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6 Ways Knowing The Language Saves You Money When You Travel

Don’t be the next victim of the tourist tax. Knowing the language makes for a richer travel experience (and yes, that’s a double entendre).
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6 Ways Knowing The Language Saves You Money When You Travel

Ever gotten the sense that you were being ripped off on vacation? You probably were. The tourism industry is often a vital part of the local economy for popular travel spots, so it’s only logical to expect a lot of opportunism in that regard. Most people don’t do a ton of research on how to save money while traveling, so it’s not hard to keep the system running.

Sometimes, the opportunism is to your benefit. Other times, you might pay a hefty tourist tax for the convenience of having a menu that’s translated into English.

So how exactly does knowing the local language save you money on your travels? Let us count the ways.

1. Save On Local Airfare And Transportation

Potential Savings: $$ – $$$

Indeed, your savings can begin before you ever leave your house. Airfare, bus and train fares can sometimes be significantly cheaper when you book them via the local-language version of the company’s website. For instance, say you were booking inter-city flights within Colombia via a local airline. You might save significant dough by purchasing those tickets through the Spanish-language version of the site.

Googling things in the local language can also lead to discount discoveries you would have never made in English. In some cases, it’s not even an intentional effort to overcharge foreigners — it’s just that certain sites rarely pop up on the first page of search results in English.

2. Boost Your Bargaining Power

Potential Savings: $

Whether you’re haggling at the local markets, shopping for good deals or merely trying to compare your choices, knowing the local language gives you an advantage.

Not only is your range of options physically widened —there are likely some stores or markets where you’ll struggle to make a basic transaction if you only know English — but you’ll also feel more comfortable pushing back against a price that seems overinflated, or asking a local where else you can look. When you’re in a foreign country and you’re at the mercy of people who speak your language, you’re a lot more likely to settle for the first thing you see (likely sold to you by the first friendly face who understood what you were saying). Unfortunately, that doesn’t always equate to getting the best deal.

3. Eat Like A Local

Potential Savings: $ – $$

The tourist trap is real, and it wants your money. Too often, though, the priciest lunch spots are not the tastiest ones. The telltale sign? A menu that’s translated into English and a seductively convenient location that’s right next to that popular attraction you bought tickets for two months in advance.

The remedy: ask around. See what the locals recommend. Getting off the beaten track is an important part of how to save money while traveling. It’ll expose you to better and cheaper restaurants, and you’ll probably wind up getting a more authentic experience that way.

4. Don’t Tip Like A Fool

Potential Savings: $

One thing you definitely want to be prepared for is the tipping culture in the country you’re visiting.

On one hand, you don’t want to be the jerk that accidentally stiffs a waiter because you didn’t realize you had to tip. On the other hand, you also don’t want to add an unnecessary 20 percent tax to all your food because you didn’t know any better. In many places, leaving large tips is not expected. You’ll definitely make someone’s day — just not yours.

5. Use Public Transportation Like A Champ

Potential Savings: $ – $$

You could blow all your cash on taxis and guided tours because you’re feeling shell-shocked and uncomfortable (which are both popular ways to get ripped off for being a tourist).

Or, you could board the local bus or metro system because you can confidently find your way — and know how to take advantage of the local bike sharing system, which is often free or very cheap.

6. Get The Friends And Family Discount

Potential Savings: $

It’s a fairly well-known fact that some cab drivers and unscrupulous sellers will charge you more for being an obvious tourist.

But did you know that the reverse can also be true? In a lot of places, locals genuinely appreciate it when tourists make an earnest attempt to speak their language, and sometimes, they like to show their appreciation in a tangible way. You might even make friends with your bartender, and we all know what that leads to.

Look out for your wallet.
Learn The Language Before You Go

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Steph Koyfman
Steph is a writer, lindy hopper, and astrologer. She’s also a language enthusiast who grew up bilingual and had an early love affair with books. She has mostly proved herself as a New Yorker, and she can introduce herself in Swedish thanks to Babbel. She also speaks Russian and Spanish, but she’s a little rusty on those fronts.
Steph is a writer, lindy hopper, and astrologer. She’s also a language enthusiast who grew up bilingual and had an early love affair with books. She has mostly proved herself as a New Yorker, and she can introduce herself in Swedish thanks to Babbel. She also speaks Russian and Spanish, but she’s a little rusty on those fronts.
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