Taxpayers Fund Five-Star Foreign Stays for Federal Workers with Plenty of Money Left Over for Their Wallets

By Published on January 16, 2016

Traveling around the world on the U.S. taxpayers’ dime can be quite a profitable experience for federal employees, thanks to extremely generous per diem reimbursement rates set by the Department of State.

Generous maximum per diems mean travelers to most countries can afford to lodge in five-star hotels and spend more than $100 a day on meals and incidentals. They can also spend up to 300 percent of their max per diem rates with advanced approval, usually for special events like the G8 Summit, which can mean more than $1,700 per day for lodging and meals.

State Department officials calculate per diem rates after surveying U.S. government employees abroad on the cost of moderately priced hotels and restaurants. A department spokesperson declined to provide information on how the rates are calculated.

An analysis by the Daily Caller News Foundation found the per diem rates usually cover considerably more than required for moderately priced hotels and meals.

Federal employees staying in Mumbai, India, for instance, can spend up to $389 a night on lodging, plus $126 for meals and incidentals. That compares to the $130 average cost of a five-star hotel in Mumbai, according to the travel booking site Travelocity. TheDCNF couldn’t find a single five-star hotel in Mumbai that cost more than $275 on a Saturday night in February, one of Mumbai’s cooler months.

An average five-star hotel runs $130 a night in Istanbul, Turkey, according to Travelocity, but federal civil servants get $299 a night for hotels and another $131 for food and other incidentals, for a grand daily total of $430.

Federal workers going to Petersburg, Russia, where a five-star averages $155 on a weekend night in its warmest month of July, can spend up to $352 a night, plus $134 for meals and other expenses.

The average per diem rate for the more than 1,100 locations calculated by the State Department is $265, including lodging, meals and incidentals.

Some of the large per diems have plausible reasons for being so high. Southern Africa may not seem like the lap of luxury, but Angola is an expensive place for foreigners to live or visit, despite two-thirds of its population living below the poverty level.

Four- and five-star hotels in that country easily run $400 per night. So, federal travelers to that part of the world get $405 per night for lodging, plus $170 for meals and incidentals, for a total of $575 a day.

Federal foodies may want to travel to Venezuela, which with a $200 or higher rate for meals and incidentals in each city, has the highest State Department-allotted meals rates in the world.

Meals and incidentals rates in some parts of that country were higher than lodging rates. U.S. government travelers to Barquisimeto, Venezuela, get $299 a day for meals and incidentals, more than the $263 they get for a hotel.

But, there’s a reason for that, too. Food costs nearly 300 percent more there than in New York City, according to Expatistan, a cost of living site that compares cities’ cost of living.

Some per diems haven’t been updated for years. The Iran rates of $97 for a hotel and $58 for food goes back to 1993.

Here are five other places where federal travelers can sleep and dine comfortably around the world:

  • Travelers to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where five-star hotels average $263 on a weekend night in June, can spend up to $315 a night plus $85 for meals and incidentals, for a total of $400.
  • Travelers to Malta, where five-star hotels average $196 on a Saturday in June, can spend up to $286 per night, plus $135 for food and other expenses.
  • Federal employees in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, can spend up to $365 a night on lodging and $183 on food for a total of $548 per day. The average five-star hotel in Dubai in June costs $231.
  • Travelers to Abuja, Nigeria, can spend up to $424 a night on lodging per night, almost twice the average price of a five-star hotel in June, $231. That doesn’t include $147 per day for food.
  • A five-star hotel in Cannes, France, averages $238 on a Friday night in May, but federal travelers get up to $460 per night, plus $156 for food, for a daily total of $616.


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Copyright 2016 The Daily Caller News Foundation


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