Drinking local rice wine and going back to rest on king-sized beds with plush duvets. Relaxing by a private pool in the morning before heading to a village to learn how to cook from locals. If flashpacking (backpacking in style) is your idea of a balanced holiday, Singaporeans over the past year have been venturing out of their comfort zones and discovering emerging destinations that also offer more affordable five-star accommodation.
According to the annual Hotel Price Index (HPI) from Hotels.com, the past year saw destinations such as Myanmar and Poland get on the list offering some of the most reasonably priced five-star luxury accommodating for Singaporeans, with prices as low as $94. These places offer the best of both worlds – exploring destinations and cultures off the beaten track while getting a chance to experience a dose of luxury.
According to Johan Svanstrom, president of the Hotels.com brand, the combination of real exploration and luxury is indeed trending.
#Travelbrag and flashpack for less: Where to get the best-value luxury accommodation
Following the footsteps and travel trails of intrepid Singaporeans, here is a list of some of the most popular emerging destinations for outbound travel with affordable five-star accommodations that deliver the best bang for your buck.
Travellers seeking more historical adventures are in for a treat as this city is rich with cultural connections to the ancient Greek, Persian, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman empires. A trip to Istanbul would not be complete without visiting some of the city’s most remarkable sites, including the Hagia Sophia, a church- turned-mosque-turned-museum, Sultan Ahmed Mosque (also known as the Blue Mosque), Topkapi Palace, and Basilica Cistern.
The best time to visit Istanbul is during spring and autumn, from April to May and from September to mid- November respectively, when temperatures are pleasant and skies are clear.
Last year, Singaporean travellers paid an average of S$157 per night for their five-star accommodations as compared to S$205 in 2016.
Where to stay: Treat yourself by staying at Hilton Istanbul Kozyatagi from S$117 per room per night
Situated on the banks of the Mekong River near the border of Thailand, Vientiane offers travellers a laidback atmosphere – perfect for those looking for a more idyllic vacation spot, sans the crowds. November through to March are the best months to visit Vientiane, as the air is a bit cooler and vacationers will enjoy more of the city’s sceneries and tourist destinations, such as the Buddha Park, That Luang, the most sacred monument in Laos, Patuxai Victory Monument, and Wat Ho Phra Keo.
Prices for luxury accommodation dropped by 26 per cent in 2017, and travellers only paid an average of S$179 per night for five-star accommodation.
Where to stay: Indulge in a stay at Crowne Plaza Vientiane from S$94 per room per night
Travellers looking for a more medieval-inspired getaway will definitely find it in Zagreb. Boasting majestic infrastructures and romantic cobblestone streets, Zagreb offers travellers a quaint European experience, perfect for those wanting to avoid the crowds in cities like Barcelona or Berlin. Tourist hotspots aside, culture vultures should definitely pay a visit to the Museum of Broken Relationships, where the lovelorn find a home for their sentimental keepsakes. The Brestovac Sanatorium, a former state-of-the- art tuberculosis treatment spa that is now a paintball arena, is also another more uncommon attraction worth visiting, at least for Instagram.
The best times to visit Zagreb is during April and September – when the temperature is relatively warmer but still comfortable and cool due to spring rains.
Despite an increase of 18 per cent in the average daily night rate for luxury accommodations in Zagreb, holidaymakers paid a very reasonable amount of S$195 per night for five-star rooms.
Where to stay: Treat yourself at Hotel Esplanade Zagreb from S$177 per room.
Just three hours away, Singaporean travellers can enter Myanmar visa-free for 30 days and indulge in the country’s rich cultural heritage and lush greeneries. When in Mandalay, pay a visit to the Yadana Labamuni Hsu-taungpye Paya, also known as the snake pagoda, and marvel at the two large pythons wrapped around the Buddha statue within.
In order to escape the tropical heat, the best time to go will be around November to February when the weather gets a bit cooler.
Travellers paid nine per cent less for five-star stays in 2017 than they did in 2016, with the average rate for accommodations costing around S$197.
Where to stay: Treat yourself at Hilton Mandalay from S$142 per room per night
Another quick getaway destination for thrill-loving Singaporeans is Kathmandu, Nepal, located between the majestic Himalaya Mountains and lush forests of the Indian jungles. Ever since the city opened up its borders to foreigners, it has emerged as one of the most enchanting destinations not just for hikers and trekkers, but also for travellers who desire tranquility and a space to meditate. Autumn, which is around September to November, will be the best time to travel to Kathmandu.
There was a slight increase of 9 per cent for luxury accommodation in Kathmandu last year and travellers paid an average daily rate of S$209 compared to S$192 in 2016.
Where to stay: Find your Zen at Hotel Yak & Yeti from S$209 per room per night
Krakow is one of oldest cities in Poland and a leading centre of Polish economic, academic, cultural, and artistic life. Offering rustic European appeal, the city is also famous for its well-preserved medieval and Jewish history. Aside from historical tours, wanderlusters will be pleased to discover that Krakow is also home to a local dragon, Smok Waweleski.
The best season to soak in what Krakow has to offer will be during spring from March to April and autumn in October.
Singaporeans who travelled to Krakow last year paid an average daily rate of S$224 per night for five-star accommodation, a slight decrease of three per cent from S$232 in 2016
Where to stay: Explore Krakow from Niebieski Art Hotel & Spa from S$191 per room per night.
In addition to being one of the earliest, most industrialised, and most cost-friendly towns in Scandinavia, Malmo is also a town that is full of charm. The abundance of nature is ideal for travellers looking for diverse outdoor adventures and experiences, such as Folkets Park, the oldest public city park in the world. Complete the trip by mingling with the locals at a Slice of Swedish Hospitality, a family-run business that offers a unique glimpse into the life of a local over a meal.
Singaporeans looking to escape the heat from the tropics will enjoy the captivating sights of glaciated mountaintops and highlands during the winter season in Malmo from October to March.
Despite an 8 per cent increase in accommodations last year, the town, which is 4.5 hours away from Stockholm, the capital city of Sweden, has become more popular amongst Singaporeans. Five-star lodgings averaged around S$234 per night.
Where to stay: Indulge in a stay at Grand Hotel – Lund from S$161 per room per night