Monday, August 25, 2014

Travelling on the cheap. Where is the cheapest?

User-friendly but expensive. Danish trains are the world's costliest to travel.
A couple of surveys by big European travel companies are helping consumers make informed choices when it comes to pricing out their vacations. GoEuro and the Post Office (a currency exchange company) have rated the price of different aspects of travel. As always with comparisons, there’s a few apples mixed in among the oranges.

Britain-based Post Office Travel Money’s report on 12 European cultural capitals compared the costs for such high toned cultural attractions as ballet, opera and concert tickets together with entry to the city’s top museum, art gallery and heritage attractions in British Sterling. I converted the Sterling prices into dollars. The report breaks down the individual costs of each of these activities and also offers up a total basket price for all of them.

“We based our report on the idea that people would want to visit galleries and museums every day on a short break and spend evenings at music-based events,” said Andrew Brown of Post Office Travel Money. Using the above criteria, Warsaw was Europe’s cheapest city for culture with prices under a third of those in Vienna, Amsterdam, Barcelona and Paris. London was the most expensive despite a 20 percent decrease in prices over the last five years.

In Warsaw, tickets to the national ballet or tickets to an opera cost about $32. When all of the prices for cultural activities being cited in the survey were added together, the Warsaw basket was priced at $116. In Vienna and Amsterdam that same basket costs $370; in Barcelona $401 and in Paris $418. The apples and oranges index here tells you that ballet and opera in Warsaw takes a second seat to no one. In Budapest, the basket costs $133. You can go to the State Opera House and see Hungary’s National Ballet perform The Nutcracker for about $25. In Prague the basket costs $154; in Dublin $169 and in Rome $219.

It pays to drill down into the London numbers. Though the price of the opera, the ballet and the so-called heritage attractions (Buckingham Palace, for instance, costs $32.75) are extremely high in London, museums like Tate Modern and the British Museum are free. It’s possible in other words to enjoy a fully cultural time in London at very good prices. The Post Office operates more than 10,000 branches that offer euros over the counter in exchange for more than 70 currencies.

Comparing Global Transit Prices

GoEuro, a Berlin-based travel search website that compares and combines air, rail, bus and car rental options, released its worldwide Transportation Price Index based on the train, bus and flight information for 51 countries across five continents. The site usually confines its comparisons to Europe, but this time took a global picture of what costs what when it comes to transport in different countries.

The index cautions that a few grains of salt are necessary, saying, “As investment in infrastructure and quality of service are defining factors in the cost of transportation, it is important to note that countries with higher costs are very likely to be the ones with better service.” In other words you usually get what you pay for.

According to GoEuro, the United States is the 22nd cheapest country to travel in out of the 51 that are rated in the Global Transportation Price Index. The index considered such factors as distance, scheduling and taxes for busses, trains and flights between the two most populous cities in each of the countries. Countries were then rated according to average price per 100 kilometers (62.13 miles).

In the United States, bus journeys cost $7.92 per 100kilometers; train journeys $18.61; and flights $10.36. The price compares nicely to Switzerland, the most expensive country for transport where bus journeys cost $18.67; train journeys $38.28; and flights cost $125.07. Apples and oranges warning, you can’t compare Swiss trains to Amtrak any more than you can compare Rolex and Timex. In South Africa, the cheapest country to get around in, an average bus journey of 100 kilometers cost $3.67; trains cost $1.88; and flights cost just $11.63.

Overall train travel was cheapest in South Africa ($1.88/100km), Georgia ($2.39/100km) and Egypt ($2.49/100km) and most expensive in Denmark ($39.84/100km), Switzerland ($38.28/100km) and Austria ($32.16/100km). Egypt was the cheapest place to by bus at ($1.88/100km), followed by Ukraine ($3.07/100km) and Thailand ($3.11/100km). The Netherlands had the most expensive busses at ($28.58/100km), followed by Austria ($23.45/100km) and Norway ($21.61/100km).

The cheapest countries for air travel are India ($10.36/100km), Malaysia ($11.43/100km) and South Africa ($11.63/100km), whilst the most expensive are Finland ($138.90/100km), Switzerland ($125.07/100km) and Lithuania ($116.72/100km).

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