Expensive Experiences, Cheaper Alternatives
The world’s most iconic travel experiences don’t usually come cheap – but sometimes there are real alternatives. Here are some ideas for the budget-conscious, and expert advice on whether it’s actually worth paying the price for some of these bucket-list classics.
1. Orient Express vs InterRail Pass – Europe
The plush Venice Simplon Orient-Express exudes an irresistible romance – it’s all that wood panelling and polished brass. But it’s not cheap: the classic six-day Paris-Istanbul train jaunt costs £11,000 per person. An InterRail Pass to cover the same stretch costs from £161 (five days travel in ten); upgrade to a First Class version for £386 for a glimmer of glamour.
Worth the saving? Undoubtedly. But if you win the lottery…
2. Harbour Bridge Climb vs Pylon Lookout, Sydney – Australia
The Old Coathanger offers the best views of Sydney harbour – for all budgets. The more hair-raising choice sees you suited up and strapped to the outer rim of the arch to climb to its 134m zenith. The alternative is to climb the 200 steps of the bridge’s South East Pylon for 87m-high budget views.
Worth the saving? Only want a panorama? Pick the pylon (AUD $11); the Bridge Climb (AUD $198-298) provides an adrenalin-boosting (but wallet-wilting) outlook.
3. Galápagos Islands vs Isla de la Plata – Ecuador
Isla de la Plata is known as the ‘Poor Man’s Galápagos’. It’s certainly easier and cheaper to access – just 27km off the Ecuadorian mainland, while the Galápagos is 1000km. Species here include whales, sea lions and birds, including boobies, frigatebirds and waved albatross; Galápagos faves such as giant tortoise and penguins are absent.
Worth the saving? A Plata day-trip (around USD $35) is fine, but is no match. An eight-night Galápagos cruise costs from USD $1500 plus flights – but find the cash if you can.
4. Mt Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, vs Mt Kenya – Kenya
Africa’s highest mountain, 5895m Kilimanjaro, steals the thunder of runner-up Mount Kenya (5199m). Both are challenging volcano climbs, with rainforest, strange plants and shrinking glaciers. Kenya has more wildlife and fewer people; it’s also cheaper, due to lower fees and the
shorter duration needed for a climb (from four days). Kili’s main trails are chocker, and fees soon mount – factor on at least six days of USD $70-a-day Conservation Fee, USD $50-a-day camp fee, guides, food…but it remains the ultimate challenge.
Worth the saving? Yes: Kenya’s a satisfying ascent – it just lacks the bragging rights.