KARACHI: The global travel industry is growing and it's growing fast. Not only that, more people are travelling now than ever before, thanks to cheaper flights and the ease of planning and booking a trip.
Add to this the new batch of travel bloggers on Instagram and you've got hundreds of people jetting off to places they had never heard of before. After all, it's a most human thing to explore new horizons.
And statistics don't lie. The travel and tourism sector grew more in 2018 than all other economic sectors, adding a record $8.8 trillion to the world’s combined Gross Domestic Product – up from $8.3 trillion in 2017. It created some 319 million new jobs as well, according to Forbes.
While Pakistan is expected get higher numbers of tourists thanks to the government's support, what about Pakistanis wanting to go abroad? Everyone is surely feeling the rupee's present standing against the dollar and this can make travel for Pakistanis at home very expensive.
But don't worry, we have you covered. Here are our recommendations for some pretty lust-worthy destinations across the globe that will allow you to indulge your wanderlust without draining your pockets. Bon voyage!
Istanbul, the transcontinental escape
Turkey really offers the best of both worlds. Straddling Europe and Asia, its capital Istanbul is hailed as one of the greatest cities in the world with lots of history, heritage, culture and beauty to offer. Not to mention, the Turkish and Pakistanis love each other!
A single entry visa will cost you around Rs8,500 and flight tickets will be roughly Rs80,000 return during peak holiday seasons. Decent 3-star hotels are abundant, right next to the exquisite Sultan Ahmet Mosque. And then, there is the AirBnB option.
Best places to go: Grand Bazaar, Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, Dolmabahce Palace, Taksim Square...need we go on?
Maldives - the water wonderland
This island nation is the picture of paradise. Think bungalows hovering over turquoise waters, golden beaches and lots of scuba diving. Oh, and seriously Insta-worthy sunsets! How could you not want to travel to the Maldives?
The best thing is that this dream can be a reality because it's surprisingly reasonable and also Muslim-friendly.
Located in the Arabian Sea, the capital Malé has a busy fish market, restaurants and shops on the main road, Majeedhee Magu, and 17th-century Hukuru Miskiy (also known as Friday Mosque) made of carved white coral. No wonder it's a honeymoon staple.
Cheapest flight: Around Rs60,000.
Eastern Europe - the new it place
You may not think Eastern Europe is cheap area but it actually is! If you want a unique travel experience that truly captivates, this entire region is the place for you.
Take Romania for example. Whatever you think this country is, it probably isn’t. The Transylvanian region, in particular, defies expectations with its quaint medieval towns and spectacular Carpathian mountain range. Many travel bloggers reiterate that it’s a beautiful country with great food and friendly people. The cheapest flight is around Rs60,000 (not to mention once you're there, eating and sleeping is great value!), making it one of the most inexpensive countries to travel to for Pakistanis.
And, can we please talk about Ukraine. It's on every traveller's bucket list as of late and there are raving reviews about it. With flights starting from around Rs50,000, Ukraine is possibly one of the cheapest options for Pakistanis wanting to go beyond the Middle East.
Hotspots: The coastal city of Odessa on the Black Sea is a favourite, while the beautiful city of Lviv (close to the Polish border) is widely tipped as offering some of the best values for money in Europe.
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Azerbaijan and Georgia - easy on the eyes and the wallets
Speaking of Eastern Europe, take Georgia for example. Where is it? Right next to the latest Pakistani travellers favourite, Azerbaijan. So consider going to both countries together and explore this stunning region.
Georgia small country in the Caucasus - one you’ll probably be hearing more about it in the years to come. It all starts in the eccentric capital of Tbilisi. From there, be sure to explore the stunning Caucasian Mountain range, dip your feet in the Black Sea, and visit ancient hilltop monasteries (a few of them are inside caves!) all over the country.
As for Azerbaijan, the capital Baku is an obvious must. There’s so much you can pack in a few days, including the ultra-modern Heydar Aliyev Center.
Flights: Cheapest air-tickets to either or of these countries are around Rs45,000, usually with one stop somewhere in the Middle East.
Vietnam - a different kind of South East Asia
Forget Thailand and Sri Lanka right now because Vietnam is all that it's about these days. And for good reason too. From the beautiful chaos of Hanoi’s Old Quarter to the serene Hoi An riverfront adorned with coloured lanterns, this is truly a country full of contrasts.
But Vietnam is not for the faint-hearted. If adventure is what you're about, be prepared for crazy weather cycles and off-beat exotic scenery. Alas, it’s also among the cheapest places in Asia: eat local and you’ll struggle to spend more than a few hundred rupees per meal. A round trip ticket is around Rs87,000.
What to do: There are a myriad of pristine beaches, such as Mango Bay and Halong Bay. Don't forget to explore rice-farming mountains where you can go caving. Adventure sports on the beaches are also a must.
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