Why It’s Time to Stop Complaining About Tourist Pricing

In 2013, Nick and I wrote a post called “Tourist Pricing: Is It Right, Or Wrong?”. And, at the time, we were of the opinion that it was completely unfair that locals paid a far lower rate than us to visit many sites around the world. We felt totally ripped off during our first few years of travelling! However, these days, our opinions on the matter have changed, which is why we’d now like to share with you this guest post from Chantell of Travel For Your Life who shares her view on why it’s time for us all to stop complaining about tourist pricing. Read on and tell us your opinion in the comments. 

Have you ever gone to a museum or taken a bus in another country where they charge you a much higher price if you’re a foreigner than a local? Not because you haggled badly but where the higher tourist price is actually a set listed price that’s higher?

It makes you feel a bit funny doesn’t it? Almost like you’ve been ripped off even though the “tourist price” is clearly printed out on a sign so it’s not like they just changed the price for you. This is the price for all tourists. Yet, it stills feels unfair that you’ve been charged more than someone else, just because of where you’re from.

Taj Mahal Agra India - Travel for Your Life
The Taj Mahal in Agra is one of the most famous tourist attractions that charges significantly different prices for tourists vs. locals

I’ve been traveling for the last two years, so this is something that affects me on a regular basis. However, despite it having felt as if I was part of some mass tourist scam at first, I’m actually now all for tourist pricing. In fact, in most instances, I think it’s the fairest system to use.

I see a lot of unfairness while traveling and, sadly, a lot of discrimination too. But tourist pricing is not one of those instances.

The most frequent discrimination I see against people based on where they’re from isn’t actually against tourists at all. The discrimination I see the most of is against locals.

Where I was in Bali until recently my Indonesian friends were discriminated against far more frequently than me.

Beautiful Rice Fields in Bali - Travel for Your Life
Beautiful Bali, where unfortunately those actually from Indonesia are discriminated against the most

From the beach clubs that just don’t let locals in, to the bars where locals have to be with a foreigner to get in, to a friend who was beaten up recently as it was assumed he must have been involved in a crime that had just taken place since he was a local and in the area.

My Balinese friends take the situation remarkably well. If we go to one of the bars where locals have to pay to get in, but tourists can go in for free, they don’t grumble about it or ever suggest we go somewhere else, they just get on with it.

They always go out wearing trainers and shirts so that if we happen to go to the club which has a dress code specifically just for locals they will be fine to get in (as a foreigner I could show up wearing swimwear and no shoes at all and probably still be let in). They prepare for the discrimination that they know will take place against them.

Good on them. I don’t think I could do the same.

Koh Tao - Travel for Your Life
Purely because I’m foreign I could probably get into most bars in Bali dressed like this. A local would have to wear shoes and a shirt

Imagine for a second if, in your home country, you couldn’t go to the bar round the corner from your house unless you were with a tourist? Or unless you were more smartly dressed than a tourist visiting your hometown. Isn’t that bonkers? And horrible?

This is the real discrimination that locals in some countries face on a daily basis because of tourism. And yet we, as tourists, have the audacity to go to other countries and complain about being charged extra for bus rides and sightseeing. And complain about it to the extent of discussing it as if it’s some kind of mass government tourist scam.

Higher pricing for tourists is not a tourist scam. It is actually, unlike the negative discrimination many locals face in their home countries, positive discrimination and should be encouraged.

In locations where there are a lot of famous tourists sights prices naturally rise to enter those attractions and to access transportation between them due to the high demand. And year-after-year these prices get higher and higher since there is so much demand.

That’s fine if that happens in an area where the average income of the people from that location is that same as the average income of the tourists going there. However, far too frequently that isn’t the case.

Whenever people talk about this discrepancy in prices they talk about overpaying for everything. But the thing is you’re not overpaying. If you’re a tourist in the place, the price you’re paying is actually the correct price.

No one has specifically targeted you. You are not being made the victim of a tourist scam. That is the price. However it just so happens that locals get a discounted price to visit that attraction to ensure they are able to enjoy their hometown to the fullest extent too.

Hell, I’ve even seen a local discount offered to residents of Orlando when going to the waterpark there, even though there’s no discrepancy between their pay and that of most people visiting. They were just smart enough to position it as a local discount rather than listing:

  • Tourist Prices
  • Local Price

Instead they listed it as:

  • Price
  • 10% residency discount

The second option looks far more acceptable than the first. But that is what the first option is at the end of the day.

