We’ve all been there: scrolling through your friend’s Facebook photos of her amazing backpacking trip in Europe, ogling at lists of ‘top 10 most beautiful places’ inconveniently located thousands of miles away and costing thousands of dollars, and reading descriptions of foreign and exotic lands you desperately want to go to. You’re drowning in envy and sick with wanderlust. But don’t despair—while you may not be able to see the northern lights in Norway or ski down the slopes of Switzerland, you can travel to budget-friendly yet eye-opening vacation spots—just beyond our very own shores. The Ridge presents to you some overlooked nearby places you can consider visiting this coming holiday, tried-and-tested by our fellow friends.
Boring Bondowoso? Not quite.
Recommended by Amni, 21
- How much she spent: Approx. $1500 for 2 weeks (incl. accommodation, airfare, etc.)
- Where else she’s been: Bangkok, Thailand; Kuala Lumpur, Port Dickson, Malacca, Langkawi, Penang, Cameron Highlands, Malaysia; Hong Kong
A small town located in East Java of Indonesia, Bondowoso is known for its stunning mountain, volcano and waterfall views, perfect for hiking enthusiasts and nature lovers. Being surrounded by the panoramic views of mountains, the sleepy atmosphere of the slowly developing town and the relaxed lives of the people, Amni could not bear to leave. Compared to the hustle and bustle of everyday life in Singapore, Indonesia is the perfect place to wind down and keep in touch with nature.
The illusion of overpriced Japan
Recommended by Lemuel, 24
- How much he spent: Approx. $1800 for 2 weeks (incl. accommodation, airfare, etc.)
- Where else he’s been: South Korea, Hong Kong, China, Thailand, Malaysia
Lucky Lemuel spent two weeks traveling around Japan, visiting Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Hakone. And he tells us that Japan isn’t necessarily expensive—only if you plan your schedule and budget right. “Food can be slightly expensive but you save by staying smart,” he says. One way he did so was on accommodation, by taking overnight coaches and trains or staying in hostels (he recommends checking out hostelworld.com). As Japan’s public transport is reliable, it’s easy to travel without getting lost or forking out a handsome sum for cab fares.
While initially worried about the language barrier, Lemuel assures us that Japan can be a convenient place to vacation as long as you do your research of where you want to go. Because of its well-connected public transport system, it is almost impossible to get lost, especially if you have addresses and locations written down, in which case locals can help you with. Apart from that, there’s “food everywhere” and sights aplenty to behold! What’s more perfect?
Weekend getaway? Go Hong Kong
Recommended by Dawn, 21
- How much she spent: Approx. $800 for 5 days (incl. accommodation, transport, attractions, etc.)
- Where else she’s been: Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, China, Korea, Japan, Spain, Portugal, USA
Take the four-hour flight over to Hong Kong, where you can indulge in some therapeutic comfort eating and walk it off as you explore its streets and nightlife. As Dawn puts it, “In Hong Kong, just eat and walk around.” So for us students on a tight budget and time, Hong Kong is an ideal travel location.
Just like Japan it is important to note that majority of its population speak Cantonese, Mandarin and a smattering of English, so a Chinese friend would be highly useful right about now, otherwise make sure to write down addresses in Chinese for locals to help you along. Dawn also advises not to bother with souvenir trinkets in tourist spots, as they are usually overpriced—unless you’re highly adept at haggling. Pickpocketing is also common, so remember to keep watch over your belongings, especially when on public transport.
- Prepare for your trip way in advance by planning your routes and budget. You’re only there for a limited time, so don’t waste it!
- Keep up with airfare and accommodation prices, because there are certain periods that are cheaper than others (e.g. school holidays are peak periods)
- While traveling regionally can be relatively cheaper than traveling out of it, be mindful that many a time locals know that you’re a tourist and will push up prices
- Don’t stick to the usual tourist spots but look out for adventure. One way is to hire a personal tour guide (ask your hotel) who can show you around – especially useful when visiting smaller towns
- Try going where you have friends or relatives living in. In this way you can possibly crash at their place, and if not, at least you have someone to show you around!
- Traveling with three to four friends is a good idea, especially when visiting unfamiliar places. Not only is it safer, you can eat more! Think dim sum style.