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Hotels, Eating, Drinking and Consumer Goods still so much cheaper in America!

Hotels, Eating, Drinking and Consumer Goods still so much cheaper in America!

Old Jan 21, 2009, 3:53 pm
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Hotels, Eating, Drinking and Consumer Goods still so much cheaper in America!

From a budget traveler perspective I am constantly shocked how much cheaper it is to travel within America than outside our country. I have talked to people who say that it costs twice as much to eat, sleep, drink and make general purchases in most countries than in America.

Is there anywhere in the world that a equal quality meal or hotel or consumer goods purchase will actually cost less than a similar town in America?
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Old Jan 21, 2009, 4:22 pm
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I think you need to be careful when you make a statment like that, cheaper then where outside of the US?

If you want to talk about iPods or other consumer electronics by and large I will agree with you. However food and shelter are different. If you want to compair a typical city in the US to say London then sure. However if you look at Buenos Aires, you'll be calling the US expensive.

Since this is the budget forum, I'll go even further to say a backpacker has a lot more options to travel cheaply in Europe then the US. For one there are a lot more hostels throughout other parts of the world. While you can find a few in every metro city in the US, they are far less prevalent. As for travel, there are countless rail passes you can buy abroad, in addition if you travel light and play by their rules you can easly book 10GPB tickets on Ryan Air or other LCCs.

Last edited by ClimbGuy; Jan 21, 2009 at 7:16 pm Reason: spelling
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Old Jan 21, 2009, 5:45 pm
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Originally Posted by Brand_new_traveler
From a budget traveler perspective I am constantly shocked how much cheaper it is to travel within America than outside our country. I have talked to people who say that it costs twice as much to eat, sleep, drink and make general purchases in most countries than in America.
Gee, where have you been traveling ???

Originally Posted by ClimbGuy
I think you need to be careful when you make a statment like that, cheaper then where outside of the US?
Eating out in restaurants on my many trips to Costa Rica was much cheaper, and I can eat cheaper in Thailand or Hong Kong as well And equal quality hotels are generally quite a bit cheaper. If you go to Europe, that's another story, but that's mostly because the US Peso, errrrr, Dollar has lost so much value against Euro (granted it regained some recently). And I found restaurants in Spain cheaper than US. Come to think of it my inexpensive hotel was cheaper than its equivalent in US as well.

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Old Jan 21, 2009, 7:52 pm
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Well I find Spain not to be cheaper foodwise than the US usually, but that is just me. However, most places are not that much more expensive in my experience, if at all. A lot of places in Asia and such, where the GDP is far lower than the US offer much more inexpensive food/lodging, even for equal quality.
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Old Jan 22, 2009, 2:55 am
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I think it also depends on whether you are prepared to sacrifice your home 'standards' and 'prejudices' for the lifestyle of the countries you are visiting .... buying accommodation in local hotels or b&bs with all their local 'colour' rather than in standardised sanitised and bland international chain hotels, and also where you eat and when - it will cost substantially more to eat at the times you would in your own country versus the local meal times (eg an early 6 pm dinner in Spain will be very pricey because the restaurants do not generally open till later).

And that can be applied to purchases of goods - your favourite brands versus the local products in different packaging ................

Budget travel allows one to discover places and cultures more frequently than if you were paying rack rates and standard airfares, but you should also change your frames of reference to suit the norms for the country you are visiting. Not always easy to do at first glance, but a challenge worth undertaking.
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Old Jan 22, 2009, 8:53 am
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Originally Posted by Brand_new_traveler
From a budget traveler perspective I am constantly shocked how much cheaper it is to travel within America than outside our country. I have talked to people who say that it costs twice as much to eat, sleep, drink and make general purchases in most countries than in America.

