It’s that time of the year again. When your dead WhatsApp groups become rife with chatter again.  Your best friends, bae, office colleagues, that guy you tolerated in college, your neighbour’s dog, basically everyone just wants to ask you that single most dreaded question of the year, “What plans for New Year’s bro?”If only you could tell them your real expectations for New Year’s though.

Expectations: Gathering at Times Square, New York to watch the ball drop on New Year’s Eve.

Reality:Gathering in your living room for that family get-together, cringing and hoping your drunk uncle stops making those offensive non-jokes sometime soon.

Expectations: Enjoying a five-course meal at the magnificent Eiffel Tower, popping a bottle of champagne just as the clock strikes twelve.

Reality: Eating cheap Chinese take out at a friend’s place, sharing a bottle of Old Monk while lamenting  about being too broke to travel.

As another year draws to a close, we find ourselves scrambling to put together yet another New Year’s plan that beats all our previous ones. A plan that’s closer to our expectations than ever before. This one’s for all of us who’ve wanted to spend New Year’s at an exotic location abroad, but never made it past the borders of our own cities. And  for all of us who never made it past comparing flight tickets or travel expenses because the sheer thought of said expense gave us a serious case of the jitters. But what if we told you that not all international trips have to cost an arm and a kidney? What if you could have yourself a jolly good New Year’s Eve away from your homeland, for just under ₹50k?

You read that right.  We promise to change your mind about “expensive” foreign travel. Here’s a list of countries you could spend  New Year’s Eve at for under ₹50k, without compromising on your experience!

1. Bhutan

Fondly known as the Land of the Thundering Dragon, our Buddhist neighbour sits pretty in the midst of the mighty Himalayas and serene grasslands. A colourful mixture of deep winding roads, enchanting valleys, gigantic monasteries, and super hospitable locals – is perhaps what keeps the locals here the happiest. The only country in the world which measures Gross National Happiness – head here for your share of it! If you see yourself drinking the night away on New Year’s Eve, go to one of the many clubs in Thimphu or Paro for some karaoke and dancing. But if you fancy yourself a change in pace, you can choose to camp under the stars in places like Punakha while admiring snow-capped mountains (they make for the prettiest backdrops).

A kingdom blessed with widespread mountainous landscapes, Bhutan is tailor-made for great hikes that never fail to reward visitors  with marvellous sights. Even the most developed towns and cities here retain a semblance of the gentler past, be it in the form of traditional Bhutanese architecture, local norms, cuisine, or culture. While Bhutan’s tourism rules have been strict for most of the world, India was one of the only countries which had it easy owing to the No Visa Policy and minimum expenses. However, Bhutan’s latest policy updates include an introduction of Sustainable Development Fee for Indians along with a Permit Processing Fee. We recommend confirming the exact charges before going.

Photo by Quentin Grignet on Unsplash

Budget overview

Airfare: Flights to Bagdogra start from INR 4900. From there, you can take a cab to Phuentsholing (the entry point to Bhutan), where you’ll get the Permit done before continuing the rest of the way. Shared cabs from Bagdogra to Phuentsholing is approximately INR 600 and another cab to Thimphu or Paro will cost roughly the same. 

  • Accommodation: tariffs for hostels and budget hotels start from INR 1500.
  • Food: Keep aside approximately INR 1800 per day per person for food. 
  • Getting around: With no public transport available, you’ll mostly have to rely on private cabs with a driver to get from one place to another. Their fares start from INR 2000 for short distances.
-Photo by Prateek Katyal on Unsplash 2

2. Sri Lanka

Continuing with the trend of sharing gems in our backyard, Sri Lanka is another beautiful island nation that can qualify for a great New Year’s getaway. Ask yourself that infamous question:“Are you a beach person? Or are you a mountain person?”If your answer is…. you know what? Skip answering that because It doesn’t matter! Countless beaches, turquoise ocean, exotic wildlife, immortal ruins, cascading waterfalls, and picturesque mountains – Sri Lanka has them all!Swim with the sea turtles in Hikkaduwa, or climb up Ella Rock for some breathtaking views. Admire the colonial architecture in the fortified city of Galle, or go whale watching in Mirissa. Surf the high seas of Arugam Bay, or party like never before in the capital city of Colombo. There are innumerable ways to spend your New Year’s in this tropical destination and you’ll never fall short of ways to have a good time. Scout’s Honour!

Budget overview

  • Airfare: Flights to Colombo start for as low as 4000 INR! 
  • Accommodation: Budget hostels range anywhere between 1000 to 1500 LKR, or 400 to INR 600. 
  • Food: Keep aside approximately 1200 LKR per day per person. 
  • Getting around: Trains and buses are a great way to get around the country and can cost anywhere between 80 to 400 LKR, or 80 to 300 INR from Colombo to all of the towns mentioned above. 
Photo by Fernando Maté on Unsplash

3. Phi Phi Islands

Let’s fess up,, this cluster of islets in Thailand is most definitely a part of all our travel Pinterest Boards. And rightly so. If it’s tropical, it has to be Phi Phi!Picture this. It’s the 31st of December. You wake up to the sound of waves, go scuba diving in the clearest waters, come back to sip on some Pina Coladas, have your toes buried in the sand, party the night away in a beach club. Before you know it, it’s the countdown to New Year’s and you shout yourself hoarse with strangers from all over the world, chasing the last few seconds. Life’s good. If this sounds like something you’d want to do, then a vacation in Phi Phi should definitely be on your roster. Spend a day lazing around the deserted Moo Dee Bay beach or Bamboo island, go rock climbing in Tonsai, explore ancient Viking caves and the wall paintings, or go on one of the many island hopping tours in this tropical paradise – there’s no dearth of things to do in Phi Phi.

