One of the common concerns, especially when traveling far from home and/or for a long time is how to manage money. When traveling abroad, we all usually think about all those exciting sides of our trip and, quite often, we don’t dedicate enough time to this very important point – MONEY MANAGEMENT.
Planning your money wisely and in advance will make your trip much more enjoyable and save you from unexpected expenses and unnecessary stress.
In this text, we will try to answer the question – How to manage money when traveling abroad + we will offer some tips that work best for us when it comes to handling money during our trips but also when it comes to saving.
HOW TO MANAGE MONEY WHEN TRAVELING ABROAD?
– DO A TRAVEL BUDGET
If you want to learn how to manage money when traveling abroad, keep reading!
All you need to plan your travel budget is here!
Once you have chosen the destination of your trip, it’s time to do some financial planning as well. This part can be somehow boring but it’s so worth all the effort.
What works for us and what we suggest to anyone is to decide what is your priority on your trip.
Is it sightseeing?
Do you go there for the culinary experience?
Are you predominantly interested in partying?
Or do you want to enjoy staying in a nice all inclusive hotel?
If you would ask me what is my priority when traveling – my answer would be: “Depends on the destination”.
We like to take different approaches depending on the destination of our trip. For example, when traveling to Bali we wanted that dream accommodation with a spa and we were ready to spend a lot on accommodation.
On the contrary, when traveling to Lisbon for example, we decided that our priority is not accommodation but we wanted to do many city tours and visit museums so that’s when we put the majority of our money on.
When traveling to Italy, we were interested more than anything in food. That time we didn’t mind sleeping in cheap hostels and we rather set our budget around culinary experiences.
As you see, money management topics can be pretty relative and change depending on the goals of your trip.
When creating your travel budget, it is important to estimate your costs. You can set up the desired budget that you would like to spend on your trip and start working on it from there.
Decide what is your priority on that trip and what you want to spend your money on.
You should investigate the prices in advance so you avoid any surprise once you are there.
Check online the prices of the tours you want to do, museum fees, food, and drink prices.
Put it all on a list.
Add anything else that you might want to buy or do… any extra expenses that you could think of.
Add to your budget list also the costs of the flights or transport tickets.
Don’t forget visa and covid test expenses (if applicable).
Think about accommodation. Will you be spending your time mostly outside exploring the town? Or do you want to spend most of your time relaxing in a nice and comfortable hotel?
How much are you willing to spend on your accommodation?
For efficient money management always look across many platforms when doing your bookings.
Consult several flight booking platforms, check prices on different accommodation sites and check tour prices at a few different spots.
This way you can be sure that there is no better price and that you are managing your money most efficiently.
Plan early check-in or late check-out expenses as well if you know you will need them.
Check in advance public transportation prices and also taxi prices so you avoid being overcharged.
When traveling to a country where the currency is different from your own, check in advance the exchange rate.
Once you sum up all your estimated costs, check if that amount of money is what you want to spend. If not, cut some costs that you find not so necessary.
We like to always plan some unexpected expenses such as lost luggage, missed flights, and similar. If you include such expenses in your travel budget you are playing smart.
This way, you will take any unexpected situation with a bit more calm and with a plan B ready.
Also, in case nothing unexpected happens, that part of your budget remains untouched. That’s extra money that you can save.
Having a well-structured budget plan will help you greatly to manage your money wisely and avoid unexpected costs.
It happens many times that we are surprised with some prices because we didn’t expect them to be so high or so low. Having done the investigation and budgeting in advance saves you from unpleasant surprises when it comes to extra costs.
To make sure you are keeping up with your budget plan, you can use some of the expense tracking apps. This way you can keep track of your expenses in a more fun and interactive way.
Some of the popular money management apps that we like to use are:
Last but not least when speaking of budgeting – travel insurance.
Make sure to include travel insurance costs into your planning.
We suggest always having travel insurance for those unpredictable cases such as lost luggage, missed flights, health emergency, etc.
Even though you won’t always make use of your travel insurance, unexpected situations can happen, and having travel insurance can save you from unplanned expenses.
We had to use travel insurance on several occasions and we were so relieved we had it.
Having travel insurance is key for good money management, especially on long trips.
On our trip to Tanzania, our luggage got lost and when we received it 3 days later, many items were missing from it. Luckily, we had insurance that covered that loss.
In Sri Lanka we had to use medical assistance and, even though it was not very expensive treatment, we were happy we had insurance.
Besides planning your budget, there are some more things you should take into consideration related to managing money on your trip.
