The money you save by travelling on a shoestring can help you to see more of the world. All the same, we all need a treat now and then and it would be a pity to leave your destination without sampling at least one local delight. It’s lucky, then, that it’s possible to find distinctive but affordable treats all around the world – here are some of my favourites:
1. Dine at La Boqueria in Barcelona
You’ll notice that in Spain locals know how to eat well on a budget. My most memorable meal there was also one of my cheapest – in ‘La Boqueria’, the public market on Las Ramblas. Like so many visitors to Barcelona, I was there to tick tourist attractions off my list. But, among the fruit sellers and fishmongers, I noticed some stalls with high benches and bar stools, where sharply dressed Catalans were tucking into several courses. I joined them, for an unforgettable meal tapas and a small beer (pints – ‘una pinta’ in case you do want to order one – are unusual in Spain, where locals tend to opt for smaller volumes).
2. Get your retail therapy in Egypt
Egypt is cheap by global standards, so it’s a great place to shop for luxury goods. Seek out Bedouin markets and fair-trade outlets where you can pick up silver jewellery, Egyptian cotton, or beaded and embroidered clothes and textiles – and bring a little affordable luxury home.
3. Pamper yourself on a Thai beach
Although it might cost you more to get to some further flung destinations, the cost of living there is often much cheaper, helping to balance the overall cost of your holiday. Some tlc is just the ticket to revive you after the long haul south. You’ll be amazed at how little it costs to get an authentic Thai massage anywhere in Thailand, or to treat yourself to a manicure, all while soaking up the restorative rays of the sun. I had my shoulders pummelled and my toes painted on a Koh Samui beach, and felt like a million bucks for next to nothing.
4. Unwind over a cocktail in Venice
A visit to the birthplace of the Bellini – Harry’s Bar, in Venice – could set you back a little (although who says you can’t treat yourself to one, as long as you don’t get carried away!). As a world-famous bar, Harry’s can charge a premium. But every little Venetian backstreet seems to have a wine bar, and most are inexpensive. Bartenders all over the city are dab hands at mixing this gorgeous peach and prosecco cocktail – and it’s sublime on a summer night.
5. Sip a banana licuado in San Telmo
In Buenos Aires’ oldest neighbourhood, the prices are low – so everyday luxuries come cheap. To indulge in some true refreshment, try a banana licuado, while watching tango partners dance their hearts out nearby. Banana licuados are Latin America’s take on the banana smoothie, but longer and cooler because it majors on the crushed ice and milk. It’s a great energy hit for a weary traveller, and also an unbeatable hangover cure, I’m told.
Any ideas on affordable treats at your favourite destinations, let us know!