The Most Expensive Places I’ve Visited

There’s a reason I’ve never been to Scandinavia before (next month will change that of course)- I can’t afford it! For all my experimentations with luxury I am still very much a budget blogger when I’m traveling on my own dime. $11 for a beer in Norway? $50 to stay in a hostel? Ouch.

In truth though, I have been to some expensive places. Some very, very expensive places that have stretched my poor wallet to the extreme. And I’ve survived, wallet and beer budget intact!

A long time ago I counted down some of the cheapest places I’ve been so I thought I would do the same with the priciest, and also maybe give you some tips on how to get by in these high overhead countries. Some of them were easier to survive then others, and one nearly broke me:

The UK

I suppose I could call this the most expensive place I have lived (multiple times). When I moved to London in 2007 the exchange rate was nearly 2:1, NOT in my favor. Until I landed a job and stared making pounds I had that sickening feeling of watching my bank account empty like it had a hole in it. It was terrifying times, when a trip to the store to buy pillows can set you back $40.

I survived though, consisting on a diet of primarily hummus and toast. The biggest expenses I found were things like eating out and nights at the pub, so I skipped those as much as I could bear and found solace in my own poor cooking skills. In a city like London there are so many free attractions and things to do that I didn’t feel like I was hurting much.

Japan

Japan is notorious for being pricey-particularly compared with most of the rest of East and South East Asia which can be a real bargain. I totally expected to shell out a lot in Japan and it was… not as terrible as I suspected. Of course you can always find holiday deals to Japan, or shell out for a tour, but as an independent traveler I was able to get by pretty well.

I mean yes, I did pay $550 for a 14 day rail pass, but that was worth every penny. And yes a bed in a dorm room ran me $30 a night, and a decent meal out was $10. Okay, it was expensive, there’s no doubt about it. There were lots of deals to be had though, in part because Japan is so epically fascinating. A quickie snack from 7-11 was just as riveting as sitting down in a restaurant. Admission to most of the temples and other attractions was fairly cheap and walking the streets of Tokyo was an endless free entertainment. I actually spent less in Japan than I anticipated.

Iceland

Despite what people tell you about Iceland’s economic meltdown, it’s still not exactly a “budget” destination. In this case cheap means “cheaper than Norway,” which as we already know is not saying much.

Luckily for me, I visited Iceland back when I was still working full time, which lessened the sting considerably. We signed up for a deal with HI hostels where all of our hostels and rental car package were bundled together, but some people choose to camp to keep costs down. One of the biggest expenditures in Iceland was food. They need to import nearly everything, so even a gas station hot dog is going to cost a pretty penny.

The one bright spot? With scenery like this you need to pay exactly $0 on attractions and things to do. Each day was an amazing tour of the crazyness our earth is capable of, and all we had to do was pay for gas (not pretty).

France

As I recently lamented, the worst part about being poor in France is not being able to experience the truly amazing food culture. France is definitely one of the pricier countries in Western Europe, and as such backpackers have to make sacrifices. This was probably even worse when the euro was stronger.

In the South of France, hostel dorm rooms can cost as much as $45 a night in the summer, and prices are even higher in Paris. Train travel costs can be enormous, particularly if you are traveling long distances. It’s hard to get by here for even the savviest of budget travelers, particularly if you find french food as tempting as I do…

Australia

Long-time readers of this blog know all about my love/hate experience with Australia. A large contributing factor to our difficult relationship was how incredibly expensive a place it was to travel.

I did everything I could think of to keep costs down in Australia. I spent most of my time there camping out of a van, spent weeks couchsurfing on old friend’s couches, ate nothing but dried pasta, meat pies and the occasional Subway sandwich. And I STILL spent an absurd amount of money. I spent significantly more money in two months in Australia then I did in 6 months in Asia.

Australia was a country where I truly felt cheated as a budget traveler. It’s such a gorgeous country, but to truly enjoy any of it’s many attractions, you have to shell out a lot of cash: a ferry to Magnetic Island, a tour of Fraser Island, entrance to a national park, a trip to see the Great Barrier Reef, it all adds up to hundreds and hundreds of dollars. There’s no way to do a lot of these things yourself, and missing out on them kind of defeats the point of being in Australia. You can’t even go out an enjoy a beer without plonking down $10.

I guess some expensive places are easier to navigate as a budget traveler than others. I’d love to go back to Australia, but I will wait til I have more money to spend, whereas I’d happily go back to Japan tomorrow.

Now the fun part. If experience means anything, at least one, probably about a dozen people are going to call me out in the comments telling me how wrong I am and how they traveled in France on $10 a day. So I’m going to open it up:

What are your suggestions for traveling in expensive countries on the cheap? What’s the most expensive place you’ve been?




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *