Frugal Travel Tips For Marrakech, Morocco

Marrakech can be a bargain for savvy tourists. The two must see’s in Marrakech, Djemaa el-Fna and the Souks, are free. Frugal even if you can’t resist making purchases.

The landmark I use to orientate myself is the tower of the Koutoubia Mosque. The tallest in the city, it can be seen from anywhere near the Medina, the old city.

The Food Stalls At Djemaa el-Fna

From the tower of the Koutoubia Mosque, the Djemaa el-Fna is only a couple steps north.

During the day, this square is filled with dancing monkeys, orange juice carts (2 Dirham – approximately $0.54 U.S. – for a glass of orange juice – note: a common “trick” on tourists is to charge extra if you wish no ice, remember this is a hot country with little portable refrigeration, ice is at a premium to the plentiful oranges), and other entertainers.

But the real action starts at sundown. The food carts come out and so do the bargains. The posted prices are usually for the locals, expect to be charged a higher price if you don’t speak the language, especially if you don’t want to haggle. Still you can get a bowl of the famed chick pea based harira soup for 2.5 Dirham (approximately $0.69 U.S.). The round loaf of bread commonly eaten with this soup can be purchased for 1 Dirham ($0.27 U.S.).

The Souks

The Souks are a maze of little shops situated right beside the Djemaa el-Fna. These stalls can be confusing and enterprising locals will insist that paid guides are needed. Unless you’re looking for a specific stall, they’re not. If you get “lost”, simply walk in one direction until you exit.

The Souks are one of the best places to get souvenirs including fabrics, leather shoes, and tajines (the cone like clay dishes used to prepare local cuisine). For spices, the grocery stores are a better bargain. For best deals, haggle. It’s expected by shop keepers.

The Menara

You may be tempted to visit the Menara, another free site. We saved the taxi fare and trekked out there by foot. We were disappointed. It consisted mainily of a giant pool of stagnant water with one small shell of a building. The building charges an admission fee.

Unless you have a burning desire to see olive groves or a common teenage hang out site or have too much time on your hands, spend your energy exploring other more interesting areas of the city.

Marrakech is a wonderful, fascinating city filled with exotic sights and smells and tastes. And with proper planning, it doesn’t have to break your travel budget.

Frugal Travel Tips For Seville, Spain

Seville is one of the prettiest towns in all of Spain, filled with plazas and history. One of the highlights of Seville, Alcazar, an ancient Islamic palace, is well worth the pricey entrance fee. To offset that expense, there are a number of free sights to see, including the other must, the Seville Cathedral with its free entrance on Sundays.

Seville Cathedral With Giralda Tower On Sunday

Normally the Seville Cathedral with Giralda Tower charges a high entrance fee. When I went, I paid the fee and did not begrudge the expense. One of the few cathedrals with the private rooms open to the public, and a tower that overlooks almost all of old Seville (the ramp in the tower, instead of stairs, allowed ancestors to ride a horse up instead of walking), it is one of the top Seville attractions.

However, if you plan your trip right, and are in Seville on a Sunday, the entrance fee is waived. Yes, its free.

Plaza de Espana

Any true Star Wars fan will recognize Plaza de Espana as George Lucas’ inspiration for the Palace of Naboo. Any other traveler will simply appreciate it as an example of beautiful architecture. Tile work covers every inch, including the multiple bridges. Along the base of the buildings, there’s a contribution from each province, illustrating in tile a significant historic event.

Entrance to the plaza is free.

Torre del Oro on Tuesdays

The Torre del Oro or Golden Tower was exactly that, a 13th century tower covered in golden tiles. Now it hosts a maritime museum. Normally there is an admission fee but on Tuesdays, this fee is waived.

El Alamillo Bridge

For those looking for more modern architecture, El Alamillo provides a perfect example. A huge bridge connecting the island of La Cartuja to the old town of Seville, El Alamillo is primarily a bridge for vehicles. However, down the center is a raised pedestrian walkway.

There are many pedestrian walkways in Seville, perfect for people watching and crowded with artists and street performers.

Real Fabrica de Tabacos

This former tobacco factory was built over 500 years ago and was made famous by Bizet’s opera Carmen. Once it had a moat and a jail. Now a university building, it is open and free for all travelers. Inside, frugal visitors can find cheap university budget food and beverages.

