February 21, 2020
Travel DaddyGO When You Can!

2020 WORLD’S 10 MOST EXPENSIVE CITIES FOR TOURISTS

I’ve been to quite a few destinations and have seen my share of local economies. You definitely need to save for these destinations, so here is Travel Daddy’s list of 2020 WORLD’S 10 MOST EXPENSIVE CITIES FOR TOURISTS

  1. Reykjavik
  2. Singapore
  3. Tokyo
  4. Hong Kong
  5. New York
  6. San Francisco
  7. Honolulu
  8. London
  9. Seoul
  10. Paris

Why So Expensive?

I tend to splurge on some aspects of my trip (fine dining) and also go the super cheap route with others (flights under 5 hrs). I’ve learned that balance is key for my travel adventures, mainly because an ideal experience is a marriage of affordability, comfort and convenience. With that said, here are the places that I’ve been to that put a noticeable dent in my wallet even while adhering to modesty.

1. Reykjavik

aerial view of reykjavik Iceland.
Photo by Alec Cooks on Unsplash

In terms of cost-quality ratio, Reykjavik Iceland was the most expensive I have ever experienced. Everything was pricey. My per diem rate was higher than any of the other cities especially for what I got in return. The food was great but a solid tier pricier. It may have something to do with the location or things being imported, but you’ll cringe after consecutive days of spending hundreds. Iceland Magazine says it’s 66% pricier than its European neighbors; you’ve been to the U.K.? Yikes! Mental Floss posts a good article on the reason for the price hike here.

IS IT WORTH IT?

I would say most definitely- at least once. I’d never been that far in the northern hemisphere, and being from the Caribbean, it gave me great insight into how people live in such a frigid environment. Also, it’s not everyday you get to soak in the Blue Lagoon.

TRAVEL DADDY TIP

You like to drink? Fuggedabawdit <Italian mobster voice> Seriously, liquor and alcohol will set you back at least 2 x the price in U.S. 

2. Singapore

expensive city marina bay singapore
Photo by Swapnil Bapat on Unsplash

Singapore has been among the top 5 of the World’s Most Expensive Cities, and justifiably so. Everything’s expensive- the cab, dining, activities, hotels- you name it, it’ll cost more. The one area that really set it apart for me was the nightlife and social scene. In a place saturated with as many bankers, developers and millionaires, having a good time will cost you. Singapore has a great number of upscale nightclubs and I almost spat out my beer when I saw the $33 price tag.

IS IT WORTH IT?

Yes and no. Singapore is a must see if you’ve caught the travel bug. However, if you’re an infrequent traveler on a limited budget, then there are other Asian megacities with more activities that will not break the bank as much i.e. Bangkok comes to mind.

TRAVEL DADDY TIP

Singapore does boast some of the best street food on the planet near Chinatown, so hit up the local vendors a few times during the week to stymie dining costs.

3. Tokyo

aerial view of expensive city Tokyo city japan
Photo by Andre Benz on Unsplash

Tokyo is another of those cities that I definitely don’t recommend you wing it. Careful consideration and planning should go into your itinerary. You need to clearly define what type of experience you want since it’s easy to spiral down an expense nightmare. All the novelties you’ve read about which make the Japanese experience unique will cost you. Bullet trains, top-notch sushi, hotels, concerts and events, will be a shade higher than U.S. cities, so prepare accordingly.

IS IT WORTH IT?

Absolutely. Tokyo (and Japan by extension) is an assault on your cultural senses. It challenges everything you deem to be normal and pushes the envelope on cuisine, fashion, and city life. This is the world’s largest metropolitan area boasting 38 million people, but it’s cleanliness and social order is something to be marvelled at. Tokyo is a bucket list destination.

TRAVEL DADDY TIP

Skimp costs when convenient, and find alternative ways of indulging without breaking the bank. Here are some tips from the experts.

4. Hong Kong

aerial view of expensive city hong kong
Photo by Natalya Letunova on Unsplash

Hong Kong- like Tokyo- will consistently rank high and on average slightly more expensive in the heart of Hong Kong where high-end stores outnumber coffee shops. The saving grace is that you can travel to the outskirts in places like Kowloon and get a whole different appreciation of Hong Kong. The nightlife is pricey especially because of its affluent patrons and international business significance. Vacation for more than a week, and your pockets will definitely smart as you want to experience more.

IS IT WORTH IT?

If I’d done this list a year ago, I’d rank Hong Kong among the must see destinations, but because of the ongoing political demonstrations and unrest, I do not recommend visiting at the moment. Hopefully when safety isn’t an issue, you’ll have the chance to experience the birthplace of Bruce Lee and party like I did.

TRAVEL DADDY TIP

As mentioned before- Hong Kong is more than the skyscrapers. You can find tons of deals and free stuff throughout Hong Kong, if you know where to look.

5. New York

skyline of expensive city new york
Photo by Todd Quackenbush on Unsplash

New York, New York- what a wonderful and expensive town. Like the remaining destinations listed, New York can host extremely pricey restaurants for the super affluent or the neighborhood deli with amazing subs for the blue collar Yankees. It’s all about perception and perspectives, but the Big Apple is definitely on the higher end of costs for everything from hotels to entertainment. It might be the greatest metropolis on the planet, but it’ll cost you!

