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Shhh! These secret holidays won’t drain your retirement fund

Monday, September 19, 2016

Couple on the beach

If you want to spend your retirement seeing the world without breaking the bank, there are plenty of low-cost locations that have just as much to offer as the better-known holiday hot spots. Travel and finance journalist Melanie Wright reveals three of the best alternatives.

  • Bask in the sun at a low-cost island location
  • Where to go for a cultural city break
  • Find a relaxing rural retreat

Travelling tops the list of ambitions for retirees aged 55 or over, according to a report from retirement housebuilder McCarthy & Stone. Going on a round-the-world trip, taking an international cruise and visiting a new city or country are the top three desires for retirees.

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But since Britain’s decision to leave the EU, the falling pound has meant that many of our favourite EU holiday destinations just got that little bit more expensive. And any retirees on a budget will need to stretch out their pension pots to make sure they last.

Whether you’re looking for a city break, a rustic retreat or just to collapse on a beach, we look at three of the best pound-stretching holidays just a few hours away by plane – and which are just as much fun as the pricier alternatives.

Beach, please: Let’s go to Varna!

If you love the sunshine and beaches of the Greek, Italian and Spanish coasts, but don’t love the price tag quite so much, look no further than Varna in Bulgaria. This city, one of the largest on the Black Sea coast, was recently rated as the cheapest beach town based on hotel prices by comparison site Trivago.


  • Primorski Park, 8km of green space overlooking the beach and the sea beyond
  • To get away from the heat, spend a few hours in the enormous archaeological museum, home to what many believe to be the oldest examples of worked gold in the world
Beach in Varna in Bulgaria

Go for:

  • The perfect mix of culture and relaxation. There are also historical tours in the area around the city for those feeling more adventurous, including a two-day walk on the Shumen Plateau, famous for its ancient rock monasteries.

Feeling city? How about Budapest?

If you’re looking for an affordable city break where you can find culture, good food and plenty to do, look no further than Budapest [4]. The currency in Hungary is the Forint so, with the pound struggling against the euro, you’ll find the average cost of food and accommodation cheaper than in Barcelona, Berlin or Paris – and it’s less than a two-and-half-hour flight from London.


  • One of Budapest’s most famous landmarks is the stunning Matthias Church, which use to be the coronation church of Hungary.
  • The moving Shoes on the Danube memorial to victims of the Holocaust.

Go for:

  • The goulash. The national dish of Hungary, which is somewhere between a soup and a stew, is typically made from beef or sometimes mutton, potatoes, tomatoes and paprika. A basic lunch out in the Budapest business district with a drink will set you back around 1,560 Ft per person, which is less than a fiver in the UK.

A rustic escape in Goriska Brda

Often nicknamed ‘the Tuscany of Slovenia’ you could be forgiven for thinking you were in Italy when you visit Goriska Brda, Slovenia’s wine-growing region. Just as beautiful, but much cheaper than Tuscany, you’ll be surrounded by stunning vineyards and rolling hills – the perfect rustic retreat.

Slovenia’s main international airport is Jože Pučnik Airport which is about 27km north of Ljubljana and the flight from the UK takes just under two and a half hours.


  • There is plenty to do in this area, but Dobrovo, the main town in this region, which boasts Dobrovo castle, an almost perfectly square castle with square turrets on each corner, is a particular highlight
  • If you want to see a natural wonder, visit the natural limestone bridge Krcnik, which has formed over the centuries due to water rushing through it

Go for:

  • Wine-tasting at Goriska Brda wine cellar, where you can go on a guided tour before sampling some of the many delicious wines made in this region.

Money-saving tips

Do plenty of research before booking a hire car, recommends Sarah Pennells of money-saving website SavvyWoman.

‘'Check all the extra charges, such as what happens if you return the car to a different drop-off point from where you picked it up, whether you should return it with a full or empty tank and whether you’ll be charged extra for a sat nav,’ she says.

Shop around for and buy travel insurance when you book your holiday so that you have cancellation cover in place if you aren’t able to travel. And remember to turn off data-roaming on your mobile phone while you’re abroad to prevent a nasty ‘bill shock’ when you get back home.

Order your foreign currency online and in advance for the best exchange rates. Never leave it until the airport, as rates are often terrible there. Alternatively, you can download the Revolut app and order one of their cards. You can transfer money onto the card directly using the app and use it to make purchases anywhere in the world – without incurring banking fees.


Saving towards a holiday after retirement might take longer than it would have when you were working, but picking cheaper destinations where food and accommodation cost less can help you reach your goal more quickly and make retirement planning easier. Travelling somewhere unusual and unexpected is a great way to start a new adventure – you never know which as-yet unexplored country might become your favourite new holiday destination.

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