July - August are the busiest holiday months in the Northern Hemisphere but hardly the perfect time to travel worldwide, with tropical monsoon rains in parts of Asia, stormy weather in much of the Caribbean, excessive heat in north Africa and the Middle East and winter chills in the Southern Hemisphere, so choose your vacation destination with care!
Bali island in Indonesia is the lowest cost major holiday destination outside Europe. The island hosts plenty of excellent beaches along with grand temples and a fascinating culture.The photo of Tanah Lot temple at sunset was taken by Uwe Arana. July-August is the dry season in Bali so there is little rain and low humidity. Temperatures range from 23C (73F) - 33C (91F).
Best value vacation destinations in 2015
According to the British Post Office travel barometer on worldwide holiday costs the cheapest holiday destination in 2015 (and not just for Brits!) is currently Prague in the Czech Republic (a beautiful and interesting old city, best May-September but very crowded July-August), followed closely by Portugal's beaches and ancient sights (perfect at this time), Spain's Costa del Sol tho' we'd suggest it's way too hot and crowded during mid summer. Try the spectacular beaches on the Spanish Atlantic coast instead, even if the water is chilly.
The priciest country in Europe is currently Italy, which is a surprise but it's no surprise that Singapore is the costliest place to visit in the world, followed by Dubai, New Zealand, Oman, Australia, Malaysia and Canada.
The Moth Killers pyrocussion band at the Burning Man Festival. Yes, music through exploding fireballs! The annual festival happens in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, USA. August 30-September 7, 2015. More information on Burning Man 2015. You'll need an RV or be very resilient!
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The Americas, July - August
Beach vacations get steamy in southern USA at this time, especially in Florida where temperatures in the 90's (32C+) are not unusual and come bundled with sticky air (95% humidity) and unrefreshingly warm seas. This includes America's favourite theme parks in Orlando in case you were thinking it was sufficiently north to be cooler. Not! In addition hurricanes or at least severe storms are not unusual.
Summertime is also a terrific time to experience some of America's great festivals such as the Calgary Stampede in Canada 3-12 July, Cheyenne Frontier Days (rodeo+music) in Wyoming USA 17-26 July, Hog Heaven at Sturgis' massive bike jamboree in South Dakota July 31-August 19, Washington State Kite Festival 17-23 August.
Weather in much of the Caribbean is potentially stormy/cloudy with messy beaches but a handful of budget islands in the far southwest near Venezuela continue to get fine tho' hot weather thru August, mainly ABC - the Dutch Antilles of Aruba, Bonaire (speciality: scuba diving) and Curaçao.
In the rest of Latin America Brazil is about the only place that's good to visit at this time, especially to spot animals in the vast Pantanal wetlands and the northern regions. But! Remember that the Olympic Games take place in Rio de Janeiro from 5-21 August. Horrific crowds, prices, accommodation shortages, flight shortages..blah, blah.
Europe, July - August
Europe during these months is brilliant though southern areas of Spain and Italy can get unpleasantly hot and decent hotels get packed out in August, so try to holiday in July. If not, never mind, there will be crowds but book accommodation ahead and enjoy rubbing shoulders with humanity!
This is a great time for festivals, both inner city and out in the country, so check our European Festival listings for July and August if you fancy a cultural break. We are particularly fond of the lovely Chaumont International Garden Festival in France's Loire Valley (until 19 October).
For English speakers London is a great choice with its world-beating free museums and invigorating summer life but other sensational cities of central Europe such as Paris, Nice, Barcelona and Venice (tho' a bit green and smelly at this time) are also perfect for historic sights, pleasant strolls and odd happenings in warm/hot weather.
Beach seekers can find sunshine, heat and bargains in southern Spain or Portugal's Algarve coast (both countries also have cheaper, cooler Atlantic coasts that bear checking out if you prefer less heat, less tourists and more local culture). Island and beach hopping in Greece is a great way to see a lot but no longer a cheap option as the Greek government suddenly raised restaurant and hotel taxes to 18% on 7th May 2015. Sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings but if you've already booked you're stuffed. If you plan to holiday in Greece take various payment options including debit cards and a good wad of cash along to cover possible bank/ATM failures.
A lion spray-marking his territory in Kenya's Maasai Mara.
Africa, July - August
North Africa is overheated during these months though good value beach holidays along Egypt's Red Sea coast should be easy to find and far from Cairo's troubles while Morocco's Atlantic Coast offers large stretches of sand (some of it called the Sahara!) backed by an interesting culture not far away and reasonable prices.
As for animal viewing, this is the perfect time for Tanzania and Kenya big game safaris or even the massive, beastly migration, while Namibia, Botswana and South Africa offer wonderful self-drive wildlife safaris (as we noted above South Africa is also one of the world's cheapest holiday destinations at this time).
