hoi An! Embark on a walking tour through the captivating street corners, alleyways, and historical architecture — an intriguing half-day activity that won’t cost you anything if you depend on your trusty map app. Oh, and don’t forget to also savour the local cuisine, with street food stalls offering authentic Vietnamese flavours at wallet-friendly prices.

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2. Riau Islands, Indonesia

2. Riau Islands, Indonesia

Nature’s retreat at Pulau Abang and Pulau Kundur

Indonesia’s vast archipelago beckons travellers to explore its nature-based attractions, and our spotlight falls on the Riau Islands — a well-known place promising a unique and exotic island experience.

For travel fans seeking an authentic rendezvous with nature, the Pulau Abang is an ecological haven begging to be explored. Enjoying the scenic hiking trails and immersing in the near-untouched underwater beauty of the island via snorkelling are some ideas of things to do here. You can find operators providing snorkelling tours here from IDR1,120,000 (S$97) onwards, for two.

On the other hand, Pulau Kundur caters to fishing aficionados. Away from city life, Kundur offers a laid-back experience that invites travellers to immerse in open waters and the soothing melody of the ocean. And lest we forget, remember to enjoy a durian buffet when you’re there!


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3. Siargao, The Philippines

3. Siargao, The Philippines

Surfing, drumming circles, secret caves, and Filipino fiestas

From Boracay to Cebu, the Philippines boasts some of the world’s most famous paradise islands. However, with renown also comes a bigger price tag. Enter Siargao — an alternative, budget-friendly destination that is perfect for both surfers and nature enthusiasts alike.

This exotic island destination attracts wave riders to travel across the globe to test their mettle at Cloud 9 — an internationally acclaimed surf spot. If you’re interested in learning to surf, it’s a good idea to join classes first before you hit the waves. There are classes from 1,500PHP (S$36) that you can participate in for a quick lesson. Otherwise, Cloud 9 offers a breath-taking vantage point for both surfers and non-surfers to witness the mesmerising sunsets of Siargao.

Beyond the waves, immerse yourself in the local culture by participating in a drumming circle — a lively celebration of rhythm, harmony, and community. Venture into the lush landscapes of the island to uncover hidden secrets that will surely add an air of mystery to your island adventures. Here’re guided land tours that cover the island’s top attractions, starting from S$43 onwards.

And, of course, no Siargao journey is truly complete without partaking in traditional Filipino fiestas — vibrant celebrations that showcase the heart and soul of the island.

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4. Lang Tengah, Malaysia

4. Lang Tengah, Malaysia

Malaysian island charm and an unforgettably rewarding experience

Located a mere stone’s throw away, Singaporeans are certainly no strangers to Malaysia. From savouring the local delicacies to basking on the pristine beaches of Malaysia, our neighbouring country offers a wealth of budget travel destinations waiting to be discovered. Among the many famous places to visit in Malaysia, Lang Tengah emerges as an exotic paradise that promises an escape from the ordinary.

Tucked away in Terengganu, Lang Tengah is an enchanting destination for island enthusiasts. Imagine pristine shores caressed gently by the azure waters and a thriving underwater world beneath. Beyond the postcard-perfect scenery, Lang Tengah invites you to enjoy these captivating activities.

Witness the spectacle of turtle-watching as these gentle sea creatures grace the shores, offering a rare glimpse of the circle of life. But for a truly rewarding experience, consider volunteering at the Lang Tengah Turtle Watch organisation. During this week-long (or longer, if you wish!) stint, you’ll get many chances to witness this wondrous birthing process while also enjoying jungle trekking to secluded snorkelling spots around the island. Volunteers are also equally free to laze around on Turtle Bay if they’re not on duty.

Rates for international volunteers start at S$450 (~S$600) for one week, and local volunteer rates begin at MYR850. This fee covers your accommodation, meals, basic equipment, and some leisure activities.

As you share meals and stories under the starry sky with a diverse cast of volunteers from around the world, you'll experience the renowned Malaysian hospitality that welcomes strangers as friends. This shared sense of purpose and warmth also makes Lang Tengah a haven for solo travellers seeking personal growth and adventure. If you are planning on travelling to Malaysia alone, be sure to check out our 5 useful tips when solo travelling to Malaysia.

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5. Koh Chang, Thailand

5. Koh Chang, Thailand

An off-the-beaten-track spot that's diverse and alluring

Thailand is consistently ranked as one of the top Southeast Asian travel destinations — and for good reason. The nation formerly known as Siam has it all: cheap food, culture, shopping, and an abundance of natural splendour all in one place. If the bustling crowds of Phuket and Krabi aren’t your scene, Koh Chang offers a discreet paradise that adds a touch of the undiscovered to your Thai holiday.

Best of all, Koh Chang is also an affordable place to travel!
Tucked away from the mainstream, Koh Chang boasts a unique blend of attractions that cater to varied interests. Whether you’re a nature lover, water sports enthusiast, or seeking cultural experiences, Koh Chang has something for everyone. Revel in the underwater wonders while snorkelling with tours start from S$39, traverse the lush landscapes of the island, or navigate the pristine waters by kayaking — the choices of activities here are plenty.

For cultural aficionados, venture into the local fisherman villages to witness first-hand the laidback island life. And for the brave at heart, you can also take part in Muay Thai, Thailand’s traditional martial art, for an authentic taste of the country’s cultural richness. On the island, Muay Thai classes start from 500 baht (~S$18) in the local gyms. As the sun winds down, you can also unwind and relax with a beachfront Thai massage to add that extra layer of utter bliss to your day. Thai massages start from as low as 250 baht (~S$10) here.

Travelling doesn’t always have to cost an arm or a leg. Now you can embrace the opportunity to explore the world’s most exotic destinations without breaking the bank. As you plan your getaway, remember that the adventure doesn’t end when you leave your doorstep. Safeguard your journey with a travel insurance to help protect against unexpected events ranging from delays to illnesses, and more! With this plan in place, you can fully immerse yourself in the magic of these destinations, knowing that your lifestyle and finances are secure.

So, pack your bags, uncover the allure of the unexplored, and let your budget-friendly escapades begin!

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