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Best Value in 2013

Regrets? We’ve had a few, and top of the list for many of us, according to a just-released British Heart Foundation survey, is not travelling more. Well, here’s a remedy for that. We’ve put together a list of 13 of the best-value travel destinations for next year, using our investigative skills to track down the places that -- due to economic turmoil, a glut in supply or new travel routes -- represent unprecedentedly good value for next year. Time to ditch the regret and turn those roving fantasies into reality!

If package holidays are your thing, then you should keep a beady eye on Croatia. The number of British visitors to the country is forecast to increase by more than 20% this year and, to boost demand further, next year the Croatian government will be cutting VAT on accommodation and food and helping to increase the number of hotel beds in the country by 60,000 over the next decade. While all this doesn’t spell exclusivity, it should lead to plenty of holiday choice and big savings.

Fulfil the fantasy of floating past icebergs, orcas and humpback whales aboard an Alaskan cruise. Big cruise lines, such as Celebrity and Princess, are adding more ships and departures to Alaska in 2013. With more cabins to fill, cruise lines are in a position to release more deals, especially for spring and late-summer travel.

With its ongoing political turmoil, Egypt is looking likely to be a bargain break for 2013. Travelling there, though, doesn’t mean capitalising on other people’s misfortune: with the possible exception of North Korea, almost every country in the world would welcome more visitors. Now this perennial sun-seekers’ favourite is looking even more affordable.

Greek islands
Traditionally a budget destination, it's becoming one again as the tourist industry, upon which the crisis-ridden Greek economy is so dependent, tries desperately to stimulate demand.  Hotels are slashing prices, making even proper luxury properties affordable for a broader range of people. We’re seeing stronger flight deals for spring than usual, too, even compared with the usual shoulder-season rates.

As the global glitterati flock to it for the FIFA World Cup in 2014, and the Olympics in 2016, Rio is bound to become more costly for the traveller.  So if you’ve always planned to visit this incomparably sexy -- and still acceptably cheap -- city, you’d better get your glitter-encrusted skates on.

Beautiful country, but inexpensive -- surely not? Pick your time. The increasingly frugal French are sticking to their second homes when they holiday, rather than exploring further afield and staying in a hotel. Hoteliers, as a consequence, are increasingly looking over the Channel to fulfil their winter needs. Expect unusually good deals and, with Eurotunnel fares from £22 each way, it should be easy to craft a bargain holiday in the country that still knows, par excellence, how to live.

East Africa
Although traditionally a region preferred by high-end safari operators, on the one hand, or backpackers, on the other, the introduction of Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou’s new low-cost airline, Fastjet, should open up east Africa to a much wider range of travellers. The former easyJet boss will begin operating flights out of Tanzania at the end of the month, with fares starting from as low as £13 and routes to Kenya and Uganda on the way.

Albanians are tired of people associating their country solely with organised crime and half-built concrete villas. With good reason: Albania is something of a bargain travel jewel (yes,complete with scuffing around the edges). There is, in the north, one of Europe’s wildest places (in all sorts of senses), along with fascinating Roman and Communist ruins barely touched by tourism. And perhaps the biggest surprise? The frequently delicious, heavily Italian-influenced cuisine. A 4-course meal with wine in the capital, Tirana, could set you back a very palatable £10.

Las Vegas
What, the capital of glitz a bargain? Well, the US has hardly been immune to worldwide wallet-tightening, and holiday spending in the gambling Mecca has dropped by 20%. A worried tourist board has ramped up its marketing budget in response, which should include partnering with travel companies to create some juicy deals. UK holidaymakers are being particularly targeted, in a bid to woo them Stateside away from Balearic and Canary Islands breaks.

"The only risk is wanting to stay." This tongue-in-cheek tourism tagline echoes the sentiment of airlines and hotels as they jockey for a foothold in the emerging Latin American hub. Marriott and Hilton have moved in, and American airlines are leading the way with cheap tickets. Competition breeds deals. Columbia’s shadier side has obscured its considerable natural beauty and abundant historical interest -- in the form of colonial architecture, for example. There is plenty of opportunity for pioneering travel here, on the cheap.

Sri Lanka
Combine this gorgeous tropical country with post-civil-war relative calm, best-value, long-haul holiday status in a recent Post Office survey and new BA flights, and you’ll find a getaway proposition that cost-conscious travellers should find hard to resist.

Niagara Falls
Competition among Niagara Falls hotels is as fierce as the roar of the iconic natural waterworks. Hotels this year have been aggressively one-upping each other to the point where the value of perks, such as dining, casino and spa credits, in effect can make the room free -- a trend that shows no signs of slowing.

Here’s a tip for intrepid travellers looking for a long-distance road trip where they won’t blow most of the budget on fuel. Thanks to its huge oil reserves and a price fixed by the socialist government, Venezuela has the cheapest petrol in the world, at an average price of 2p-3p a litre. Compare that with around 135p per litre in the UK, and you’ll have British motoring lobbyists leaving the country in droves. 

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Tips by

Deal Expert, London
Thursday, 3 January 2013
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Simon Busch