Visiting the most expensive countries? 8 tips for the budget traveler!

I recently saw this list of the most expensive countries to travel in: Austria, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Israel, Norway, Australia, France, UK, Switzerland....

Which got me googling to see what others said – and a few more places cropped up like:

Israel, Barbados, Senegal, Myanmar, Iceland, Hong Kong, Canada, Seychelles....

Eiffel Tower Paris France

Eiffel Tower Paris France

Which got me thinking they may have missed a couple of expensive places like Monaco and Singapore, not to mention the pricey cities (but of course it did say countries not cities)...

Which got me thinking again - right back down memory lane - where one of those 'expensive countries' turned out to be awfully cheap for me, and yet one of those 'cheap countries' turned out to be more expensive per day than the 'expensive' one!

Which got me thinking and writing in reply....'Yes they are expensive, but there are still plenty of ways to keep travel costs to budget levels in these countries.’

So a quick sidenote - what was that expensive country that became cheap?


At the time (early 1980s) unlike today, it was the most expensive place imaginable.  I recall in one place seeing a single orange priced at approximately $4.00! YES - true. Even today that would be expensive but back then it was beyond imagination. I expected to last a week on my budget– just enough to get me overland to a ferry to South Korea, which was an ‘affordable’ destination. As it turned out, I ended up spending over two months in Japan, because it turned out to be cheap – very cheap.

How? Three things did the job! First; I hitched absolutely everywhere across all the islands other than Okinawa. Second; my journey focused on all the national parks across the country and the mountains and hiking within them –nothing short of amazing btw. That of course meant sleeping in my tent – and to note I was never required to pay a fee. As well, I camped on roadsides and wherever else I happened to end up when I was between parks, and I accepted any offers to stay in peoples homes – especially in Hokkaido where they were not at that stage used to seeing any tourists or backpackers. All in all I only spent about five nights in any form of hostel. Third; I ate rice and miso and inari and tried to ignore the cravings for fruit! The sum total - Japan turned out to be less expensive for me than the same amount of time in India!

I realize that my journey is not what most would want – not everyone is going to hitch, not everyone wants to spend months hiking and camping out and not everyone is going to restrict their diet like I did. The point is – just because its an expensive place, it doesn't need to be expensive for you if you are prepared to flex a little.

 Looking back at that list of expensive countries - I have traveled in most with kids in tow and personally would rate Australia as the most expensive. I do travel on a budget – especially given I’m paying for four (3 kids plus me) but there are ways of making the $ go further.  Below I will share the things we do to keep costs down.

8 top tips to budget travel in expensive locations

1.     Getting there – use car ride schemes, cheap buses, cheap flights, cheap trains to get there, or if you see a deal - grab it. If you are travelling, not just going for a weeks holiday, then take it slow and try moving in short hops with cheap local buses and trains. That way you get to see more, interact with the locals more, and keep it relaxed as well. Note: If you are going for the bargain flights – just watch the cost of luggage if you don't travel light, and of getting to and fro from airports which can often be the most expensive bit.  



2.     Live for a while – if  you are travelling and in no rush, and one of these ‘expensive’ countries appeals, then plan to live rather than visit. Volunteer through helpx, workaway or woofing (yes, some people will even take families), or look for a cash paid job like au-pairing (unless you can work legally). Alternatively, instead of travelling around, use your budget to find a short term apartment rental for a few weeks or months. Talk to locals always to find where the cheap eats and food are etc. This way you can get to really know the area you have set down in, take local buses on ‘holidays’ from your holiday, and really relax.

3.     Getting around locally – walk, cycle, take local buses. There are few places you need taxis or expensive tours. 



4.     Where you stay makes a big difference – use airbnb, homestays, couchsurfing, and hostels to keep the budget down. If you are paying for a family, then hostel are not always the cheapest so check out local apartments and airbnb options.

5.     Cook your own meals. Stay in hostels or apartments where you can cook. Ask the locals where to get the best food for the best prices - they are usually more than willing to help!



6.     If you want to eat out lunch is usually cheaper and there are often local lunch specials – ask around. Equally, ask the locals where to eat or drink out and tell them you want to avoid the tourist spots and eat real local food (that will keep prices local as well.) Students can be very good sources of information in this area, so if you are in a student town do ask them!

7.     Check for free entry days at 'the sights.' There are often free days or times e.g. every Monday or every last Sunday of the month. Of course, always ask for discount for any membership you have - YHA, AA, RACV, Student, Pensioner cards etc. For example, The Louvre is free to art teachers at any time. The worst they can say is no and the best is yes. I have often been given discount or free entry just for asking - often on very dubious grounds!

PANtheon Rome - Free ENTRY

PANtheon Rome - Free ENTRY

8.     Look for the free sights and enjoy them e.g. the Pantheon in Rome and the British Museum in London are free to enter. The Orangerie in Paris is free to enter the first Sunday of the month, the There are often free walking tours in the cities. Talk to locals and they may give you inside info on places to see and things to do that you may not otherwise know about – and they are often free – or at least the best spots!

9 Check out what 'pass deals' there are - especially if you are a culture critter. For example, Austrian cities like Vienna tend to have a pass - which covers entry into nearly every tourist site, plus transport and more. Check out the passes and what you would be going to and paying for anyway, and decide if it is a deal for you or not. If it is - job done and money saved!

Let me know if you have any other great tips for keeping costs to a budget in these 'expensive' places - I would love to hear more.