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How to visit expensive cities on a budget

Travel tips: visiting expensive cities on a budget by Telegraph Travel Writer Anna Lisinski. Cities by their very nature are where it is happening. However, with city buzz, tourists have also come to expect a higher holiday expenditure. Londoners who work in England’s capital, for example, can expect to receive a higher salary to help with the high cost of living associated with calling London home, but what about tourists who are keen to experience a bit of city life on a country or suburb budget?

For many, a city break is a short holiday, often at most a long weekend – as well as being expensive they also more tiring than a more rural or seaside break due to the sheer quantity of things to do and see, and the pace being twice as fast.

Top money-saving tips

The Louvre Museum in Paris

Day trip it – Stay in the suburbs and take a day trip to the nearest city.

Book early or keep a lookout for last-minute deals – to bag a good deal you may have to be flexible with your destination and see what is available on the days you have booked off.

Package deals – Look to save money by finding a deal that includes flights and a hotel – often a travel agent or money-saving website will find the best deals for you and you are sometimes eligible for airport pick-up which can save you the cost of a taxi.

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Hotels vs Hostels – add an ‘s’ and you get a cheaper rate. Hostels are abundant in many cities – providing an affordable way to stay in an expensive city for a couple of nights. If you’re worried about sharing with six teenagers then fear not as most hostels have private rooms perfect for couples or close friends.

Avoid taxis – they all add up and often cities are relatively easy to walk around. If your legs get tired then experiment with the bus or the subway – usually a really quick way to get around.

Getting there – Long haul flights are more expensive than shorter ones – an obvious point but if you visit cities that are closer to home you will save money on transport.

City breaks with culture

Czech Republic

Europe is abundant with cultural gems with cathedrals, museums and picturesque alleyways and building to ogle at for days. Places like Venice, Rome and Paris can be quite expensive due to their popularity and romantic associations. For equal beauty, less crowds and tourists opt for an Eastern European city such as Budapest or Zagreb which are often overlooked by tourists but can work well inside a tight budget.

Cosmopolitan city breaks

cool San Francisco

American cities such as New York, Boston and San Francisco, Canadian ones like Toronto, and even Australia’s Sydney have a different feel to them compared to the historic mismatch typical of European ones. Often classed as having a more modern and cosmopolitan feel, these cities are newer and as such are often easier to find your way around, either by foot or by public transport.

Middle Eastern treasures

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Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok are often favorites with the gap-year backpacker, as these popular Middle Eastern cities offer cheap bed and board with an experience like no other. Try exotic street food, enjoy scorching hot weather or humid rainfall in monsoon season, and observe a different culture rich in color and diversity.

Anna Lisinski writes for Telegraph Travel on her personal holiday experiences and provides tips for those visiting her home town London.


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    Martin Pietrzak

    18 April, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    These are some great tips. I would however suggest the above are more so for the single traveller, not so much for a family or group. As we have travelled extensively as a family, some of these even if unintuitive are quite true for instance: Taxis can be cheaper if you take into consideration per person charges for shuttles or buses. This is also true for hostels. Some hotels may have better deals for a family then a hostel that usually charges per person plus a possible supplement for a kid. Services like airbnb.com or couchsurfing.com may provide good alternatives. Also, we would recommend to avoid last minute deals or booking too soon. Apparently the ultimate time is approximately 3 months before you go for hotels or flights. Also, subscribe to some flash deals with services like booking.com or agoga.com in Asia, they have deals that are at times more than 50% off. Also, consider travel in the off-season. There are great deals to be had. We visited Thailand in the Monsoon season and paid no more than 50% of the advertised price for major hotels, flights and it was more authentic too with less tourists. Just be prepared to bargain a bit. In European cities opt out for grocery stores rather than restaurants, and you will save a bit. Hope this helps. Cheers and good travels.

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    Travel Clinic

    14 February, 2012 at 10:44 pm

    Great tips!

    I normally plan everything before I book my tickets, early bookings really helps a lot and can save you more. I even separate a budget for a trip to make sure I have enough money for the trip!

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    Adriana Gallegos

    27 January, 2012 at 8:43 pm

    Great tips. I like the one about staying in the ‘burbs and taking a trip into the city. I never stay in the city center because it’s too expensive.

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    Brock - Backpack With Brock

    25 January, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    Avoiding taxis is a great tip – in cities walking or using public transit is so easy and such a great experience!

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    25 January, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    What a great site, so many interesting articles and travel tips. We often stay at destinations which may be deemed expensive, but where we always find well priced accommodation just outside the city centre.

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    Costa Mesa CVB

    23 January, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    Hostels have a bad reputation for being “cheap”, but there are some really great hostels out there that are a good alternative to a more expensive hotel. It just takes a little research so you know what you’re getting yourself into. If you’re looking for a romantic getaway the hostel known for it’s party atmosphere might not be the best option.

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    Stephanie - The Travel Chica

    23 January, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    These are great tips, especially the one about staying in the ‘burbs and taking a trip into the city. This would work out great in an area with good public transport.


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