11-year-old Karoline is particularly fascinated by the steep streets of San Francisco and the cable car – a tram that is pulled by steel cables. "We rode a cable car. That was very cool, because you always went uphill, then straight again, then uphill and then suddenly down," she says enthusiastically. And her 9-year-old sister Laura says: "I think it's beautiful here because there's so much nature."
"You drop dead there"
The Schmidt family actually wanted to visit the western United States two years ago. But the pandemic ruined the holiday plans at the time. Now the family of four from Berlin has to realize that many things are significantly more expensive in the USA than at home.
"We booked most of the tickets for things like the Aquarium or Universal Studios in advance," says Richard Schmidt. "It's easy to drop dead when you see the prices." Normal tickets for four people would have cost $450, so-called express tickets even almost $1,000. "I'd say that's a steep price to pay for admission that doesn't make you think twice."
His wife Anna was particularly surprised by the awards in San Francisco. There the family bought coffee, milk chocolate and a few croissants near the Fisherman's Wharf tourist mile – for the equivalent of more than 90 euros. That was probably the most expensive coffee they ever bought, says Anna.
VAT and tip are on top of that
What many tourists don't know: All prices are displayed without VAT in the USA. Depending on the city or district, this is another 20 percent. Added to this is the tip, which employees in the catering trade are dependent on. You should add between 15 and 20 percent here.
"When we were in Stanford, we bought two drinks for the kids in a café, a coffee for my wife and a piece of cake for me. That was 36 dollars, which is about 36 euros," says Richard Schmidt and is sober firmly: "You can almost get lunch for half the family or the whole family in Germany."
$500 for one night at the hotel
But it's not just the euro that has lost significant value. In the large Californian metropolises such as San Francisco and Los Angeles, hotel rooms have also become significantly more expensive due to high domestic demand and staff shortages. Now – in high season – a standard room costs $500 a night.
However, Anna Schmidt has found alternatives: "I have found various glamping sites, some of which are not so expensive – i.e. not at hotel prices." And if you book early enough, you can also find romantic accommodation like log cabins or tents for quite cheap money that you can afford.
The landscape makes up for a lot
The Schmidts were positively surprised by the petrol prices. Although the Californians have been upset about record prices for weeks, refueling – compared to Germany – is still comparatively cheap here. The equivalent of around 1.50 euros is paid here for a liter of regular petrol. All other prices are crazy, says Schmidt – but it would still decide for a vacation in California:
"The vastness of the country is always impressive and surprising," he enthuses. "And when we drove to the park, we were so blown away that the trip was worth it for that alone. This kind of steep mountains, deep valleys, clear rivers – we've never seen that anywhere else in Europe."