The best advice is to get yourself down to a guitar store and try out as many guitars within your budget as you can. You don't have to buy anything there - come back home and read up more about the guitars you liked online. You can also check where the best prices are, and possibly go back into the store and get them to price match.
I learnt on an Ibanez SA160 which is still one of my favourite guitars to play. Then I got an American Strat which was my 'dream guitar' and an Epiphone Les Paul to cover the humbucker side of things!
From what I've been reading in the last few years, if you like the Fender-style guitars the best bang for buck would be one of the Squier 'Classic Vibe' range. Amazing build quality and sound and for an excellent price.