When you’re traveling outside the United States, it’s always worth checking local airfare. Don’t just assume the fares you see on Orbitz or other US-based online travel websites are the cheapest available.
Fares sold in U.S. may be higher, the cheapest fares may only be available in-country. For that you need to book on a website whose “point of sale” is local.
Rapid Travel Chai shows you the difference for travel on Vietnam Airlines. He searched for travel on the Vietnam Airlines website – and so issued locally in Vietnam – and found that fares were less than one-fifth the price he was seeing on US booking sites. The US sites were showing ‘full fare’, all that was available to them.
The simple solution is to book on an airline’s own website. But using local online travel agency sites is possible too. I like Expedia’s local country sites, and of course Google Chrome has built-in language translation.
In China, Stefan recommends:
Pull up China domestic flights on most international websites and you’ll get eye-popping numbers. Use ctrip, eLong, travelzen or other domestic OTAs, or the airlines, and you’ll get substantially cheaper fares.
There are some locations where local fares are restricted to locals (mostly in South America). But for many destinations it’s always worth comparing local point of sale.
That’s different from, though related to, the issue of where you start your trip. It’s generally cheaper to buy business class tickets Sri Lanka – US – Sri Lanka than it is to buy the same airline, same flights US – Sri Lanka – US.
The idea is that the airlines are price discriminating. The local market demand is different for people living in Sri Lanka than for people in the US, and airlines want to maximize their revenue from passengers in each market. You won’t sell many $8000 tickets to Sri Lankans, but you’re giving away your product at $2000 in the US for instance. There are also rules in some locations about who can discount.