The problem with big cities is that it costs big bucks to visit them.
Quite often, though, there are interesting places nearby where you’re in striking distance of the big smoke but able to save a little money and have a slightly different experience.
Here are five of them.
Macau (Macao). Although its reputation is as the “Vegas of the East”, Macau is not just for gamblers. There are remnants of authentic Chinese and colonial Portuguese culture there, including the famous fort and facade of Sao Paulo cathedral. And, of course, it’s near all the attractions of Hong Kong. The downside is that it’s not as cheap as it used to be. But where is?
Oakland, California, US. Even when I first went to San Francisco, late in the last century, it was a little too expensive to stay in the heart of town. Now, it’ll really blow a hole in your travel budget. If you stay in Oakland, Bay Area Rapid Transit (Bart) will get you under the bay to SanFran in nine minutes. You can take the cable car, eat the chowder, visit Chinatown and dream about owning your own tech start-up all day before heading back to your more affordable digs. Oakland, of course, has its own sights to see, and it’s home to the famous Athletics baseball team.
Johor Bahru, Malaysia. This city is at the southern tip of the Malaysian peninsula and, therefore, the gateway to Singapore. Its proximity to the causeway means that an increasing number of people are staying in Malaysia and going into Singapore (which is a very expensive place to stay) on day trips. Like a lot of gateway cities (think Shenzhen, north of Hong Kong), it is also building up a suite of its own attractions — including a Legoland and Hello Kitty World — thanks to the knock-on economic effects of its fortuitous location.
Glasgow, Scotland. This is one of my favourite places in the world. No, really. I spent six months living there about a decade ago, have been back since and will go again. And while I was there, I regularly journeyed to London and other big cities in England and Scotland to see the other things I wanted to see. (Yes rail fares are expensive, but a little planning can get you a cheap return.) Glasgow’s own attractions include the trendy bars of cafes of the West End and Merchant City, and the eclectic collection at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.
Brisbane, Australia. Yes, it’s my home town, so I may be biased, but it’s often excluded from itineraries of visitors to Australia’s east coast that include Sydney, Melbourne, the Gold Coast and the Great Barrier Reef. With its well-established arts scene, and emerging food and craft-beer venues, Brisbane is surely worth a day or two.