Avoid Tourist Traps

Image credit: TristanB, August 2004

There are tourist traps in every country that work in pretty much the same way.  We believe in letting your buck go further and in line with that, here are a few suggestions for saving money.

Airport duty free shops

There is no automatic saving in duty-free shops, and in many cases we have found that the prices are the same as in high-street shops.  (In some airports such as Heathrow, direct price comparisons are regularly conducted to ensure that you are paying no more than you would at a shop in the city.)

The bargains that are to be had in duty-free are on articles with high levels of duty, which are generally in “luxury” goods such as alcoholic drinks, and fragrances.  If you are a devotee of luxury goods then duty-free is probably going to work out well for you.

Airline duty free

When you are flying with Emirates and Qatar you have an option to put a sticker on your seat-back top which has a sleeping face, then they will skip you when they come around with the duty free cart.  If you want to save money, that is the way to go.  Airline duty-free prices are not usually all that wonderful because their profit margins are often fatter, but if you know the price elsewhere then you may be able to score a rare bargain by comparing prices.

Tourist attraction curio shops

These are often the worst offenders in charging top dollar.  One way that you can tell if a place is a tourist trap or not is by finding out if the locals buy there.  For instance the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is supported mainly by tourists.  By contrast, however, the Egyptian or Spice Market is frequented by locals buying their spices for use at home.  The quality is spoken of (positively) in hushed tones, and the prices are keen.

If you want to support the local economy by buying trinkets you will often get the same thing from a local supermarket, or even a street vendor, at substantially lower rates than at the shop at the airport.

Of course, you may have forgotten to get gifts for relatives or friends, in which case if you remember in time you can buy them a present at the airport, but then you should be prepared to pay for the convenience.


If you eat the local cuisine you will pay less than if you go for foods that are exotic in that location.  For instance, in Hong Kong there is a wide variety of fare from all over the world.  But even in a touristy place like Victoria Peak you will pay Yuan 50 for Chinese food, and probably over Yuan 100 if you want an Italian-style meal.

The author also experienced this in eating at a German-themed restaurant in Dalian, Northern China.  Expensive!  If you want more bang for your buck, get your teeth into the local cuisine and enjoy what the country you are visiting has to offer your palate.  After all, if you wanted to eat food from home, you could simply have stayed at home!

The key to not being caught as a tourist is to shop and eat where the locals do, where it is safe to do so.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *