The Highs and Lows of Per Diem Rates

Business travel costs vary significantly, depending on where you're going. According to the latest edition of the Corporate Travel Index from Business Travel News, average per diem rates are on a general upswing in the U.S., reaching a peak near San Francisco.

If you’re planning to take an international business trip anytime soon, you might want to skip Caracas, Venezuela.

The South American city has the highest per diem rate—the average allowance set aside for a business traveler by their employer—in the world. To spend a single day in the Venezuelan capital would cost an average of $1,702.44, thanks to the extremely high rate of inflation affecting the region.

Fortunately, most cities around the world don’t cost anywhere near that much, according to the latest edition of the Corporate Travel Index, Business Travel News‘ annual survey of the least and most expensive cities around the world, based on the average cost of food, ground transportation, and a hotel for business travelers.

And those cities that do cost significantly more than average—San Francisco’s $547.34 per day topped the charts in America, according to the ranking, while London’s $553.58 per day came in second internationally—are not even within shouting distance of Caracas. Still, rates aren’t cheap, and per diems are rising in the U.S. in particular, where rates decreased in just 11 of the top 100 markets, according to the index.

Other top cities on the list [PDF] in the United States include New York ($523.05), Boston ($502.69), Seattle ($418.89) and Washington, DC ($411.10). What’s interesting about these stats is that they rank near the top for different reasons.

For example, Washington, DC, has a relatively inexpensive hotel cost of $245.81 per night, but the food cost, $121.21, is slightly more than that of San Francisco. And while Boston has expensive hotel rooms ($344.18 per night, second only to San Francisco), the pain is lessened slightly, thanks to a food cost of $95.92, which is lower than any other city in the index’s top 20.

On average, businesses should expect to pay an average of $318.80 per day in travel costs for employees, which breaks down to $172.80 for the hotel, $47.12 for a rental car, and $98.74 for three square meals. (In comparison, international travel per diem costs [PDF] have a slightly lower average, at $312.18 per day, though the total doesn’t generally include a rental car, but it does include incidental costs such as train fare and taxis.)

If you’re looking for a deal, your best bet might be Norfolk, Virginia, which has a per diem rate of $248.15, more than $70 below the national average. And if you’re flying internationally, Bangalore, India ($167.22), and Johannesburg, South Africa ($175.17), have per diems that can’t be beat.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!