– MANAGING CURRENCY EXCHANGE AND CASH WHILE TRAVELING
Should I bring cash and how much?
Where should I keep it safely?
Where to exchange the money for local currency?
These are 3 common questions when speaking about how to manage money when traveling abroad.
If you are traveling to a country where the currency is different than in your home country, you will need to exchange some money.
Money Management TIP: don’t exchange money at the airports or in the city center – the chances are those places will have the worse exchange rates and/or include additional commission fees.
Instead, we suggest investigating online and looking for smaller, not so centrically located exchange offices. In many cases, you can check online the rates that they apply and compare them with the official exchange rate.
If you have to exchange the money, don’t do it in the first place you come across – compare the rates in a few places and ask in advance if they apply any commission fee.
– MANAGING MONEY – HOW MUCH TO BRING & WHERE TO KEEP IT SAFELY?
It can be quite stressful to carry larger amounts of cash in an unknown place especially since you are walking around busy, touristic areas the whole day.
I am sure we all think about the possibility to get robbed and we don’t want that to happen.
Consider this money management tip: Carry minimal amounts of cash while doing sightseeing.
Paying with a card is a safer and more hustle-free option.
However, we do suggest having always some cash on you. Just in case your card is blocked for whichever reason, lost or paying by card is not accepted, etc.
If you are concerned about the safety of your money while doing sightseeing, consider buying some of the clothing with special “hidden” pockets such as money belts, tank tops with hidden pockets, or even underwear with secret pockets.
Another great option would be a wallet with a chain – this way your money is tied to you which will make it difficult for pickpocketers.
All of these can be found in different shapes and colors on Amazon.
**Bonus Beach Tip:
If you are worried about leaving your belongings at the beach while you are swimming, we came across this fantastic “fake sunscreen lotion box – money stash” where you can hide your money and small valuables.
Sunscreen from the outside – secret money stash from the inside.
You can leave there your money, cards, maybe even your phone. It won’t attract attention since it looks like a regular sunscreen lotion. Just pay attention that nobody sees you putting your valuables there 😉
I believe it would be easy to go for the DIY option as well.
You just need an everyday object (such as an empty can of beer, cookie box, empty sunscreen bottle, and similar).
Any of these products could be a really good option if you will be carrying cash while traveling.
It is a good option not only for cash but also for keeping your credit/debit cards, passport, keys… or anything else small and valuable.
When speaking about handling cash while traveling, a good idea is to keep smaller amounts separated in different places (such as money belt, pocket, backpack, or at the room).
That way, if you get robbed or you lose your backpack, for example, you won’t lose all the money you had.
When leaving your accommodation for sightseeing around the city, we suggest bringing with you only the amounts of cash you will use during the day.
Unless you are staying in a hostel, leaving your money in your room should be safe.
However, we do recommend paying by card whenever possible. This way you will avoid currency exchange hustle and also the trouble of handling cash.
Yes, we know that sometimes just thinking about and planning how to manage money when traveling abroad can be annoying, frustrating, and even boring.
We all just want to get there and start enjoying our trip.
However, a little bit of organization and planning can do miracles to our budget.
Speaking of which brings us to another big topic – Bank Cards.
– MONEY MANAGEMENT: BEST BANK CARDS FOR TRAVELING PURPOSES
The easiest way to manage your money when traveling abroad would be by paying with a card. This way you are avoiding having to deal with currency exchange and handling cash.
However, cards are not acceptable in every place so we suggest investigating in advance this option.
Speaking of cards, there is a very important thing to keep in mind – some banks apply certain security measures which may include blocking or “freezing” your card when abroad. This depends on each bank and its internal policy.
Some banks will set up default settings to deny or block any money management activity. This can be withdrawal or paying with a card when outside of your country.
Some other banks will block transactions made from a country they find “suspicious”.
To avoid surprises like that one and having to call your bank once you are already out of the country, check these things in advance.
You can check your card settings via the e-banking application or by calling directly your bank’s customer support center.
Normally, it is enough to simply let them know that you will be in a certain country for a certain amount of time and they will make sure your card is not blocked or “frozen” for security reasons.
Another important thing – be aware of the bank commissions when withdrawing money abroad.
We suggest investigating which banks are available in your destination country and checking online (or consulting your bank) which commission rates apply.
In many cases, especially if you are traveling to another continent, you won’t be able to avoid these ATM commissions. However, you will, probably, be able to get lower commissions if you investigate in advance the topic.
Take into consideration that on weekends, ATM`s commissions may be higher than on working days.
