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Ponderings on all aspects of travel - both at home and abroad.

Use your nous when eating abroad

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The Viaduct is where you go in Auckland for a special occasion. Photo / Babiche Martens
The Viaduct is where you go in Auckland for a special occasion. Photo / Babiche Martens

Anyone who does a bit of travelling must have been mildly amused by the recent bleats about tourists being ripped off in New Zealand and price-gouged in Fiji.

A top restaurant in a top location charging a small fortune for a glass of wine? A fancy resort making guests pay through the nose for cans of Coke? Goodness, what a shock, how unusual.

Those who've trodden the tourist trail know from painful experience that in all the most popular spots around the globe, prices tend to be cranked up to take advantage of the captive audience; the wise traveller is aware of this and shops around.

One of the examples quoted in support of the Kiwi rip-off complaint involved having to pay an excessive amount for a glass of wine in one of the finest restaurants at the Viaduct.

Well, frankly, no surprise there. Almost anywhere in the world, if you go to a fancy restaurant in a prime location you're going to pay for the privilege, and in Auckland the Viaduct is the prime location. It's the sort of place you go to for a special occasion or if you don't care what you pay (though, to be fair, there are a few places in the Viaduct that are relatively cheap).

Just recently I was in Istanbul staying in the heart of the old city. Round the corner from my hotel was a cluster of tourist restaurants which took advantage of the delightful views and charming atmosphere to charge premium prices.

Further up the hill was a row of cafes catering to locals where you could eat just as well for half the price amid the cheerful ambience of a works canteen.

Was that a great Turkish rip-off? Not at all. Tourists like me could choose what we wanted. A couple of times I ate cheaply and quickly. And a couple of times I ate more expensively and enjoyed the surroundings.

Restaurants in Auckland, Istanbul and pretty much everywhere else have menus outside giving their prices. You wander past, check them out and pick what suits. How hard is that?

The same goes for the grizzle about Fijian resorts price-gouging. Personally, I think anyone who buys cans of Coke from a resort, especially from the mini-bar, is an idiot. They're almost always an extortionate price.

A couple of years ago I stayed in a beautiful resort on Moorea where the drinks cost about the same as a bicycle and the price of a three-course meal would have bought you a small car. So I wandered down the road to the local store and got a few beers, bought a pizza at the parlour just opposite the hotel entrance one night, had some delicious fish at a local stall another night and on the final evening splashed out on a meal at the resort. Not exactly rocket science.

The same applies in Auckland. There are plenty of places where you can eat and drink well without having to take out a mortgage on the house. You just have to look. Or, of course, you can enjoy the wonderful atmosphere, food and wine at the Viaduct and be prepared to pay for it.

- NZ Herald

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