4 Travel Hacks to Give You Peace of Mind
Traveling allows you to meet fascinating people, learn about history, and see different cultures. But it also leaves an emptiness in our wallets. As a result, the once-ignored skill of how to save money on travel is gaining popularity. I dedicated entire sections of my book Budget Travelers on the subject of how to save money on travel.
Here are four valuable (but simple) tips to avoid wasting time, money, and even your entire wallet during your next trip.
The Best Place to Exchange Currency Before a Trip
Depending on how popular the destination is with tourists, it may be difficult to convert money in advance. Finding a location to buy Turkish or Czech currency is easy in Poland, but not true for Ethiopian birr.
If half of your country is sunbathing in Bulgaria and the other is driving to Croatia for a week, local exchange houses are likely to welcome your currency in those places, and with good rates.
Why carry a 2-week stash of bills when you can exchange the exact amount upon arrival?
Do some homework and ask your friends who went last year so you don’t need to pack a stash of cash or risk losing your wallet.
In less developed countries like Tanzania or Laos, we mostly found exchange houses in airports and similar locations. Airports, however, often have terrible exchange money rates. The same is valid for any place that does not have a large influx of tourists.
What to do in these situations?
Do it online, because the Internet is the best place to exchange currency before a trip. This means to use Revolut, Transferwise, and similar solutions, as I will explain in the next paragraphs.
How to Save Money on Travel by Minimizing Bank Transactions and Exchange Losses
In 2011, I spent my first month abroad. At that time, I still used traditional bank services like debit cards and bank transfers, with all the associated fees. Commissions ripped my money apart like a wolf. After that, I progressively abandoned traditional banking in favor of cheaper and better services from digital financial institutions or fintechs.
The first step was to use Transferwise, a low-cost digital tool for overseas transfers. The discrepancies are huge compared to bank rates, making this service a favorite among digital nomads. Others followed, such as Azimo and Remitly, each with unique features. Transferwise is still a leader in international remittances.
Digital transfers provide additional safety. Instead of waiting days for a bank transfer, I often get money using Transferwise in less than 24 hours. So in an emergency, you can get to the needed resources quickly.
I also used Skrill as a digital wallet. PayPal, the financial powerhouse and industry pioneer, is Skrill’s biggest rival. The reason I preferred the first over the second is PayPal’s bureaucracy, which reminds me of banks.
Finally, I canceled my Brazilian bank account (which was costing me $5 per month) and got a free digital bank account.
This saves fewer than a dozen euros each month. In the long run, this is a significant sum. Also, the transaction speed and availability make receiving and making payments a breeze.
Despite these advantages, always remember that it is crucial to have a secure internet connection to make any online transaction.
Later on, I switched to Revolut, which also can work as a digital wallet like Skrill, but additionally gives you access to investments and allows accounts in multiple currencies.
Today, with Revolut, I can exchange money between 30 currencies (besides many cryptos) in a matter of seconds. Add that to the over 50 currencies supported by Transferwise, and you see that with these two solutions in your pocket — in fact, inside your smartphone — it is unlikely you will need to look for an exchange house.
How to Avoid Pickpocketing in Barcelona (And Everywhere Else)
Years ago, I couldn’t return to my job overseas.
Just because of a wallet.
It all happened during a fantastic Balkan road trip. A family vacation, with my parents and girlfriend, that went almost perfectly.
Until I lost my wallet. In Athens.
At that time, I was working and living in the Middle East. To return, I needed to reissue all my lost documents, including my passport and visa.
For this reason, I needed to remain in Europe and lost an entire month of work (and salary).
This problem, as well as many others, might be avoided by following the two suggestions I’ll tell you now.
Pickpocketing is a frequent crime in certain countries, including mine. This is especially true in tourist hotspots.
Travelers with experience should avoid carrying large sums of cash. Pickpocketing can create even worse situations since our wallets hold documents and cards. Here, more than losing money, you will waste time reissuing missing IDs and passports and canceling credit cards.
As a result, now I support the idea of using a fake wallet in pickpocketing zones. By “pickpocketing zones” I mean places like:
● Commercial walking streets in Brazil, like the 25 de Março in São Paulo, Brazil.
● Omonia in Athens, Greece.
● Around the Fontana di Trevi in Rome, Italy.
● Gare du Nord in Paris, France.
● Las Ramblas in Barcelona (I was also stolen there, although only my sunglasses), Spain.
If you want to use a fake wallet, remember that pickpocketers are despicable, but not stupid. Therefore, your dummy wallet needs to look real.
● Insert a few expired cards in it to make it stuffed.
● Put some money (small bills and coins).
● Place it in your trouser back-pocket.
Rely not only on your purse or phone.
Modern travel allows for less documentation to be carried. A century ago, besides carrying a somewhat bulky passport, the absence of visa-free travel made it necessary to carry other paperwork.
Documents (excluding passports) can now be carried electronically. You may pay with a card, phone, or even a wristwatch. Instead of a rail or airline ticket, you may use a QR code on your phone’s screen. These technologies save time and minimize bag weight. But what if your battery dies?
You won’t always have a power bank or a charging port nearby. The goodwill of a railway ticket checker to understand that you have a ticket in your discharged phone is doubtful. I witnessed other passengers pay fines since their electronic ticket was not accessible because of a low battery.
That’s why I believe in having a backup plan. If a train inspector asks for your ticket and your phone battery is dead, you should be ready to provide him with an alternative.
You may either print it or store it on your tablet or other mobile devices.
There is also an alternative backup. One that might even save your life.
Always scan and send your paperwork (passports, visas, etc.) before extended journeys. This might be your way back to normal if you’ve been stolen, robbed, or just had a bad night. Avoid becoming stuck in a country or, worse, in an airport.
Waiting over 24 hours in an airport for missing paperwork is not fun (something I know from experience). If this still happens with you, here are the best pieces of advice about airports and flying that you can find. But if you follow those tips, you are safe.
Which other tips to save money on travel do you know?
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Levi Borba is the CEO of expatriateconsultancy.com, creator of the channel Small Business Hacks, and best-selling author. Subscribe to my articles (for free) and receive (also for free) the ebook “The Blueprint for First-Time Business Owners”.