IS IT WORTH IT?

There’s no place quite like the Big Apple. New York may be the greatest city on this list, and that’s an understatement. It’s probably the most cosmopolitan city to have ever existed and iconic in its global influence on architecture, fashion, food and cinema. It took me 35 years to finally see New York city and I will return. 

TRAVEL DADDY TIP

Get out of Manhattan and overly touristy places if you can and venture out to the boroughs where actual people live. You’ll find that few places have as many free activities as New York. 

6. San Francisco

expensive city san Francisco aerial view
Photo by Jared Erondu on Unsplash

The Bay area and home to my favorite sports team – the 49ers- used to be an artists’ haven filled with hobos, wanderers and accepting of all things diverse. This was all before the tech boom when silicon valley came into prominence and brought an influx of the new rich. Gentrification and the uptick of real estate markets have collectively altered the image of the once hippie mecca. Even if you’re not planning to live there, visiting and experiencing what the city has to offer will cost you.

IS IT WORTH IT?

Since the tech wave of silicon valley, San Francisco is undergoing a significant identity crisis and you’ll feel it walking the streets. The city still has a unique feel, but it’s prices may force regular folks like you and me elsewhere for a better deal. It’s still my favorite city after New York and San Antonio, so I’m a bit biased when I say it’s worth the price of admission.

TRAVEL DADDY TIP

Take one of the open top bus tours for a good feel of the city without breaking the bank.

7. Honolulu

aerial view of expensive city Honolulu bay
Photo by AussieActive on Unsplash

Just like San Francisco, limited space drives demand, and real estate prices in Honolulu are off the chain. Always a tourism hotspot for Asians and Westerners, hotels aren’t going to be cheap year round, and the food in Hawaii is always a tad more expensive due to importing most things from the mainland. I would know because I lived there for 3 years!

IS IT WORTH IT?

That depends- do you like the beach, beautiful weather and tons of traffic and tourists? If so then Honolulu is the place for you. Many people spend their lives wishing they could visit the Aloha state at least once before they die. I say do it if it’s within your means.

TRAVEL DADDY TIP

If you can peel yourself away from Waikiki –  a tourist trap- and make your way to other parts of the island like the north shore, you can indulge in free and not-so-expensive adventures; you just have to know where to look.

8. London

aerial view of expensive city london
Photo by Benjamin Davies on Unsplash

London is expensive. Why wouldn’t it be? The pound has historically been worth more than $ U.S., it’s the home of the British monarchy, it’s a major world metro, and a tourist must-see destination. Aside from its history, London is a global finance hub and anywhere wealthy people congregate, one can expect a price hike. It’s basic supply and demand baby- yeah (Austin Powers’ voice).

IS IT WORTH IT?

Experiencing London is definitely a mandatory traveler’s destination. There’s nothing quite like taking in Buckingham Palace or on the London Bridge, while driving on the opposite side of the street.

TRAVEL DADDY TIP

Maybe book a hotel outside the immediate area of London and take a short train ride into the city and maybe not do fine dining every night.

9. Seoul

aerial view of expensive city seoul
Photo by Ping Onganankun on Unsplash

Seoul can be viewed as expensive with a caveat. If you’re from one of the coastal cities in the U.S, then it’ll be business as usual, but if you’re from – let’s say Cleveland Ohio- then it’ll smart a bit.

IS IT WORTH IT?

Seoul is worth every penny. There’s so much to do and see, especially if you’re short on time. I’ve done 12-24 hour layovers in Seoul, and got as far as the DMZ and back in time for my flight. Seoul’s nightlife also ranks in the top ten all time for me!

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The saving grace is that your Korean experience can be tailored to your budgetary needs. You can also do some really good shopping since vendors are open to bargaining in Itaewon and Myeongdong.

10. Paris

aerial view of expensive city seoul
Photo by Alexander Kagan on Unsplash

It’s all about supply and demand- Paris has always been synonymous with the French ideal of art, history, culture and cuisine. I’ve scarfed down baguettes on the Champs-Élysées and sipped wine near the Eiffel Tower- definitely worth the hype. People from all over the world come to view the Mona Lisa and all that Paris has to offer, so it’s no surprise that this city will cost you for the once-in-a lifetime experience.

IS IT WORTH IT?

It’s Paris- of course!

TRAVEL DADDY TIP

Paris CAN easily be the most expensive European city, but if you’ve done your homework then you’ll realize that most of the key activities won’t cost you as much. Nomadic Matt has done the homework for you here.

DID I MISS ANY?

Compiling lists like these are always a challenge because of an ever changing market. Some would argue cities like Dubai and Sydney should be on the list due to flight costs, lodging, etc., but the aforementioned 10 are universally regarded as plain ol’ expensive. Are there any others that you’d consider to be worthy of this list? Let me know and I may consider it for a visit or future articles. Remember- Go When You Can!

Travel Daddy

*Cover Photo by Anders Jildén on Unsplash

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