Who says you can’t experience luxury on a budget? Nowadays, there’s no reason to sit around waiting to win the lottery to pay for your dream vacation. With a little creative financing and scheduling—you can dabble in a few VIP luxury experiences. From sleeping in a castle in Germany and exploring Africa’s Serengeti National Park to creating your very own fragrance in France, LonelyPlanet.com compiled a list of luxe experiences for the budget traveler.
Thermal Bath for Less in Reykjavík, Iceland
Naturally-heated pools are the epitome of a classic Icelandic experience. Although the Blue Lagoon near Reykjavík comes highly recommended, you can head to Nauthólsvík to soothe your muscles for a fraction of the cost. This dainty strip of white sand has a pool of simmering seawater and a couple of hot tubs. The admission charge elicits as ardent a sigh of delight as the silky water. It’s free in summer and in winter is just Ikr500; compare that to Ikr5400 for the most basic package at the Blue Lagoon.
Low-season Safari in East Africa
Venturing out on safari in rainy season offers more than shaving off money and crowds. The wet seasons (March to June and October to December) also have luminous sunsets and plenty of animals nurturing their young—excellent reasons to brave the rain (which, by the way, is patchy rather than perpetual downfall). You don’t need to camp, self-drive or give up on luxe aspects, such as guided game drives, but you can save up to 40%.
Michelin Star Restaurant for Spare Change in Hong Kong, China
If your stomach rumbles only for globally-acclaimed cuisine, follow the fragrant steam toward Hong Kong’s Tim Ho Wan. Dim Sum lovers swear by the barbecue pork buns and golden-fried turnip cakes of the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant. Now a global sensation, chef and founder Mak Kwai Pui has new branches in Singapore, Sydney, and Melbourne. Go now while the original is still the best.
Budget-Friendly Fragrance in France
Quality perfume doesn’t come cheap. Centuries ago, abundant blooms and Mediterranean sunshine made the town of Grasse a center for perfume making. These days, travelers hoping to cloak themselves in fine fragrance linger among Grasse’s cobbled alleys and apricot-colored buildings. Buying perfume from the source means rock-bottom prices, and workshops allow you to blend your very own scent.
A Sauna of Your Own in Sweden
In Scandinavia, saunas aren’t luxury; they’re a way of life. These muscle-soothing hot rooms are considered so intrinsic to good health that they are built into hotels and apartments. And even in notoriously expensive Sweden, you can snap up not only mid-range accommodation with sauna facilities, but your own private sauna. Apartments with private saunas in the lakeside winter sports haven start at Skr4045 (US$490) for a week, beating the price of Swedish spa hotels.
Cheap Sleeps in a Castle in Germany
You don’t need to be a celebrity to snag a castle in Rhine Valley. Spectacular fortifications are readily available and affordable in this rugged green slice of western Germany, and even travelers with light wallets can bed down in Burg Stahleck—a spiky-turreted 12th-century castle that has seen sieges, explosions, and ownership scuffles. Best of all, you can enjoy this family friendly youth hostel accommodation and its superlative views without having to sacrifice your entire paycheck.
Read more: Lonely Planet