Adventures Abroad

Adventures Abroad
Machu Picchu

Monday, January 19, 2015

A Traveler's Guide to Money

Hello fellow travelers!

I was recently asked how a seasoned traveler like me deals with money 
abroad—fantastic question, right? Now, before I get started, you are probably wondering how this Virginian could be considered a seasoned traveler. Well, as of today, I have been to 15 countries and stepped foot on 4 continents. By March, I will be adding Russia to my list, which will put me at 16 countries and 5 continents. I am not saying that I am any kind of expert, but I have gained quite a bit of knowledge while traveling that may be useful. Are you still reading? Good, let’s get started! 

First thing first, a seasoned traveler should always ask themselves two very important questions before they embark on their journey: 1) where am I going? And 2) how much time do I have to plan and save? Duh, right? The reason you should consider these two questions is because each country is different (e.g. Europe is more expensive than Central America).  The answers you provide to those two questions will affect your budget. ***Tip: Planning is a great thing, but do not be scared to be spontaneous and show up at the airport for a last minute trip! 

Next, how does your bank work with traveling abroad? For instance, I have one account with a military bank thanks to my Dad. Military banks do not charge much for international transactions, which is vital to my existence! I don’t want a bank charging me excessive fees for doing something I love. My suggestion is either plan for transaction fees or look for another bank specifically for travel. ***Tip: Check with your bank about international travel! 

What is your budget after you book the airline ticket(s)? Now, take out at least two hundred dollars in cash. After the $200 is removed, what do you have left for travel expenses like food, lodging, and fun? I would suggest considering a hostel, which is full of travelers from all over the world! Not for you? Okay, well then I suggest trying to CALL Expedia or Travelocity because they offer a much better deal via the phone then booking online--this was recently discovered by B and I when we booked our tickets/hotel to Russia. Keep reading to understand what you should do with that $200 in cash.***Tip: Look around for a week or two at different sites before you book--flight prices change constantly. 

When you travel to other countries, please, I beg you not to get sucked into any of those money exchanges they have in the US, other countries, at the airports, and even outside the airports. Why? Well, let me tell you my first real experience with a money exchange place…it was my first time to Europe and I had only been to countries that took US currency (like Nicaragua) beforehand. Now, I arrive in Italy with my $200 in cash and wanted to exchange it. I found a place in one of the many crowded streets of Venice and walked up to the exchange counter. I will be honest; I did no research about the euro and went to Italy, which was the worst thing I could possibly have done! So, like I was saying, I walked up to the counter and gave the man running the exchange $200 USD and he gave me less than 110 in euros. I was like okay and signed the paper. Hello, where was that lightbulb that should have been going off? I got ripped off and they got a nice chunk of change for that exchange. Lesson learned!  Wait, what do you do with the $200 in cash if not exchange it? Keep reading!***Tip: Read about your travel destination beforehand and understand the exchange rates. Take advantage of drops in currency from other countries—makes for more affordable travel! Hence why B and I are heading to Russia. 

This brings me to my next suggestion; please take at least 1 debit card and 1 emergency credit card—American Express does not charge for international transactions (Something I recently heard from my Mom)! ATMs in other countries offer the best exchange rate because it is current at the time of the transaction! Voila! You will never need to worry about the exchange rate again! That $200 in cash is your emergency money so tuck it away in a shoe or safe. Also, now you don’t need to carry around your passport because you don’t need a passport to go to an ATM. ***Tip: Alert your banks that you will be abroad. Do not let them cut off your lifeline because you neglected to tell them it isn’t fraud.

Better yet, if you are quite interested in where technology is taking us, then I dare you to take a gander at Bitcoins while traveling to Paris or Tokyo. Bitcoins are a digital currency that is not regulated by any government. Sounds scary, huh? Well, Xapo is a company that will offer you a secure, convenient place to maintain and spend your Bitcoins. One of the many benefits of becoming a member of Xapo is that you will never have to worry about exchange fees while paying for something abroad. Xapo offers a vault and a wallet for the upmost security of your account. The vault is insured for any fraud and/or bankruptcy that Xapo may experience. Now, the wallet is like your checking account that you access from your phone. So who actually takes Bitcoins? This is a growing trend amongst small businesses due to no fees, but you can also order a debit card and use it at MasterCard or Visa accepted locations (Xapo has not officially released which card they will go with). Bitcoins could be the future for traveling! Always remember that like any bank, Bitcoins can be hacked, too. ***Tip: Check your finances while traveling abroad. Being proactive will ensure that you have the best trip and stay on top of any possible fraud!

B and I at Machu Picchu
Lastly, these are opinions that I have gained from experiencing the good, the bad, and the ugly side of traveling. I want you to find what works for you. If you like the fact that you can exchange money in our US airports and then come back to get the same exchange rate with no fee, then great—do it! (Keep the exchange receipt to do so!) Please just be smart about how much money you take with you while exploring the city you chose. Lock the rest of your money up in a safe or get creative and hide it. Don’t take all your lifelines with you to explore either—lock up that $200 emergency cash and at least one credit card. Keep your cash and credit cards safe and always check after you get back from exploring to ensure that your lifelines are still locked up. Being cautious is a necessary survival tool while traveling abroad. Consider embracing technology while traveling and try Bitcoins. Like I said, find what works for you because my advice is simply derived from my own experiences abroad.
Be smart, be safe, and be adventurous.
Me walking in the streets of Peru

Happy travels!


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