How To Find A Cheap Flight

I’ve written about this previously back in 2014 and wanted to update the post with a few additional tips for my readers, I hope this is helpful for saving some cash to spend on fun things for your trip rather than giving all your cash to a big company before you even leave home!

Airfare prices can be the most costly single thing on your trip however, it doesn’t all have to be doom and gloom and there are a bundle of cheap ways to travel now. I’ve listed some of my top tips to save time, money and a bunch of stress on your next trip!

Plane-Wing-Taken-Out-The-Window-Adventurer-Stacey

Why Are Airfare Prices So Unpredictable?

As Richard Branson said in his autobiography (which I loved – every entrepreneur should read it!) airlines operate on small margins and it’s a hugely competitive industry. The airline wants a full plane and enough money from each passenger to pay overheads and make a little profit. Airfares can change from day-to-day with the cost of fuel and the demand on tickets fluctuating. I’ve watched many a flights price move up $200 in a week then down $200 the next week.

The following are my top tips to getting the best deal on your next flight!

Timing

Planning your travel in the shoulder or off-season will save you a bundle – I’ve flown Melbourne to Amsterdam return for AUD$1,200 when my friends paid $3,000 for the same flight only a few months’ later. I could have got the ticket cheaper again if I’d been available to fly a little later (for AUD$1,000).

Know What You Want To Spend

Part of being a budget traveller is having to stick to a budget. If you know you have $300 to spend on that flight and you’ve seen tickets this cheap before, don’t settle for the $600 ticket because you’re scared that will go (unless you’ve got real reason to think it will) sometimes waiting for a sale is well worth it. I’ve had to do this while booking flights around Asia before and although it was a bit nerve-wracking, I ended up paying what I wanted to pay in the end!

Be Flexible

Although I wouldn’t suggest flying on national days and missing celebrations often it’s good to have a bit of a window to fly in where possible. If $100 would make a big difference to your trip, would saving that little bit by booking your return leg two days’ after you thought you would make a difference to your trip?

Travel For An Event

More of an aside often we want to travel for an awesome event or festival however, we don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for the privilege. When planning my St Patrick’s Day trip, I booked several months’ in advance when sale fares were available and booked my ticket to be arriving in Dublin 8 days’ before St Patrick’s Day itself. Although I wouldn’t recommend this to everyone it suited me fine. I wanted to re-visit some parts of Ireland that I’d liked the last time I was there and knew that would be enough for me to be over jetlag and onto a normal time table for the event!

Something else I often see is people booking flights into a nearby city and traveling overland for an event, this can save big money too!

How Far Away From My Trip Should I Book?

Booking flights in that golden window of time when airlines are trying to fill their seats but not so near that they know they have you and prices will go up – usually about six to eight weeks before ensures the best prices. Don’t believe me? Visit any budget travel agents website and see when their flight specials are for, you’ll usually find them about eight weeks away or sometimes a little further away if the off season is coming up.

How To Search

I use Skyscanner to search for flights and have for several years’ now. I like that they don’t charge commissions and also give you the price that you will pay, not the drip price. Drip pricing is when an airline markets their flights as being super cheap – say, $6 then there is a tone of non-optional extras that may turn your $6 flight into a $106 flight, costing you sometimes the same amount of money as the more honest and often better to fly with airlines. I often search around three months (should I know I’m traveling three months away from a trip) and then repeat that search periodically, as well as watching budget travel agents’ websites to know when the airlines are having their sales!

Although I have not set up an email notification in ages often this is a preferred method of savvy fliers. You can do so with either Skyscanner or Airfare Watshdog. They’re easy to set up and could save you a pretty penny, if not a lot of your time.

Return Is Often Cheaper

When traveling around South & Central America last year I found that return tickets were often cheaper than booking a one way ticket. I saved around $800 from booking return flights rather than one-way flights and not taking the return leg.

Booking A Connection You Don’t Intend To Take

I don’t advocate for this as it’s something I’ve never done and don’t want to be responsible for your getting into trouble with an airline if you’re found out. However I wanted to mention it as this works well for people who’re happy to travel with just carry on luggage. Basically you want to book a flight to one city and it’s expensive for example, you want to fly to LA but its $800 for an LA flight and to fly to San Francisco via LA will be $600, you book the flight through to San Francisco, get off in LA and don’t take your connection. Be weary though that you won’t be able to take a return leg of a ticket like this. To find more info online if you’re interested this is called hidden city ticketing.