Budget overview

  • Airfare: Flights to Phuket or Krabi start for as low as 8000 INR. From either of these cities, you’d have to take a ferry or speedboat to Koh Phi Phi Don which can cost around 800 to 1000 INR
  • Accommodation: Budget hostels range from anywhere between 800 to 1300 INR per night
  • Food: Keep aside approximately 1200 INR per day per person for a mix of street food and budget restaurants
  • Getting around: There’s no wheeled transport in Phi Phi. While you can walk small distances, long-tail boats are the more widely used means of transport.
Photo by skuds on Foter.com

4. UAE

If the UAE had to be described in 3 words, it’d be something along the lines of “heritage meets glamour”. While it consists of 7 emirates in all, there are 2 main emirates that are usually a part of the majority of the itineraries – Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Dubai is one of the trendiest cities in the world, but it becomes so much more on New Year’s Eve. The city comes alive in a kaleidoscope  of colours and lights in the hours leading up to midnight. Swim with the dolphins at Palm Atlantis or have a small picnic by the ocean at Palm Jumeirah. Experience what it feels like to be on top of the world from the deck of Burj Khalifa or shop for spices and gold in the souks of Old Dubai. The nightlife in Dubai is as glitzy as it is extravagant, with overflowing champagne, international DJs, and spellbinding views of that incredible Dubai skyline. Abu Dhabi, on the other hand, is probably the more mellow of the two emirates.

This capital city is a brewing pot of culture, heritage, luxury, and adventure. Go on a desert safari along with some dune bashing , or opt for a cultural tour of the city by visiting ethereal structures like the Shaikh Zayed Mosque. Shop at the grand Abu Dhabi Mall or admire world-class art at the Louvre. While Abu Dhabi’s nightlife might not be as exciting as that of Dubai, it still has a LOT more extravagance than what we’re used to. New Year’s in UAE is like biting into a slice of luxury and sophistication without having to shell out a lot. Do keep in mind though that it’s very easy to blur the line between budget and luxury in UAE owing to the plethora of activities that could easily punch a hole in your pockets. Opt for metros and public transportation instead of taxis, keep those shopping bills low, balance between expensive and budget activities, choose budget hostels and cheaper stays instead of the glitzy hotels, and you’ll manage to stay within your budget while experiencing the best of UAE.

Budget overview

  • Airfare: Flights to Dubai and Abu Dhabi start as low as  INR 6000
  • Accommodation: Hotels in the UAE are relatively more expensive than in other countries. Keep aside approximately 3000 INR for a room per night
  • Food: Set  aside about  1200 INR per day per person for a mix of street food and budget restaurants
  • Getting around: Dubai and Abu Dhabi are blessed with a good network of public transportation. You can get travel passes for buses and metros easily. Check the official sites for the exact prices of the tickets before going.
Photo by jun gomez on Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

 

5. Cambodia

Endowed with a rich cultural heritage, Cambodia is a country that usually gets overlooked when competing with destinations like Thailand or Bali. This makes for the perfect reason to visit this hidden gem this New Year’s. If you’re a culture and history buff , then a day spent exploring the mystical temple complex of Angkor Wat is something you’ll cherish for the rest of your life. A UNESCO World Heritage Site in the heart of Cambodia, this temple complex is also the world’s biggest religious monument. Bayon, Ta Prohm, and Angkor Thom are a few of the temples inside, each with their own unique characteristics, intricate carvings, and elaborate statues. A glorious union of stone and nature, you’ll also come across trees growing out of some of the temples, lending an almost haunting but beautiful vibe to it.But that’s not all. Southern Cambodia is adorned by small islands with beaches that can stand their own against the likes of Thailand. The water is the bluest of blues and the sandy coastlines are some of the cleanest you’ll ever see.

The island of Koh Rong is the liveliest of the lot, with a plethora of beach clubs for hardcore revellers. But if you want to steer clear of the crowds and fancy yourself some seclusion, head to Koh Rong Samloem for its peaceful surroundings.And  if you need any more convincing, the locals here are some of the nicest, most hospitable people you’ll ever meet. Coming to the food, you can try out some of the most popular delicacies like Lort Cha (Fried fat rice noodles with veggies) and Bai Sach Chrouk (cooked rice served with pork, spring onions, egg and pickled veggies), or experiment with delicacies like Balut (duck foetus egg – not for the faint hearted). Head to Cambodia before it becomes another Bali, folks. No time better than the present to pack your bags and book those flights!

Budget overview

  • Airfare: Flights to Cambodia start from 11,000 INR! 
  • Accommodation: Budget hostels cost  anywhere between 500 and 1000 INR per night
  • Food: Keep aside approximately 800 to 1000 INR per day per person for a mix of street food and budget restaurants
  • Getting around: Tuk-tuks are a popular means of transport in Cambodia, so allocate  approximately 500 INR per day in case you end up travelling a fair bit. 
Photo by Chhun Yaroth on Unsplash

 

We’d like to conclude this piece by asking one simple question. “Why spend New Year’s in Lonavala or Goa when you can spend it at an exotic location abroad this year?”Think of this as a gentle nudge – to stop scrolling and start booking your getaway already! 😀