If you've spent ages planning your perfect wedding, who wouldn’t be looking for the dream honeymoon to match?
But between the flowers, favors and the flights costs can rack up pretty quickly. With these top ten budget-friendly getaways you can count your pennies without compromising on all the once-in-a-lifetime experiences, dynamic culture and delicious cuisine you could want for your first adventure as newlyweds. Here are some of the best honeymoon destinations to consider when you're on a budget.
Warm hospitality, fragrant spices – and lovely low prices. Morocco’s hard to beat for bargain romance. Marrakesh, Fez and Essaouira offer time-warp medinas chock-full of character and cheap cafes. Eschew your sense of direction to get lost in the maze-like souqs – the shopping possibilities are plentiful, with everything from carpets to babouches to be snapped up. Converted riads (traditional courtyard houses) offer accommodations with oodles of atmosphere; some are pricey but many are astonishingly reasonable, enabling palace-like stays on a budget.
Planning tip: June to August is the low season in Morocco. If you don't mind the heat, this is the best time to visit the inland cities when accommodations are discounted. During these summer months the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts are very busy (and therefore more expensive) due to domestic tourists, but you might still find a budget guesthouse in lovely Mirleft, a water sports hot spot.
Long-favored by the impecunious, India has certainly become more expensive – but, mostly, it’s still amazingly cheap to travel around. For instance, opulent trains might be dear, but even budget honeymooners can afford to ride on India Rail. Choose your travel class wisely and you could be in a private two-berth sleeper on an overnight journey for around $70 (plus you've saved on a night's accommodation). Keep your meals cheap by eating street food, a top budget experience in India. Choose food outlets with long lines so you know that the food is fresh.
Planning tip: India has a monsoon season and a very hot low season, so narrow down where you want to go and what's happening there at your preferred time of travel. For example, flights might be cheaper in April, but some major beach resorts in places like Goa could remain closed until later in the year when the weather is cooler and dryer.
Want some help getting to India? Let Elsewhere plan your next trip.
Portugal has certainly gotten more expensive but it's still one of Europe's more affordable destinations. The little anxieties – is that cafe too elegant for us? Can we afford another coffee? – are less of a concern here. Even in fancier establishments, espressos usually cost around €1, beers no more than €4.50. You find yourself ordering a second pastel de nata (divine Portuguese custard tart) – well, why not? There are cute casas and converted farmhouses oozing charm for under €100 a night, too.
Planning tip: Want to keep costs even lower? Head to Portugal in November to February when hotel rates are at their cheapest (be sure to pack a rain jacket though).
Expect to eat like royalty even when you're on a budget in Vietnam – it’s street-food heaven. Make sure you sample the country's signature dishes: beef pho, bun cha (barbecued pork with rice noodles) and chow a bánh mì (baguette) as you wander. A mid-range trip won’t break the bank either, but will buy more characterful guesthouses, a better Halong Bay cruise and memorable experiences (a cookery class, a cycle around Hoi An) with change left for a beach stay on beautiful Phu Quoc Island.
Planning tip: Visit outside of the high season of July and August if you want the best chances of finding budget accommodations.
Numbers are high, but costs are low in Indonesia. Rooms might start from a startling-sounding 350,000 rupiah, but that’s only around $25, so even budget honeymooners can afford plenty of fun experiences with their newfound "millionaire" status. Obvious-choice Bali has great beaches, boutique stays, culture in Ubud, cracking surf. But Indonesia has an estimated 17,000 isles! The further you go from the well-known islands, the cheaper your cost of living is likely to become, although you may have to balance that with higher transport costs to get to more remote destinations. Consider Lombok and the Gili Islands, culture and volcanoes on Java and jungle adventures on Sumatra.
Planning tip: The best bargains are to be found in the rainy season of December to February, but conditions aren't so good for diving, spotting wildlife or going hiking. If your hearts are set on those activities, the savings may not be worth it.
Honduras is the budget choice in Central America where inexpensive food and lodgings are easily found. It’s also one of the cheapest places to learn to dive. Head for the white sands of Utila to scuba or simply relax by the Caribbean for less; the nearby islands of Cayos Cochinos offer the most romantic escape. Tack on the Mayan ruins of Copán and adventures in Pico Bonito National Park.
Planning tip: Credit cards tend to be used to pay for more expensive hotels or for booking flights. For smaller purchases, carry cash. You can use US dollars, but you'll get a better deal if you spend lempiras, the local currency. Hotel rates are at their highest at Easter and around New Year.
Cambodia is a happy marriage of world-beating sights and budget-friendly prices. It’s home to Angkor Wat, for which a seven-day entry ticket costs $72 – ridiculously expensive compared with everything else in the country; ridiculously cheap for a week’s worth of exploring the vastness of the site’s Unesco-listed temples and jungle. Cheap beers ($1), meals ($3–4) and ever-improving low-cost accommodation ice the cake.
Planning tip: Discounted accommodations are often available in low season months (April to October), including special offers on even luxury hotels.
Bulgaria is not the most obvious honeymoon choice, but is an inexpensive option whatever the season. Capital Sofia has enough to interest urbanites with its vibrant cultural scene where you can get a ticket for a top performance at Sofia Opera and Ballet for under $10. Sun-lovers can loll by the Black Sea: soft sand, beers for around $2 – what’s not to love? Winter-mooners can hit Europe’s best-value skiing: Bansko and Borovets have slopes for all levels, plus family-run pensions, hearty taverns and (thanks to that cheap beer) lively après-ski.
Planning tip: If you're keen to ski on a budget and happy with basic facilities, Bulgaria's cheapest ski resort is Mt Vitosha, just 10km (6 miles) from Sofia.
9. South Africa
Safaris aren’t usually budget options, but in South Africa you can save by self-driving Kruger National Park’s 2WD-friendly roads, staying at rest camps en route. Right across the country, food prices are good and accommodations plentiful, ensuring there’s something for all budgets – the winery hotels on the Western Cape are particularly good value compared with those in rival wine regions around the world. Some of the best experiences in the stunning city of Cape Town are completely free.
Planning tip: The driest winter months of May to September are the best times to spot wildlife on a safari at Kruger, as the animals gather around water holes. Be sure to layer up – those dawn drives will be chilly.
10. Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico tends to offer the best value in the paradisiacal-but-pricey Caribbean. Puerto Rico has affordable inns and resorts, plus super sand and more history than most – capital San Juan is one of the Americas’ oldest cities. For extra honeymoon magic, kayak at night with glowing plankton in Bioluminescent Bay. All beaches are free to access in Puerto Rico, so if you're looking to laze by the sea on a budget with your new spouse, this could be the perfect destination for you.
Planning tip: For extra savings, go in May: prices are up to 40% cheaper May to early December because of hurricane season (June–November), but in May it hasn’t begun yet.
5 alternative destinations for when you can’t afford the dream trip
Can’t afford Botswana? Try Namibia… Namibia offers similarly incredible wildlife, but its wildernesses are easier (and cheaper) to explore thanks to good roads, suitable for 2WD self-drive.
Can’t afford the Galápagos? Try mainland Ecuador… The Galápagos is an expensive add-on – budget honeymooners could stick to the mainland, visiting Isla de la Plata (nicknamed the "Poor Man’s Galápagos") for an affordable wildlife taster.
Can’t afford the Maldives? Try the Andamans… These India-administered specks in the Bay of Bengal offer a budget archipelago escape, with added bragging rights.