The world's most expensive cities (and how to find a bargain in them!)

Just because a destination is notoriously expensive, it doesn’t mean that you can’t find a bargain in them. Sometimes, you just have to dig a little deeper...
Victoria Harbor of Hong Kong
Victoria Harbor of Hong Kong. Photo: Shutterstock

Victoria Harbor of Hong Kong. Photo: Shutterstock

1. Singapore

Eating can be a big expenditure when travelling; Singapore has more than its fair share of fine-dining establishments, but this city-come-country is also home to many quality hawker centres. If you’ve never heard of a hawker centre, it’s probably because they are fairly specific to this part of the world. A hawker centre is a large market, with many different stalls selling only cooked food and meals, which cost around $5. Lau Pa Sat, five minutes from Raffles Place metro station, is one of Singapore’s best. At weekends, a live band performs in the centre of the market. Be sure to try the world-famous Singapore Chilli Grab or chicken satay.

Another place that won’t break the bank is the Singapore Botanical Gardens, now a Unesco World Heritage Site. Entry is free (although admission to the Orchid Garden costs $5). Allow a full day to explore the three lakes, healing gardens and rainforest.

Explore the best of the Botanical Gardens and more on Insight Guides' Uniquely Singapore holiday

National Orchid garden in Singapore at Botanical Gardens. Photo: ShutterstockNational Orchid garden in Singapore at Botanical Gardens. Photo: Shutterstock

2. Dubai

Even a place like Dubai, with its reputation for being a playground for the rich, is home to a few bargains. Al Fahidi Fort, for example, costs just 3 dirhams to enter and is home to the Dubai Museum. The fort was originally constructed in 1787 and turned into a museum in 1971. Permanent exhibitions include the story of Dubai’s oil, and reconstructions of traditional Arab houses and mosques.

When you’ve worked up a hunger, follow the locals down to Al Dhifyafah Road for some cheap eats, where the scent of spit-roasted lamb hangs in the air. The road is lined with an array of affordable eateries, serving cuisine such as Indian, Lebanese, Pakistani, Turkish and Iranian. Alternatively, track down one of these 7 great places for a budget bite in Dubai.

You can tour the Al Fahidi Fort and more on Insight Guides' Magnificent Emirates trip

Al Fahidi Fort (1787), home to the Dubai Museum and city's oldest building. Photo: ShutterstockAl Fahidi Fort (1787), home to the Dubai Museum and city's oldest building. Photo: Shutterstock

3. Tokyo

Tokyoites are immensely proud of their skyline, so let's start with the best places to see it. By no means the highest observation deck in TokyoTMG no.1 (part of the government building) is the highest you’ll find for free. The deck itself stands at 202m, and there’s a restaurant and bar too, so you can drink in the view. Also free is the observation deck at Carrot Tower, a 26-storey bright orange building. Views extend over towards Bay Bridge.

Back down to earth the Suginami Animation Museum documents the history of animation and features a number of interactive exhibitions. Admission is free, and there are also daily anime workshops and production talks given, although all are in Japanese.

4. Hong Kong

Ride the Star Ferry, the Staten Island Ferry of the east, across Victoria Harbour for unbeatable views of the famous city skyline. The Star Ferry Company first operated the route in 1888. Today, the boats retain much of their original charm and character in a city that is constantly evolving. The fare is just 4HKD. If you can, get the ferry at around 8pm, when Hong Kong’s Symphony of Lights occurs daily.    

When back on dry land, why not join a guided walking tour? Hong Kong is famous for them and there are thousands of them to choose from, and the cost is low. Many of Hong Kong’s main attractions are bunched together in the centre of the city, making walking tours a fantastic, cost-effective way to see them all!

Insight Guides can organise a trip around the very best of Hong Kong for you. Browse available trips online now

Tokyo Metropolitan Building. Photo: ShutterstockTokyo Metropolitan Building. Photo: Shutterstock

5. London

London’s eateries have a reputation for costing the earth, but it’s not necessarily true. Sure, there are expensive places, but for every Michelin-starred restaurant, there is a food market. The two most popular are Borough Market (closed Sunday) and Camden Lock Market. Both serve incredibly varied cuisine, from Ethiopian to Peruvian, with everything in-between. Dishes cost from £5-10. If you like curry, head to Brick Lane, where there are streets of Indian restaurants, with competitively low prices to tempt you.

For a generous helping of culture, book a standing ticket at Shakespeare’s Globe. Booked in advance, tickets are as cheap as £5. The theatre was reconstructed to resemble the original, and even has an open roof, so take an umbrella!

 Shakespeare's Globe, opened for performances in 1997. Photo: ShutterstockShakespeare's Globe, opened for performances in 1997. Photo: Shutterstock


Read up on more incredible locales: 20 most Instagrammable places in the world

Start planning your summer vacation: Where to go in June, July, August

Get a jump on an autumn getaway: Where to go in Septemeber, October, November

Get a dose of inspiration: 20 best places to visit in 2016