Ask Lonely Planet: Broader horizons at your doorstep

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Experience the culture of southeast Asia without spending a fortune. Photo / Thinkstock
Experience the culture of southeast Asia without spending a fortune. Photo / Thinkstock

I have always wanted to travel, but my partner is more interested in saving for a house. I would love to do the big trips to Europe and the United States but it is looking less likely. What places closer to New Zealand and cheaper would you recommend we visit that would give us a feel of travelling the world?
- Claudia

Lonely Planet's Sarah Bennett & Lee Slater write:

Southeast Asia is the obvious choice for you, its vibrant cultures and diverse landscapes proving that you don't need fly right around the world to broaden your horizons. Whatever you fancy, you'll find it there - whether trekking in the wilderness, visiting historic sites or immersing yourself in city life with exciting cuisine, architecture and arts.

It's relatively quick and inexpensive to get there. Flights to southeast Asia are plentiful, with many direct routes from New Zealand and others via Australia, where you might like to stop. Key travel hubs include Singapore, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Ho Chi Minh City.

Search engines such as hipmunk.com and kayak.com are useful, but travel agents like the Flight Centre are good sources for advice on seasonal specials.

Mainland countries of Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam share similar weather patterns, enjoying a "cool" season from about December to February (peak season for tourism) and a "hot" season from March to May. During peak time beaches are more crowded and accommodation is more expensive. May and October are good times to travel, when you can save a few pennies and avoid the worst of the monsoon season.

Lonely Planet's "Mainland Route" itinerary takes in many of the region's natural and metropolitan wonders, including Vietnam's Mekong Delta.

Eurail adventure

I am a student and want to travel to Switzerland, England, France and Spain by Eurail for about two months, November to January. What budget should I be aiming for (in euros)?
- Lily Bale

Lonely Planet's Sarah Bennett & Lee Slater write:

Eurail passes cover most of Western Europe and can be economical However, it's often cheaper to buy individual tickets as discounts are available including advance-purchase reductions, one-off promotions and special circular route tickets. You can check Europe-wide timetables and book tickets on Germany's rail website, bahn.de. The Man in Seat 61 is also an excellent online resource for rail travel.

Unfortunately Eurail passes don't cover the UK, but you can travel between England and the continent with Eurostar or by catching a bargain flight. Your most appropriate Eurail option is the three-country Select Pass that permits between five and 10 days' travel over two months. Adult passes range from €348 to €526 ($536 to $810), while youth passes (for those 26 and younger) are cheaper at €228 to €343.

Travelling in Europe can be expensive, especially in Switzerland. Keep costs down by staying at hostels and campgrounds, self-catering or eating at local markets, and searching out free activities.

Check museums and galleries for gratis days, and remember that walking is often the most rewarding way to absorb a city's culture. Budget-conscious travellers should be able to get by on about €70 to €100 per day.

- NZ Herald

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