Is there anywhere in the world that a equal quality meal or hotel or consumer goods purchase will actually cost less than a similar town in America?
I don't know where you're coming from with regard to hotels, as there is an irritating lack of hostels or other budget accommodation in most of the US (as others have noted). Even in the most expensive European cities, one can generally find a bed for €20 a night, which is very difficult in many parts of America. In Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok it was easy to find an air-conditioned hostel for $9 a night, and in Phnom Penh I could get a private air-conditioned room for $9, which is completely out of the question in any city in America.

I would agree that the prices of fast food in America are hard to beat, lower than almost anything in Europe and competitive with most (palatable-by-non-locals) food in urban areas of Latin America and Asia. For decent-quality retaurant food, though, Southeast Asia and Latin America tend to be significantly cheaper than comparable food in the US. Even European restaurants can be competitive with US prices, particularly after you consider that everything in the US costs 15% to 25% more than it says on the menu.

Consumer electronics are nearly always cheapest in America, but this isn't really relevant when you are traveling anyway, and America remains notably behind the rest of the world in things like mobile phones. Things like generic clothes and toys are unsurprisingly often cheapest in China.
Originally Posted by Alsacienne
I think it also depends on whether you are prepared to sacrifice your home 'standards' and 'prejudices' for the lifestyle of the countries you are visiting ....
This is true to a point, but the reverse can often be true as well. In Scandinavia this summer I was forced to go to McDonalds several times because it was the only prepared food I could afford. A local-run B&B, while an interesting experience, will tend to cost rather more than a backpacker hostel that looks and feels the same as every other backpacker hostel. Economies of scale mean that the bland, mass-produced option often works out a lot cheaper than local colour.

Last edited by lexande; Jan 22, 2009 at 9:26 am
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Old Jan 22, 2009, 11:12 am
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I will agree on hostels and the like. It is relatively easy to find very inexpensive places to sleep in Europe that are pretty clean and safe, however, the US is definitely not on par in that respect. You would be hard pressed to find a $10 room that is clean and safe, sans amenities of course, in the US.
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Old Jan 22, 2009, 8:53 pm
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Originally Posted by lexande
I don't know where you're coming from with regard to hotels, as there is an irritating lack of hostels or other budget accommodation in most of the US (as others have noted). Even in the most expensive European cities, one can generally find a bed for 20 a night, which is very difficult in many parts of America. In Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok it was easy to find an air-conditioned hostel for $9 a night, and in Phnom Penh I could get a private air-conditioned room for $9, which is completely out of the question in any city in America.
Most of the U.S.? Outside of the BOS-WAS corridor, you can find perfectly palatable rooms for $30 or so at places like Motel 6 or mom 'n' pop no-name roadside motels outside of urban areas. You'll have a car in every other major city (L.A., SEA, DEN, etc.) and reasonably-priced motels are a reasonable drive out of the city center.

Sure, you may not be able to get a $10 private room or even a $10 hostel bed like you can in some developing countries (where the wages might not be much more than that per day), but $30 for a decent private motel room with two beds (with ensuite toilet and shower) is very reasonable, IMHO. I have been able to do that all over the U.S. and haven't found anything like it in other developed Western countries. (The Formule 1 in Campbelltown NSW Australia came close, at around US$40, but that was for an uncomfortably small room with an uncomfortably cramped prefab toilet/shower unit.)

Even small-town pensiones, guesthouses, and (as we called them) "Zimmer freis" were, as I recall, a bit more than that (maybe about $50 or so, on up to $80-100 or more for B&Bs in the UK).
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Old Jan 22, 2009, 10:02 pm
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Originally Posted by jackal
You'll have a car in every other major city (L.A., SEA, DEN, etc.) and reasonably-priced motels are a reasonable drive out of the city center.
Glad you brought that up. Having to rent a car will add to the overall cost.

