Managing money while travelling: either for a weekend in Europe or an adventure on the other side of the world, managing money is clearly not the preferred activity of travellers. However, knowing how to juggle currencies and keep a budget will allow you to enjoy your trip without (too) worrying about your wallet. Here are some tips for managing your money when travelling.
Establish and manage a budget
Before leaving, the first thing to do is to spend a few hours in front of your screen to gather as much information as possible about the standard of living in your destination country. What is the average price for a dinner at the restaurant, for a room in the city centre? You will answer all these questions by browsing through travel forums, hotel reservation sites, social networks and the excellent countersense travel planner.
Your budget will also depend on your mode of travel (luxury hotel, dormitory or tent under the stars) and the activities you plan to do on site (hikes and free visits or museums and shopping?).
All these data will give you a first idea of your budget. It is probably simpler, to arrive at a figure on paper, to classify future expenses into items: transport, housing, activities, catering…
When setting your budget, be careful not to fall into the trap of the developing country! If your destination is a country with a low standard of living, it is customary to say that life there costs nothing. This is true if you are able to actually live there like all Aboriginal people, but it is rarely the case. So don’t be too optimistic.
To find out if your forecasts were accurate, do not hesitate to record your expenses during your stay in a small notebook. This will allow you to check if you are still within the set range or if you need to adjust your expenses.
Before you leave
If you leave the euro zone, the first thing to do is to check the exchange rate of the currency of the country you are travelling to (the Oanda site gives you a precise exchange rate that adapts according to the commission rate, it even offers a very practical application for free smartphones). Then contact your bank to find out more about the conditions for credit card payments and what fees will be charged for cash withdrawals (fees vary from one to three times, outside the EU, depending on the institution). Some banks offer free withdrawals in their partner banks around the world, others a limited but free number of withdrawals anywhere on the planet… it is up to you to discuss with your advisor and choose the option that seems best suited to your needs.
It is important to inform your bank of your departure abroad, giving details of your destination and the duration of your stay. This way, your advisor will not be surprised to see cash withdrawals on the other side of the world, and will not block your card! This simple little gesture will save you a lot of trouble!
It is recommended not to leave with too much cash to avoid being left dry in case of theft, but still enough to be able to spend the first few days without asking too many questions. Similarly, to obtain these cash, you can order currency from your bank before departure, change at an exchange office in your home country or shoot as soon as you arrive at the airport. A quick study on the availability of currencies near you (US dollars are not as easily exchanged as Colombian pesos!) and the commission rates of your bank and the various exchange offices will allow you to choose the most practical and economical option. Remember to check with your advisor, as some banks do not charge a commission when you have an account with them.
It can also be interesting to take part of your budget with traveller cheques. Indeed these are easily changed and will be refunded in case of loss or theft. For this reason it is essential to note the serial numbers of the checks (as well as those used) that will be requested from you in case of a problem. Be careful though, some destinations do not accept this payment method, so be sure to check in advance.
We recommend that you always carry at least two credit cards from two different accounts (in your name if you are travelling alone or at least one per person if you are travelling as a couple). There are three reasons for this. The first is that if a card is lost or stolen, or if your main card may not be accepted at an ATM, you do not find yourself helpless. The second is that some cards are more advantageous for the payment of stores, and others for cash withdrawals. Having two cards allows you to juggle between payment methods and thus make some savings. And thirdly, because you will no longer fear seeing the tragic sentence on the screen of the vending machine: You have exceeded the authorized withdrawal limit.
So, in addition to your classic card, don’t hesitate to get a withdrawal card and open an online bank account, as the card is free. Don’t forget to write down credit card numbers and phone numbers to call in case of loss or theft.
The money on you
Of course, the age-old question comes up very quickly: What should I do with my money? To this question a unanimous answer: Do not put all your eggs in the same basket!
The most logical thing to do is to take only the money you need for the day with you and leave the rest in a safe place in your backpack or hotel.
We advise you to always have your money in two different places: the first with small denominations, to pay for drinks, restaurants and taxis, and the other for larger expenses. This avoids at all times pulling out a large bundle of banknotes, and thus attracting the attention of pickpockets. In the same way, we advise you to take one of your credit cards with you and leave the other at the hotel.
You can also get a banknote belt before you leave or, perhaps more effectively, a ventral pocket that you can put under your shirt (but also around your thigh or on your back). Another solution is to have a small invisible pocket sewn into your pants, sweater… Generally speaking, do not put all your money in one place, but distribute it in your business as you see fit.
In countries where you fear theft, do not hesitate to bring a fake wallet where you will have slipped a few old loyalty cards and a small amount of money, which will allow you to give the change to a possible pickpocket.
One last piece of advice
Managing your money while travelling also means keeping a small reserve in case of a problem. In this area, health concerns are well placed to spoil your vacation, and empty your wallet at the same time. Indeed, your budget can melt like snow in the sun if you have to spend a few days in hospital, or even worse, be repatriated urgently, anywhere in the world. To prevent this risk and leave with peace of mind, consider purchasing travel insurance that will cover your local health costs. With good travel insurance, no more unpleasant surprises and holes in your budget!
Once these money issues are resolved, all you have to do is enjoy your long-awaited vacation! And do you have any other tips to share to help you manage your travel money?