If you’re looking for an ideal place to visit in January, we’ve put together a mini-guide series to share our favourite destinations for each and every month of the year. Having visited them, we’ll share why it’s a good time to go, how to get there, who to fly with, and where to stay. We’ll also share our target prices, which we aim to get as close to as we can. Read on for our tips for where to go in January:
Where to go in January
Located on the continent’s southwest coast, Sydney is the jewel in this vast continent’s crown. Despite not being the capital (Canberra gets that accolade), Sydney is largest Australian city with a population of 4.5m. The city hugs the shoreline of a massive natural harbour where most of the action happens.
January is the height of summer and the outdoor lifestyle is in full swing. Sydney Festival takes place in January, with hundreds of events taking place across the city. The beaches at Bondi and Manly are buzzing. The Botanical Gardens are a great way to escape the heat of the city, as is the neighbouring Andrew (Boy) Charlton Lido Pool.
How to get there
There aren’t yet any direct flights to Sydney from Europe, although that may change if Qantas launches the first 20-hour non-stop service from London. For now, the main routes are via the Middle East (Dubai, Doha, Abu Dhabi) or Southeast Asia (Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong).
Business class deals from Europe occasionally go under £2k. Qatar Airways frequently do deals from Oslo and Stockholm for £1,800/€2,110. These flights are via Doha. Singapore Airlines comes in a bit more expensive, but we’ve found EU routes via Singapore for around £2,000/€2,350. Expect to pay 25% more to fly from London or Paris.
Our target price for a Premium Economy seat would be £1,200/€1,400. Our Economy target is £600/€700. Like all targets, we may not hit them, but we’ll try to get as close as we can.
Recommended carriers: Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Etihad, Cathay Pacific.
Where to stay
Accommodation can be quite pricey in Sydney. Even budget hotels can have eye-watering prices. For value and convenience, we’d look for Airbnb accommodation in the eastern suburbs of Bondi and Coogee. Surry Hills is a good option too.
For the points collectors, Hilton, Marriot, IHG, and Radisson all have a presence in the central business district (CBD). The Park Hyatt overlooks the Opera House and Harbour.
Get a travel card (called an Opal card) as soon as you arrive. You buy them from most local shops and allows affordable travel on metro, buses, and the ferries.
Sitting at the quieter end of the Riviera Maya is the town of Tulum. Surrounded by Cenotes (cavernous underground sink holes), the town is just 1km from Mayan ruins that overlook white sandy beaches and the turquoise Caribbean Sea. It’s a picture postcard.
While still nice and warm, it tends to be less crowded. A few decadent party-types descend on Tulum in early January for some breathtaking events staged at Cenotes and in the jungle.
How to get there
Cancun is the nearest international airport. There are direct flights from Europe and also countless flights to hubs in North America. The drive from Cancun to Tulum takes about 90 minutes.
Business class seats on direct flights from Europe come at a premium. Typical fares hover just about £1,600 return in business, although these have dipped down to £1,300 in some sales. When you book and when you travel will determine how low you can get the fare.
Our price target for Premium Economy is £700 and our price target for Economy is £380. Cancun can be a busy and pricey route, so discounting may not always be as attractive as we like. If the direct options are looking expensive, we’ll look at the routes via North America.
Where to stay
You have three options in Tulum: Downtown hotels and rental homes, small beach-side boutique hotels and rentals, or up-scale resort hotels further up the coast. Each have their pros and cons. We’d favour one of the smaller hotels that fringe the beach – close to the sea and easy access to town.
There’s little in the way of the big chain hotels for the points hunters. Hilton, Marriot, IHG, Hyatt, and Radisson are found much further up the Riviera Maya, nearer to Cancun.
Drive or cycle to Gran Cenote or Cenote Los Dos Ojos for a swim/snorkel in a breathtaking cavern. You can pay at the gate. Day excursions to the Mayan archeological sites at Coba are a must for any visit to Tulum.
Thailand’s West Coast
Thailand has two coasts: east faces the Gulf of Thailand and west faces the Andaman Sea; a part of the Indian Ocean. The Andaman side is a beach lover’s dream, with white sand beaches and idyllic islands peppered along the coast. Throw in Thailand’s incredible cuisine, world-class scuba diving and climbing, and you’ve got the makings of a great summer holiday in January.
Between May and November, the west coast gets monsoon rains. The monsoon clears in time for Christmas, but hotspots like Phuket and Krabi become crowded over the holidays.
Weather-wise, January is the most settled time of year, but it’s also a lot quieter than December. The temperatures on the west coast are up, and the rain and wind is low. Scuba diving is at its best around the islands of Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta, and Phuket. The Similan Islands national park is open to visitors November to April.
How to get there
There are frequent deals to Thailand in business class for £1,300/€1,520. These fares are typically offered by Middle Eastern carriers like Qatar and Etihad, although Lufthansa and Swiss tickets sometimes hit these prices. Both Qatar and Emirates offer direct flights to Phuket, avoiding the need to fly via Bankgkok. On most routes, however, your entry to Thailand will be through Bangkok’s airport, where you can connect with a 1 hour flight down to Phuket or Krabi.
Our price target for Premium Economy is £700 and our target in Economy is £350.
Islands like Phi Phi and Koh Lanta can be reached by taking regular ferry services from Phuket or Krabi. Taxis can transfer you from the airport.
Where to stay
Accommodation will vary between large-scale hotels on the mainland to tiny boutique hotels on the islands. We’d recommend the up-scale resorts of Marriott Phuket Beach or one of the many Anantara properties in Phuket. On the islands, we recommend Island Village Resort on Phi Phi and Pimialai Resort on Koh Lanta.
Hilton, Marriot, IHG, Hyatt, and Radisson can be found around Phuket in the form of big resort hotels. Most have their own beaches.
The intrepid can take a 1-week scuba safari to the Similan Islands.
Go scuba diving, or at least go for a snorkel. The diverse marine life is incredibly beautiful.
Maya Bay, where The Beach was filmed, is closed due to over-tourism. Visit one of the many national park instead, where tourism is being carefully managed.
We’d like to hear from you!
Got a tip for where to go in January that we haven’t included? Put a comment below and we’ll gladly go investigate! Why not also have a look at our recommendations for Where to go in February.
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