The summer is here and many people take time off to travel overseas and explore the world. The idea of exploring foreign countries and cities can be so captivating that sometimes people end up spending more time shopping for travel guides than actually taking care of the little things that ensure having a stress free vacation and save money. The following 5 tips will help you complete those little things that can make a huge difference in your budget and overall experience when traveling internationally.
Contact your bank. This is the first thing you must do before you travel to a foreign country. During the past years, banks and credit card companies have raised their security measures to avoid fraud and losses due to claims from their customers. Some banks require that you contact them at least 10 days before you travel. Others are more flexible and can be reached 24 hours prior to your departure. Let them know where you will be traveling and for how long;that way, you will be able to use your card once you are in foreign territory.
Use debit cards at restaurants, shops, hotels, or ATM machines. Debit cards with the Visa logo are accepted in most places worldwide, and help you keep a better tracking of your expenses while away. In addition, every time you use your debit card you get the best exchange rate for your currency. It is better than carrying large amounts of cash or traveler’s checks that may get lost or stolen.
If you need some cash, look for an ATM machine and withdraw some cash. Some ATM machines won’t even charge you a transaction fee, whereas exchanging currency involves paying usually a 7% to 10% fee. If the ATM Machine charges a fee, try to withdraw cashonly once, and you will be saving money, since the ATM will charge you US$2 to US$5, whereas exchanging money can be over US$20. Last time I went to Spain I was able to withdraw money from my checking account without being charge any fees at Caja de Navarra ATM machines.
Avoid using credit cards. Some credit card companies charge excessive exchange fees. If you still need to bring your credit card with you, make sure to contact their customer service department first, and verify how much they charge to avoid unpleasant surprises.
Travel lightly. Try to fit all your belongings into one carryon bag. Not only will you save a lot of money in baggage fees, but you will also avoid all possibilities of your bags getting lost in the way, which can literally ruin your vacation. If you still need to send an additional luggage, make sure to bring everything you will need at least for the first three days of your trip in your carry on. That way, if your luggage gets lost for a couple of days, you don’t have to run to the shopping mall and mess up your vacation.
Learn the language. You don’t have to speak it fluently but at least learn the basics, to be able to understand signs, greetings, numbers, and be able to ask for directions. There are countries were not everybody speaks English and having a functional knowledge of the local language may become very handy. I visited Paris in 2000 and it was very hard to find people who spoke English or Spanish. Fortunately, I had learned a little bit of French and was able to buy things, order crepes with Cappuccino, greet people, and get by.
Do your homework. Read a little, ask other people and try to get to know as much as you can about this new place you are visiting. Don’t take anything for granted. Make sure you learn a little bit about the people’s customs and beliefs. Make sure to learn about gestures or actions you should avoid doing that might be illegal or rude to locals. Study the security measures you should take, places you should avoid walking alone or late at night, and so forth.
International traveling is a truly enriching experience. By taking these precautions prior to your departure you guarantee yourself to have more time and more moneyto enjoy this new place by being better prepared, and avoid wasting your vacation time dealing with unwanted and embarrassing situations that could have been avoided in the first place.