When you’re a foreigner in a new city, it can be hard to know how to get the most out of your precious time and travel money. Is it best to stick to the obvious list of attractions? Or turn down a few side streets for a more authentic - maybe cheaper - glimpse of your destination?
As any seasoned traveller knows, it’s the insider local tips that can really make a trip. So here are few to help you navigate some of the world's most famous tourist hotspots and make up your own mind about what to see and do.
Times Square, New York City | USD
The buzz of New York City comes to an undeniable climax when you’re standing at the centre of the colour and flashing neon lights of Times Square. It’s one of the world’s most Instagrammed spots and without doubt, is one of the most popular things to see in New York. But what should you do once you’ve soaked up the hype, but don’t necessarily want to buy a ticket to a show on bustling Broadway?
You can still get a taste of the NYC entertainment, sans the price tag, right there on the streets. There are incredible street entertainers and buskers everywhere, from the iconic Naked Cowboy (yes, even in winter) to live break-dancing and boom-boxing. Then duck into Restaurant Row – a strip of hidden bars and NYC restaurants and a popular go-to amongst Broadway talent. It’s the perfect spot to soak up some local, authentic Times Square vibes without having to line up in a queue for tickets to spot a Broadway star.
Read our USA Travel Money Destination Guide for helpful travel money tips.
Blarney Stone, Ireland | EURO
A visit to Blarney Castle and kissing the Blarney Stone is high on most people’s list of things to do in Ireland. Built nearly 600 years ago by Cormac MacCarthy, one of Ireland’s greatest chieftains, millions of travellers have stopped by for their turn to get the gift of the gab. As legend has it: one kiss and you’ll be bestowed with the gift of eloquence.
What most people don’t know until they get there is just how beautiful the surrounding countryside is, it is a haven of lush rolling lands, and just how many other castles and historic finds stand to be discovered. There are at least 10 castles within an hour’s drive , plus Norman keeps, Monastic round towers and so much more - plus if you pick wisely, it doesn’t have to cost you a cent to admire. Macroom Castle is one example of a free castle ruin – once home to Admiral Sir William Penn, the father of the founder of Pennsylvania in the USA – as well as Barryscourt Castle, a 16th century gem complete with a replica of a medieval garden sure to take you on a journey back in time.
Click here to read our Ireland Travel Money Destination Guide.
Damnoen Sauak Floating Market, Bangkok | THB
One of the best things about shopping in Bangkok is the city’s interesting floating market culture. Climbing aboard a rowboat or long-tail boat to float from stall holder to stall holder is a unique experience and one that has been going strong for over 100 years. Damnoen Saduak is perhaps the most well-known floating market in all of Thailand, but it’s also the most touristy – closely followed by Amphawa floating market and Taling Chan.
For a more authentic experience on the water – plus more unique buys and cheaper rates (but still be prepared to haggle), consider one of the less touristy options. Tha Kha is a lovely floating market and much more tranquil, offering a true glimpse at Thai rural living. You may also enjoy the Thai desserts on offer at Bang Nam Phueng, the fresh seafood at Bang Kla and the unusual fruit and vegetables on offer at Khlong Lat Mayom. One more authentic floating market near Bangkok is Bang Khu Wiang, where you may even be lucky enough to spot monks on their alms rounds.
For more Thailand Travel Money tips, read our Destination Guide here.
The Peak, Hong Kong | HKD
Just one look at the skyline of Hong Kong and it's clear there is so much to unravel in the maze of streets in this towering metropolis. But still, one of the best things to do is to simply admire the city in all its grandeur from afar. For most travellers, this means a trip to the top of Victoria Peak – but this also typically equates to a hefty ticket price and a long time waiting in a queue to ride the iconic and historic Peak Tram to the top (sometimes hours!). There’s no denying the view is jaw-dropping, but still, there is an alternative.
On the other side of Victoria Harbour, on the Kowloon Peninsula, the Avenue of Stars traces the water’s edge. While meandering along the star-studded walk discovering the city’s own take on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame (don’t miss the Bruce Lee statue – it’s a favourite thing to see in Hong Kong), you’ll catch beautiful city skyline views looking back over Hong Kong Island. Come in time for sunset and it’s even more magical. Return at night and time it right, and you could catch the world’s largest light and sound show playing out over the Hong Kong cityscape right before your eyes.
The best part? It’s all for free.
Read our Hong Kong Travel Money Destination Guide here.
Moulin Rouge, France | EURO
A quintessential thing to do in Paris is, of course, head to the famed Moulin Rouge. Opened in 1889 with its trademark red windmill, lavish décor and gorgeous dancers, it is without doubt the most famous cabaret venue in the world. But while the cancun might have been invented here, it’s not the only place in Paris bustling with atmosphere and promising a few hours of sheer magic on stage.
For a cabaret experience that’s quite similar, try Le Paradis Latin, which offers a very similar style show to Moulin Rouge but has a bit more of an off-the-beaten track feel thanks to its Left Bank location. Le Crazy Horse is another great choice, where you could catch stars like Dita von Teese or Arielle Dombasle. Or if you’re looking for something exceptionally local – to the point where it’s all in French and you may not understand a single word – try Paradis Latin, in the very heart of the city. It is a family-run affair and the clientele is mostly French, so it’s not only ‘local’ through-and-through but it’s at local-friendly prices too.
Sometimes the best things in life, or when you’re travelling, are free – so we hope that these tips give you some inspiration for your own holiday.
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