Therefore, remember to always withdraw your money on working days.
The type of card you have also makes a difference when it comes to ATM commissions.
Some banks offer cards with lower commission rates.
We suggest always having with you more than 1 card. That way, you have a backup card in case the other one gets stolen, blocked, lost…
Also, if you have cards from different banks you can choose to use one or another according to the better commission rate on each ATM.
Apart from our main debit cards, we have a couple of prepaid debit cards that we use only for traveling purposes.
Prepaid debit cards are great because you can top up your card (make a transfer from another account) with the amount you want.
This way, you keep on your card only the amount of money you want to have there and not necessarily large amounts of money.
The mobile apps are super user-friendly, you can set up additional security measures on the app in a second; transfers (top-ups) from other accounts are made almost instantaneously and there is a quite good customer support available.
Both Revolut and N26 are great choices to help you with your money management while on the road.
And the best part is that they have completely free basic plans.
Revolut offers 4 plans: Standard, Plus, Premium and Metal.
All plans offer to send and spend money abroad with automatic currency conversion at the interbank exchange rate.
What we find useful with Revolut is that you can top up your card. You can top-up any amount you wish.
You don’t need to hold large amounts of money but, rather, smaller amounts that you will be spending during your trip.
Revolut app is super user-friendly – you will get instant payment notifications, see how much you spend each month on things like groceries and restaurants, travel, etc.
There are advanced security options so you can switch your card on and off within seconds to prevent any suspicious activities.
The standard plan is free and you can open your account online within minutes. It offers all the abovementioned functions.
Plus plan includes insurance coverage for accidentally damaged or stolen objects within a year from the purchase. With this plan, you can get reimbursement for a stolen phone on your holiday, for example, ticket cancellation and similar.
Plus Plan costs 2,99 euro per month.
Premium Plan offers all this and much more – faster money transfers, reimbursement for canceled flights or other events, free airport lounge pass if your flight is delayed by more than one hour. A big advantage of this plan is that you can withdraw up to 400 euros each month. Of course, it’s for free and from international ATMs with a 2% fee thereafter.
This plan also includes insurance coverage (up to 2500 euro) when your purchase is accidentally damaged or stolen.
Premium Plan also offers disposable virtual cards. With these, you are getting extra protection against online and card frauds.
Premium Plan costs 7,99 euro per month.
Metal Plan is a “full package” plan that offers a contactless Metal card
With this plan, you can earn up to 1% cashback in any currency including cryptocurrencies.
The main advantage of this plan is that it offers withdrawal up to 800 euro each month for free from ATMs and with a 2% fixed fee afterward.
It offers up to 10.000 euros of coverage for accidentally damaged or stolen goods + reimbursement for canceled flights or events. It also offers disposable virtual cards as extra protection from online card frauds.
Metal Card Plan costs 13,99 euro per month.
**We have one Standard Plan Card and one Metal Card Plan. We use them both on each of our trips topping up smaller amounts. Generally, we add what we estimate we will spend.
Revolut app also has built-in money management options so it is a great tool for tracking your expenses too.
In case you opt for the paid plans you will have the insurance included (for you and your direct familiar traveling with you).
We had a few situations with Revolut cards and the support team solved them quickly and without too much hustle.
Once, we were, somehow, frauded online so some amount of money was withdrawn from our card. After reporting the issue, we got the money reimbursed.
On another occasion, we activated the insurance for stolen and damaged objects on the trip (Metal Card Plan).
It was because some items from our suitcase were stolen. After reporting the case to Revolut and doing the paperwork, we got the reimbursement within a month or so.
All in all, positive outcome each time, and therefore, we recommend using Revolut cards for better money management while traveling.
For more detailed information about plans and benefices of each of them – visit the official page – www.revolut.com
Another online bank that we like and recommend is N26. It offers as well both personal and business plans.
Personal plans include Standard, Smart, You, and Metal plans.
N26 Standard plan is free without any conditions and offers a virtual debit card, contactless payments, mobile payments (with your smartphone), mobile banking app, up to 3 free ATM withdrawals within Eurozone, free payments worldwide (in any currency), and foreign ATM withdrawals with 1,7% fee.
N26 Smart Plan includes all the above plus up to 5 free ATM withdrawals in the Eurozone, up to 19 sub-accounts for budgeting and saving, shared Spaces sub-accounts (with up to 10 N26 users), premium partner offers
Smart plan costs 4,90 euro per month.