It is impossible to say that you’ve seen Spain without seeing Seville. A beautiful, walkable city, Seville is also a frugal traveler’s paradise.

Frugal Travel Tips For Rome, Italy

The entire city of Rome is like a free open air museum with historic buildings, sites, piazzas, every where the frugal traveler looks. There are some sights well worth the entrance fee such as the Sistine Chapel (in the Vatican City, a walled enclave within the city of Rome) but many of the not-to-be-missed sights are absolutely free.

Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain is a Baroque masterpiece carved out of marble. Available to all, legend says that if visitors throw a coin over their shoulders, they will be sure to return to Rome.

St. Peter’s Basilica

Touted as perhaps the largest church in Christianity, travelers can’t say they’ve seen the religious sites of the world without paying St. Peter’s Basilica a visit. Most Papal ceremonies occur at St. Peter’s. And the frugal traveler will be pleased to note that there is no entrance fee. Highlights are the awe inspiring dome and Michelangelo’s Pietà.

Note: St. Peter’s has a strict dress code (when we attended, not even shorts were allowed) so dress modestly.

Pantheon

The Pantheon is a magnificent building complete with giant bronzed doors, a columned entrance, and a huge dome. It contains the tombs of Raphael and of a few Italian Kings. The Pantheon was built as a Roman Temple and later consecrated as a Catholic Church.

Admission is free.

Spanish Steps

I think there is nothing more pleasing than sitting on the stairs of the Spanish steps, and people watching. Years ago, I would have said eating gelato also but authorities have banned that much loved practice.

Linking two piazzas, the Piazza di Spagna at the base, and the Piazza Trinità dei Monti at the top, the 138 steps are known as one of the longest and widest staircases in all of Europe.

Colosseum

There is an entrance fee for the Colosseum but a tour around the outside of the ancient Roman amphitheatre is free (plus keen eyed frugal travelers can peak inside). It is truly like a scene out of the gladiator movies. I could almost hear the crowds roar.

Rome is a city so full of history that the free sights alone will take days to see (don’t do as I did the first trip and try to see Rome in a day). The historic buildings are so close together that the best way to see the city is on foot.

Frugal Travel Tips For Las Vegas Dining

Las Vegas dining is world renown. Casinos compete with each other to provide the best dining option from the high end to the buffet to the too-good-to-be-true deals. In this article, we will explore some of the dining options for the frugal traveler.

Ellis Island $4.95 Steak Special

For $4.95, diners at Ellis Island (located on Koval Lane, East of E Flamingo Road) get a 10-ounce steak, bread, potato (choice of serving), and veggies. Must be a cheap cut right? Wrong. This steak is mouth watering. This special is not on the menu, you have to ask for it.

But that’s not what I order. I order the $6.95 fish and chips. There’s a reason why this Icelandic Cod (the waiter said it was flown in daily) has been voted the best in Las Vegas for 35 years.

In-N-Out Burger

If you’re a fast food junkie, then In-N-Out Burger is the place to hit (multiple locations). Their official menu consists of a hamburger, a cheeseburger, a double-double (two patties), fries, and beverage (including shakes). There’s a reason they can keep their menu so simple and that’s because the few items they make, they make well. The store claims to not own a freezer, everything is so fresh. Even the lettuce is hand leafed and the fries cut at the restaurant location, one potato at a time.

Le Village Buffet In Paris For Brunch

If you’re looking for a splurge meal in Las Vegas, I suggest Le Village Buffet in the Paris Casino for brunch. By brunch, I mean go there at the tale end of the breakfast time (serves til 11 am) and then stay for lunch (starts at 11 am).

Why do this?

The selection is changed up so diners get to experience more (pace yourself) but most of all, the price for breakfast is $12.95, the price for lunch is $17.95. Yes, quite a difference. $5.00 per diner.

This technique can be used with many buffets as long as there isn’t a break between meals. Also check to see if you get a discount with a member’s/player’s card.

There are many, many other bargain meals in Las Vegas including $0.75 hotdogs at Gold Coast and $0.99 shrimp cocktails at Golden Gate (tradition started over 40 years ago) but Ellis Island, In-N-Out and Le Village Buffet are my favorites.