As tourists we need to stop feeling sorry for ourselves and realize we’re not being discriminated against when we’re charged a tourist price. It is instead the locals who are receiving a discount. Which, given all of the other discrimination that happens to locals as a result of tourism in many parts of the world, is something that as travelers we should whole-heartedly support.

Just imagine if you were from Egypt and grew up right next to the pyramids, the only Wonder Of The World to make it on both the old and new Seven Wonders of the World lists, but you were priced out of seeing it your entire life. Unable to see the heritage of your country, that is right there next to you, due to the tourism pushing the prices up and up.

That cannot be right.

Traveling Malaysia - Travel for Your Life
I would hate to ever see my tourism cause an amazing groups of girls like this to be priced out from properly getting to experience their own country

I went up Penang Hill in Malaysia the other day. The tourist price to go up was 30 Ringgit whereas the price for locals was 15 Ringgit. That’s a difference of three dollars. THREE DOLLARS. Yes, it’s double the price locals have to pay but it is not a big difference in cost at the end of the day. I’ve been traveling for two years and I can still cope with that difference in price.

Penang Hill - Travel for Your Life
Paying $3 more than a local to experience this ride up Penang Hill was 100% worth it. The train went almost as fast as a roller coaster!

Yes, there are times when the difference between the tourist and local price is much greater than the above example but remember, even in those instances, the price you’re paying is actually the real price to see that sight or attraction. The price locals are paying is a discounted price. A reduced rate to ensure they are also able to fully enjoy the beauty of their home country too.

Something we should all be able to do.

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Why It’s Time to Stop Complaining About Tourist Pricing

Written by

Chantell Glenville

Chantell quit her job to travel the world in 2014 and it’s one of the best decisions she ever made. Her aim is to help inspire others to do the same. She is the author of the best-selling book Travel for Your Life which shows people how to get over the obstacles that all too frequently stop them from traveling and what the benefits of traveling will be. Chantell also shares her advice on travel, including suggested routes around countries to reduce planning time and essential traveling tips on her website www.TravelForYourLife.com.

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28 thoughts on “Why It’s Time to Stop Complaining About Tourist Pricing”

  1. Loved this post and I think it gives a great insight on tourist prices. I know that tourism can be a lot to handle for local populations and while I don’t always enjoy paying a higher price, I do think it is fair. We’re afforded a lot of privileges that locals might not be able to replicate and we should do our part in keeping these beautiful places open to the masses!

  2. Awesome post! We have caught ourselves getting so frustrated by this before! When we lived in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico we were really aware when somebody was trying to charge us more than what the price “really was”. I literally got in an argument is a cab driver about the ride costing 80 pesos instead of 100 pesos. I had to step back and realize that I was arguing over ONE FREAKING DOLLAR! How dumb! I love this post!

  3. I am completely in favor of tourist pricing. I travel to Indonesia often and this is common. We must keep in mind that, as westerners, we make FAR more money than people in Indonesia, for example. The hit on their wallets when they pay one-half of the price to enter Borobudur is STILL a much greater hit proportionally than it is to us – since Indonesians make less than one-third of what the average American makes.

    And that average Indonesian salary is probably not even accurate. It’s probably far lower given the lack of statistics for most of the population.

    So you have to pay $40 US to see Ankor Wat. You pay 2.5x that to see Disney World. And you get 100x more out of your visit to Ankor Wat.


  4. I understand where you’re coming from and when you explain it this way, it makes complete sense. I’m not charged more, they get a discount.
    The only ones that kill me are the “unemployement pricing” in certain attractions / prove you are unemployed or empoverised and get in for free. Well, I’m unemployed, but they mean locals. Again, I see what they are trying to do, but I think a better choice of words would go along way – like your Orlando example

  5. I totally agree! I don’t think the higher prices every really bothered me, i just figured it made sense since cost of living and wages were lower and all that. I figured I can afford this, I mean, I am halfway around the world. I always thought this way with haggling, too. 12 Quetzals instead of 15 for some bracelets? That’s like 50 cents and they could use it more than me. I totally feel you.

  6. Being from Congo, I never complain about tourist prices as long as they’re the standard and I’m not getting a price based on how I look. But if I’m at a market, I could be asked to pay 10 times the value of the item, and that’s the only time I will try to get the price to be a bit more reasonable or just walk away. I’ve seen this first hand in my country, sometimes I help the tourist if I think they’re really getting ripped off, but if the vendor is just trying to make a bit more, I think that’s okay too. We are all human and we all want to create profit for ourselves!
    Also, If locals had to pay the same prices as tourist, just like you said, they’d maybe never be able to afford it especially in countries with lower wages!

