Travelling abroad is an exciting adventure. And to make the most of this experience, it is primordial to plan the right budget and have plenty of funds. The last thing you want is having to cancel a skydiving jump over the Republic of Palau, or a hot-balloon ride in Tanzania, or a cycling wine and gastronomy tour in Burgundy because you are too tight with money. Sometimes opportunity only knocks once. 1. Plan a Budget Where are you going? For how long? How will you travel? What is the purpose of this trip? Who will you be with? Asking yourself questions about your trip will help you create an estimated budget. First, I start with the big expenses, such as flights, vaccinations, and visas. Then, after researching about the destination, I plan an average daily budget considering accommodation, food and transportation. I make an activity budget, such as important sights, concerts, and adventure trips. I also make a budget for others such as souvenirs, tips and treats to locals. I always allow extra for an occasional splurge (which in my case happens generally very often). 2. Know the Exchange Rate I always refer to XE.com. I added the free currency converter app on my phone, and can easily search for live foreign exchange rates. Knowing the currency and the exchange rate of the country you’re visiting will save you a lot of time and hassle, and avoid the possibility of getting ripped off. When I crossed the border from Belize to Guatemala, many freelance money-changers tried to sell us their quetzal. At first I thought it was a scam, but knowing the exchange rate, I realized it was a really good deal. So I traded my Belize dollars and left with quetzal at an attractive cost, saving time waiting in line at the bank to convert money. 3. Get Local Currency As a Canadian, I have opened a US bank account from the tip money I receive from American customers. As much as I try to only use local currency while abroad, I like to have a few US bills with me since it is the most freely convertible currency. Check with your bank if they carry the currency of the country you’ll be visiting. Buy some currency before you go, and try to get some small notes too. If you can’t, don’t worry. Airports have ATM’s to withdraw money at a very good exchange rate. Avoid airport currency exchange booths. 4. Take Cash
5. Use Multiple Cards Debit card Besides withdrawing cash money, I never use my debit card for purchases. A trick that I do before I leave, is to go to the bank and claim a lost card. They give me a temporary one (the one I use while travelling), and I receive a new card in the mail (a backup card). Once I use this latter, the temporary one gets cancelled automatically. I keep both cards in different places. It is nice to have this option in case anything happens. ATM’s are found in most cities, are easy to use and usually have the best exchange rate. Make sure that the PLUS, Cirrus or Maestro network are available at your destination. Ask your bank about currency exchange and international fees, and advise them about your travels. Make sure your PIN is 4 digits, and if it is a word, remember the numbers. When I was still a rookie at travelling, I tried to withdraw money at an ATM in Costa Rica only to realize there was no letters on the buttons. Since I changed my PIN for 4 digits before leaving on the trip, I had not memorized the numbers. I tried thrice and my debit card got cancelled. Luckily I was travelling with a friend that helped me out, and I had a credit card. I learnt a good lesson.
Credit Card Having a credit card is a must for me. Not only it could save your life if anything happens, but it is also good for rentals, or to pay for an expensive activity you hadn’t planned on doing. Also, credit cards have the lowest conversion rate and are nowadays widely accepted, although some developing countries might require a minimum amount of purchase and could charge a fee of usage. By using credit card, I find it a convenient and safe way to travel without carrying too much money on me, while saving on exchange fees. With Internet banking available, it is easy to keep track of your expenses, and transfer money onto your card. Check with your bank if an international transaction fee is applicable, what insurances are available, and let them know of your travels. When I was in Belize and got invited to join a diving trip to the Great Blue Hole, I couldn’t say no. Since Belize was our first stop on our month journey around Central America, and such an expense wasn’t planned, I paid the activity with my credit card: Because there is no price to put for swimming with dozens of blacktip sharks in a natural wonder of the world. Prepaid Travel Money Card I’ve never use these types of cards, but I have many foreign customers at work using them with great satisfaction. By preloading money from your bank to your card at that day’s rate, the prepaid cards are supposed to give better exchange rate while collecting reward points. By simply topping up online or by phone, they become easier to use. They could also be cheaper than using debit or credit abroad. Research all the small-print charges and choose the best card for you.
Bitcoin Debit Card Bitcoin is an online payment system that allows you to use global digital currency abroad. It is known to be easier to accept and cheaper to process than cash and credit cards, given the fact that you don’t need to withdraw money, avoid issues with handling local currency and don’t deal with foreign transaction fees.
I have never heard of Bitcoin until a few days ago, but it seems like this decentralized cryptocurrency is being rapidly adopted by mainstream businesses, and is becoming an easier, safer and cheaper payment option. Whether Bitcoins could be the next payments revolution, do your homework and researches in order to find what best suits your needs. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Um63OQz3bjo#action=share 6. Track Your Expenses By keeping track of your daily expenses and spending, it will help you maintain control of your budget. It will give you an idea of your average daily spending, and where to cut if the need meets. You don’t want to run out of money at the least expected time. 7. Do What Locals Do Using public transportation, eating at food stalls, and shopping at markets will not only save you a large amount of money, but it will also give you the unique opportunity to truly experience the culture of the country visited. By interacting with local people and immersing into their lifestyles, it will create memories and leave you with a very rich experience, at a very cheap price. When my girlfriend and I took a trip to Maui, Hawaii, all we had planned was to rent a car and go with the flow. We met local Americans at a local fish eatery that invited us to stay at one of their empty houses in the country. We also met native Hawaiians that invited us to a traditional wedding in a gymnasium. From luau dinners, to boating with a family on a Sunday, to snorkeling secret bays and to drinking cava on the carpet floor, not only did we save money on accommodation and activities, but we also made a strong nod with locals and their families, and left with great stories.
8. Travel Slow I used to rush and visit as many places as I could. My first trip abroad was in Thailand in 2003 and I travelled the whole country, from top to bottom in only a month. It was amazing, but there was a lot of jumping on trains, boats and buses for long periods of time, every few days. Now, instead of squeezing as many countries, cities and sights in one travel, I try to slow down and focus on a place at a time. By exploring the destination thoroughly, making new local friends, and experiencing the local culture, I get to have a stronger connection with the place. By staying in one place, I get to reduce the cost of transportation and get familiarized with local hangouts rather than tourist traps. Travelling slow is not only economical and easier on the environment, but it is also generally less stressful and extremely rewarding, making it an experience of a lifetime.
And you? How do you manage your money abroad?