Economy vs. First Class

Breaking the bank: Burma, China, New York, Jordan. Roues less travelled: Couchsurfing, Tour Britain by the roads

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Breaking the bank


First off: ignore the 'Gap Yah' video. Very few 'Gap Yahs' actually make it to Burma. Tourists are still a rarity here, so expect a warm welcome from everyone.

Flying with British Airways offers a London to Bangkok return at £477, but once in South-East Asia look no further than AirAsia, Bangkok to Yangon return is 1,190 Thai baht: just £26.44. You will need a visa, but organise it once in Bangkok as the process is easier and cheaper than doing it at home. It'll cost you 810 Thai baht (£16.48) for the maximum 30 days.

The currency is the Burmese kyat, but it's so devalued dollars are widely accepted and infinitely preferred. There are no ATMs in Burma, so get dollars out whilst in Thailand. The best time to visit is during the Festival of Thingyan (Burmese New Year, 13 - 16 April) which is celebrated with a national water fight. Most adults retire to a temple for contemplation, whilst Yangon's younger generation enjoy the fun.

The Burmese are generally some of the politest people on earth and, despite an incredibly repressive regime, most will delight in talking to you about anything and everything. Yangon is an echo of lost colonial power, the streets reminiscent of a verdant Pall Mall. Stay in Golden Smiles for $12 per night. Mandalay is a whirlwind of scooters and smoke, but home to some of the best cuisine in Burma. The Royal Guesthouse ($7) has the perfect rooftop terrace to escape Mandalay's dusty streets.

One of the best places to eat in Burma is Lashio Lay, Mandalay. Tucked away - asked locals for directions - fixed price for a massive all you can eat buffet of delicious traditional Burmese food. Arrive around 11pm for the best atmosphere.

Inle Lake and Bagan are 'big' (expect to see a few other tourists) hotspots, but are tightly controlled by the regime.

If you want to see temples older than the famed Angkor Wat, minus the tourists - go here.

When visiting Inle Lake, stay on the river front at Gypsy Inn ($5), and enjoy a huge included breakfast. Bagan is deluged with places to stay, but New Park Hotel ($4) is more than adequate more the price. Cycle out to truly explore the temples and countryside. RTB

Routes less travelled


more often than not, surfers get their own bed in a guest room which surpasses a three-star hotel

When thinking about travelling abroad, accommodation inevitably makes a dent in your overall budget. Although it is easy to be put off by grisly possibilities couchsurfing is in fact a rewarding and enjoyable way to travel. Couchsurfing implies a grungy, dirt-cheap way of passing the night, but more often than not, surfers get their own bed in a guest room which surpasses a night at a three-star hotel. You could even wake up to a spread of local food.

Maybe this sounds too good to be true? The website advertises couches, beds and floor space. Generally, the network attracts students who have experienced couchsurfing themselves and want to offer up their 'couch' as a manner of thanks to previous hosts. There are also older hosts and families who support the idea and atmosphere, often having travelled themselves in bygone years.

Couchsurfing is a way of engaging with local, often like-minded, and interesting people. It not only provides a free place to stay, but adds to the overall understanding of life in that country. Thanks can be as simple as a meal cooked by the surfer.

Although there seem to be more couches in cities, many still exist in rural locations. The network has its obvious risks; however, pairs of girls can safely travel to couches all over the world. The more cautious traveller can specifically choose female or family couchsurfers as well as ones that have had a background check.

Get over any misgivings about sketchiness, always keep your caution radar on and enjoy an unconventional avenue of travel. CG

Breaking the bank


China is a world within itself, home to 1.3 billion citizens, where each location has something new to offer. Although it is not a cheap destination to travel to, with flight prices averaging £600 to £2000 for a round trip, food and accommodation are relatively cheap when booked through agencies such as Gap Adventures.

Although a tour will not suit every traveller, the language barrier is a huge factor that could cost you money when eating, sight-seeing and travelling within the country. Eating under the recommendation of your tour guide will often cost no more than Y=10, with the exchange rate of the Chinese Yuan being Y=9.8 to one pound.

Beijing boasts historical landmarks such as the Forbidden City, Summer Palace and home to many of the entry points to the Great Wall. Entrance fees to the Great Wall will cost you around Y=30.

While rich in history, Beijing is a fast-growing cosmopolitan metropolis, boasting some of the country's best restaurants and shops. Beijing is also home to an enthusiastic younger generation, often keen to practise their English with you. If you are in the mood for more exotic delicacies, such as starfish and scorpions on sticks, head to the Dong Hua Men night market.

Yangshuo is as far from Beijing in terms of scenery and lifestyle as it is in distance. Nestled on the west bank of the Li River, Yangshuo is a county in Guilin, an area famous for its Karst Hills and relaxed atmosphere. You can cruise down the river in a traditional bamboo boat, take early morning Tai Chi lessons, learn how to make traditional Chinese food or take off in a hot air balloon. All of these activities will cost you between Y=50 to Y=150.