  7. I 100% agree with this. Even if we would like things to be different, the fact is that locals are hosting us in their country and we need to understand that this comes with a small price tag!

  8. I just wish it were more fair across the board, and I agree that if the verbiage is changed from “tourist or foreigner price” and instead to, “locals discount”, it would be easier to swallow. In some destinations, locals are not allowed in casinos to protect them from losing their money–but foreigners are certainly welcome to lose their money (must show foreign Passport to get inside). In the USA, you are right that the major theme parks like in California and Florida often offer “locals discounts”, and even in Hawaii, they do this at many attractions and restaurants. I live in Arizona, and nobody seems to have caught on for offering any such local discount to me. We get a lot of senior winter visitors here, and they often DO get discounts, but I have never seen a “locals discount” here. I also feel that it’s a bit unfair when I am saving to go to a major theme park like Disneyland, and I have to budget for a rental car or flight, hotel, eating out, etc, AND then I am also charged a higher rate for tickets than somebody living locally in California or Florida has to pay. I mean my travel expenses are ALREADY higher to get there and then I have to pay a higher rate after all that (and Disney just raised their rates again)? You would think that I as the person spending the time and effort to get there would receive the discount; not the other way around. In these examples, I am not referring to other countries where the salaries are so greatly different, as I can see this as being more fair. Maybe we all need to go around and start asking for a locals discount in our own neighborhoods wherever we spend our money to shed some light on this matter–I would love to hear the response when I ask for one!

  9. Oh wow I’ve never seen that before Christine, that’s a really interesting idea. But you’re right choice of wording makes all the difference to whether it feels unfair or ok when it negatively effects you personally. Hope you’re still managing to see the beautiful things in the world that you want to

  10. Good on you Megan. A lot of people, especially when traveling on a budget, don’t see it like that at all. Reminding yourself of the value or benefit an amount has to you vs what it could mean for another person is always a great way to get some perspective on pricing

  11. You’re right Getty. Whether the price is standard or just based on how you look makes a big difference to if the difference price feels ok. That’s part of the reason why I always haggle in markets. I don’t mind the price for me being a little bit higher than a local would pay in a market but if there’s no set price and the person has just decided to make it 10 times higher based on how I look I’m like you and will try to get a more reasonable price or just walk away. That’s why I’m ok with the tourist pricing a tourist attractions however as that price is set, not just based on a whim

  12. That would be great if you could initiate positive change in your own area to get people to start offering local discounts. It’s all about making it so that people can get to enjoy and benefit from the things in their local area. For example when I was in Borneo there were some islands just off the coast of a big city where locals could enter for free but tourists have to pay. But that makes sense to me as if you live somewhere you should be able to enjoy the beaches by the city you live in on the weekend. It’s a shame you’re not getting this benefit in your home town to balance out the times you have to pay more when you’re traveling. It’s definitely worth a shot to try and change in

  13. I strongly disagree.
    Your first argument is illogical just because one group is discriminated against doesnt make it right to discriminate against another group.
    Your second argument sounds valid, but due to the fact that tourist are in no comperable numbers to the locals i still must disagree. So far I ( and my girlfriend) have been the only european ( and white) people on Most of the buses and we had to pay 4 times more.
    In my opinion, by letting tourists pay that much more you skew the Natural laws of am economy and make it less stabile. If you are studying 4 years to become an engineer just to see that bus anderen taxi drivers are getting payed WAY more than you, you will probably change profession.
    And by that people which could have really helped the country and Economy now work in hotel lobbies and scooter Taxi drivers.

  14. Wow… I “love” to read all those cuckold-style comments over here. *facepalm*
    Asking different prices based on different RACIAL appearance IS RACISM! Now do not try to literally “whitewash” this. It is racial discrimination, as this behaviour of locals imputes any white human of being rich, just based on racial characteristics, regardlessly if you are actually a tourist or a white immigrant who does not necessarily earn more than a local. And by this, I am especially referring to Latin American countries. Reflect a little bit about this.

  15. Ah, one more thing.. I never heard of Swiss people being charged more than locals in another (poorer) European country. Once, about 20 years ago, Italy did this to tourists, but it is a thing of the past. Then this way was officially criticised and prohibited by the Italian gouvernment.
    And Swiss easily earn more than twice compared to Italians. By their accent you usually hear where they are from. So at least outside of Europe, this scrupulous conduct it is definitely a question of skin colour.

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