Blog Connections

Foreigner Pricing Analysis

The topic of foreigner pricing (“WHS where differential pricing is practiced between local and foreign visitors”, a.k.a. dual pricing) has already been discussed a few times on this website. But with 117 entries in the connection (and I am sure there are many more), it seems to be a common and accepted practice globally. So in this post, I’d like to draw a few conclusions from the data we have gathered. It also gives an insight into the pricing of WHS overall, as we managed to collect exact and fairly recent entry fees of almost 10% of all WHS.

Wealthy countries practicing foreigner pricing

Despite the practice being discriminatory and thus morally wrong, in the earlier discussions some people gave understanding to the poorest countries for introducing higher prices for foreigners (or maybe discounts for locals). Cambodia and Angkor is the classical example here. But are there also wealthier countries that do it? I used the UN’s country classification, which ranks countries from High Income to Low Income, with Upper Middle Income and Lower Middle Income in between, to verify this. 

It turned out that, sporadically, a few High Income countries use it: on the list are examples from Chile (for Easter Island), Netherlands (or actually Curacao, which is self-governing but still considered High Income), and Seychelles.

More routine use of this pricing strategy is seen among the following Upper Middle Income countries: Argentina, Botswana, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Indonesia, Jamaica, Malaysia, Namibia, and Thailand. Peru, Russia and South Africa seem to do it incidentally.

The rest, 66%, stems from Lower Middle Income and Low Income countries.

The ones splitting the world into 3 groups

Some countries go even further than distinguishing between locals and foreigners, by introducing a tier in the middle for “Neighbours” or considering them as local. India sometimes extends the domestic rates to include people from the SAARC and BIMSTEC countries (including Upper Middle Income Thailand), and at other locations (such as the Taj Mahal) it has engineered a price in the middle for them. Honduras does so for Central Americans, while El Salvadoreans see their neighbours as equals and ask them for the domestic fee.

Are foreigners being exploited?

Are the foreigners paying a fair price for the WHS, or are they the golden geese of the tourism industry? To test this, I’ve taken a benchmark of 10 USD, which seemed fair to me for sites of average quality that take 1 to 2 hours to visit*. From the 117 WHS in scope, we see that 12 ask for slightly more (11-15 USD) and 27 ask for significantly more than 10 USD, as shown in the graphic below:

Now I can understand a fee of 20-50 USD for a top WHS (Angkor, Machu Picchu) that also requires at least a full day to explore. Imagine what a ticket to a concert or a sports match costs (for reference, a Center Court seat at Wimbledon costs the equivalent of 115 USD on day one and 350 USD at the finals). But 25 USD for Prambanan or Anuradhapura, or 33 USD for Vallée de Mai? Or 100 USD for Lalibela?

Among all the arguments pro and con foreigner pricing, I think asking for exorbitant fees will always bite countries in the tail as people just choose to go somewhere else (it’s as much a disqualifier as having complex visa procedures).

* Another benchmark that I often use during my travels is the cost of a meal in a decent restaurant. As an entrance fee to a WHS, I usually find 50% of the cost of a meal as reasonable, and a tip to a guide for example 100% (depending on what he/she did of course).

The biggest differences

Leaving apart the 13 sites where the locals enter for free and the foreigners have to pay, it is not uncommon to see foreigners being asked to pay 15-20 times more than local visitors. The biggest differences are in Pakistan, where the province of Sindh has the policy of pricing a foreigner ticket for its WHS of Makli and Moenjodaro 60 times higher than a domestic ticket (other Pakistani provinces aren’t that extreme). Sri Lanka also uses the multiplier of 60, for Sigiriya for example.

Do you have additional examples of foreigner pricing to add to this Connection?

Els - 14 January 2024

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Can SARICA 16 January 2024

The new Hagia Sophia ticket fee, 25 euro, is valid for both local and foreign tourists. If you are a Muslim, you can enter downstairs to pray for free. To visit upstairs, everyone should pay 25 euro.

Foreign ticketing policy is valid for all WHSs in Turkey. Locals buy a year-long Museum Card for just 2 USD and can enter any WHS plus hundreds of other museums for an unlimited time in a year. Foreigners mostly need to pay 5-30 USD ticket price for WHSs. Museum card that is valid for only Istanbul museums for 5 days is 75 USD.

Kyle Magnuson 16 January 2024

Hagia Sophia will now be 25 Euros for foreign tourists.

Shandos 15 January 2024

In addition to the above comments regarding Europe... I first visited Europe when I was 21, on a tight budget. It was very frustrating that I had to pay full price to many sites, missing out on the youth prices only available to EU citizens - who hadn't had to pay thousands of dollars on flights just to get there!

Generally I don't mind paying extra as a foreigner, though of course there are some sites that take this a little far, such as you've already pointed out in Sri Lanka.

Assif 14 January 2024

It is similar in state run sites in Italy. Children until 18 are free, regardless of their nationality, but seniors from the EU enjoy a discount whereas foreigners have to pay the full fee.

Liam 14 January 2024

I partially noted this in Greece last year. Entry to government-run sites is free to EU citizens under the age of 25, whereas non-EU citizens over the age of 5 have to pay. It was a bit of a surprise as the last time I'd visited Greece a) I didn't have kids, and b) I was an EU citizen...

Not sure if this happens elsewhere in Europe - it certainly doesn't in Cyprus.