8 Tips on Managing Money Abroad

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). o-BUDGET-TRAVEL-facebook-1050x700 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. mzl.efdkxboi.320x480-75[5] 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. Currency-Exchange-Rates-Today-Canada-695x494 4. Take Cash

Withdraw cash money from an ATM when you arrive. Depending where I am, and how safe I feel like walking around with cash money on me, I withdraw a certain amount that will keep me at least for a couple weeks, and hopefully more. Because my bank charges me $5 for every international transaction, I try to limit its usage. I try to never carry the whole amount at once, or at the same place. If going on day trips I carry just what I need. If travelling, I hide it in different places in my belongings.
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Click here to know more on how to effectively carry money abroad.

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.

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Click here to know more on how to use ATM’s abroad.

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. DCIM108GOPRO 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.

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Click on this image to know more about prepaid travel cards.

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.

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This image was taken from Xapo’s blog. Xapo is a bitcoin company that combines the security of a cold storage bitcoin Vault and the ease of a convenient bitcoin wallet. Click on the image to read the full post.

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. calculating-travel-expenses-14160479 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.

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Our new Hawaiian family.

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.

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Staring at the famous rock erecting from the sea in El Tunco, El Salvador. Not only did I fell in love with the place, but I got to live like the locals, tasting their lifestyle at a slow pace.

And you? How do you manage your money abroad?

3 Nights in New York on a Budget

On my way to Cayman Islands from my visit in the province of Québec, it was inevitable that I stop in New York, at least for a quick glance at this famous ”City That Never Sleeps.”

Like many of us, I always dreamt of walking the streets of the Big City. Flights in and out of New York are so affordable and it was just a few hours and a few bucks to get me in the Big Apple.

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I met up with my friend Lisa, with whom I volunteered with a year ago in Morocco. She flew from Michigan, also a very short and affordable flight.

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There was many AirbNb options, but the best deal I found for our short stay was at the Savoy Hotel, located only a few footsteps from Times Squares. We shared a small room double occupancy in the heart of the action. For New York, it seemed like a pretty sweet deal (and cheaper than most AirbNb and YMCA).

Hotel in Times Square: Park Savoy Hotel: $120/night= $60/night/pp

DAY 1

I met Lisa at the airport. We took a shuttle that drove us through the cluttered roads, all the way to the doors of our hotel. We quickly unpacked and walked to Times Square.

Transportation from JFK to Manhattan: Super Shuttle Roundtrip Ticket= $40/pp

The illuminating signs took over dawn. The square was hustling, as expected, and we quickly learnt how to walk firmly through the people maze. No wonder why they call it the Crossroads of the World, with some 360,000 people walking through each day.

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As we were on the lookout for a nice place to eat, a policeman allowed himself to suggest us the way to Restaurant Row. “There you’ll find 16 privately-owned restaurants, for every taste, ” he said. “It is only a couple of blocks this way.”We thanked him for his genuine help and followed his directions. Located on West 46th, between 8th and 9th Ave in the Theatre District of Manhattan, and only a few minutes walking distance from Times Square, Restaurant Row is a one block stretch that offers cuisines from all around the world. Here you can sample foods from celebrity chefs and glimpse at Broadway Stars enjoying their favourite meals. Our ears were attracted by music notes flowing through the bustle. At the entrance of an illuminated door, a man in a black tuxedo hosted our way inside. Past a bar, we entered a room where a large band played in the back. He sat us at the best table.

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Jazz, food and wine. I’m the happiest girl!

At the entr’acte, they invited patrons to hit the dance floor for some swing lessons. I instantly regretted I wore my hunter gum boots. We were definitely the youngest ”couple” in the place, but the energy was young and frivoulous and everyone tapped their feet, head wobbling, hips twisting on the sounds of jazz music.

Dinner in Manhattan:  Swing 46 (appetizer, 2 meals, 1 bottle of wine, 1 show)= $60/pp.

