Admission Bargains and Rip-offs at Famous Tourism Sites


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Angkor Wat | Photo credit:
Angkor Wat: There’s excellent value at this extensive ancient complex | Photo credit: ecperez

So I was just at both Chichen Itza and Uxmal in the Yucatan state of Mexico this past weekend and noticed that the price had gone up since last time I was there. There were actually new numbers pasted over the old ones.

Getting into either—the first one of the “new 7 wonders of the world,” the latter a more interesting and authentic experience (in my opinion)—will now cost you 182 pesos. At current exchange rates that’s less than $15. In the big scheme of admission prices to famous tourism sites around the world, you could actually call that a bargain. If you spend the night nearby Chichen Itza and go to the sound and light show, you only pay about $6 and you can still see most of the structures. Without all those Cancun day-trippers and all the vendors.

How does this compare to other “new 7 wonders?”

Machu Picchu

Well let’s look at Machu Picchu, the other major historic site from a grand civilization in Latin America. This transaction gets more complicated each year, with the site taking its cues from the U.S. airline industry. The base rate is around $46 now, paid in advance when reserving, but you’ll pay more to climb an adjoining mountain or visit the museum.

Ankor Wat

Across the ocean to Asia, Ankor Wat in Cambodia is a better deal, though you could argue it’s capable of hosting a lot more visitors each day than fragile Machu Picchu perched on a mountain. Admission is $20 for one day, $40 for three days, or $60 for a week. Considering how extensive the Angkor complex is and how many sites there are to see, it’s worth going for more time and $40 is a bargain for a place so stupendous.

To put Angkor in perspective, it’s about the same price for one day as the Colosseum in Rome. I don’t think you’ll want to spend eight hours there…

The Taj Mahal | Photo credit: ecperez
The Taj Mahal: A world wonder for an excellent price | Photo credit: ecperez

The Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal costs Indians next to nothing, but foreigners brave the touts of Agra to get to the entrance gate and pay 750 rupees. Due to a falling rupee though, that’s currently only about $12. A lot in Indian terms, but still a screaming bargain on the international tourism stage.

The Great Wall of China

Seeing the Great Wall of China in the most popular section will set you back about $20 if you take the cable car both ways. Less in other sections.

The Great Wall of China is a Great Deal | Photo credit: Francisco Diez
The Great Wall of China is also a great deal | Photo credit: Francisco Diez


Which brings us to the most expensive site: Petra. I’ve talked before about how a one-day visit to Petra can end up costing more than Disney World. It’s also out of whack compared to the other sites on this list. Or really any site I can think of on the planet if you remove transportation costs. A one-day pass starts at $70 and goes up substantially if you add on a second and third day. They really sucker-punch the visitors who don’t spend the night though, penalizing them to the point where it’s $127. No, that’s not a typo! Anyone coming on a tour from Israel or a Red Sea cruise ship is paying that amount for a few hours in the ruins.

Jordan is a good travel value—but not this part. The experience is not as good as it used to be either, with part of that admission including a mandatory horse ride that’s just silly for able-bodied people who want to arrive on their own two feet.

How much is it to visit the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio? Who cares. It should have never made the list.

Beyond the 7 new wonders, what sites have you found to be a bargain or a terrible value?

This article originally appeared on Tim Leffel’s World’s Cheapest Destinations Blog.

About the Author: Tim Leffel

Award-winning travel writer Tim Leffel is author of The World's Cheapest Destinations, Travel Writing 2.0, and The Contrarian Traveler's Guide to Getting More for Less. He is also co-author of Traveler's Tool Kit: Mexico and Central America and is editor of the narrative web publication Perceptive Travel

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