Maybe it’s not fair, but some some places have to be budget-busters for shoestring travelers.
A new article of mine is up on Transitions Abroad – Man vs. Man: Saving the Galapagos. It’s about all the behind-the-scenes efforts that a lot of dedicated people have been taking for years to roll back some of the damage done on these fragile islands. It takes money and manpower to preserve the natural state.
This is not the first article for them I’ve done dealing with this prickly issue. A few years ago I wrote Saving Machu Picchu, which detailed a similar fight to conserve a precious site while dealing with an ever-increasing demand to see Machu Picchu and to hike the Inca Trail.
In both cases, there is a paradox. How do you keep a site accessible to the thousands of people who want to see it every week, yet still protect all the characteristics that made it popular in the first place? In some cases, governments fail completely by letting the crowds and the pressures become too great, as in Tibet or Ankor Wat. In other cases they put up huge barriers that keep out all but the most wealthy, as in Bhutan.
Finding that middle ground is extremely difficult. In cases such as Machu Picchu, even multiple price increases have not helped—it’s still tough to keep a lid on the visitor numbers. The Inka Trail is often sold out months in advance in high season, despite prices that have put the trip out of range of most backpackers.
Unfortunately for those on a budget, this is not going to get any better. People who never had money to travel—Chinese, Russians, Indians—are now wanting to explore those places they’ve seen on satellite TV. Retired people who used to be content going to the Caribbean or Europe are now looking for a more interesting experience. Whole multi-generational families are traveling together, all looking for that “experience of a lifetime” that they can share.
So you can do one of three things:
1) You can bitterly complain about how much it costs to go to the Galapagos, or Machu Picchu, or Petra, or some tombs in Egypt, or many other sites that are trying to cope with too much demand. And insist that you didn’t really want to go anyway.
2) You can suck it up and pay what it takes to keep things in equilibrium, putting it all on a credit card if necessary.
3) You can put off that visit until you have more money or grandpa is paying.
Whichever choice you make, understand that some places are expensive because they need to be. Sometimes the only way to keep a place from totally going to hell is to demand enough money to keep it from going to hell. This sucks, but in today’s climate, where most anyone with money can get to most anywhere on Earth, it’s necessary.