Cheap holidays from the UAE

This is a version of an article I wrote for the Club Magazine


Cheap family holidays from the UAE

Confession time, I’ve never stayed in the Emirates Palace, the Burj al Arab or even Atlantis. That’s because luxury hotels are not my thing and the fact I can’t afford them has nothing to do with it…..

So what does a self-confessed skinflint do for a family holiday from the UAE? Here are a few ideas for newbies who are wondering where to go or for those of you that find yourselves on a newly austere budget…

Choose a cheap version of something expensive

Scandinavia is great Summer option to escape the heat of the UAE, the green fields, orderly politeness, perfect English and AED50 cold beverages! Hang on, that’s what we joined the Club to get away from in the first place! So, leave Sweden and Norway out of it and head for the Baltics, which, as long as nobody decides to invade in the next few months, is a brilliant version of Scandinaviness at a third of the price. OK, you don’t have the fjords, but you do have mediaeval towns and cities, log-cabins in the woods, loads of fresh air and long walks and beverages that won’t cause heart palpitations for Club members….

The Imperial War Museum is a MUST for kids and adults and it’s free!

Here are some other Summer alternatives

Canada = Argentina (much cheaper and more diverse, with just as much wilderness)

Switzerland = Asturias (Northern Spain has big mountains loads of hiking and the beaches that Switzerland doesn’t).

Malaysia = Nepal (may not be as slick in its advertising but what an incredible country with people’s smiles as wide as its mountains are high).

The Argentine Andes have the snow, the hiking and the skiing but with a South American price tag.

Let your budget airline do the choosing

Newsflash, no frills airlines get there the same time as the full price equivalents. And if you can afford business class, go budget anyway and send the difference to your favourite charity, which will make you glow inside much more than the extra leg room….

So, get yourself on the Fly Dubai, Wizz Air and Air Arabia websites and choose from Zanzibar, Bulgaria or Jordan, all of which are fantastic and can be done on a budget.

For the price of one night in a chain hotel, you can rent this cottage with its own woods and boating pond in Latvia for a week.

Don’t believe the hype

Ever seen that Facebook video with the two Irish guys trying to decide where to go on holiday and they end up having to stay in Ireland because everywhere else is too dangerous? Well it sometimes feels like that, especially with kids in tow. But being sensible and not believing everything you read seems to pay off. We’ve been to India, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Zanzibar, Ecuador, Jordan and even Birmingham with the kids. And we’ve never contracted malaria, dengue or even food poisoning (the only time I got that was on an all-inclusive holiday), we’ve never been robbed, held hostage and blown-up (although I did get a bit gassy a couple of times). In fact, many of the world’s so-called trouble hot spots are where you get the best deals!

A quick caveat, I’m not advocating absolutely everywhere in this category, there are some places that have to stay firmly off the list.

Follow the locals

Another stunningly obvious piece of advice is to keep out of the main squares and go a couple of streets back and get the same for less. More tourists equal more money spent and not necessarily the best time. Also have you ever noticed how local tourists don’t go to their country’s so-called hotspots? The Spanish head for Asturias and Galicia in the Summer not so much the Costas and the only Italians in Florence are there to flog you stuff while their families are on the beach.

This Cachopo in Asturias fed the four of us for two days! What you are looking at is meat, ham and cheese in breadcrumbs.

And finally, we have the best resource in the world for sourcing a place to follow the locals, our wonderful staff 😊. One of our highlights in Nepal was when my wife Lorena was give the VIP tour of Kathmandu by our Nepalese friend’s wife. She was plied with food, drink and gifts and got a real insight into Nepalese life. So, ask the staff to sort you out for a beach holiday in the Philippines or a cut-price driver in Sri Lanka.

You can have a look at my family travels blog for more ideas on avoiding the glitz and glamour….