Places To Look

Although most people think they will find the cheapest tickets on budget airlines in economy sometimes the best deals (in regards to value for money) can be with traditional airlines or even in business class. When one considers that to fly budget they will get nothing for their money they will be purchasing basic things like the use of a blanket for the flight, a meal and a drink sometimes the price difference is even less than expected. A friend of mine too, booked a business class seat for his Melbourne to London flight for little more ($300) than a economy class seat and admitted to drinking the difference in Dom Perignon and having the best service and seating on the plane to boot! Checking business class before you book is a great idea!

Keep An Eye Out For Deals

You can sign up for email newsletters with your favorite airlines or budget travel agents however, I am a huge travel nerd and I list deals through my email newsletter! I list deals mostly for those traveling from major hubs in North America, Europe and the Antipodes (Australia and New Zealand) and am always seeking out more great travel deals, so if you want me to be doing all the hard work for you, sign up for the weekly email newsletter in the right-hand side bar now.

Taken when I was on a recent Maiden Flight and they had a little party before hand cupcakes and tequila (as it was to Mexico). Flight was late so we got extra tequila (at 10am, mind!)

Taken when I was on a recent Maiden Flight and they had a little party before hand cupcakes and tequila (as it was to Mexico). Flight was late so we got extra tequila (at 10am, mind!)

Did you like this post? Found it useful? Please list your thoughts and if there was anything important that’s been left out in the comments below!

Most Useful Travel Apps for Independent Travelers

Well, I guess everyone's going mobile now...

Well, I guess everyone’s going mobile now…

I’ve been asked what the most useful travel apps were for independent travelers a number of times over the years’ and have decided to do a round-up this week of the best travel apps I’ve used so far in my life as an independent traveler. Of course, every location will have specific apps (like bus/train apps for different European countries, for example). I chose to keep this pretty general though so not to get too bogged down. Feel free to add your favorite travel apps in the comments too so other readers can benefit from your experience.

Google Maps

Old faithful Google Maps has everything an adventurer who’s consistently getting lost needs plus a little extra. If you’re looking for something in particular in a city Google Maps can come in very handy. Of course, you can put in an address or name of business but you can also do more general searches and see what’s around you. Things like “ATM” or “Restaurant” plus there is reviews, etc. given by other users of google so you’re never going anywhere comply blind which is great.

XE Currency Converter

I pulled this app up when I first got to Belize and the hostel owner smiled at me, “You all use this app!” he said, “It’s good because if you didn’t, I’d just charge what I wanted!” then he laughed. He was joking (one hopes), this is a super useful for when you’re not totally comfortable with a new currency yet or when you will be using a few different currencies on your trip and want to stay on budget.

WhatsApp Messenger

Easiest way I’ve found to keep in touch with loved ones while traveling (and at home!) is WhatsApp Messenger. You can send an SMS for free to anyone as long as you have a WiFi or 3G connection.

TripAdvisor

An old favorite, I’ve used them TripAdviror app to look up great places to stay but also to double check claims of some places that they have high ratings on there (the website doesn’t always match claims!)

TripIt

Your mum will love you for this! Instead of asking you all the time exactly where you are, you can email your itinerary to other people from your phone, plus having your itinerary all in one place makes life easier for you. TripIt is great for new independent travellers who don’t want to miss a thing!

Accommodation

Depending on your style and budget there are a number of apps available. I’ve chosen my three favourites.

HostelBookers/Hostel World

Competing companies these two both have great deals, it just depends on whose interface you prefer. Occasionally for some parts of the world too, one website/app is better than the other, this is something you learn through experience however. HostelBookers app is here and Hostel World’s app is here.

Hotel Tonight

Not that we want to always be booking last moment but in travel, things are constantly changing and it’s good to have this app to find those last moment deals when you need to be hooked up.

AirBnB

Love this website! The AirBnB app is great too for when you want to stay somewhere a little different to the usual hostel/hotel and have a more unique and local experience. You’ll stay with locals and learn more about the place you’re staying in from them than you may staying in tourist-centric, less personal accommodation.

Airfare

Depending on your preference as with accommodation apps, both of these are great apps.

SkyScanner

I first heart of SkyScanner a few years’ ago when I was backpacking South East Asia for the first time. Everyone was using it and it was brand new and shiny then, now it’s very popular and much more polished. I use it all the time when booking flights myself (Note: I also recommend the website for booking flights).

Hipmunk

I’m newer to this than SkyScanner but like it so far! The Hupmunk is pretty cute and I also like how they list the lowest prices first in both airfare and accommodation and how in accommodation it tells you on the first screen if there is WiFi there. Wifi is a high priority of mine.

As mentioned previously, I’d love to hear your recommendations for travel apps worth using. Please comment below and share your favorites so others’ can check them out.

