In just over a week (barring a rabbit being produced from Theresa May’s increasingly scrutinised political hat), Britain will officially leave the European Union. It would be forgivable to think that the UK has drifted further and further away from the Continent in the process, but the Gryphon hopes this will not deter people from continuing to explore everything on offer just twenty miles across the English Channel. To do this on a budget is no mean feat- but with a little bit of optimism and a relaxed attitude towards foreign cuisine (plov anyone?), we can assure you that low-cost carriers have the tickets to produce a smasher of a summer holiday, often for the same price as a festival once all is said and done. The travel and tourism sector supported 10.4% of Global GDP and 313 million jobs in 2017 (WTTC), so ignore that washing up your housemate said they’d do three days ago and see if they fancy a bit of Soviet hospitality instead.
Where to head?
As popular as they seem, interrailing classics like Amsterdam, Prague, Venice and Dubrovnik were never designed with mass tourism in mind. Their tight alleys, cheap beer and a small selection of properly advertised landmarks have turned many residential neighbourhoods into Airbnb hotspots, representing a lucrative opportunity for homeowners but tearing the heart out of local communities and leading to widespread resentment of the tourists that replace them. Some have rather alarmingly morphed into Meccas for the sock and sandals community; Dubrovnik’s authorities issued a footfall warning in 2015 after nine cruise ships docked in the picture-perfect harbour on the same day. There are obvious reasons these cities appeal so much to young people but you might be surprised what else is on offer across Southern/Eastern Europe and beyond, sometimes at a fraction of the cost. Keep a look out for deals on flights to Warsaw, Lodz (Poland) and Vilnius (Lithuania) – the nights out are proper (heavy hitters such as Objekt and Amelie Lens have both played Warsaw’s Smolna in the last year) and locals are far more open to the idea of a Brit abroad than they might be elsewhere. The gritty, artistic back alleys of Warsaw’s Praga district complement the truly divisive Palace of Culture and Science, a gift from the Soviet Union that looms over the nation built around it. Outside of Europe, Morocco is a safe bet for a cheap and distinctive week away, while Uzbekistan is a hidden gem that is destined to increase in popularity over the next decade.
For a dose of the unknown with a few McDonald’s on the way an excellent pick would be Georgia, a country boasting a city of abandoned spas pillared in ornate marble, an active heli-skiing scene and a techno nightclub hidden under a 50,000 capacity football stadium. Tucked away at the ancient crossroads of Europe and Asia, Georgia has experienced a surge in tourist numbers over the last few years and a non-stop return flight to Kutaisi can be booked for about £80. Varied landscapes of beach resorts, wine-producing plains and staggering Caucasus regions offer enough to amuse for well over a month of travel and cater to a broad variety of tastes.
Capital city Tbilisi is Georgia’s beating heart. Carrying a feeling of Paris with a Soviet twist, its tree-lined boulevards hide bars, flea markets and galleries with each of them huddled under an endless stream of gravity-defying wooden balconies. There is a youthful energy to this city in what is a traditionally conservative nation; progressive flourishes such as the Chaos Concept Store, Fabrika Hostel and Bassiani Nightclub constantly hint at a young population on the rise. Venturing further afield gives flavours of a historic past- wine has been produced in the region for over 8000 years, ancient churches are often placed aloft mountain passes and brutal Soviet architecture reminds you constantly of the Russian border that lies to the north. Travel is cheap (albeit petrifying- Georgians can treat their roads like rally stages) and adventurers from across the globe can be found enjoying everything the country has to offer, some hitchhiking on budgets as low as $5 a day.
Taking the plunge and setting your sights on obscure corners of the map can provide you with a clearer picture of politics, religion and language. There is a student loan (perhaps an overdraft at the moment) lining your pocket and some rapidly changing places to see- why not leave the classics for another day?
Some potentially useful travel tips to hear before you’re there:
Calvert Journal – to find some of Eastern Europe’s brightest up and coming destinations, look no further than this beautifully presented editorial. Informative travel, nightlife and cultural guides cater to a younger crowd, whilst exhibitions at their Shoreditch HQ showcase the best from Eastern Europe’s rising photographers. There’s a lot changing to the East of the Berlin Wall, and Calvert Journal is there to document it in style.
Jack’s Flight Club – a brilliant and simple idea that could help you snag the flight deal of the century before your next trip. Enter an email address into their website and Jack will begin to send you weekly ticket deals to destinations across the globe, alerting you to flash sales before the crowds find out and highlighting mistake fares that could leave Los Angeles return at just £50 (it’s happened before). You can upgrade to receive all the deals for about £3 a month – it’s certainly one of the more exciting emails to pop up in my inbox.
Gov.uk travel advice – vital if you want to get the lowdown on current affairs. With up to date, comprehensive advice from sources you can trust, referring to their detailed country maps and reading through briefings on areas such as terrorism and consular support will give you a clear picture of what to expect before you touch down.
Maps.me – a lifesaver of an app. The idea is simple- download their regional maps onto your phone before you travel and get access to navigational tools without needing an Internet connection. The app’s routing software is a little suspect, but helpful features such as ATM, hotel and restaurant markers ensure that you’ll never be caught looking like a lost tourist.