The small band of countries where the pound is strong and prices are cheap
The pound has taken a beating in recent months, with much attention focused on its performance against the US dollar. Though it has recovered slightly, £1 currently buys $1.14 – down from $1.37 a year ago. A dose of winter warmth in Florida, or a ski holiday in Colorado, has become a far costlier proposition.
But sterling’s slump is not total. Indeed, it has actually performed remarkably well in recent months against a small number of currencies, providing cost-conscious travellers with a number of intriguing options.
Turkey – up 69%
“The pound has taken quite the tumble over the last 12 months,” said Jack Mitchell, Head of Travel Money at FairFX, the payment services provider. “However, against some currencies things have significantly improved, with holidaymakers likely to get more for their money at a number of popular winter sun destinations.”
Pick of the bunch is Turkey, where £1 currency buys 21.07 lira – up from 12.51 a year ago. It means that for every £1,000 exchanged, Britons will receive the equivalent of £408 more in spending money. With temperatures hovering around 25C right now, a week or two on the Turquoise Coast sounds like a fine idea.
Terry Richardson, Telegraph Travel’s Turkey expert, said: “The country is an extremely attractive option for those seeking a great value trip, despite a galloping inflation rate of 83 per cent that has led to some substantial price hikes.
Accommodation prices are very reasonable – I’m just back from travelling around eastern Turkey and never paid more than £25 per night for a decent, en-suite double in a city-centre hotel. Even in Turquoise Coast resorts such as Kas £40 will get you a comfortable double, with breakfast included.
“It’s also easy to eat out very inexpensively: a wholesome cheese-topped pide (Turkish pizza), invariably served with a generous salad, will set you back around £3.50, a kebab with all the trimmings around £4.50, delicious bowl of lentil soup in the same type of establishment a fraction over a pound.”
Istanbul is generally pricier than the rest of the country, said Richardson, but is still far cheaper than many European cities. “Budget hotel rooms start at around £45 per night. Public transport is of incredible value. The 20-minute ferry to Asia, complete with stunning old-city views, costs a fraction over 40p, rides on the city’s excellent tram or metro systems even less. Many major attractions, including the Aya Sofya and the Blue Mosque, are free to enter, and others such as the recently-restored Basilica Cistern and the sprawling Topkapi Palace, around £10.”
Hungary – up 17%
For an autumn city break a little closer to home, there’s one obvious choice when it comes to value for money: Budapest. The pound has risen by almost 20 per cent against the Hungarian forint since October 2021, making this elegant European capital eminently affordable.
“The forint is weaker against the pound than at any time I can remember,” said Adrian Phillips, Telegraph Travel’s Budapest expert. “Subsequently, you’ll find drinks, meals and goods a third cheaper than they would have been three or four years ago. As such, there can’t be a better-value big-name city break at the moment, and those who venture beyond the capital – where restaurants and hotels tend to be cheaper in any case – will see their cash stretch even further. My wife and I got married in Hungary in 2011, now I wish we’d delayed it by ten years!”
A pint of beer in Budapest typically costs around £1.50 – or cheaper if you seek out a bar outside the city centre. A three-course meal, with a glass of wine, might come to just £15 a head. As for accommodation, a decent Airbnb apartment close to the action shouldn't set you back more than £50 a night.
Sri Lanka – up 50%
The Sri Lankan rupee has tumbled in value by 50 per cent against the pound following another year of economic woe that culminated in angry protests and the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his entire cabinet. The situation has stabilised, prompting the Foreign Office to lift a travel advisory that briefly warned against trips to the country, and those who do seek it out for a slice of winter warmth will certainly be welcomed with open arms.
Sarah Marshall, in a recent feature for Telegraph Travel, wrote: “According to hoteliers and operators on the ground, there’s never been a better or more vital time to go to Sri Lanka. Protests have ended, streets are safe, and people are ready to welcome visitors. Currently, the only interruption comes from two-and-a-half-hour power cuts each day – although most hotels have back-up generators.
“Those who do make the effort to visit have a rare opportunity to enjoy the island’s many historical sites (which are all open) without crowds at one of the few places in the world where our currency has increased in value.
“Despite the growing economic gap between tourists and local people, however, there’s no resentment – only a growing eagerness for foreigners to return and get foreign currency flowing back into the economy.”
Sweden – up 6%
The pound is down a shade against the euro since October 2021 – from €1.18 to €1.16 – but is up against the Swedish krona. Last autumn £1 bought 11.81 krona, now the figure is 12.71.
That said, Sweden is not a particularly affordable country – especially where drinkers are concerned – so you’ll have to plan carefully if you want a budget break. Cheap flights are easy enough to find, with Ryanair offering fares to Stockholm in November for as little as £33 return. The capital also has a decent range of stylish mid-range hotels, with Telegraph Travel’s favourites including hipster-magnet Hobo (from £93 a night) and the Brooklyn-inspired Winery Hotel (from £106). Or opt for Stockholm’s branch of the trendy Generator hostel chain (from £40).
As for sightseeing, several museums in Stockholm offer free entry, including the Swedish Museum of Natural History and the Moderna Museet, while Free Tour Stockholm offers, you guessed it, free walking tours of the city.
Japan – up 6%
The Japanese yen has fallen against the pound too, to the tune of around 6 per cent since a year ago and 25 per cent since 2020. What was once considered a costly destination, a lingering legacy of its 1980s economic bubble heyday, is now surprisingly affordable. Now that the country has also scrapped most of its strict Covid rules (masks notwithstanding), it looks like a reasonable long-haul option.
From the price of food to travel costs, UK visitors are likely to find their pound goes a lot further than anticipated, according to James Mundy, PR manager at InsideJapan Tours.
“Although not the cheapest country in the world, Japan is certainly great value for money, which is most obvious when heading out for food, shopping and sightseeing,” he said. “A bowl of first-class ramen will cost approximately £5, a plate of sushi at a chain sushi conveyor belt restaurant will cost from 60p, and bento boxes from just £3. Many of the temples and shrines are free to explore and the main ones in Tokyo will cost just a few pounds. A train journey in Tokyo will cost from around £1 and there are rail passes that make longer journeys for international visitors particularly affordable.”
Argentina – up 25%
Another affordable long-haul option thanks to its currency’s troubles – £1 buys 170 pesos, up from 135 a year ago and just 23 back in 2017 – trips to Argentina come with the promise of world-class wine and steak at low prices, even if rampant inflation (now touching 80 per cent) has diluted the potential savings.
Whatever your budget, Buenos Aires is a great option for an autumn escape, according to Chris Moss, Telegraph Travel’s Latin America expert: “Far enough south of the tropics to have proper spring and summer, the city is awash with the blossoms of jacaranda trees about now, turning Palermo Park and the plazas and green spaces into festivals of colour. BA is eminently walkable, and – surprising to some – has an Old World feel in barrios like Palermo Viejo, San Telmo and Barracas – where cobblestones and streetlamps, corner cafés and romantic bars show the ‘Paris of South America’ claim is more than a cliché.”
Ghana – up 46%
For something totally offbeat, there’s Ghana, an emerging destination for winter sun where seaside lodges in high-end resorts cost as little as £50 a night.
The local currency, the cedi, has fallen in value against the pound by 46 per cent since October 2021 and according to Numbeo, which surveys prices across the globe, the average cost of living is 58 per cent lower than in the United Kingdom. This makes Ghana the 22nd cheapest country in the world, the website claims (see below for the top 25).