Friday, June 21, 2024

The 50 greatest bargains in travel

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40. London’s wonders for nothing

Given the soaring costs of visiting museums in the vast majority of countries, London deserves a special mention: the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery, the British Museum, the V&A, the Science Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Tate Britain and Tate Modern, the Wallace Collection… it’s easy to forget what astonishing collections we enjoy for no charge whatsoever.

41. Berlin’s Bundestag

The seat of the German parliament is not only a building of momentous historic importance, but from its terrace and huge glass dome, designed by Norman Foster, it also offers one of the best views of the city. And admission is free – though it’s important to register your visit in advance (bundestag.de/en/visittheBundestag/dome/registration-245686).

42. The free museums of Paris

The French capital has some of the most expensive museums in the world (general admission to the Louvre is €22/£19) but it also has a handful of exceptions with outstanding collections and no entry fee. These include the Musée d’Art Moderne (mam.paris.fr), the Petit Palace (petitpalais.paris.fr/en), which celebrates the art and design of the Belle Époque, and the Carnavalet (carnavalet.paris.fr) in the Marais, which explores the history of the city.

43. The Getty, Los Angeles

Another free treasure house is LA’s great Getty collection, which is housed in two locations on the northern edge of the city. The Getty Center is just off the 405 freeway and holds European art, while the original Getty Villa Museum, just north of Santa Monica, displays art from ancient Greece and Rome (getty.edu/visit).

44. The High Line, New York

Lots of parks are free, obviously, but Manhattan’s High Line somehow feels different, more of an experience than just a park, so the lack of an admission charge feels like a bonus. This amazing landscaped artery has been created high above the streets on a disused elevated railway line that runs 24 blocks up from Gansevoort Street to the west side of 34th Street, with 10 staircase entry and exit points (thehighline.org).

45. The Pantheon, Rome

You might baulk at my including the Pantheon in this list. It’s only a matter of months since it went from being open to all without charge to having a €5 (£4.28) admission fee. That’s a terrible shame, but for the price of a coffee you can still enjoy one of the world’s oldest and most beautiful buildings.

46. Evenings at the Prado

Admission to Madrid’s Prado Museum – which has one of the world’s greatest art collections – normally costs €15 (£12.85), but from 6-8pm Monday to Saturday, or 5-7pm on Sundays and public holidays, visits are free for all. Expect some galleries to be crowded, however (museodelprado.es/en). 

47. The park at Versailles

Tickets to access all the Versailles palaces and museums cost a hefty €32 (£27.42) per person. But the park itself – which is, for many, the most scenic and enjoyable part of the visit – is entirely free. The only exceptions are on days when the Musical Fountains are operating – so check in advance before planning a visit (en.chateauversailles.fr).

48. Polish opera: high art, low prices

Many of the world’s greatest opera singers come from Eastern Europe, and if you are looking for a sweet spot between high production values and bargain ticket prices, without enduring a partial view from the gods, you will find it in Poland. At the Polish National Opera, in the astonishingly grand Teatr Wielki, you can sit in decent seats in the circle for about a tenth of the cost of a big production at Covent Garden (teatrwielki.pl/en).

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49. Multi-trip travel insurance

If you travel a lot, you will definitely save by buying an annual travel insurance policy. As long as you stay within the stated maximum duration for any one trip (usually 31 days), most will allow you to travel as often as you like throughout the year for a single fee. 

50. Charge-free payment cards

Whether you are splashing out or picking up a bargain, you want to make sure you pay for it in the cheapest way possible. Cash is expensive to buy and exchange and some cards can also levy stiff charges when you use them abroad. Go for one which doesn’t add charges and doesn’t take a cut on the exchange rate either. These include Monzo, Starling, Cumberland Building Society, Virgin Money and Kroo.

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