A world full of cheap thrills

Watching what you spend is part of travelling, but Tim Richards finds tourists now often pay less than a decade ago.

To be an Australian traveller is to be obsessed by currency exchange rates, and certain cities have long had a reputation among Aussies for their crippling expense. But with the Aussie dollar's dramatic rise, things must have changed.

To test this theory, I visited Lonely Planet's Melbourne HQ to thumb through guidebooks used by travellers 10 years ago, comparing prices while factoring in Australia's annual inflation rate. What I found should put a smile on every Australian traveller's face.

London In January 2003, the Aussie dollar was buying 35 pence, compared with about 66p today. As a result, adult entry to the Tower of London cost $42.55 in current-dollar values in 2003, compared with just $31.70 now. Madame Tussaud's waxworks slid from $45.20 to an entry price of $34.10, and the tour of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre would have been $28.20 compared with $20.50 today.

Accommodation costs have plunged. In 2003, the YHA hostel near St Paul's Cathedral offered a dorm bed from $79.60 in adjusted terms; these days a bed starts at $22.70. Posh 18th-century hotel Hazlitt's could put you up from $678 a night. Now the starting price is $405. Ten years ago, the main dishes of the fish-and-chip shop Rock & Soul Plaice at Covent Garden averaged $36; now they're $15.

Tokyo The Aussie dollar was buying 67 yen 10 years ago, but 95 yen today. In 2003, it cost $8.25 to visit the National Museum. Now it's down to $6.30. Entry to the observation platform of the Tokyo Tower was $16.10 a decade ago and $8.60 now. Entry to the Japanese Sword Museum has dropped from $10.30 to $6.30.

Ten years ago, the Tokyo Central Youth Hostel offered a dorm bed for $63.90; now it's $41.70. At the top end, the starting rate at the Imperial Hotel has declined from $689 a night to $419 a night.

New York Ten years ago, one Aussie dollar bought US56ยข, now it's several cents above parity. In 2003, it cost $18.80 in adjusted terms for a ferry ticket to the Statue of Liberty; today it's $16.20. Entry to the Museum of Modern Art has eased from $14.10 to $13.30.

A decade ago, the Chelsea International Hostel offered dorm beds from $55.80, compared with today's price of $32.40. With views over Central Park, the Ritz-Carlton's doubles have dropped from $765 a night to $567.

There's good news on food, too. At Gramercy Tavern on East 20th Street, a degustation menu is $110.50; a decade ago it worked out at $188.30.

Reykjavik In the Icelandic capital 10 years ago, the Australian dollar was buying 47 kronur. Now it's worth about 135 kronur.

The view from the Hallgrimskirkja church tower cost $5.60 then; now it's $4.40. The city's Volcano Show film was $23.80, but $14.80 now.

The Salvation Army Guesthouse offered sleeping bag space for $56, now it's $25.90. At the Hotel Holt, doubles once started from $452, but in 2013 are from $122. A buffet at Laekjarbrekka cost $83.50 in 2003. Now, for $59, the restaurant offers a feast that includes cognac-cured horse.

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