Q I’m heading to Boracay Island in the Philippines next January for a wedding. Are there any must-dos in Boracay, or any of the other nearby islands?
Cat, via email
A Boracay is a great place to start – the island boasts stunning beaches, water sports and lively nightlife.
You can easily fill a couple of days sampling Boracay’s selection of beaches. White Beach is the centre of the action. Bulabog is a good spot for kiteboarders and windsurfers as there will be a steady onshore wind at this time of year.
I would recommend making the most of the incredible diving opportunities here, too. There are some well established dive venues at White Beach. Calypso Diving Resort (calypso-boracay.com) offers beginners courses, starting at about £60 to join a scheduled class.
Boracay is one of the more touristy islands in the country, so if you would like to see a different side to the Philippines, take a short (and cheap) flight across to Bohol. Cebu Pacific flies from Boracay to Bohol via Manila (cebupacificair.com). In Bohol, visit the Chocolate Hills and try to spot the tarsiers (a cute monkey-like creature).
As you are visiting in January, you might like to check out Ati-Atihan Festival, which takes place in Kalibo on the island of Panay. This is a week-long street party, and the biggest celebration is on the third Sunday in January. However, hotel prices will rocket and you will need to book ahead.
Q I was thinking of going to India for New Year’s Eve, but can’t afford the flight. Where would be a good place to go if you are on a budget but still want some sun and a good atmosphere?
Kate, via email
A The reality is that you will need to spend a reasonable amount to ensure sunshine at this time of year, as to escape Europe’s wintry chills you’ll need to spend more than a few hours on a plane.
You could check out Egypt’s Red Sea coast, where it will be pleasantly warm and there are accommodation options to suit every budget. Dahab is popular with backpackers and will have a lively party scene for the festivities.
Alternatively, Pacha in Sharm El Sheikh hosts a New Year’s Eve party every year (pachasharm.com). You can find budget package deals to the Red Sea coast or, alternatively, easyJet flies to Sharm El Sheikh from Luton and Gatwick.
If it’s just sun you’re after, you will find the Canary Islands a popular choice, as there are some cheap deals available. Thomas Cook (thomascook.com) offers a week’s self-catering in Tenerife for less than £500 (including flights and accommodation) departing on December 30.
Alternatively, if weather is less of a priority, Mallorca is a great spot for New Year’s Eve as Palma is home to Festa de l’Estendard. The festival commemorates King Jaume I’s conquest of Palma and coincides with New Year. Expect street parades, music and dancing.
Although it is great to nab bargain buys from street traders selling anything from footwear to handbags to leather belts, be very careful when buying something with a designer label that you know has to be counterfeit at the price it is being sold. Many countries policing this trade are targeting the purchaser (a tourist) and not the seller. Hefty fines are being levied and would certainly spoil a holiday. Rather, purchase non-branded goods from street traders, as the quality of counterfeits is often doubtful anyway.
Ross S, via email
Book a last-minute trip to the Galapagos Islands while in Ecuador to save money on visiting this notoriously expensive destination. It still won’t be cheap, but I ended up paying US$1200 (£750) for a five-day, five-star cruise when I did this in Guayaquil – US$600 (£375) below the asking price. Make sure you’re ready to go at the drop of a hat. Try to see a picture of your cabin before committing, too!
Elizabeth, via text