This is one of those tips that’s not only practical, but easy. I swear. When booking an international ticket, especially those originating and terminating in a country other than your home country, paying in the local currency and changing the “online location” of your purchase can save you a fortune. We have a trip coming up in February to Hong Kong and we want to book end this trip with an additional trip to Phuket, Thailand. Though I could have open jawed, I am looking at round trip flights between Hong Kong and Phuket. The online location where I purchase the ticket and currency can mean the difference in costing hundreds or thousands. It’s the same for flights all around the world. Travel like a local, it’s cheaper.

a pile of money on a table

In my How To Find Cheap Business & First Class Flights post I mentioned the ITA Matrix. The matrix is a web software which offers extremely powerful and flexible search tools including which currency you pay in, and the “point of purchase” which is essentially the city where the ticket is being sold from, even though it’s online. It’s Google Flights on Steroids. The most common thought when booking a ticket is to go to the usual discounters and airlines: Expedia, Travelocity, Cheapoair and such. You’re not wrong but before ever purchasing a ticket you should use the ITA Matrix and play with the currency and location of your ticket purchase based on your departure or arrival city. Out of curiosity I wanted to see how much paid tickets on Thai Airways Royal Silk class would cost. When looking on Expedia and CheapOair, who simply use my local currency and location I found that the ticket would cost about $2,340 per person. Out of reach. 

a screenshot of a computer

When using the ITA Matrix software (just google ITA Matrix), it naturally selects the local currency and location of the departure point, in this example Hong Kong, instead of New York, where I am presently sitting. “Local” pricing is almost always better than rates charged to foreigners and using the ITA Matrix is the work around. When I search these exact same flights using the ITA Matrix, the price comes out to 6,584HKD which converts to $849.00 USD per person. This is a savings of over $1,300 per person compared to using my local currency and location. Without physically going to Hong Kong I am able to book a flight while sitting in New York with my location set to Hong Kong and my currency set to Hong Kong Dollars. The airline thinks it’s a local purchase so I save money. The same has worked for countless fare sales with airlines across the world by changing your location on the airlines website from something like United Kingdom to Norway to take advantage of special pricing. 

a screenshot of a search engine

a screenshot of a search engine

This principle applies to any flight abroad and is ALWAYS worth looking into. If you are from outside of the US and looking to book flights within the US, always set USA and USD as your location. The same goes for any country abroad. Thank you internet. What about booking? It’s generally easy, most fares on the matrix can be booked directly with the airline. When you visit their site, simply set your location and currency to your departure or destination point. Certain airline sites will even do it for you. The effort to compare prices between standard discounters and a few locations or currencies with ITA Matrix is so minimal that it would be a true shame not to. Don’t sell yourself short. Travel smart, travel cheap. God Save The Points!

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Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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