<snip>
Originally Posted by jackal
... but $30 for a decent private motel room with two beds (with ensuite toilet and shower) is very reasonable, IMHO. I have been able to do that all over the U.S. and haven't found anything like it in other developed Western countries.
I've seen a lot of this country over the last couple of years, and not too many Motel 6 franchises charge $30 anymore. Even mom and pop motels don't charge $30 anymore around major cities. Sure, out in the country you can still find them, along the interstates in the middle of nowhere, but around big cities, not so much. Saw lots of $30, even $25 motels in Amarillo, Texas, but really, that's a city you pass through, not visit

Last time I visited Key West (two or three years ago), the nasty IYH was charging about $30 for a shared room Got lucky, and found a private room for a few nights for about the same price, but that was sheer good fortune.

Having said all that, Priceline can be your friend - it's been my friend Especially on weekends when those who travel for work (like I used to) are at home and hotels / motels will slash prices via Priceline to get some money rather than let the rooms go empty.

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Old Jan 22, 2009, 11:10 pm
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Originally Posted by emailkid
Glad you brought that up. Having to rent a car will add to the overall cost.
Right, but you're going to be renting the car in these cities anyway, since public transit in the U.S. is virtually worthless unless you are on the utmost of tiny budgets.

Originally Posted by emailkid
I've seen a lot of this country over the last couple of years, and not too many Motel 6 franchises charge $30 anymore. Even mom and pop motels don't charge $30 anymore around major cities. Sure, out in the country you can still find them, along the interstates in the middle of nowhere, but around big cities, not so much. Saw lots of $30, even $25 motels in Amarillo, Texas, but really, that's a city you pass through, not visit

Last time I visited Key West (two or three years ago), the nasty IYH was charging about $30 for a shared room Got lucky, and found a private room for a few nights for about the same price, but that was sheer good fortune.

Having said all that, Priceline can be your friend - it's been my friend Especially on weekends when those who travel for work (like I used to) are at home and hotels / motels will slash prices via Priceline to get some money rather than let the rooms go empty.

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All right, you've got me there. For all the traveling in the U.S. I've done (all 50 states), I've actually spent relatively little time in major cities, having mostly done road trips to sight-see the scenery or historical sites of our great country.

The few times I've done a big city, I've either done it as a day trip/in transit or done it car-free. (Whenever I've done the BOS-WAS corridor, I've always done it car-free and therefore accepted the higher prices of places convenient to public transit. I spent more than I wanted in DEN at a junky Ramada, but that was car-free, too, since I was overnighting there before departing by Amtrak. The hotel I splurged at in SEA was because I needed to be near the SEA DO activities.

Otherwise, I have family or friends in both cities in Washington state, Portland, the Bay Area, L.A., Chicago, and Orlando. Outside of these and the BOS-WAS corridor, I've only just driven through medium/major cities (perhaps stopping for the day), like Charlotte or Salt Lake City. I've never tried to find affordable accommodations in or near them.
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Old Jan 23, 2009, 4:46 am
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Originally Posted by jackal
Most of the U.S.? Outside of the BOS-WAS corridor, you can find perfectly palatable rooms for $30 or so at places like Motel 6 or mom 'n' pop no-name roadside motels outside of urban areas.
This summer I was stuck in Kansas City (flight late so missed a connection), which is not exactly "BOS-WAS corridor". The cheapest room the airport staff could direct me to was $70 a night for a Microtel. When I woke up there I was covered in bug bites.
Originally Posted by jackal
Right, but you're going to be renting the car in these cities anyway, since public transit in the U.S. is virtually worthless unless you are on the utmost of tiny budgets.
This is an important point. Renting a car will nearly always add up to a lot more per day than public transport anywhere in Europe or Asia. Further, car rental isn't an option for many travelers (too young, can't drive, etc), who may be forced to pay extortionate prices for a taxi to get to/from a distant motel (as happened to me once in Boston).

