Don’t miss Saigon

Tea plantation in Vietnam
Tea plantation in Vietnam
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If you’re looking for great value winter sun, Vietnam could be the best option, says Sarah Marshall.

Those looking to book a sun-drenched winter getaway, but still wanting to save a few pennies for their Christmas kitty, would do well to turn their attentions east.

According to the Post Office Travel Money Long Haul Report 2012, an industry barometer for the best value destinations, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Bali offer tourists the lowest cost of living.

In a study of prices and currencies in 32 destinations, Sri Lanka topped the list with a “basket” of typical tourist items – including cups of coffee, cocktails and a three-course dinner for two with wine – costing £43.85 compared to a whopping £157.79 for the equivalent in Australia and £166.92 in South Korea.

Visitors to Sri Lanka, which has topped the list for three years running, can expect great value thanks to the increase in the value of sterling against the rupee. (In reality, prices have risen 21 per cent.)

But possibly the real winner in the report is Vietnam, a country growing in popularity with British holidaymakers and top of the Post Office’s Fastest Growing Currencies chart (published this summer), with currency sales soaring by over two-thirds. Low cost of living, a direct flight route from the UK with Vietnam Airlines and the opening of many new beach resorts are seen as responsible for the rise.

David Cook, Vietnam Airlines’ UK sales manager says: “Following our successful launch last December of the first ever non-stop services from the UK to Vietnam, UK arrivals into Vietnam have risen by more than 40 per cent year on year.”

Tour operator Hayes & Jarvis, who assisted with compiling data for the Post Office Report, have also seen a 44 per cent increase in bookings to Vietnam in 2012. But there are still good value deals to be found in the west.

Mexico, which came fourth in the Post Office table, is becoming an increasingly attractive alternative to more expensive Caribbean resorts in Barbados, St Lucia and Antigua.

“Prices in Mexico are consistently cheaper than for the same level of accommodation is similar destinations and this has definitely helped to drive demand,” says Neil Alobaidi, Hayes & Jarvis Commercial Director.

Departing on December 1, a seven-night five-star all inclusive package at the Now Jade Riviera resort in Cancun, Mexico costs £979 per person, compared with £1,499 per person for a similar deal at The BodyHoliday, St Lucia, departing November 30. (Both booked through Hayes & Jarvis, www.hayesandjarvis.com.)

While all-inclusive packages continue to be popular, research by the Post Office found the majority of long-haul holidaymakers interviewed preferred to eat out in local restaurants. More than two in five said this was to have a more authentic experience.

It’s no surprise then that when it comes to booking a long-haul break, budgeting for dinner money is equally as important as saving for flights and accommodation.