How did the research work?
Researchers used a VPN (a virtual private network) to make it look like they were searching for holidays from different locations, including Australia and overseas.
Using a VPN hides your IP address, making it look like you’re browsing from your chosen location. By connecting to a server in a specific country, you can hide your virtual location to gain more internet privacy and freedom.
For this study, researchers first looked at how much a particular hotel stay or car rental would cost if booked from Australia. Then, they connected to the server of the country they would be traveling to, making it look like they were browsing from there. Researchers looked at holidays in the U.S., the UK, Mexico, France, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand, Croatia, South Africa, and Italy.
By doing so, they discovered that booking a vacation from Australia costs much more than booking the same deal from the destination countries. Let’s take a closer look at these findings.
What did the research show?
NordVPN researchers uncovered significantly lower prices from providers like Hertz, Kayak.com, Expedia, Hotels.com, and Booking.com when booking from outside of Australia.
They found that Australian vacationers could save as much as $2,718 on a 14-night luxury stay in Bali for a family of four if they booked it while connected to an Indonesia server. They could also save hundreds of dollars on car rentals. Let’s look at the biggest price differences in more detail.
- Save 39% on car rental in Cancun. Researchers looked at how much it would cost to rent a Chevrolet Beat for seven days in August 2023. They found that connecting to a Mexico VPN server lowered the price from $347.10 to $212, which would save Australian travelers $135.
- Save 19% on car rental in Japan. When looking into renting a Daihatsu Move in Japan using kayak.com, researchers found that Australian holidaymakers could save as much as 19% ($194) if they booked it on the local website. The price from Australia was $1,029, while the price shown to someone browsing from Japan was $835.
- Save 16% on a hotel stay in Bali. Booking an 11-night stay at Sampatti Villas in Bali for a family of four would cost Australian vacationers $10,424. Booking the same vacation while connected to an Indonesia VPN server would lower the cost to $8,713, saving them $1,711 (16%).
- Save 15% on a hotel stay in Mexico. Booking a 14-night stay at Hotel Plaza Caribe in Cancun for a family of four would cost $2,188. However, booking the same hotel while connected to a Mexican VPN server would cost $1,862, saving holidaymakers as much as $326 (15%).
- Pay 15% less for a hotel stay in France. Australian vacationers would pay $2,327 for a 14-night stay at Garden and City Les Bastides de Grimaud, Saint-Tropez. However, if they booked it while connected to a French VPN server, they could lower the cost of their vacation by $341 and pay $1,986.
What causes different prices?
Holiday prices vary by country for many reasons, some of which are:
- The economy of the country. Companies know that people in wealthier countries can afford to pay more for holidays, car hire, and holiday-related activities than those from poorer countries. Providers exploit this situation by charging more in wealthier countries to maximize profit.
- Currency fluctuations. The value of currency changes over time, sometimes quite sharply. Exchange rate fluctuations can significantly impact the prices in different locales.
- Company location. Providers may offer lower prices in their home countries. That’s why it’s always worth connecting to the server in the country where the company is based.
Marijus Briedis, chief technology officer at NordVPN, says, “Never assume you’re seeing the same price as everyone else. Companies use all kinds of complex algorithms to cater to the purchasing power of different countries. They will routinely show different prices on different website domains, and it can even differ depending on where you’re visiting from.”
How to save on holiday bookings with a VPN
There’s no need to overpay for a holiday abroad. Using a VPN can save you a lot of money – and it’s easy to get started.
Make sure you choose a reliable VPN provider that takes your privacy and security seriously. Though looking for a free option may be tempting, it’s best to stay clear of free VPNs. Here’s how to save on holiday bookings with a VPN:
- Get a VPN subscription. If you’re interested in NordVPN, you’ll find our subscription plans here.
- Download and install the VPN app on your device.
- Launch the app and enter your credentials to sign in.
- Pick a server in a country of your choice, and connect to it.
- Head to the provider websites and note down the prices.
- Repeat this process with several server locations to find the best price. We also recommend clearing your browser’s cache before returning to the site so it doesn’t identify you as a returning user and impact the price you’re shown.
Even though this process might take a little longer than you’re used to, you’re likely to find some great deals to make it worthwhile. This method will work for finding cheaper flights, hotels, car rentals, and even general online shopping.
Is it legal to use a VPN to get lower prices?
Yes, it is. Using a VPN protects your privacy and enhances your online security. It’s perfectly acceptable for users to buy tickets and book holidays while connected to a VPN server.
The research was commissioned by NordVPN and conducted by an external agency between March 10 and 31, 2023. Researchers conducted simultaneous searches for identical products sold by the same vendor using different country servers.