N26 You Plan offers additional benefits such as foreign ATM withdrawals for free, medical travel insurance, trip insurance (in case of cancellations), pandemic travel coverage (covid-19), flight insurance, luggage coverage, mobility insurance, winter sports insurance.
N26 Metal Card plan offers additionally: mobile phone insurance (theft of damage up to 1000 euro coverage), saving Spaces sub-accounts, lifestyle insurance, 1 year Amazon Prime, Bike, Scooter and car-sharing insurance, Emergency medical cover, car rental insurance abroad, free ATM withdrawals worldwide, and extra Mastercard debit card.
We use to have N26 Metal Card Plan that we used during our 1 year-long trip to Asia. Later on, we switched to the Standard Plan that we still have.
Similar to Revolut, N26 mobile app offers a user-friendly interface. It is easy to navigate and it offers a quite good customer support.
To get more detailed information about the plans and prices – check the official page – n26.com
The only “flaw” with online banks is that their security systems are not so advanced as in “standard banks”. Even though they will reimburse the money in case of any fraud, we suggest not keeping really large amounts of money on those accounts.
We usually don’t keep more than 1000 euros on any of these banks. As you can top them up with any mount almost instantaneously, you can minimize any risk by simply topping them up with smaller amounts of money as you need it.
We normally use these 2 cards while traveling. On top, as a backup, we have the standard debit cards that we commonly use in everyday life.
You can open your account online both on Revolut and N26 within minutes.
They don’t have physical offices so everything works online.
Additionally, you can always keep some money on your PayPal account as a second backup option.
Managing money while traveling is not an easy task especially if you are on a longer trip. You can easily spend more than you would like or think initially.
Also, a second of negligence and you could be pickpocketed or dragged in some local tourist scam.
Tourists are often seen as an object for numerous frauds with one goal – to take you as much money as possible in one way or another.
With good planning and having a few important pieces of information in mind, you can win all of those situations.
To sum up – here are some main tips for managing money while abroad:
TIPS on how to manage money when traveling abroad
- make a budget
- manage cash currency exchange at in advance checked places (never at airport or main, central street)
- carry small amounts of cash while sightseeing
- get some of the clothing items with “hidden” pockets (such as money belt, tank top with secret pockets, etc.)
- bring more than 1 bank card (online banks – Revolut & N26 recommendation)
What is the best way to carry money when going sightseeing? – Money Management Tip
- keep smaller amounts of cash in different places
- use money belt, wallet with a chain (or clothes with “hidden” pockets)
In addition to tips for managing your money when traveling abroad, I think we all could use any additional tip on how to save some penny here and there, so we can travel further and see & do more.
When it comes to our saving technique while traveling we like to use the “Priority” method for money management.
Based on our destination, we determine what is the top priority on that trip.
We try to focus our main costs around that priority. By doing so, we try to save on all the other things that are not a priority on that trip.
For example, on our trip to Amsterdam, our top priority was sightseeing, city tours, and museums. Therefore, the majority of our budget went there. We got cheap, very basic accommodation and we were not eating much in restaurants.
If your priority on a trip is foodie experience, you may want to spend more money on eating out, food tours…
In that case, you can save on your accommodation or sightseeing.
If you don’t care about trying local food and eating out, you can save a lot. Just by cooking simple meals or buying fast food.
At this point, you are probably a pro on how to manage money when traveling abroad so let’s close the topic with a quick saving tips summary:
SAVING TIPS that could help you on a mission how to save some money while traveling:
- book your flights well in advance
- cook more & eat less outside (save on eating in restaurants)
- travel out of season (+ you will avoid crowds)
- minimize drinks at bars (get drunk with cheap booze from a supermarket)
- stay in hostels or look for accommodation out of the city center
- book tours from the local tour operators on the spot (or do it on your own) rather than booking online
- cut on gift shopping (or any other shopping). Magnet souvenirs are cheap and tacky but somehow turn out to be the best gift
- exchange money out of the touristic places (investigate currency rates in advance)
This part of trip planning is what I like the least but, it’s well worth it.
You can spare yourself from troubles, surprise expenses, and stress with just a bit of planning and investigation.
Besides, being smart with money management will mean more travel in the future!
- HOW DO YOU MANAGE MONEY WHEN TRAVELING ABROAD? WHAT ARE YOUR TOP TIPS FOR SAVING WHILE TRAVELING?
- WHICH OF OUR TIPS FOR MONEY MANAGEMENT DID YOU FIND USEFUL?
- LET US KNOW IN THE COMMENTS BELOW.
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