The globe on a bargain

Taking a foreign holiday during a recession can translate to big savings. Sushmita Choudhury looks at five popular destinations that are worth a visit.

Sushmita Choudhury | Print Edition: March 5, 2009

The one good news about the global financial meltdown is that travel has become a lot more affordable. With recession eating into the revenues of the travel service providers, landing a bargain has never been easier. Take a look at the discounts on offer at some of the most favoured foreign locales.

Hot Deals
Interesting packages to look out for
Ananda Spa,
Cost: Rs 24,500 per couple
Contact: 011-26568888
India’s most luxurious spa is offering a 15% discount on its regular rates. The Experience Ananda package offers a two-night stay in a valley-view room,
with daily breakfast and dinner,
hydrotherapy facilities, daily oga and a trek to the nearby temple, offering a fabulous view of the snow-covered Himalayan peaks. Offer valid till 30 April.
Taj Lake Palace,
Cost: Rs 70,000 per couple
The two-night Royal Valentine package includes accommodation in a luxury
room, breakfast, a shikara cruise at night, a special in-room bath, your pick of Hollywood classics, couple massage, an exclusive, intimate dinner with live music, a tour of the hotel, and more. Offer valid till 31 March.

London: According to the figures provided by the hospitality research company, STR Global, the average daily room rate for hotels in London has dropped by 4.2% compared with the rates in February 2008. Combine this with the favourable exchange rate-the pound is almost 15% cheaper today, says Dhruv Shringi, head of yatra.com-and you have London on sale. For instance, at the Hendon Hall, a four-star hotel in north London, a night's stay is currently offered at Rs 7,080, compared with the regular rate of Rs 12,000, and bookings made before 2 July will include a free room upgrade, breakfast and a 15% discount on meals.

Must-do: Buy the oyster card, which can be used on buses, the Tube, trams and DLR (trains). It stores up to £90 (Rs 6,500) of credit and automatically calculates the cheapest fare for all the journeys you want to make in a day.

Advisory: Beware of the ATM scams in the city.

Dubai: The playground of the rich and the famous has been wearing a deserted look of late. With the occupancy rates down by about 14% in the last quarter of 2008 and tourism showing no signs of picking up, luxury hotels are offering discounts of 40-60% on room rates.

 In addition, Emirates airlines has launched special packages with Atlantis, the resort at the Palm Jumeirah island. The Super Value Atlantis packages include return air fare from Mumbai, a three-night stay with breakfast, and a complimentary fourth night. The prices start at Rs 66,189 for economy travel, Rs 88,000 for business class and Rs 1.1 lakh for first class, all on a twin-sharing basis.

Must-do: For the cheapest souvenirs, from shisha pipes to fake Dior bags, visit the Al Karama market in Bur Dubai.

Advisory: Your passport should be valid for at least six months after your visit is supposed to end.

Thailand: In an attempt to revive its fortunes, the Tourism Authority of Thailand has recently launched the Thailand Super Deal campaign, which offers rooms in more than 25 hotels and resorts nationwide at a discount of up to 70%. This only means that you are unlikely to find a better time to visit the country.

Consider the 'Banyan Tree Smile Again with Thailand' campaign. The chain is offering 1,000 'free room nights' till April. This means that the tourists who stay for a minimum of one night with Banyan Tree get a free extra night while reserving online. The usual tariff is Rs 11,200 a night at the Phuket p r o p e r t y and about Rs 7,000 at the Bangkok hotel. Must-do: Catch an elephant polo match at the Annual King's Cup Elephant Polo tournament, typically held in March.

Advisory: The political situation remains uncertain. Avoid travelling to southern provinces like Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala.

Singapore: The world's largest observation wheel and the widest range of electronics notwithstanding, the country may see tourist arrivals dip by 7.5% this year. Coming on the heels of a rather lean 2008, this translates to lower tariffs. Shringi predicts that Singapore will be 15% cheaper in 2009.

The fact that cruises are also likely to be 15-20% cheaper than last year makes it an ideal opportunity to undertake a sea voyage. One option is Yatra's Singapore with Star Cruise package. Priced upwards of Rs 45,899, the four-night tour includes air fare, stay in Singapore and two nights aboard the Star Virgo, a luxury cruise ship, daily breakfast and sightseeing.

Must-do: Visit the island of Pulau Ubin for its unique marine sanctuary of rare sea creatures.

Advisory: There is an alert for dengue fever.

Hawaii: Right now, nearly four in 10 hotel rooms on the island are empty. So, if you can bag a good deal on air fare, it could turn out to be a budget holiday. Both the Hyatt Regency Waikiki and Sheraton Maui Resort are offering a third night free, instead of the typical fifth-night-free deal. Restaurants and tour guides have cut prices drastically and even pricey car rentals are reportedly promising Rs 1,000 a day; the regular rates are double this amount. Must-do: Visit the Kilauea volcano. Advisory: Check for jellyfish or Portuguese man o' war warnings before taking to the waters.

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