This past Christmas, Etihad Airlines mistakenly published cheap airfare from the United States to India, Africa, and the Middle East that made its way across the web like wildfire. Fares were as low as $178 round-trip. It was an incredible Christmas gift to many travelers, and I shared the deal on social media, hoping some of you could snatch some cheap flights. However, a few hours later, this comment appeared on Facebook:
(Note: I’ve blacked out the person’s name for privacy reasons.)
What I thought was a helpful tip sent this particular reader over the edge. While it seemed an overboard reaction, her underlying frustration that the United States seemingly gets all the best travel deals while everyone else gets screwed is one I understand. At least a dozen emails a day ask “I’m not American. Will this work for me? How do I travel cheap?”
The perceived notion that the US gets the best deals frustrates a lot of international travelers. Where are their mistake fares? But, in truth, you can find travel deals throughout the world — from cheap flights, to buses, to trains. It’s all out there if you know how to find it. Americans don’t have a monopoly on travel deals.
I write this blog with a global audience in mind. After all, we face the same expenses when we get to a destination. Getting there is one thing, but once we are in Tokyo, we all have to figure out how to eat, sleep, and sightsee without spending a lot of money. It’s not as if there is a US price and a price for the rest of the world (or separate lines for backpackers and vacationers).* All visitors face the same issues no matter where they are from.
But not all methods work for all people equally. Africa hardly ever sees flight deals, intra-South America airfare is stupidly expensive, and outside the US, Canada, the UK, and Australia, travel hacking (getting large quantities of points and miles for free travel) is basically nonexistent, and non-fee bank cards, travel insurance, visa rules, and backpack costs vary widely by country.
It’s a big world and there is only so much that can be done.
When you only hear about US flight deals, it’s easy to get frustrated and think “those lucky bastards,” but every week I put together a weekly newsletter featuring deals from around the world. I know they exist, even if they aren’t as abundant as US deals:
- Middle Eastern airlines are starting to offer cheap airfare via their hubs to India and Africa (you can go to India from Italy right now for only 332 euros return!).
- AirAsia offers incredible deals throughout Asia and Australia for as little as $100 per leg.
- Norwegian Airlines can get you from Asia to Europe for $500 round-trip.
- An expanding backpacker scene in South America has seen the rise of safe and cheap hop-on-hop-off buses like Peru Hop.
- LAN Airlines has many deals from South America to the United States.
There are few areas of the world that truly lack any deals (sorry, Central Asia!) and, while it’s impossible to have every deal, tip, or piece of advice work for everyone, there’s always something for someone.
What to use as a non-American
If you’re a non-American, what should you do? Where should you look? Here are the best places to find cheap flight and transportation options when you can’t find mistake fares:
- Air Asia – Offers cheap fares around Southeast Asia, China, Japan, South Korea, and Australia
- Tiger Airways – Offers cheap fares from Singapore and around Australia
- Holiday Pirates – Incredible flight and vacation package website that finds mistake fares and deals for Europe-based travelers. They have a German website too.
- Busbud — Finds cheap bus routes all over the world
- Rome2rio — An amazing website that shows you all your transportation options from A to B. This site is excellent for finding cheap routes to obscure destinations.
- Norwegian Air – Incredible flight deals to and from the United States and Europe with onward deals to Bangkok
- Momondo — One of the best flight search engines in the world for finding budget airline and cheap flights
Remember that you don’t always have to go from A directly to B. You can hop around. From Australia, take AirAsia to Bangkok then hop a cheap flight on Norwegian Air to Europe. Going direct may be quicker, but it’s not always the cheapest way.
I understand the frustration. There are few ”mistake” fares originating outside the US, but that doesn’t make it impossible to fly or get somewhere cheaply. There are options and, once we hit the ground, we are all on equal footing. Flights only represent a small fraction of the overall costs of your trip. Don’t get discouraged by a lack of deals, but instead do the best you can and look for ways to make up the costs on the ground. If you look at flights as an insurmountable obstacle that you can’t get past, you’ll never see that beyond them are plenty of ways to save, even out your costs, and travel more — no matter where you are from in the world.
*Note: I know plenty of countries have different local and foreigner pricing but I’m talking about just tourists here.