One Surprising Skill That Can Save You Money When You Travel


There's one investment that you can make before going on a trip that has the potential to save you a surprising amount of money when you travel: learning the local language. If you're part of the 80% of Americans that don't speak a second language, it's never too late to learn.

Why It Matters

Preparing for an international trip is the perfect reason to start. Obviously this will be easier for some destinations than for others, but even just acquiring the basic language skills for the country you're going to will yield huge rewards, both economically and culturally. Here's how it could help save you tons of cash.

1. You Can Bargain Like a Local

Often outside of the western world, prices are negotiable and bargaining is a common cultural practice. If a price that a vendor proposes to you seems far-fetched, it may well be.

Whether you're at a marketplace, taking a taxi, or paying for any sort of service, speaking the language enables you to negotiate a competitive rate, instead of being forced to accept whatever price is thrown your way. If you want to stop paying the tourist price and start paying the local price, learning the language is going to help you get there. Even if your language skills aren't perfect, this is a great opportunity to practice.

2. You'll Get Better Hotel Prices

Just the rudimentary language skills are often sufficient to secure a more competitive price at foreign hotels. In much of Central and South America, as well as India, hotel prices are not as fixed as they are in North America.

On the other hand, if you can't communicate in the local language and the receptionist or hotel owner doesn't speak English, you're missing out on this opportunity to save. Before you go on your trip, research the phrases you'll need to ask for a better hotel price.

3. You'll Gain Respect

By making the effort to speak with locals in their language, you are showing respect for their culture and, as a result, they will often hold you in much higher esteem. What's more, you'll be able to ask locals for recommendations on everything from where to eat, to cool local spots to visit, to where there are good accomodations.

You'll be surprised by how many doors open when you know at least some of the local language. Test it out on your next trip and see the difference it makes.

4. You Get the Insider Advantage

By arriving in a new place and just speaking English, you may be limiting the range of places you're able to go, as well as the people you're able to meet. On the flip side, even just speaking a bit of the local language grants you much greater access to the culture.

In some places, especially where there's a lot of tourism, insider and outsider politics can be closely linked to language. By learning the language you'll get a valuable "in." Plus, you'll be able to better understand the context of the place you're visiting.

5. You'll Be More Secure

It may sound surprising, but by speaking the local language, you're reducing the chances someone will try to take advantage of you. You have the language skills to ask around, so you'll be more informed, and if something doesn't seem right, you can check with locals to confirm your suspicions.

Plus, being able to communicate in the local language will help you to stand out less as a tourist and make you less of a target. Speaking loudly in English can draw a lot of unwanted attention. This doesn't mean you can never speak English while you're traveling. Just be aware of your surroundings and choose the language you're going to use accordingly.

There are plenty of reasons to learn a foreign language that transcend the economic benefits. It's good for your brain, it can improve your memory, and perhaps even delay the onset of degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's. Additionally, a 2005 study in The Review of Economics and Statistics revealed that U.S. college graduates who spoke another language earned 2%–3% more than those who didn't. Being able to save money while traveling is just one more advantage to add to the list.

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