Let’s begin our journey in the United States of America. After all, this is where the majority of our followers reside, and it is my original home. I touched on this briefly in the “Letter to My Mom” post, so please, take a look if you haven’t already. America, as we call it, is absurdly expensive. Just about the only thing that is less in this country is the cost of gas. And, that is good, considering we use more gasoline than any other nation. I may even go so far as to say all other nations combined, but that may be a stretch, although not a big one.
So, gas is relatively cheap, but what about everything else? Cell phone service is CRAZY high. Near or over $100 per MONTH to be connected? Most of you know that we have a place in Thailand, so I will use that as a reference. Almost everyone there has a cell phone, and I promise they aren’t paying $100 a month when they only make about $5 a day. It’s truly head scratching! I have an opinion as to why cell service is so high in America; it’s because the WOPI is way up! Higher than anywhere on the planet. What is WOPI? It stands for Willing to Overpay Index. Yes, I made that up. Americans just accept rising prices on every item and don’t do anything about it except complain to their friends on Facebook. I am not talking about inflation. Inflation is something completely different. I am speaking of a hidden resort fee at a hotel, a connect fee for your cable, or an origination fee on a loan. Other countries aren’t like that. If you try to nickel and dime them to death on the cost of electricity or phone or whatever in a village in Thailand, they will just do without. And then the company makes $0. Thailand’s WOPI is very low.
With lower gas prices than almost everywhere, you would expect transportation to be fairly inexpensive. WRONG! My wife has paid $400 or more to get from Houston to her family in Virginia. All my friends like to frequent America’s Playground in the desert. Flights to Las Vegas can be from $300-$500 depending on the season. In Europe? You can fly from Paris to Prague for less than $50 or train from Rome to Nice (that’s through Italy, Monaco, and France) for $40. Impossible in North America.
Speaking of Europe, let’s jump across the pond to the Old World. And older is definitely better. That’s why I married Susan (hope she isn’t reading. Oh wait, this is her blog. I’m busted). I think Europe is my favorite place. Although all seven continents have redeeming qualities, Europe just feels like what I want to be. We’ve mentioned the low cost of transport compared to North America, but compared to the rest of the world? It’s the best, and the most inexpensive. Trains, busses, and planes are all viable options. Perhaps the competition of those three keep the prices down. To be honest, I really don’t know, but what I do know is that cost of travel within Europe (and not just the members of EU) is quite inexpensive when compared to other places.
Food is on par with North American prices. You can find cheap eats and you can find the fancy meals. However, the value is better. Instead of spending $7 for something fast (and terrible) at a fast food chain, you get a waffle or crepe or sausage from a street vendor. A chicken and spinach crepe beats whatever the new Jumbo Jack is every time. Beer, wine, and spirits are served almost everywhere, and you can get a glass for $3-$4. Try that in the States, not happening!
Homes are also rather inexpensive in Europe when compared to America. We have been looking at several homes to purchase in France and Italy. I would say prices are 25-35% less when comparing apples to apples. A magnificent chateau facing a castle in the distance is going to be out of range, yes even for you. If it wasn’t, you wouldn’t be worrying about reading this for the $6 savings on your next glass of Sauvignon Blanc.
Before I make this a pro-Europe post, I’ll jump back to the Americas. South America was the first place outside of the USA and Mexico that I traveled. All three visits have been to Argentina and all three visits have primarily been to Buenos Aires. My first visit was in 2006. I’ll never forget how shocked I was at my first meal. I was lucky enough to know a couple, Kendall and Omid, (my two best friends at the time) that had moved from Texas to the Argentine capital just a year earlier. I visited for a week in March. Sadly, Omid had to return to Texas for a funeral just three days before I was scheduled to arrive, so it would be just Kendall and I for the first couple days. She took me to the equivalent of a 5-star steakhouse in the USA. If there are 6-star places, it would’ve been that. The waiters wore tuxedos, there was outside and inside seating. We sat outside. I had the most flavorful and juiciest steak I had ever seen, bife de lomo, potatoes and another vegetable. She had some vegetarian dish that smelled and looked amazing. We shared a bottle of Malbec and had dessert. Including tax and tip: $30. No, I didn’t leave a zero off. It was THIRTY dollars. Granted, that was 12 years ago, but still. WHAT?! I visited twice more in 2007 and prices were slightly higher but not by much. Today, I am not so sure. I know what you are thinking, “Well, do some research Rusty!” I thought about it, but I wanted this to be from memory, from true experiences rather than every other finance article online. Anyone can Google the numbers and put some words together, I want to share experiences and the cost. I feel it’s more authentic.
Why did I visit Argentina twice in 2007? The first was another planned visit to see my friends in springtime (their autumn), and the other was semi-impromptu. In September of 2007 Omid messaged me on AOL, remember that?! AOL messenger, YES! “Want to go to Antarctica?” That was the message. Well, yeah! I had never really thought about it. After a bit of convo on how it came to pass, I gave him my CC number in an encrypted message that any 11-year old with an iPad could crack. Lucky for me, iPads weren’t around yet. We were to leave Ushuaia on a 10-day cruise to the bottom of the world. The cost for me was around $5,000 and that included round-trip airfare from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia. There were four of us: Kurt, Nick, Omid, and me. The cruise ship was small, I would say less than 500 passengers. I can’t recall for sure, I was too excited to see the ice, the penguins, and the seals. I remember seeing the sun set and rise at almost the exact same time on the south’s summer solstice…now that was truly amazing. As for the cost of things in Antarctica, ice is plentiful, penguins are free entertainment, and seals nap all day. Not a lot of commerce going on down there, let’s move along.
