A family of British tourists hit the headlines after they paid the equivalent of more than £50 for four gelati in Rome. You may laugh, but is there potential here for a vaguely amusing story to actively turn people off Rome, or even worse, Europe as a whole? And isn’t that just a big fat bunch of ridiculous?
My drive to work today was accompanied by a running commentary of tales describing all manner of super expensive European snacking incidents. And when I heard a voice boom from the speakers declaring “I was forced to pay 12 Euros for a coffee in Venice!” I shook my head in exasperation, immediately feeling the need to burst into print. No one forced you to do anything, Mr DJ.
The truth is that it categorically does not have to be this way; not in Rome, not in Venice, not anywhere. Sure, you have to pay attention to your surroundings if you want to save money, but it can be done. And it can actually be pretty easy.
I’ve visited several of Europe’s must-see cities at times in my life when I’ve needed to be strict about spending. And though every meal might not have been a slap-up supper, I’ve never reflected on these trips with anything other than pure joy.
The single most important thing about a trip to anywhere is simply being there.
If you keep this in mind, you’ll be able to put the rest into perspective.
A lot of this comes down to simple common sense, but if you follow these tips, you should come back from your trip without dreading your next credit card bill:
#1 Do Some Planning
Not everyone is a planner by nature, but it pays to do a little research before you travel. A simple guidebook like a DK Top Ten will usually suffice, though you’ll get plenty of helpful info from the web.
Blogs about your destination by those who’ve already been and seen it are a really useful way to get information that will help you make good spending decisions. This is how you’ll find out which cafes and restaurants are notoriously overpriced and which areas are best avoided if you have limited spends.(Hint: stay away from tourist traps and take the side streets).
You’ll also learn that standing at the bar to order your espresso is much cheaper than sitting on the patio and waiting for service (and yes, in Venice’s Piazza San Marco you will pay through the nose to sit outside).
#2 Check the Price
I get it. You’re on holiday. You’re in a place you’ve so far only dreamed wistfully about visiting. You get carried away. Well stop! This is still real life and real money, so don’t leave your wits at home.
Look at the menu before you decide to go in to a place. If there are no prices and it looks posh, or if it’s in a prime spot next to a major tourist attraction, then you might want to keep on walking. And if you’re not sure – just ask the price! Don’t be shy. If the answer you get is jaw dropping, march on. There’ll be someone infinitely more gullible who doesn’t have your good sense along in a minute – and the restaurant will have forgotten all about you and your price quizzing.
#3 Budget Your Funds
Try to agree a rough daily budget. Then do your best to stick to it. If you spend less than you thought you would one particular day (or even every day) just stash it for the last night and then indulge. You should never completely say never to a splurge with a spectacular view.
While you might choke on that €12 coffee in St Mark’s Square on the afternoon you arrive in Venice, it could taste a lot less bitter on the day you leave. As long as you’ve checked the price and you’re happy to go for it, why not treat yourself? Who knows when you’ll be back again?
As for me, I’m planning to practice what I preach when I visit Copenhagen later this summer. The Danish capital is known to be one of Europe’s more expensive cities, and while our student days may be behind us, Mr Holiday Addict and I aren’t prepared to push the boat out so far that it financially sinks us.
I wholeheartedly guarantee I’ll be telling you how to do Copenhagen and keep costs sensible when I return. And despite having complete faith that this will not be a bank breaking trip, I won’t be scrimping either. Want to see how I get on? Watch this space in late July to find out!
But for now, let’s go back to Rome and that gelato…
Truth be told, I can’t really sympathise with the British tourists whose ice cream clearly left them with a bad taste. Watching them be interviewed on breakfast TV this morning, It’s clear that they didn’t check prices before they ordered (fail) and that they bought their gelato from a thoroughly fancy place by the Spanish Steps (epic fail). The alarm bells should have been ringing long before they got their bill!
So while it’s definitely true that you can get ripped off anywhere, paying over the odds can almost certainly be avoided.
And with so much currently going on in the world, isn’t this one story that should never really have made the news?
What do you think? Were the British tourists right to take their story to the national news? Let me know in the comments!