On our walk back to Times Square, we stopped and played paparrazi at the exit of Richard Rogers Theatre, waiting on actress Idina Menzal (?) to walk the red carpet back to her limousine. 10352977_10154873473400721_8648620460816031866_n

We finished our first night at a pub, for a couple. This is when our unplanned trip got planned by the bartender.

Drinks in Times Square: Rosie O’Grady’s= $20/each

DAY 2

It’s a chilly day of October, but the sun arches across the blue sky, making it the ideal day to explore Manhattan. After a quick breakfast in Times Square, we took the subway, line 2, and got off on Fulton St. We walked through the World Trade Center, encounting the sad truths of 9/11.

Breakfast in Times Square:(can’t remember the place, wasn’t worth it)=$15/pp Get around:MTA Subway Train Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard= $5/pp

It wouldn’t be a trip to NYC without having a glimpse at the Statue of Liberty. We trotted a few blocks and reached the water. We jumped aboard a vessel and cruised along Manhattan, marveling at world-famous landmarks such as the Brooklyn bridge, the Empire State Building, Governors Island, and of course, the Statue of Liberty.

Cruise Manhattan: NY WaterTaxi Cruise= $30/pp

Once we jumped off the boat, and with the help of two friendly policemen, we walked towards the district of Chinatown, right on time for happy hour.

Happy Hour in Chinatown:  Asia Roma (appies, 3 drinks each)= $20/pp

Since Little Italy was just around the corner, we decided to go there for dinner.

Dinner in Little Italy: Da Gennaro (appies, 2 homemade pasta meals, 1 bottle of wine, 2 espresso martinis)= $70/pp

My friend DJ from Cayman now manages a lounge in lower Manhattan. We walked a few blocks and arrived at the Grey Lady where we patronized the bar and socialized with New Yorkers. IMG_5690 We continued the night at the Avenue Club where we danced until 4am. And since we haven’t walked enough, we ventured through Times Square in the early hours of the AM, assisting a morning TV show broadcasting live at the red steps of TKTS booth. Drinks and night out with friends= priceless (it also helps when you have friends that work in the industry).

DAY 3

I was sore. My whole lower body was so sore. But it was Halloween day and we needed to get back outside. We grabbed a tea and walked to Central Park, just steps away from our hotel.

We walked the entire park, through the magical colours of fall. Sometimes a zombie would limp on the path, moaning death and spitting blood.

Walk in the park= free Snacks: Tea= $2 /Pretzel= $2

As we were too exhausted from the night before, we skipped our plans for a Halloween ball party. We chose to take the subway back to lower Manhattan and experience the haunted house everyone talked about. We ate cheap but delicious food in Chinatown, and waited in line for our haunted experience.

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Scary. Spooky. Screamy. I hope this was the first and last time I get lock in a dark closet with a corpulent dead man, then get my hair pulled by 2 mentally-challenged girls and have a black sac over my head, screaming for my dear life. Dinner in Chinatown:  Pho Vietnam= $15/pp Haunted House: Nightmare Haunted House= $30/pp We took the subway back to Times Square, along with ninjas, assassins and zombie princesses.

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We only had a few hours sleep until our shuttle picked us up from our hotel, back to the airport. It was a very short stay, yet we managed to explore some of Manhattan’s best spots, without suffering our wallet (only our feet and legs).

CONCLUSION During my 3 night stay in New York City, I spent approximately $550, excluding airfares. I stayed in a hotel in Times Square, and at the entrance of Central Park. Sometimes I ate cheap, but I did splurge on 2 nice meals (it’s New York after all). I watched a jazz show, encountered a celebrity and watched a live morning TV show. I explored Manhattan, mostly by foot, and all Central Park for free. I saw some of the world-famous landmarks, including the Statue of Liberty. I drank at great establishments, and danced the night away at a famous club. I didn’t do any shopping, but I am very satisfied with all I did, and happy with the money I spent. Despite being known as one of the most expensive cities in the world, I believe anyone can visit New York on a budget, without sacrificing enjoyment. I know I did.