Travelling isn’t exactly the cheapest activity, but once you get bit by the travel bug, it’s hard to look back.
I don’t want to know how much I’ve spent on travelling in the past seven years. I say seven because that’s how long I’ve been taking holidays on my own, separate from my family. But spending money overseas doesn’t really bother me because I’m paying for an experience that I’m excited about! I usually set myself a budget (I can’t be left with nothing when I get home!), and if there’s something I reallyyyy want to do that seems a little pricey, I usually just go for it. When else will I be able to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef?
Of course, there are times (many times) when I’m just plain stupid about spending overseas. And I’m not talking about getting that extra drink at the bar or dessert from a restaurant. I’m talking about things that actually do put a dent in your budget. Here are all the stupid ways I’ve wasted money overseas.
I paid 30 Swiss Franc ($45 AUD) for a salad in Switzerland
I’m still salty about this one and it happened in 2016. I just arrived in Switzerland and was super confused about the currency. I went to a pub in Interlaken on my first night in the country and scanned the menu for a salad. I craved something green after spending a week in Italy. I ordered a Cesar salad without looking at the price (a very unusual thing to do), and when it was time to pay, it came out to 30 Swiss Franc. I felt the wind knock out of me. Then I converted it to AUD… $45!! I nearly fainted. Always research the local exchange rate before arriving. And check the dang prices on the menu! Ugh.
I had a bank card that was charged enormous ATM fees
In my early days of travelling, I had a bank card that did nothing to help my budget or reward my travels. It charged foreign transaction fees and ATM fees. Oof. After doing some research, I found a card that charges zero ATM and foreign transaction fees. It’s been a lifesaver. Look into Charles Schwab, ING, Chase, or Barclays Arrival Plus World Mastercard to avoid paying your bank extra money that could be spent on travel. Bonus points if you get a travel rewards credit card.
I failed to figure out how to get from the airport to the hostel before I arrived
It’s so easy to arrive in a place and be overwhelmed by a new environment and hurried travellers. It usually leads to saying, “Screw it, I’m calling an Uber!” But that’s not helpful to a budget traveller like me. This used to happen quite often until I finally incorporated arrival airport research into finding things to do in a foreign city. This totally helped cut back my spending! If I simply researched that I can take a $17 Skybus ride from Melbourne Airport to the CBD, then I save about $20 on an Uber or taxi ride! That’s the kind of travel budget content I like to know about. So now I always research the cheapest way to get from the airport to my accommodation before I arrive.
I dined near major tourist sites
This is a rookie move. Have you ever tried dining at a cafe near the Eiffel Tower? Or a pizza joint next to the Colosseum? Or pub next to Buckingham Palace? Well, don’t. It’s insanely more expensive than if you wait to eat at a local, non-touristy restaurant a few blocks down the road. Don’t fall into the trap of buying a $7 small cup of gelato just because it’s next to the Trevi Fountain. Tourist traps like that know people aren’t coming back, so they don’t have to worry about consistent quality. However, if you see locals buzzing around a restaurant, it’s probably going to be good or they wouldn’t be there.
I used taxies
Taxis are one of the worst ways that you can spend money overseas. It’s common to get ripped off by the driver because you’re a tourist. Skip taxis and use public transportation whenever possible. If you have to hail a taxi, make sure there’s a running meter and keep your maps open so the driver knows you’re tracking his directions.
I tipped a terrible tour operator because I felt like I had too
It’s not very often that I have a terrible tour guide because I always do my research before booking. But on a four-day trek through the Andes mountains in Peru, I had a guide who was awful. Just awful. He didn’t teach us anything, he told us random (inappropriate) stories about his personal life, and he didn’t practice any safety measures when someone on my tour got injured. I hate to admit that he kind of ruined my entire experience. By the end of the trip, I was struggling with how much to tip because I didn’t think he deserved one. I ended up giving him some cash, which he counted it in front of me and said, “This will buy me a few beers.” I instantly regretted giving him anything at all. If you’re not happy with your guide, don’t feel obligated or pressured to tip. You’re already paying for the experience, a tip is just a nice thank you.