I usually don't like to report on those "best" or "least expensive" city or airport stories. I figure that if you really want to visit the Louvre, the fact that Albuquerque is less expensive or Seoul has a better airport is irrelevant. But once in a while a "best" list comes along that might actually be useful to you.
The latest comes from TripAdvisor; it ranks cities by nine categories based on a survey of the site's users. And it ranks both the three best and the three lowest in each category. If you're considering visiting these cities, some of the rankings can provide a good guide to how easy the visit might be.
- Ease of Getting Around: Zurich, Vienna, and Singapore; hardest: Mumbai, Punta Cana, and Moscow.
- Best Public Transport: Tokyo, Zurich, and Munich; worst: Hanoi, Sharm el Sheikh, and Marrakech.
- Best Taxi Services: Tokyo, Singapore, and Dubai; worst: Moscow, Beijing, and Kuala Lumpur.
- Best Value for Money: Lisbon, Budapest, and Bangkok; worst: Oslo, Moscow, and Zurich.
- Safest City: Tokyo, Singapore, and Dubrovnik; worst not listed.
Three other rankings provide some idea of how welcome you might feel:
- Friendliest Locals: Cancun, Tokyo, and Lisbon; worst: Moscow, London, and Hong Kong.
- Friendliest Taxi Drivers: Tokyo, Cancun, and Singapore; least friendly: Moscow, Beijing, and Brussels.
- Cleanest Streets: Tokyo, Singapore, and Zurich; least clean: Mumbai, Marrakech, and Punta Cana.
And one category that doesn't matter for lots of travelers:
- Best for Shopping: New York, Bangkok, and Dubai; worst: Moscow, Oslo, and Punta Cana.
Although I've been to only 12 of those cities, I find myself agreeing with many of the rankings. Certainly, most of the "best" results appear reasonable. But I have a bit more of a problem with some of the "worst" results. I found navigating Moscow's subways to be relatively easy, haven't found locals unfriendly in Moscow, London, or Hong Kong, and don't recall any problems with Brussels taxi drivers. On the other hand, Oslo, Moscow, and Zurich definitely are very expensive, but in Zurich, at least, the high prices provide some really great hotels and restaurants. I can't comment either way on Dubrovnik, Hanoi, Kuala Lumpur, Marrakech, or Punta Cana, which I've never visited.
From a broader perspective, I've found that most major cities outside of the United States and Canada offer good public transport and, in general, are easy to navigate. Even countries that use different alphabets almost always post metro stops and other such vital information in recognizable words—often the sort-of English "Globish" that you see almost everywhere. And the only place I encountered unfriendly locals in my recent round-the-world trip was Krakow.
Most other surveys I've seen lately support the findings here about the most and least value for the money. All of Scandinavia and the big Russian cities are expensive, as are the main cities of Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Fortunately, at least in the UK, Scandinavia, and Switzerland, you can go down-market in hotels and restaurants without any great hardship. And, on the other hand, a quick browse of Booking.com or some other online travel agency will display really good hotel prices, even at the four-star properties, in Bangkok and Budapest. Also, although Germany has had a high-cost reputation, Berlin still appears to be a good value destination.
For now, the main areas where I would worry about daily costs are those that this survey highlights as poor value for the money. Even then, however, if you really want to see Westminster Abbey, the Alps, the fjords, or the Kremlin, careful planning can make your visit reasonable.
Ed Perkins Seniors on the Go is copyright (c) 2012 Tribune Media Services, Inc.
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