LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Budget travel and staying at boutique hotels don't have to be mutually exclusive with a little research. Online boutique travel brand Mr & Mrs Smith (www.mrandmrssmith.com) selects 10 top boutique hotels around the world which won't cost the earth. All double rooms from less than $240. Reuters has not endorsed this list:
1. Coastal escape: Putahracsa, Hua Hin, Thailand
When Bangkok's well-garbed and well-heeled want to escape the heat of the city, they hightail it to Putahracsa in breezy Hua Hin. A glittering white oasis in the center of town, this 59-room retreat is a stylish reinvention of 1960s motel architecture that attracts beautiful people (and beautiful people-watchers) to its languid, laid-back lifestyle. Nab a spot poolside or pay a visit to the spa and feel yourself slip into a mellower way of life.
2. Arty abodes: The Cullen, Melbourne, Australia
Art doesn't imitate life at The Cullen - instead it's this hotel's raison d'être. With skyline views of Melbourne, this cutting-edge residence takes its cue from the art of Australian enfant terrible Adam Cullen, offering 119 cool contemporary rooms starring original paintings and prints, two restaurants, a bar, Smart cars and bespoke bikes. Shopping addicts will love the fashionable Prahran location opposite the food market and within easy reach of Chapel Street's stylish clothing stores.
3. Views: The Waterhouse at South Bund, Shanghai, China.
A hip antidote to Shanghai's shiny modernity, bijou hotel The Waterhouse at South Bund transforms a crumbling 1930s factory in the historic Shiliupu dockyards into gritty-glam designer digs. Smack-bang in the center of the action on the iconic Bund, the Waterhouse boasts 19 uniquely styled rooms that blend industrial concrete and exposed bricks with Scandi-sleek sensibilities and a cutting-edge furniture collection. On-trend drinking and dining options include Table No. 1 restaurant and a knock-out rooftop bar overlooking the bustling Huangpu River.
4. Rural: Le Couvent d'Hérépian, Languedoc-Roussillon, France
With its world-class wines and fragrant pine forests, the village of Hérépian on the fringes of the Haut Languedoc national park is seriously sigh-inducing. It's also home to Le Couvent d'Hérépian, a renovated 17th-century convent with 13 blissful suites. Polished period charms are matched with a host of modern touches in all 13 suites, such as preloaded iPods, WiFi and luscious local bath products, as well as a subterranean spa, terraced garden and table d'hôte, making for a romantic escape in a rural idyll.
5. Inner-city style: The Drake, Toronto, Canada
Toronto's most vibrant enclave, the arty precinct of Parkdale, deserves some serious on-foot attention. The perfect spot to bed down after a day of gallery-hopping and designer shopping is The Drake. This darkly handsome den offers 19 fantastically priced rooms, including compact crashpads and spacious suites. On site, there's a stellar line-up of entertainment options, such as sushi and jazz at Raw Bar, rooftop cocktails at Sky Yard, and live bands at indie nightspot Underground.
6. Seaside serenity: Alila Manggis, Bali, Indonesia
Sumptuous yet unassuming, this relaxed ocean-front resort lies in the shadow of Mount Agung, held up as sacred by Balians, though you'll be glad to hear that it does get plenty of sun. Surrounded by opulent coconut groves, sleepy Alila Manggis provides 54 rooms with thatch-roofed verandas and come-hither day-beds that are hard to ignore. Venture out into the lush grounds, however, and you'll be rewarded with an acclaimed cookery school, gorgeous natural spa and some sublime snorkelling opportunities along the unspoilt East Bali coast.
7. Waterfront wow-factor: The Standard Miami, Miami
In Miami - a city that moves to the fast beat of Latin America yet still has that laid-back mañana attitude - André Balazs has created an ultra-cool adults' playground. Invigorating and relaxing, but without the brash bling of South Beach, The Standard Miami is anything but average. Private terraces and outdoor baths make the wet rooms the pick of 105 sleek options. But you can also make a splash in a show-off infinity pool or simply chill out at the super-luxe spa, a chic oasis in the art deco style.
8. Gourmet getaway: Higher Westcott Farm, Devon, UK
Invite seven of your closest friends along for a fabulous foodie escape at Higher Westcott Farm, a 300-year-old Devon longhouse perched amid Dartmoor's Middle Earth woodland. In addition to the glorious picnic-perfect landscape, this four-room lodge offers hearty country-kitchen cooking courtesy of co-owner and one-time Conran restaurant manager Jo Gossett, a knock-out on-site cellar, old-fashioned honesty bar and soothing classic-meets-contemporary design that maintains a homey feel.
9. Tropical: Bon Ton Restaurant & Resort, Langkawi, Malaysia
Distractions are kept to a minimum at Bon Ton Restaurant & Resort, a rustic Langkawi retreat that offers the opportunity to stay in eight authentic Malaysian stilted wooden houses, most more than a century old, on a former coconut plantation. With manicured greenery, a dreamy lotus pond and an ink-blue pool hemmed by sun loungers, this soothing estate is centered on Nam, one of Langkawi's most celebrated restaurants, and is an essential stop-off for the savvy traveler.
10. Souk shopping: P'tit Habibi, Marrakech, Morocco
Soak up the atmosphere of Marrakech's medina at this traditional riad, which feels less like a hotel and more like a peaceful private house. P'tit Habibi has just four rooms, as well as a Moroccan salon, library with iPod docking station, and a rooftop terrace that's perfect for sunset drinks and watching a film screened on an outdoor projector. Outside these calming white-washed walls, lose yourself in the maze of souks, or take a tour of the Atlas Mountains or the nearby coastal town of Essaouira, which P'tit Habibi will happily arrange.
(Editing by Paul Casciato)