Home to the Terracotta Army and one of China's oldest cities, Xi'an has much to offer. To see the unearthed army, you will need to catch a local bus or travel to the outskirts during an organised day.

Other attractions include the chance to hire a bike and cycle around the city walls for Y=20 to exploring the Muslim quarter, the old starting point of the Silk Road.

Any food fanatic should not miss the chance to eat the local speciality, mutton paomo, pancake slices in a delicious and filling soup. LP

Routes less travelled

Tour Britain by the roads

pick somewhere at the other end of the country...the more adventurous you feel, the more epic your journey

For the cash-strapped student there aren't too many holiday options available. However, the best holiday you will ever have could also be the cheapest and it is the one type of holiday ideally suited to the terminally short of cash.

Just gather a few friends, pile into a car and hit the road. Ideally pick somewhere at the other end of the country and weave your way across Britain camping and visiting places along the way. The more adventurous you feel, the more epic your journey.

A decent tent doesn't cost much and if you are really trying to save cash stock up on tinned food, buy a camping stove (usually about ten pounds from any camping shop), and go self-catered. Another good idea is to join the Camping and Caravan Club. It may sound like it's geared towards OAP's but membership is only £39. This grants you the cheapest access to thousands of campsites all over the United Kingdom, plus a directory so you can compare prices and facilities. It is very rare for any of them to be booked up, even in the summer, so you can literally choose on a whim.

Some of the best campsites include: Rose Farm, Westhay, on the outskirts of Glastonbury (four pounds per night); the spectacular Heathy Roods Farm perched on a hill in the Peak District village of Butterton; and Rosedale Abbey in the North York Moors.

Most cities will have campsites on the outskirts so you can turn it into a city break. Share the driving, the cooking and discover your own 'Best of Britain' locations. Just keep an open mind and don't make too many plans. All you need now is a great mixtape. TS

Breaking the bank


Jordan is usually overlooked as a holiday destination, but actually offers something for everyone, be it history, adventure or the beach. The sixth century BC settlement of Petra, one of the wonders of the world, is a city like no other: carved from the pink-tinted mountain itself.

For the culture-seeker, Roman temples and the ancient sites of all three monotheistic religions greet you wherever you go. For those who want to grab a backpack and experience the landscape, look no further than the Dana Biosphere Reserve, a section of its southern desert with both rocky climbs and vast panoramas.

Stay in the Feynan EcoLodge while you're at it - made of clay and solely candlelit, you'll never feel so far from your 21st-century-troubles again. Then of course, for those going for the full get-up: a mud-mask by the Dead Sea. At officially the lowest point on earth (-423 metres), you can round off your holiday with the odd combination of sitting up with your favourite book whilst floating in a hypersaline sea. SJ

Fly: August, London Gatwick - Amman, £140, EasyJet.
Rest: Feynan EcoLodge, £50 per night.
Rest: El Rashid Hotel, Petra: £26 per night.

Breaking the bank

New York

Being on a small budget in the Big Apple won't limit your experience of the city. Looking outside of the normal tourist attractions, some of the best that the city has to offer are absolutely free.

Nightlife in New York can be expensive, but there is a wealth of alternative entertainment which won't cost a penny. 'Target First Saturdays' at the Brooklyn Museum of Art run on the first Saturday of every month, and provide free programmes of art and entertainment from 5 - 11pm. Getting tickets to a Broadway musical may be out of the student budget, but 'Broadway in Bryant Park' shows some of the most popular Broadway musicals on large screens in the park on Thursday lunchtimes during July and August for free. The 'River to River' festival runs throughout the summer and will put on over 500 free music, dance and cultural programmes in Lower Manhattan.

Even the biggest attractions are within the student budget. Entrance to the Metropolitan Museum of Art is by suggested donation. This is normally around $5-10, but depending on how generous (or not) you're feeling, you can get away with paying a lot less. The Whitney also has 'pay-what-you-wish' admission on Friday evenings, as does the Guggenhiem on Saturday evenings. MOMA is absolutely free on Friday afternoons, but allow plenty of time, as queues to get in go round the block.

For an alternative experience of art in New York, Soho and the meatpacking district are full of small, privately owned galleries, lots of which you can just walk into. Dining out in New York won't eat into your wallet if you're willing to think outside the box. Rirkrit Tiravanija's interactive art installation "Soup, No Soup" at the gallery 'Gavin Brown Enterprises', 620 Greenwich Street, is possibly one of the best deals in New York. For a suggested donation of one dollar you are given a warm bowl of soup, made on site that day. Well-loved by New Yorkers, 'Gray's Papaya' on Broadway and 72nd St. is renowned for its inexpensive and good quality hot dogs. Open 24 hours a day, and at under two dollars, it makes a perfect 3am snack. EW

Photography: Liv Plant, Trish Scurfield, Sam Newsome

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