So ummm… well no. If we are asking ‘Has travel gotten too expensive to the point where it stops people, including myself, from doing it?’ However, I have to say, after this year’s adventure, I am becoming quite startled at some of the costs.
Three main cases in point spring directly to my mind – Barcelona, Jerusalem and Dubai International Airport. And I guess what I am talking about here is I kept finding things just unreasonably priced, and these three locations proved to be prime examples of that!
I will start with Barcelona, because I feel it’s the mildest example of the three. What I found was that the tourist attractions in particular were very expensive. The Casa Batllo and the Casa Mira – both two amazing examples of Gaudi’s unique architecture were pushing 30 Euros. That’s over $50AUD. The Sagrada Familia was 34 Euros bought online including entrance to one of the towers. That’s per adult, and imagine if you did the two houses and the Sagrada Familia on one day just how much you’ve spent simply on entrance fees.
But – people pay it. Of course they do, the places are packed out even in November which is not the main tourist season. To put it all in context, in my trips of 1999 or 2004, I wouldn’t go to any of these. They would be too expensive. Yes they would have been cheaper back then, but in 1999 my daily budget was $50AUD. That’s in Western Europe and it includes all accommodation. And I kept to that budget whilst visiting cities such as Amsterdam and Paris.
So what can you do to cheapen Barcelona? Well, the Barcelona Card is one of the cards you can get which gives you free entry to some places – museums mostly – and discounts to others like the Casa Batllo, although it should be said it’s only a few Euro there. The Castle of Montjuc was free, although not that interesting, with the card, but blessed with amazing views of the city and a cable car ride (12.70 Euro – but there was a small discount on the Barcelona Card). The Picasso Museum is free on the card, as is the Maritime Museum, both of which as worth visiting. And the card gives you free public transport. Of course – the card costs depending on the number of days you need it for. 46 Euro for three days. It’s worth it, you could easily amass 15 Euro on one day of public transport.
There is also a cheaper (around 12 Euro) Gaudi house, hidden on a back street of La Rambla, called Palau Guell, and parts of Park Guell (decorated by Gaudi) are free. Food though, is not so cheap if you eat out. But if you can cook for yourself, the supermarkets aren’t so expensive (I found Carrefour to be cheaper than any supermarket I found in Lisbon).
But let’s move on now, to Israel. I’ll be honest, I was pretty shocked by the prices. I’m sure someone said to me in the planning stage that it would be expensive in Jerusalem, but I was not prepared in anyway for just HOW expensive it would be. In fact, I think I would say that it was the most expensive place I think I’ve been. And what was most expensive was the food.
Inside the Old City it was just astronomical in price, not surprisingly the more touristy you go the more you could expect to pay. I paid close to $50 AUD for a simple meal, a couple of skewers, chips and a drink. Outside the city I tried the ultimate price comparison – that’s the McDonald’s test. A quarter-pounder meal (L) came out at 58 shekels, around $24 AUD, roughly twice the price (a little more than that) of what it costs in Australia, hands down the most expensive McValue Meal I’ve ever had. And on top of that, it was close to the worst tasting McDonald’s meal I’ve ever had too. Sure, McDonald’s doesn’t have a reputation for being extremely tasty, but this was another level, this was tasteless.
How can you beat the price issue? Some places to visit – the Church of the Holy Sephcuture for example, are free. In the Jewish Quarter you can get a card that gets you into four places I think it is and that saves you a little money. The Temple Mount is free too, so really food is your biggest issue. Just outside the Jaffa Gate you will find a number of shops, so you can stock up on snacks and water and more reasonable (but still seemingly more than you might think!) prices. You can find my favourite – 7Days Croissants which are great. And the restaurants there are much more fairly priced. I lived on Sharma from a called ‘The Greatest Shawarma KJKJKJKL’ for a few days. It was delicious, and for 35 Shekel I got a Shawarma wrap, a side and a can of drink. That’s $10USD or around $14AUD. Falafel are slightly cheaper. I stayed in a hotel in the same area (it’s the Arabic Area) and it had a good breakfast spread, around $100AUD a night.
One problem with Jerusalem and it’s pricing I think for me was that I’ve been to Jordan and Egypt and other close-by countries, which Jerusalem felt very similar too, where the prices are much much lower. But Jerusalem is priced like a expensive European country,
Finally, my biggest ripoff location that I found this time around was Dubai International Airport. It’s apparently gained a reputation for ridiculous pricing, but both my wife and I were startled by ow much we spent. And we didn’t get much! My wife worked out it was around $10AUD for a cup of coffee, and about the same for a muffin. I had a 25 minute massage that cost roughly $75AUD. I feel like they are banking on people not knowing the exchange rate there. And Dubai has a reputation as a place to go shopping. I’m not saying it’s known as a cheap place to shop, but at the same time people do go there to look for a good price on things. And outside the airport, that may be the case because I don’t remember it being a very expensive place from the time I visited the city, although I must admit it was 10 years ago now.
But more to the point, everyone, I feel this is an indication more generally of how things are simply not as affordable today when you go travelling. It’s fair to say that over time prices only go one way, and that’s up, but I also feel like there are far more money traps out there waiting for the unsuspecting tourist. For example – when you purchase on your home credit or debit card and they offer you local currency or you own currency. I did some quick calculations to judge the Australian Dollar equivalent and the exchange rate they gave there was pretty much robbery, 52-54 Euro cents to the AUD where the mid-market rate was 61 at the time. So I would always tap the local currency option because even once the banks do their conversation thing, I couldn’t believe it would be that bad. And it wasn’t. An ATM wanted to charge me 17 Euro I think it was to withdraw money. I remember when I was on the Maestro network, 2004 I think, and I would get a good rate out of the European ATMs and I only paid $2AUD as a transaction fee. Friends, times have changed and businesses across the world have spent the last 20 years devising ways to make that little bit of extra money off tourists. So beware!
Thanks for stopping by as always, and please comment if you have any thoughts or just want to let me know that I’m reduced now to merely incoherent ramblings. May the Journey Never End!