What I've found with most cities is that there's an unspoken two-tier system of cost — one for the locals and one for foreigners. Which tier someone chooses is entirely voluntary but preys on feelings of insecurity and ignorance about his destination.

Here are some travel tips for visiting any city inexpensively, and getting to know it much better too:

a) Dress down, and that doesn't mean new/garish casual clothes. By blending in with the locals you'll feel more comfortable living as they live.

b) Use inexpensive luggage - less chance of its being stolen and you don't present yourself as a turkey waiting to be plucked.

c) Make an effort to learn local customs and language, and that includes English. Blending in gives you better access to less expensive services and makes the locals more willing to help you.

d) Don't assume that everywhere has areas that are as bad as your home town or that muggers are waiting round every street corner. In the UK, for example, very few criminals have guns so the very worst they'll do is pull a knife. If you're really nervous about this, carry a personal alarm, or big stick, or be prepared to hand your wallet over. This helps give you access to less expensive areas.

e) Don't take taxis as a reflex. Get the appropriate maps (which are usually free) and investigate the local underground and buses. With trains, check if there are expensive times to travel and find out what deals are offered with travel cards and contracts.

f) If you're visiting the capital consider staying in a nice suburb (where the locals live) and commuting in. This guarantees much better value on hotel rates and just about everything else. Traveling light helps.

g) Consider visiting places outside the capital, even if they reduce bragging rights (I 'did' London/Paris/Rome). I personally have no idea why anyone would want to visit London when there are cities like Chester and Durham available.

h) Get as much inside knowledge as you can about your destination. With London, for example, Southall is a dirt cheap but great place to go for a curry and offers the best value outside of McDonalds.

i) Find out what level gratuities are appropriate. In London 10% is plenty and if you stay in a place without a bellboy you don't need to tip.

Paying more than you want to is a simple product of laziness.





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1 Comment so far

  1. SRS Finance on August 29, 2007 1:22 pm

    I would add, step off the beaten path. In Florence, for example, you can get a liter of water for 4 Euro if you buy it near Ponte Vecchio, but step off to the side streets and you can eat wonderful pizza with the local crowd for only 8 EU.

    I had some of the best wiener schnizel (sp?) and beer for $3 worth of German Mark (ok, I’m aging myself) at a lunch deli on the side streets of Berlin. In Torino you can enjoy a world class bottle of wine at Uva Spina for 10 EU and sing along with the crowd as one of the patrons strums out old Beatles classics.

    I could go on and on. The bottom line, just stay away from the tourist traps and you will have a wonderful time.

    The alternative is exemplified by an experience my wife and I had while dining in a wonderful sidewalk bistro in Montreal. An American couple and their grumpy children hobbled down the sidewalk while we enjoyed fantastic French cuisine grumbling loudly “where the hell is McDonalds?” The funny thing is, our meal cost roughly the same price.


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