Summer is really the only time to visit Tibet and especially Lhasa, a high altitude destination with a brilliant local culture but considerable poverty and recent influx of Han Chinese. If you are not very fit or very young beware flying in from sea level as the chance of experiencing severe altitude problems is, appropriately, high. See AMS.
Over in Asia the monsoon rains will be falling, and/or heat and humidity will be oppressively high so concentrate on Bali's beaches (currently the cheapest regular vacation destination after Europe) and calm culture, or the exotic attractions of Tibet (beware the altitude!), Russia (St Petersburg is amazing and the Hermitage Museum incredible) and Papua New Guinea.
Fraser Island's sensational powder sand and freshwater lake, Australia.
Australasia, July - August
Northern Australia is terrific from May to October, meaning mainly the activities resort of Cairns, the Great Barrier Reef zone and Darwin. Trouble is if you wish to also spend time in the south you may find Sydney and Melbourne to be surprisingly chilly. New Zealand is into the skiing season.
We don't want to discourage travel but need to point out that in these days of Ebola and quite random terrorist attacks or high levels of crime and violence there are certain regions that could be avoided if you wish to minimise risk as a tourist.
Here are some broad generalisations on where NOT to go on vacation. Avoid:
Whatever, wherever, safe travels!
Trek America discounts (USA, Canada, Central America)
Grand American Adventures (USA, Canada, Latin America)
Buy goodies or pay bills (checks) with credit cards when on vacation as they provide insurance as well as delayed repayment but don't draw cash out from ATMs with them (unless it's a new-wave, no-fee card). Interest starts accruing immediately and bank exchange fees in addition to the ATM fee may be unreasonable.
It's better to buy foreign cash at home from a commission-free provider though, of course when you travel you'll have to carry a fat wad around, so the best solution depends on the security of your holiday destination. If you travel a lot and want to get cash from an ATM do some research on transaction fees and get the lowest fee debit (not credit card) card you can find.
Gap Year travellers might consider also acquiring a prepaid Travel Money Card (aka Currency Card) which can be loaded with any amount of any currency before travelling and then topped up by family or friends while the Gappist is still in the big nowhere. Compare prepaid Travel Money Cards.
And of course never pay for anything abroad in your home currency (the exchange rate will be absurd), insist on paying in local currency.
To summarise, buy stuff abroad with a credit card, but try to pay off the balance each month before interest charges blow the wheels off your trolley; get cash from ATMs with a debit card.
Finally, don't go short of travel insurance if you're going to be participating in any kind of marginally dangerous activity, or even a non-dangerous activity in a third world location, that's NOT the way to save money! Use your brain while it's intact!
Social networking while traveling
Keep in touch with friends, family and colleagues while traveling abroad has become so much easier thanks to the internet and social networks.
Travelers logging onto social networks while abroad should ensure that they properly log out before leaving an internet café or similar because in some areas of Africa, East Europe and India it's not unknown for a watcher to access a tourist's Facebook (or similar) account after they leave and send a desperate message to family members about an accident/hospitalisation and needing money urgently. Money transferred of course disappears into a mystery account and no one's the wiser, for the time being.
Making calls to family and friends while traveling used to mean looking around for a phone booth, using phone cards and spending a fat wad, especially for international calls, but these days varied devices are used not only for keeping in touch but also booking transport, entertainment, restaurants, accommodation and more.
Best value communication abroad
1 - Cross-platform mobile instant messaging apps such as WhatsApp, WeChat, facebook Messenger and Snapchat which allows users to exchange messages or chat from anywhere worldwide free of charge, so long as each party has access to wifi. WhatsApp Messenger is available for smart phones, such as iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Windows Phone and Nokia and uses the same internet data plan that you use for email and web browsing at no cost.
2 - Sign up with the new breed of free VoIP [Voice over Internet Protocol] providers such as Skype, Rebtel, Tango and Google Voice/Google+Hangouts which offer free or cheap international calls on a laptop/smart phone/or even iPod Touch.
These cost nothing user to user or a small charge for calling to non internet phones such as land lines or mobile numbers.
3 - Travel with your own GSM cell/mobile phone if it works over the cellular data network type at your destination. Buy or rent a pre-paid sim card at home or on arrival and change the card over immediately.
4 - Not a cheap options but if your purpose is limited to emergencies, buy or rent a prepaid phone, online or at the airport on your arrival.
5 - Old fashioned but check out the new generation phone cards to call just about anywhere, though public payphones are disappearing and so it's hard to find one that works properly when you need to make a call. Also others can't to reach you, unless that is precisely your point!