Fly long-haul for less: six sensational destinations served by low-cost airlines

Continent-hopping holidays are cheaper than you think. Fly any of these six routes, and you’ll get not just great value, but a destination worth shouting about, too.

Buenos Aires
Why go low? Gatwick to Buenos Aires is the newest route from Scandi low-cost carrier Norwegian Air, and looks set to shake up the market for flights to South America. In this case, low-cost also means zero extras: but for £100 return you can upgrade to a LowFare+ package, which includess 20 kilos of luggage, a pre-booked seat and two meals on each flight. An added bonus is that you’ll be flying on a gorgeous new Boeing 787 Dreamliner, in which the cabin pressure is equivalent of an altitude of 6,000ft, rather than the drier, less-oxygenated 8,000ft offered in most planes.
Why go there? Tree-lined avenues, belle époque architecture, and round-the-clock bars, moving to a feisty tango beat – they’re all part Buenos Aires’ allure. Stay in Palermo at the Nuss Buenos Aires Soho, a former convent with 22 sleek mid-century rooms tucked inside and a swimming pool on the roof.
Best for: Sensualists, dancers, and carnivores (don’t forget all those juicy Argentinian steaks).

Find flights to Buenos Aires from £634 return

Washington D.C.
Why go Low? If you can manage with just 10 kilos of hand luggage, can do without a TV screen and are willing to pack snacks, Danish upstart Primera Air has a new route from Stansted to the American capital. In the cheapest month of the year – November – fares can be 20% less than the nearest competitor. Extras are pricy (a chicken dinner costs £29 each way), but it’s not all hardship. You’ll be flying on a brand new Airbus A321-neo.
Why go there? The American capital is home to an astonishing array of museums and historical monuments – the White House, Lincoln Memorial, the National Gallery of Art – as well as a vibrant restaurant, bar and live-music scene. The hip, smoky-hued Liaison Capital Hill is a great base for your stay: within striking distance of Union Station, the Smithsonian and U.S. Botanic Garden.
Best for: With history, architecture, nightlife and family-friendly parks all on offer, D.C. is a brilliant something-for-everyone city.

Find flights to Washington D.C. from £343 return

Why go Low? Not all low-cost airlines are no-frills. On Air Transat’s flights to Canada you get 23 kilos of checked-in luggage, a choice of meal and in-flight entertainment included in the budget-friendly price of your ticket. There’s no catch – except you fly out of Gatwick rather than Heathrow. What’s more, Air Transat’s economy seats have up to two inches more legroom than Air Canada’s, and it was named the second-best leisure airline at the 2017 Skytrax World Airline Awards, so the service is good, too.
Why go there? A cosmopolitan metropolis blended with the greatest of the great outdoors, Vancouver is that smart, good-looking, super-fit neighbour you’ve always been jealous of. For a jaw-dropping mountains/ocean/city panorama, stay at the elegant Fairmont Waterfront .
Best for: Combining a city hit with some top road-trippin’ to Whistler and the Rocky Mountains beyond. Check out Skyscanner’s car hire section for the cheapest rentals.

Find flights to Vancouver from £399 return

Cape Town
Why go Low? Charter airlines, operated by the big holiday companies, offer some fantastic flight-only deals, with little sacrifice in comfort. Thomas Cook, for example, flies out of Heathrow and offers the same amount of legroom as British Airways (and a one inch-wider seat), as well as 20 kilos of checked luggage (3kg less than BA), seat-back entertainment and meals conceived by celeb chef James Martin. TCX’s newly-revamped Premium Class cabin offers extremely competitive premium economy travel, too.
Why go there? Craggy mountains sliding into the Atlantic, hip bars and world-class restaurants – why would you not want to visit Cape Town? Hiring a car at the airport means you can explore the glorious Cape Winelands too, staying at the quirky-cool Majeka House in leafy Stellenbosch.
Best for: anyone looking for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, such as climbing cloud-licked Table Mountain, photographing penguins on Boulders Beach or walking the Cape Camino.

Find flights to Cape Town from £600 return

Why go Low? Wow Air flies from Gatwick, Stansted and Edinburgh, via its hub in Reykjavik, to a variety of US cities including their latest destination – Detroit. So okay, it’s less convenient to have to stop in Iceland, but the huge savings created by the the one to two-hour layover make it worthwhile – even if you include the extra £126 return for baggage and an assigned seat. The leg from Reykjavik to Detroit departs in the evening, so selecting a window seat gives you a chance of seeing the Northern Lights.
Why go there? Named by Lonely Planet as one of the hottest cities to visit in 2018, Motor City has morphed from a crime-crazed bankrupt to fashionable upstart, festooned with cool bars, a fabulous theatre district and an exploding boutique hotel scene. Bag a room at the newly-opened and art-packed Detroit Foundation Hotel for a sense of the city’s Renaissance.
Best for: Music lovers, obviously. But there are plenty of eye-catching markets, galleries and art-deco monuments to enjoy on top of the Motown museum.

Find flights to Detroit from £460 return

Tree frog, Costa Rica
Why go Low? In 2016, British Airways launched a new route to Costa Rica with much fanfare. But holiday operator TUI, (formerly known as Thomson Airlines) had already been flying to the country for two years. The British Airways flights land in the capital San José; TUI’s at the smaller Liberia airport, which Lonely Planet describes as a ‘a safer and more chilled-out Costa Rican gateway than San José’. You’ll need to pay £70 extra if you’re bringing more than 5 kilos of luggage, but complimentary meals and drinks are included – and TUI’s Dreamliner seats come with two inches more leg room than BA’s.
Why go there? Dreamy beaches and extraordinary biodiversity are the big attractions. Think volcanic valleys, mysterious cloud forests, mangroves swamps and coral reefs. Stay at Rio Perdido, in a bungalow suspended amid the treetops, for the full Tarzan experience.
Best for: Wannabe David Attenboroughs in search of palm-leafed lodgings, waterfall showers and some stunning photos for their Instagram feed.

Find flights to Costa Rica from £279 return

Published March 2018. Any prices are lowest estimated prices only at the time of publication and are subject to change and/or availability.

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