Europe, Asia, South America, almost every place I’ve traveled has two-tiered pricing.
That’s a nice way of saying local prices and tourist prices.
Thailand: The Land Of The Two-Price System
Thailand is famous for charging tourists more for the same things as locals. This practice is institutionalized in Thailand. Restaurants have Thai and foreign menus side by side each with different prices. Attractions conspicuously post two prices. National parks and monuments have local and foreign prices posted also. I assume that the Thai government sets the two price system at national parks and monuments.
Because so few non-Thais can read Thai the Thais are able to get away with it. Thai numbers are a mystery:
My Thai friends explained that because they are citizens of Thailand they pay taxes for the parks and monuments. Tourists don’t pay these taxes, so the higher tourist price is justified. That’s a solid argument but unexpected coming from the U.S. where prices are not different for foreigners.
Expect To Pay More As A Tourist
To be honest, I am seen as a tourist in most countries and I know the prices will be increased. This is to be expected because the price is not fixed in many countries. You must bargain for the final price.
I’m ok with this type of two-tier pricing because with few exceptions if you are traveling from a high-income country
- New Zealand
you have more expendable income than most locals. Even if you have less expendable income (you are ‘poor’) in your country you have the financial ability to pay more than most locals.
My son who lives in India spends only $10 a day, including housing. This is an impossibly small amount to live on in the U.S. In northern India where he lives, he spends twice as much as the locals. He can easily afford to pay 70 cents for dinner while the locals pay 35 cents.
Many people depend on tourism for a living. I don’t mind paying a few extra Bhat, Ringgit, Lira, Dinar, Pesos, or Quetzals knowing it supports a family and improves their standard of living.
However, I expect to pay a set price, the same as the locals, in developed countries.
It’s one thing to pay more so a family can afford fuel for their scooter to get to work and another thing so a family can afford fuel for their jet skis.
Speaking The Language Is The Key
In Italy and France, many cafes charge tourists more. I discovered this in Italy because I speak a little Italian.
While meeting with an Italian friend at a cafe, we were talking about the quality and price of Italian coffee. Laughing she asked me to order a coffee, which I did. She poked fun at my beginning Italian and poor pronunciation and said, “That’s why you pay so much for coffee.”
Pay so much?
She said my pronunciation was clearly that of someone learning Italian. When the waiter/waitress hears that they tack on an extra euro.
We spent some time perfecting my accent for ordering coffee. I practiced with her and the waiter until they were both satisfied. The next morning I ordered coffee (at a cafe I’d not been to before) and sure enough, it was a euro less than I’d been paying!
I was delighted with my mastery of a single Italian sentence as well as saving a euro. But, I was a bit upset that I’d been played for a sucker. After all, I fancy myself as an experienced traveler, I should have known about this tourist surcharge.
My French is better than my Italian. I’m sometimes asked where I’m from in France because of my accent. They think I’m a native but can’t place the accent (because it’s a Californian accent, LOL).
So, how much is my coffee in France? It’s the local price: €1.5, about $1.68. That’s for a café au lait with a smooth, bright flavor that would be $7 in the U.S.
You Don’t Have To Speak All Of The Language
You don’t have to be a language prodigy to get local pricing. Many times in places where my language skills are very low, I’m often given the local price.
I get the local price by:
- Trying to speak their language – NOT expecting them to speak English
- Telling them I’m learning the language
- Asking a question or two (if they are not busy) to further my language learning
And my terrible attempts to speak their language are usually entertaining (at least I assume that’s what they are laughing about).
I prefer to go to non-tourist areas and smaller local shops where there are few or no tourists. These smaller local-only places are the most pleased to see a foreigner and have the extra business. Usually, the smaller shops are staffed by the owner or his or her family, so I see the same people every day.
Even if I do pay the tourist price, it’s usually not over the top. In Italy, I was paying €2.5 ($2.80) instead of €1.5 ($1.68). That’s still a great price especially for the quality of the coffee.
You will be surprised how far a little language goes into saving that extra euro. And I always give that €1 to the waiter as an (unexpected) tip.