Aimed at helping travellers staying in holiday rentals and settling into a place for a while, Price Check is a series of posts in which we reported every two weeks on the prices of groceries (no, not only beer) at each destination we stayed on our yearlong grand tour.

This post is a comparison of our Price Check posts, with some explanation on why we did things the way we did, reflections on the exercise itself, the conclusions – which were the most expensive and cheapest destinations of the places we visited on our round-the-world adventure – and, in our follow-up post, advice on how to save money on your own self-catering trips. To see the individual Price Check posts for every destination we visited click here or on Shopping List in the right column.

We used the same shopping list for each destination that included the kind of products we’d typically buy at the start of each two-week stay, including ingredients for breakfast, snacks, a meal or two, and drinks in the evening. See a sample Shopping List here.

We bought similar quality products in each place, so price comparisons could easily be made between destinations. Some readers pointed out that we could have saved money by buying cheaper tea or coffee for example, rather than name brands, but buying brands found all over the world provided a good yardstick. And let’s face it, some people don’t want to sacrifice favourite products when they travel and prefer to pay extra for quality.

We always bought free-range eggs and organic products when available. This was a personal decision based on a sense of ethical responsibility as much as a desire to simply buy the best quality products. We love our food!

We always shopped locally, in the neighbourhoods where we stayed, and we shopped around, visiting several supermarkets, markets and specialty shops in the vicinity, to ensure we were getting the best combination of price and quality.

The prices in each Price Check table are the prices on the labels at the time we visited. To find out when that was check the date of the post. We use UK£, $US and €, or where the currency of the destination isn’t the €, we use the local currency. We used the currency exchange rates of that date sourced from, so if planning a trip to one of the destinations we visited, don’t expect that the prices we paid will be the prices you pay.

Our comparison does not include places we visited for less than our average two-week stay, such as Essaouira and Zakopane, which were three-day getaways; Alberobello in Puglia and Teulada in Sardinia, where we spent one week each; Dubai and London where we stayed just a short time to launch the project; and San Miguel de Allende, where, while we spent two weeks there, found prices to be the same as Mexico City.


World’s Most Expensive Destinations
Perhaps not surprisingly at all, Tokyo was the most expensive destination of our grand tour, followed by Manuel Antonio (Costa Rica), New York City, Austin, Texas, USA), and Istanbul.

World’s Cheapest Destinations
Krakow (Poland) was the cheapest destination, followed by Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Marrakech, and Jerez (Spain).

Europe’s Most Expensive Destinations
The ski destination of Zell am See (Austria), was the most expensive of the European cities we stayed, where our groceries totalled UK£50/US$80, followed by Ceret (France), Venice, Barcelona, Paris, and Vienna at UK£40/US$65. Prices in Venice, Barcelona and Paris were very comparable.

Europe’s Cheapest Destinations
Krakow was easily the cheapest place we stayed, where our shopping cart of groceries cost just UK£24/US$39, followed by Jerez, Budapest, Kotor, Edinburgh, and Berlin, where our bill came to UK£39/US$63.

How American Destinations Placed
In the Americas, Manuel Antonio was the most expensive place for groceries, where our docket came to a whopping UK£58/$92, followed by New York City, Austin, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, and Mexico City, where the same shopping list came to less than half that of Manuel Antonio.

World’s Most Surprisingly Priced Destinations
Costa Rica – we didn’t expect Costa Rica to be as expensive as it was, and thought it was going to be slightly pricier than say Buenos Aires or Mexico City. As hard as we tried, it was difficult to reduce that bill.
Istanbul – we’ve been regular visitors to Istanbul and Turkey for years and have watched the prices slowly creep up, but we were astounded at how expensive Istanbul has become.
Diani Beach – this was Kenya! Africa! What was going on? We were astonished that our shopping cart cost just a little less to fill than some of Western Europe’s big cities.
Venice, Paris & Barcelona – these popular European cities have a reputation as being some of the world’s most expensive destinations to visit (Venice and Paris in particular), yet they fell about midway between the most the most expensive and the cheapest destination.
Krakow – we’d been to Krakow once before and rented an apartment there for a while, so we knew it was terrific value, but we never expected it would turn out to be the cheapest destination of our trip.

Have you stayed in holiday rentals and shopped locally in any of these destinations? Have you found more expensive or more affordable places than these to live like locals? We’d love to hear about your experiences.

Price Check shopping list comparisons below. To see individual shopping lists for each destination, click here.

Destination£US$Local currency
1. Tokyo, Japan£64$94¥8665
2. Manual Antonio, Costa Rica£58$92¢46547
3. New York City, USA£58$88US$88
4. Austin, USA£55$83US$83
5. Istanbul, Turkey£54$85TRY124
6. Zell am See, Austria£50$80€58
7. Cape Town, South Africa£45$72ZAR504
8. Ceret, France£43$66€49
9. Venice, Italy£43$64€50
10. Bali, Indonesia£42$64R575,760
11. Barcelona, Spain£42$63€47
12. Paris, France£41$64€47
13. Vienna, Austria£40$65€48
14. Berlin, Germany£39$63€46
15. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil£39$62R$107
16. Edinburgh, Scotland£38$61€45
17. Diani Beach, Kenya£38$61KES4895
18. Kotor, Montenegro£36$54€42
19. Budapest, Hungary£34$54HUF10845
20. Jerez, Spain£32$50€36
21. Marrakech, Morocco£32$50MAD411
22. Buenos Aires, Argentina£30$48ARS$193
23. Mexico City, Mexico£27$42Mex$550
24. Krakow, Poland£24$39zł112

In our next post we’ll provide some tips on how you can save money when self-catering, based on our experiences over the last year, from local shopping tips to advice on shopping markets and supermarkets.

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