I must note that I have found public transport entirely sufficient for getting around as a visitor in LA, SF, Chicago, Seattle, etc. The only thing of interest to me not accessible by transit would be outlying motels.
The few times I've done a big city, I've either done it as a day trip/in transit or done it car-free. (Whenever I've done the BOS-WAS corridor, I've always done it car-free and therefore accepted the higher prices of places convenient to public transit. I spent more than I wanted in DEN at a junky Ramada, but that was car-free, too, since I was overnighting there before departing by Amtrak. The hotel I splurged at in SEA was because I needed to be near the SEA DO activities.
The 20 hostels I referred to in European cities are close to the city centres and public transport. Referring to the fact you can get a cheap room in America in the middle of nowhere is comparing apples to oranges.
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Old Jan 23, 2009, 8:38 am
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Originally Posted by lexande
I must note that I have found public transport entirely sufficient for getting around as a visitor in LA, SF, Chicago, Seattle, etc.
LA is kinda tough to get around on public transportation - it's huge, and it takes a long time to get anywhere. Fine if you've got the time ...

San Diego is one place that I used to fly for a weekend (on weekend airline specials) and felt comfortable not renting a car. Of course the Airporter bus from airport downtown and the Trolley really helped, plus I like to walk. And for a change of pace there's the ferry from downtown to Coronado Island. Ahhhhh, Coronado Island

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Old Jan 25, 2009, 3:00 pm
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Originally Posted by emailkid
LA is kinda tough to get around on public transportation - it's huge, and it takes a long time to get anywhere. Fine if you've got the time ...

San Diego is one place that I used to fly for a weekend (on weekend airline specials) and felt comfortable not renting a car. Of course the Airporter bus from airport downtown and the Trolley really helped, plus I like to walk. And for a change of pace there's the ferry from downtown to Coronado Island. Ahhhhh, Coronado Island

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San Diego... it really is a bloody great place. I get homesick for it and yet I've never lived there.

As to the OP. Last July I bought $100 for 55. Yesterday $100 cost me 81.

So it's a blatant falsehood that things are still so much cheaper in America. With that exchange rate it makes America 25 to 30% more expensive.
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Old Jan 26, 2009, 8:28 pm
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Originally Posted by emailkid
I've seen a lot of this country over the last couple of years, and not too many Motel 6 franchises charge $30 anymore. Even mom and pop motels don't charge $30 anymore around major cities. Sure, out in the country you can still find them, along the interstates in the middle of nowhere, but around big cities, not so much. Saw lots of $30, even $25 motels in Amarillo, Texas, but really, that's a city you pass through, not visit
Amen to that. Motel 6 is definitely NOT what it was some 15 or 20 years ago. Back in my early travel career, before Priceline and widespread Internet use, I could use Motel 6 a lot and get places in the $20s and $30s. Very few have $30s anymore, and those are in oversupplied places like Anniston, Alabama, or Amarillo that have lots of trucks going through.

Motel 6 went through a management change some years ago where they did a round of renovations and took an aggressive pricing approach, ESPECIALLY on weekends in some markets. They also got lazier about posting rates and generally dropped the business model that got them where they were in the first place.

If you use Priceline a lot and try to bottom-feed at 2* level for $30s or even, if possible, $20s like I do, you end up at extended-stay places a lot. They're much nicer than M6es, but you don't get maid service every day.

IMO Europe is much better set up for budget travel, what with a stronger hostel network and compact cities where rail travel is an option. OTOH, you get relatively high costs for everything nonetheless. SE Asia IMO is the great budget region where you can live better for the same money.

Tahiti was easily the hardest place I've ever traveled on a tight budget.
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Old Jan 27, 2009, 5:21 am
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Originally Posted by lexande
The 20 hostels I referred to in European cities are close to the city centres and public transport. Referring to the fact you can get a cheap room in America in the middle of nowhere is comparing apples to oranges.
In the largest cities in America, hostels are available and relatively inexpensive. I've stayed in hostels in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, and many other cities (Nashville, Austin, Portland, Minneapolis).
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