It’s almost a given that as a tourist, you’re going to overpay for things. This rule is exacerbated in countries where you stand out as a foreigner. But you don’t have to succumb to inflated tourist prices across the board; here are a few things to beware of, and how to avoid falling into (too many) tourist traps.
(See also: How Tourists Cripple Local Economies)
I have a thing about taking taxis in foreign countries; they’re not always safe, and if you’re in a dodgy taxi, you might be taken the long way around and overcharged. It happens all too easily if you aren’t familiar with your destination.
How to avoid overpaying for taxis? Ask a local or the staff at your hotel how much a taxi should cost to your destination before you go. Confirm the rate with the taxi driver before you get in.
And of course, the best way to avoid overpaying taxi drivers is to take public transportation.
At only a couple of bucks a pop it might seem innocuous, but buying water while you’re out and about takes a hit on both your pocketbook – and the environment. Bottled water is a pet peeve of mine, and I refuse to buy it. Instead, I carry a reusable bottle and fill it up wherever I can. If I’m in a country without potable water, I have a SteriPEN handy.
Did you research the tipping policies in your destination country before opening your wallet (and generous heart)? Did you know that in some cultures tipping is actually offensive? In other cultures it’s appreciated, but not expected to the level that many North Americans might be used to doling out.
For example, most restaurant servers outside of North America are paid proper wages, and tips are considered a nice bonus as opposed to a necessity. The obligatory 15-20% tip on meals in North America is uncommon elsewhere in the world.
Oh yes, and while you’re deciding how much to tip your server, check to see if gratuity has already been added to your bill (as is common in tourist areas or with large groups) – more than a few people have double-tipped their servers while traveling and wondered why the servers were so very nice to them on their way out the door.
I like a nice hotel as much as the next person, but if you want a locally immersive travel experience, a hotel won’t cut it. Why not try out hospitality exchanges, house-sitting, home exchanges, or other ways to live locally, and save a whack of money?
(See also: How to Get Free Accommodation Around the World)
Cell Phone Roaming
I’m still flabbergasted by people who take their cell phones abroad with their home plans, and are surprised when they receive a bill for hundreds (sometimes thousands) of dollars on their return. One little phone call, or just a wee bit of data usage, can result in drastically overpaying for cellular services.
Instead, get an unlocked phone and insert a local SIM card. Here in Peru I spend maybe $10/month on cell phone expenses, and that includes the odd international phone call.
Alternately, if you want to be easily reachable by people at home while you travel or if you are traveling quickly, consider an International SIM Card (which I review here).
14 Other Things Tourists Overpay For
These are just five things that tourists overpay for while traveling. For a more comprehensive list of things that tourists overpay for, and how to avoid being another casualty of them, check out this post:
In this podcast interview, I talk about the meaning of financially sustainable travel, why and how I sold everything and started my location-independent career, different ways to work on the road, financial planning for nomads, redefining retirement, and much more!
Since 2006, I’ve traveled full-time (with nothing but carry-on luggage), spending less money than I ever did to live in one place. In 2011, I spent $173 on accommodation – for the entire year. And it was a splash-out on a hotel in Stockholm; the rest of the year I lived around the world, getting free accommodation. This guest post shows you how I did it:
This short podcast with Craig Martin of Indie Podcast is largely about my experience working on the road in different ways, and (of course) my latest book.