I’m puzzled by our next stop. It’s the only country that comprises a whole continent, it has creatures that aren’t similar to anything on the planet, and they serve peanut butter on tap. Strangely enough, that’s not what puzzles me. It’s the fact that this is really the only developed country in the Southern Hemisphere, save New Zealand, and almost all its inhabitants’ ancestry can be traced back to felons! Maybe criminals really are smart. This continent was my fourth and I only stayed for five days, I can’t wait to go back. To say I was a tourist would be an understatement. Being from the USA, my WOPI was very high in 2015 when I visited. I stayed at a fancy hotel that was walking distance to the Sydney Opera House and I ate very well. I rented a car for a day and wrecked it twice (driving on the opposite side of the road is just hard). Enough, what about the money?! I was travelling alone so I splurged. I had kangaroo at a fancy steak house, with dessert and wine. American price (sub steak of course) would be around $70. I spent closer forty-five. I found that fancy food was cheaper here than in America or Europe, but day-to-day fuel for the body was a bit higher. Conclusion: when you go to Oz, splurge to get the full value! All I really spent money on was food, hotel, and rental car. I did visit a wildlife reserve about 90 kilometers west of Sydney. Admission was on par with an American zoo, but the value was miles better. Small kangaroos roamed freely and didn’t mind the human interaction. There were no small cages, just giant areas where the animals had plenty of space. I’m anti-zoo because it hurts me to see animals in a confined space, but this wasn’t like that. I watched a tazmanian devil “jog” in a circle for over an hour. He may still be jogging, who knows. All in all, I feel the value Down Under is on par with Europe. Another plus, that you can’t put a price tag on, is how incredible nice the Aussies are. Everyone smiled, all the time. It was a very happy place. Go, if you get the chance. You’ll need some money because things are pricey, but so worth it.
Another happy place, but drastically different economic wise from Australia, is its neighbor to the north—Asia. Specifically, Southeast Asia. Bali was my first stop, part of our honeymoon. We spent time in Bali, Cambodia, and Thailand. We must have liked it, because we bought a condo in Pattaya. Surely you know that by now, if not, click here to read more about it! Ranking the continents on value, Asia is number 1, and it’s not close. Our condo is in a resort about a mile from the beach. We are on the eighth and highest floor and can see the ocean from our balcony. The size is 27 square meters, so not big by any means. It’s a studio with a kitchenette and bathroom. Once there, we purchased a refrigerator, a chair that converts to a twin bed, and a television all for less than $900. Compared to the cost of everything else, these were quite expensive. Add that to the cost of our condo, and we can sleep three people for $51,000. Yes, we BOUGHT a condo in a resort with two of the biggest pools I’ve ever seen, a mile from the beach, for $50,000. Nuts!
When we stay there, we walk everywhere. Between us and the beach is a great little German café. The workers always greet us with a smile, and, with their hands pressed together they bow just a little, and say hello in Thai. We return the greeting and have a seat. I have the same thing every time we go: cappuccino, fresh orange juice, a cheese-danish, a chocolate croissant, and a bowl of yogurt with fruit; all for $7. To be honest, this is a splurge meal. Let me say it again, seven dollars is splurging. After breakfast we walk toward the beach and stop at a massage parlor. Yes, they really are everywhere. We go in and get an hour foot massage. $6. Wait, what? Yep! 200 baht for an hour foot massage, which is roughly $6. Want a full body massage instead? At some places, the price is the same, others its 50% more, so $9! You’re losing money if you don’t get one (or two) every week (or day!).
We’ve had breakfast and a massage, now what? We can continue onward to the beach, enjoy the sand and the waves, and have delicious ice cream served in a coconut for less than two dollars. Or, we can go back to the condo. It may be 90 degrees outside but it’s nice and cool in our room. The air conditioner is on full blast and we will pay for it—a whopping $15 a month for electric. To cool down we jump in the pool and enjoy the sunshine. For dinner we will walk to the market and eat from street vendors. We will spend about $5 total and have enough for lunch the next day. I won’t go on and on, you get the picture. It’s cheap. Beyond cheap, almost stealing. Click here for our previous post about the costs of food in Thailand.
Well, that sums it up! What it costs, really, on all the continents. And not from a researcher using Google and Wikipedia, but from someone that’s been there. WAIT! I forgot. I am writing this from Africa! My seventh and final one! To be more specific, I am in Morocco. My wife told me this is basically Europe. I disagree. It’s more like the Middle East, but the map says Africa. So, what do things cost here? Our riad was $1200 for the month using Airbnb. If you’ve never used Airbnb, do it! You can stay longer for less and get a better feel for a place than staying in a fancy hotel. Now, I am not dissing the luxury of a hotel, not by any means. I adore luxury. But, we can’t all stay at the Four Seasons for 30 days. Sign up for Airbnb here and get forty free dollars to spend on your first stay. Okay, commercial over. Food here is cheap and good! That’s if you don’t follow what EVERYONE says about eating in the main square of Jemma el Fna. We found little France. It’s called Gueliz and it basically just an area of Marrakech about 2 miles from our riad. We go there to eat. A little French café called Le Pain Quotidien is phenomenal. I had a super tasty chicken sandwich and fries for $5. They have pizza for $3 and ice cream for $1.50 per scoop. It’s good ice cream, Euro-ice cream…yummm!. If I write more it would be a repeat of an article my wife posted a few days ago, Week One Recap…Marrakech. She has broken down the cost of every single thing, so there you go!
I know this was a bit much, but it took me 12 years to get from my second continent to my seventh. I’ve condensed as much as possible. There are more statistical articles out there, but this is my own research, my own travel, paid for by no one other than me. All the data is from my own memory and experiences, now get out there and see the world!