Expensive Australia and Why Authority Matters

Yesterday I was sucked in by one of those slideshow stories SmarterTravel.com put out meant to make you click through a dozen pages so they can pump up their visitor numbers. Fine, lots of other media companies pull the same tricks, but it was the content that was so far off the mark. In a piece called “10 Places to Go While They’re Still Cheap,” the writer included Tasmania, Australia.

Australia?!

To get a visual sense of what this is so patently ridiculous, here’s a look at the exchange rate of the Aussie dollar to the U.S. dollar over the past decade. Apart from a little blip in there, it’s been a steep climb. It’s similar vs. the euro, plus the minimum wage is $17 an hour, so imagine what that does to the price of everything.

Australian dollar U.S. dollar

So for anyone coming from anywhere else in the world, Australia is one of the most expensive travel destinations in the world. It makes France look like a bargain. To get a confirmation on that, just ask someone who has been there in the past two years. Anyone.

Sydney and Melbourne are now rated as two of the fiveĀ most expensive cities in the world, just behind wallet killers like Zurich and Tokyo. Sure, Hobarts is lower than those, but in the way that Nagoya is a tad less than Osaka.

I’m sure what happened is people sat around a table deciding who to put in based on news, page hits, and buzz. Australia is popular, so they put it in, actual prices be damned. I’ve seen the same thing happen over and over, from the biggest travel magazines to CNN to Sunday newspapers. In this case, by a once-independent travel content site now owned by TripAdvisor.

Sole bloggers may not have a team of fact checkers at their disposal, but a lot of them have authority. They know what they’re talking about, so you can trust what they say.

A person writing a blog on family travel is usually traveling regularly with a family. One writing about Spain each week is usually living in Spain.

If you really want to know where the cheapest places to travel are, the blog of a guy who has written four editions of a book on that subject might be a good place to start. I’ll tell you that from their list (here’s a one-page version), Nicaragua and Cambodia are truly “cheap,” while Turkey, Ukraine, Panama, and Sri Lanka can be a good value depending on the where and how. Korea and Croatia cost just a shade less than travel in much of the U.S. I live on the Gulf Coast of Florida — not a bargain.

If you land on a site and see lots of top-10 lists and slideshows with picks that make you scratch your head, beware. That article may have been written by an unpaid volunteer (Huffington Post), someone working for almost nothing at a content farm (Examiner.com), or an intern who has never left the USA. You probably could do better yourself.

Or you could just throw darts at a map and made up your own slideshow. Put a number next to it and watch the clicks roll in!

If you want to read real stories about travel, go to a site with good stories on destinations the writers have actually spent some time traveling around. If you see a top-10 list, beware.

 

 

Comments
  1. Jimbo

    When I was getting ready to go backpacking around the world the first time I read a lot of articles like that. Most of them were so off base they could have ruined my whole trip if I had listened. Now I go on shorter vacations and it’s the same thing. At the beginning of this year all these websites were publishing Travel Deals for 2013 articles. None of them agreed, first of all, and a lot of them had super-expensive places like Australia, New Zealand, France, Canada, or Japan on there. Give me a break!

  2. gary

    Hi Tim,

    Your article captures why I LOVE reading your blog, along with a few select other writers. Hell, I have a hard time with most the travel pieces from The NY Times, Washington Post, et. al. as well, as I know they’re propping their advertisers. One notable exception, Dwight Garner’s priceless recount of his experience on the Queen Mary 2, found here:

    http://travel.nytimes.com/2013/02/10/travel/seven-days-on-the-queen-mary-2.html

    Hmmm… maybe your next book should be titled “TEN of The World’s Cheapest Destinations!” OK, just kiddin’. Thanks so much for your efforts, they’re so much appreciated!

  3. Jill B

    Too funny – when I went to SmarterTravel’s home page there were 7 articles with numbers in them. Looks like they’ve been getting lessons from Huffington Post and BudgetTravel.com. The AOLification of web articles. It’s so annoying that lemmings keep clicking on those.

  4. Roger

    Too true. As someone else who really keeps track of how much things cost, I am often shocked which places get put on these “bargain” lists by people who evidently have no idea.

    And just recently I saw an article suggesting “Alternate Spring Break destinations” and they listed Portland, Oregon, and included two photos of people eating outside in summer clothes (definitely taken in July or August). Meanwhile, it’s almost always cold and rainy on Easter in Portland. I hope the writer takes his own advice.

  5. Jimmy B.

    Australia is by far the most expensive place I’ve ever been to in my travels. And I went to Tasmania too. Terrible value.

  6. terry

    can only agree how expensive australia is . A lot of us aussies travel to places like bali or asia as it cost more to travel in our own country ,ask any one who lives here and they will tell you it is cheaper to holiday in bali than it is the gold coast in qld. paces like vietnam now are getting very popular.I am talking from actual experience having travelled overseas quite a bit

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