Over the past 6 months I’ve written a number of posts with suggestions of what to do or where to go while travelling. However, I realised there isn’t enough advice out there for what NOT to do. Recommendations when travelling are plentiful. Friends, family, blogs and businesses will all suggest an attraction, site or restaurant you 'have to try'.
Yet one of the biggest annoyances for travellers is either coming up against unexpected costs while abroad, or finding out that you got stung badly post return. You may consider yourself a thrifty traveller but many traditional money saving aspects, such as travellers checks, have now gone out of date. Find out how you can use these 12 “No No’s” on your next trip away to realise where you can save money, thus helping you travel smarter for longer.
Don't be the Early Bird
The early bird doesn’t always get the best worm when travelling. Booking flights 4-6 months before your trip is generally the best time as I discussed in my post about Skyscanner’s recomendations, but not necessarily a sure thing. Travel companies for flights, cruises and tours don’t like having empty vessels and will usually drop prices at the last minute to try and fill empty seats.
Don't Take Travellers Checks
A traveller’s check is a pre-determined value issued by the banks to empower a traveller to exchange it for cash anywhere in the world. In the past when finding an ATM and using a credit card were a rare luxury, traveller’s checks were the safest way to carry money around without bringing along a loaded wallet. Nowadays, however, numerous banks will refuse to cash them whilst others will offer little security if lost or stolen.
Don't Buy Foreign Currencies at the Airport
Exchanging your money at the airport is categorically the worst place to get a good rate. Your best bet in these modern times is to use an ATM or a credit card, as these will be much closer to the interbank rates and a superior way to ensure you’re not getting ripped off. Only exchange cash when its absolutely necessary, although it's worth noting that even taking a trip to the local bank will give you better rates and fewer fees than airport Foreign Exchange booths. Plastic, in this situation, is fantastic.
Don't Eat Near Major Tourist Sites
Being a tourist in a new location means you'll inevitably end up at the popular places of interest, but when hunger strikes it's very important to be aware of your surroundings. Food establishments near these attractions know they wont have returning customers and therefore sacrifice quality for quantity, while at the same time jacking up their prices. Their mantra usually tends to be more along the lines of “What do tourists know about quality local food, right?”
If you want to eat better quality food for considerably less, try going somewhere the locals would be happy to revisit because these places wouldn’t get away with serving trollop. Avoid restaurants with big glossy menus and in multiple languages, as that generally shouts "Tourist Trap!". If you want inside opinions use sites like Yelp, Tripadvisor, Foursquare and OpenRice.
Don't Use Cards with Bank Fees
Banks...we cant live with them, we cant live without them. Expensive transaction fees can eat away at a travelling budget and there is only one solution - find a bank and credit card that have no foreign transaction fees. There are plenty of options out there, whether they are banks with yearly fees, building societies or simply a bank with a great offer. To help find the card right for you, consider asking your bank what they have available otherwise check out websites like this.
Don't Use Only Australian Search Engines
There is no dominant leader when searching for cheap deals online because not every search engine is 100% perfect all the time. Companies like Expedia are great but sometimes will not show you all options, especially from budget airlines. A good combination of search engines to use when searching for cheap flights are Google Flights, Skyscanner and Momondo.
Don't Skip Travel Insurance
Travelling can sometimes lead to unexpected experiences, as you never know what is going to happen while abroad. You could break an arm, lose your mobile, get an infection or have to leave the country because of a natural disaster. Travel insurance covers you for all these sorts of things yet ultimately is a small cost in comparison should you ever have to pay for them out of your own pocket. It's simply not worth the gamble so make sure you get travel insurance before venturing off somewhere.
Don't Ignore Hostels
Hostels in the past have been tarnished with a bad name aimed at filthy, unkempt students. These days however, they've evolved in many parts of the world to include amenities such as pool tables, movie rooms, PlayStations, free Wi-Fi, free computers, laundry rooms, private rooms and organised tours. They are geared towards travellers who want to be more involved with the community while paying more affordable rates compared hotels.
Don't Overlook Hospitality Exchange Networks
Websites such as CouchSurfing and Hospitality Club establish networks of people across the globe, willing to give up their sofa or spare bed for free in exchange for meeting people from all over the world. Numerous people use this as a means to experience different cultures or expose children to different ethnicities and walks of life. A free night and a new friend can be very rewarding.
Don't Use Taxis
Unless you are sharing the cost with a few people don’t spend the money on a taxi. This is how budgets die a quick yet painful death. Unless its an emergency or very late at night, consider public transport instead wherever possible.
Don't Assume “Looking after the Pennies will Always Look After the Pounds”
Travellers are often associated with having more time than money, which is why they are more likely to sacrifice their time to save money. But, if your $5 can be saved by not taking a bus and instead walking, yet that walk consumes an additional 2 hours, is that saving really worth $5? Consider the fact that you may arrive late and tired and potentially have to buy water or food along the walk, all of which may cost more than $5. Focusing more on being smart with your time and money rather than avoiding every little cost may give you exactly the same result compared to if you'd initially accepted the minute cost in the first place.
Don't Avoid the Local Tourist Office
Tourists boards are seldom visited yet contain an abundance of local information about events, festivals and slightly less mainstream tourist options. Their purpose is to provide information on all the current activities within the vicinity and they get paid for helping you. In my opinion they’re an asset when venturing into new territories and can also provide a great resource for maps, local deals, bargains, discount cards and accommodation options.
That about sums up what I believe to be some of the most common mistakes made by travellers across the globe which collectively end up costing them dearly. Hopefully this article will help you become a savvier traveller when it comes to boosting your budget while abroad.
We'd love to hear your own experiences too, so if you have anything to share please leave a comment below!