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The current state of the economy has taken a huge toll on everyone’s wallets. Travel may not seem like the viable option it has been in the past, but if you really want to get out and see the world, you shouldn’t feel limited. Almost every major city in the world has a handful of attractions that are free of charge and if you pair them up with a few walking tours, self-education, and a couple of good meals in local restaurants, you’ll have just as good a time – if not better – than you would have had if you had paid to get into a dozen tourist traps. So where should you start?
7. Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Despite the strip of money-guzzling casinos featuring not only gambling but expensive shows and not so cheap hotels, the city of Las Vegas really does have a lot to offer travelers on a budget. Start by heading over the MGM Grand for a tour of the lion habitat. It’s open from 11am until 7pm each day and is free of charge. The lions don’t live at the MGM Grand, either. They’re transported by van to and from their ranch, located 12 miles away from the city. (Fun fact: they receive special baths and have their hair blow dried before they travel to the city each day)!
The fountains at the Bellagio have a spectacular reputation as well. Visit during the evening hours and you’ll be treated to an incredible display of water, music, and lights in a fountain stretching more than ¼ mile. For a real thrill, head towards the Mirage to catch a glimpse of the Volcano shooting a combination of fire, water, and light into the air each night. At the entrance to the Strip, you’ll be entertained by the Sirens of Treasure Island in one of 4 nightly performances (also free, but not one young kids will enjoy).
6. Hong Kong, China
Visit any of the world’s major cities and you’ll be swarmed with offers for paid tours. When you get to Hong Kong, on the other hand, you’ll want to head straight towards the HKTB Visitor Information & Services Center. They have a brochure called the Cultural Kaleidoscope and it outlines where you can find a series of free, 1-hour tours of the city. You’ll learn about jade, Feng Shui, and several other amazing cultural traditions in what is thoughtfully dubbed the “Meet the People” program.
5. Rome, Italy
There’s this odd little attraction in Rome called the Bocca della Verita and it just happens to be an old sewer grate dating back to ancient times. Head towards the Piazza Bocca della Verita and have a little fun. According to legend, if you place your hands in the grate they will be bitten off if you have told a lie. We’re not sure if it’s true or not, but you could have a ton of fun here – especially if you’re traveling with children.
Also of notable importance when it comes to all things free is the Vatican. The Vatican Museum usually charges a very high admission fee, but if you visit on the last Sunday of the month you’ll be able to enter for free.
4. Paris, France
Don’t let the entrance fees to some of the stunning architectural attractions in Paris get you down. While you have to pay for tours or to access certain areas, you can usually walk into them or see them from outside for free. Take, for example, the Notre Dame Cathedral. There is no fee to walk through the doors and explore the cathedral – you only have to pay to get into the tower or museum. Get yourself a guide book and give yourself a tour of the areas you can access. Keep your eyes peeled for the cathedral’s free concert schedule, too.
The Eiffel Tower isn’t off limits, either. Yes, you have to pay if you want to go to the top but you can catch views of the city from other areas without paying (or standing in such a long line). Stay on the ground and check out the ornate tower itself instead.
3. Melbourne, Australia
There is a lot to see in the city of Melbourne, whether you want to relax on the bea
ches or take in the local sites. One way to get a great view of the entire city is to take a ride on the City Circle Tram. The tram ride is free of charge and if you stay on the tram will take 30 minutes to get back to your starting destination. You can, of course, get off the tram at any time to browse the local neighborhoods.
Make sure you do get off long enough to check out the NGV International Museum. It’s the oldest public art museum in the country and houses some incredible collections of Baroque, Asian, Egyptian, and Renaissance artwork.
2. New York City, New York, United States
Visiting the museums in New York City is a great way to spend the day, but many of the museums charge moderate admission fees. Ask the concierge at your New York City hotel to help you determine which museums are offering “free” or “pay as you wish” days – accepting whatever donation you feel you are able to give. The Metropolitan Museum of Art charges $20, but if you can’t afford it they’ll let you make a smaller donation for admission. Museums like the National Museum of the American Indian (a Smithsonian Institution), the Goethe Institut, and the Forbes Magazine Galleries are always free of charge.
1. London, England
The city of London is packed with museums and art galleries charging no admission. Tate Britain and Tate Modern, displaying British and global artwork respectively, are great examples. The Wallace Collection and the National Portrait Gallery are free as well.
If you’d prefer to see something a bit more interactive, head towards the gates of the Buckingham Palace by 11:30am for a glimpse of the Changing of the Guard. It happens daily during the summer and is limited to every other day during the winter months.
There are dozens of incredible things to see and do all over the world and you won’t have to reach deep into your pockets – if you have to reach at all. Enjoy your travels!