Saving coin in the world's most-expensive cities to holiday in

Hong Kong has much than an incredible skyline, as Brook Sabin and Radha Engling discover.

Travel is an expensive habit. It's made worse when you opt for mega-cities in developed countries and their high prices, or are lured to a pricey destination because of discount flights.

There are obvious ways to cut costs, such as curtailing your trip from several days to just a couple, splitting costs by travelling in a group or calling up that long-lost friend/cousin/colleague for a place to stay.

Here are a selection of places consistently ranked as the world's most expensive places to be a tourist, and a few tips on making your dollars go the distance.

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Zurich will never be cheap but there are some tricks to saving money here.
Zurich will never be cheap but there are some tricks to saving money here.


Switzerland. It isn't cheap. It never will be. The SBB public transport system (country-wide) has online discounts so book ahead and use the app to find "super-saver tickets".

Better yet, get on two wheels for free, thanks to the "Zuri Rollt" programme. Download the app, put a CHF20 deposit down and you can bike around the city to your heart's content. Thankfully, the city is clean, safe and very walkable for those who prefer to wander.

This is certainly a destination where it pays to embrace the backpacker life, but the country's plentiful YHA hostels will likely surprise you. People of all ages stay here and continental breakfast is almost always included.

Don't waste money on water bottles, as the cities plentiful fountains offer safe (even delicious) water to top-up your reusable one.

New York City

It's not difficult to do NY on a budget.
It's not difficult to do NY on a budget.

Throw your diet plan out the window and embrace the Big Apple's big portions – if only for a weekend. The street food scene here is great and grabbing a slice (read as: large paddle) of pizza to eat while wandering through Central Park is kinder on the wallet than sitting down for below-average coffee and 20 per cent tips.

Accommodation will be your biggest outgoing, so it's stupid to splash out for a cramped room in Manhattan. Instead head across the river to Brooklyn or Williamsburg, or better yet to the often-forgotten Staten Island (if only for the authentic accents. It's connected to lower Manhattan (Wall St, the 9/11 memorial) with a free ferry that runs every 20 or so minutes 24/7 and it also offers passengers views of the Statue of Liberty.


The famous Blue Lagoon is beautiful, but entry fees are steep.
The famous Blue Lagoon is beautiful, but entry fees are steep.

The Icelandic capital has seen a boom in tourist numbers lured by very cheap flights from North America and the rest of Europe. But that's basically where the savings end. A remote island nation with very little arable land is not a recipe for cheap food, so your first meal out will come with a side of bill shock.

On my trip in 2018 there was a collection of budget travellers who each day would head to the supermarket to stock up on supplies and then have a picnic in their rental cars parked beside one of the nation's hundreds of dramatic views.

Reykjavik is interesting – but perhaps only for a day at the most. Think of it like New Zealand, the cities are fine … but that's not why the tourists are coming. There are many day coach tours on offer, but the schedules are cookie-cutter and prices relatively expensive for what they offer – often just transport and a guide.

Instead hire a rental, the car hire fee and gas for a week is the same as two rushed day tours for a couple. The famous Blue Lagoon is beautiful, but entry fees range from NZ$80-120, that's anything but relaxing. Instead, use the Hotspring Iceland app to find a cheaper place to soak.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong is so much more than just a stopover destination.
Hong Kong is so much more than just a stopover destination.

This stopover favourite is a city of contrasts – where budget street food (try a Dai Pai Dong meal) sits right beside Michelin star fine dining in five star hotels. Again, it will be accommodation which stings the bank balance in this city – but thankfully, it's easy to stay further out from Hong Kong island because of the fantastic MTR transport system.

You're going to need an MTR "Octopus" smart pass if you're coming in from the airport anyhow, so you might as well get one for your whole trip and zip around the city doing budget attractions and sampling top quality, but low price dim sum and street food.

Two of Hong Kong's touristy favourites – the Symphony of Lights and ascending The Peak – are free, while the historic Star Ferry crossing or a bustling market trip is very budget-friendly.