THINK of your holiday budget. Now add a few zeros. Excellent, now you’re ready for the world’s most overpriced travel destinations, places with tremendous appeal and intimidating price tags.
But here’s the good news: Great deals do exist in every one of these destinations. We’ve rounded up some of our favourite ways to save in each, so you can avoid overspending in these priciest of hot spots.
To determine which cities are most overpriced, we looked to recent reports including UBS Wealth Management Research’s Prices and Earnings report, Hotels.com’s Hotel Price Index, and Expatistan’s Cost of Living Index.
1. Oslo, Norway
Like the most opulent cities in the Middle East, Oslo’s wealth is fuelled by oil money. So it’s not entirely surprising that Norway’s capital is, according to the Prices and Earnings report, the most expensive city in the world. If you want to enjoy the best of cosmopolitan Oslo, expect to pay prices that are about 20 per cent higher than you’d find elsewhere in Western Europe. And keep in mind that this is a city where goods and services are nearly 70 per cent higher than the world average, a fact that burns a fast hole in travellers’ wallets.
2. Zurich, Switzerland
Zurich offers visitors plenty: pure mountain air, gorgeous surroundings, and walkable neighbourhoods. But you’ll pay for the privilege of a visit. In fact, according to the Prices and Earnings report, it’s actually the most expensive city in the world for a weekend getaway that includes the cost of accommodations in a nice hotel, dinner with wine, transportation, and extras. And Zurich also has among the highest public transportation and taxi costs in the world. Case in point: A three-mile taxi ride in Zurich runs about $31.
3. New York, US
Here’s the thing about New York City: It’s going to play chicken with your budget, and it’s going to win. Along with Tokyo, NYC has the world’s most expensive average costs for both luxury and mid-range hotel stays. We’re talking $US730 ($814) per night for luxe digs or $379 per night for mid-range accommodations. It’s also the most expensive city in North America for a weekend getaway that includes accommodations, a nice dinner, and in-town transportation. Home to a $390 steak and a $1115 sundae, it’s a city that has taken overpriced to a whole new level.
4. B ora Bora, French Polynesia
Exclusive, isolated, and a favourite of the rich and famous — if there’s a perfect recipe for high prices, Bora Bora has it. The South Pacific island’s tropical beauty has earned it plenty of accolades, including a place on U.S. News & World Report’s list of the world’s best islands. But it all comes at a very steep price. The average nightly rate for one of Bora Bora’s famed overwater bungalows is around $1000. And it’s not just staying there that’s expensive, flights can be too.
5. Sydney, Australia
Sydney is prepared to give you the friendliest fleecing you’ll ever get. The sunny city was recently ranked one of the most expensive in the world by Expatistan, and in an analysis by Deutsche Bank on world prices, a weekend getaway was more expensive in Sydney than in New York City. The exchange rate doesn’t help either: Between 2009 and 2012, the Australian dollar appreciated by about 50 per cent. While the currency took a slight dip in 2013, it’s still an expensive destination.
6. Tokyo, Japan
Visit Tokyo and you won’t need souvenirs — you’ll bring home plenty of credit card debt to remind you of the good times. At 50 per cent more expensive than most other cities in Asia, Tokyo ranks as the third most expensive city in the world. Not to be outdone by its pricey competitors, it is actually the most expensive city in the world when it comes to food and shopping. And it shares bragging rights with New York City as the most expensive city in the world for luxury and mid-priced hotel stays.
7. London, UK
London has everything a cosmopolitan traveller could wish for: incredible museums, a thriving theatre culture, and with more than 60 Michelin-starred restaurants, a dining scene that has finally taken its place on the world stage. But it also has one of the highest costs of living in the world, a fact that seriously impacts even the casual traveller.
Expect to pay more than $440 per night for a four-star hotel and around $220 per night for a three-star hotel. And you’ll need to up the budget even for the small things: Coffee is 60 per cent more expensive in London than in Rome, for instance, and it costs about $40 for two people to catch a movie. Even leaving is expensive: London has one of the highest prices for train tickets in the world — about 70 per cent above the Western Europe average.
8. Las Vegas, Nevada
Las Vegas always pushes the envelope, so it’s no surprise that when it comes to prices, the sky’s the limit. You want to spend too much for everything? Vegas is happy to oblige. How about a $US40,000 ($44,600)-per-night hotel room? If all that spending has made you peckish, you might consider a $5500 burger. In this city where a single ticket to a Cirque du Soleil show can average more than $278 and it’s easy to find a blackjack table where you can bet $5577 on a hand, exorbitant pricing is so common that it almost seems normal. Almost.
9. Monte Carlo, Monaco
In Monte Carlo, everyone wants to live like royalty. But the price tag on the priceless is not for the faint of heart. According to Hotels.com’s 2013 Hotel Price Index, Monte Carlo delivered the world’s highest overall hotel prices, with an average of $343 per night. Steep prices don’t stop at the hotel bill, either: Leisure is a pricey pursuit too. Greens fees at the Monte Carlo Golf Club run $200 and up, and a day pass to the Thermes Marins Monte Carlo spa is about $145. Even a simple trip to the beach can cost you more than $110 if you opt for a spot at the see-and-be-seen Monte Carlo Beach Club.
Until a few years ago, Singapore was a true bargain. But an increasingly strong currency and an influx of wealthy expats have driven prices up enough that Singapore was named one of the world’s most expensive cities in The Economist Intelligence Unit’s cost-of-living survey and Expatistan’s Cost of Living Index. A report last year put average hotel rates at around $290 per night, making it a pricey stop for travellers as well.