Working Holidays

I’ve tried to blog about these as an abstract idea a number of times however, it’s difficult to really write just one post that tells one all they need to know about working holidays in general terms when there is so much to know.

Essentially, working holidays are a way for young people to travel in a way that they can legally work in a country where they do not have citizenship or residency, a work sponsor or any real ties to the local community. Essentially, they’re a great way to pick up odd jobs to supplement your travels and explore. Some people use working holiday visas as a way to scope potential professional employers, to spend time in their partner’s country without having to marry or for a million other reasons. Today though, I’m going to talk about working holiday visas and what they’re traditionally used for. If you’re looking for sponsor advice, you won’t find it here. That’s a post for another time.

UK-Scots-Flag-Adventurer-Stacey

Where can I go for my working holiday?

This really depends on which citizenship (or passport) you hold. If you only have the one like myself, then you can google “working holiday arrangements for X NATIONALITY” and lists will appear with working holiday agreements that are applicable to people of your nationality. As a general guide though people tend to visit places that are on the other side of the world to them. Most Europeans want to come to Australia or New Zealand and most Canadian’s and Antipodeans want to go to Europe. Working holidays can be hard for those in places like South Africa (with fewer options now after the UK changed their laws) and in the USA as the American government doesn’t seem so keen on working holiday visas. There will be options for most people with most passports however.

How do I choose a place?

A question I can answer with another question, what do you want to get out of the experience? Depending on how you want to answer that, I will give you a better answer, but to help you on your way, here are some things you’ll want to consider.Sydney-Harbour-Bridge-At-Night-Adventurer-Stacey

Cost of living vs. saving

One cannot blame people for wanting to enjoy their working holidays by finding space to rent and work in cities like Sydney, Tokyo, London and New York but then, how expensive it is to live in these cities is something that should be considered. Although one can earn enough to live comfortably working odd hospitality jobs in Sydney the same cannot be said for London where the minimum wage (which is what you will earn, don’t try telling yourself otherwise) is so low that there are huge campaigns to move to a ‘living wage’ which happily for the people in the UK are now being taken up on a governmental level.

A good way to work out cost of living is to google “cost of living in CITY”. I have used Numbeo as a good comparison website where in the past I have drawn comparisons between my home city of Melbourbe, Australia and the cost of living in other places. I then go on to look at wages – what’s the pay like in ‘survival jobs’ like hospitality, customer service, retail? What’s the salary like in professional jobs once I am settled? What’s the likelihood on this visa that I would get a job in the field that I want to work?

A great way as well to find out what it’s like in-country is to find friends who’ve lived in the place before, or friends of friends. Posting a status update on twitter or facebook could be good for this. Asking your friends if they or anyone they know has lived in this place is a good start to get information from people. Another good idea is to hit up travel forums, facebook groups (such as the Aussies in London facebook page or Kiwi’s in London facebook group) and to hit google. Google is going to be your friend a lot here, you can already see that, can’t you?

The Beautiful Manly Beach at Sunrise (Image credit: Nigel Howe)

The Beautiful Manly Beach at Sunrise (Image credit: Nigel Howe)

Lifestyle factors

Another thing to think about as well is what lifestyle you want to lead when you are there. What climate do you want to live in? What hobbies do you want to pursue? Is there anything you don’t want to have to deal with that is a deal breaker when choosing a place to live? If you don’t like smog, London’s probably not for you. Happy with your monolingual English-speaker status? Tokyo is likely not your place either.

I know two friends’ had a working holiday in Australia and they chose Sydney not for the pretty harbor (which they would hardly see) but for the city beaches being so close. This way they could go to work in the morning and work on their sun tan in the afternoon. Another friend loved history and wanted to learn French so went to Paris for her working holiday (the first, she’s been on several working holidays now). Work out what you want first then work out how to get it’s the best way to do things in this situation.

Ireland-Thatched-Roof-House-Adventurer-Stacey

Cultural interest and language

I touched on it already, but if there is a culture you’re particularly interested or a language you want to learn, sometimes working holidays give you that valuable immersion time you wouldn’t be able to enjoy otherwise. Not only do you live in a place like a local but you work like a local too and having the same lifestyle, it’s easier to understand a language and culture when you’re living the local rhythm. There’s a bunch of words that will make sense that are native to this place and that there’s no equivalent to in your own language that you will learn more about when you see how the people live, work and play.

 

So what about you? Have you been on any working holidays? Got any planned? What’s some general advice you would give to someone who was planning this type of trip?

Travelling Creatives: Wandering The World, Making Art

Travel really brings out creativity in people, to live an unconventional life of travelling freely for extended periods of time people have to get creative.

Artisans from a nomadic tribe currently in Guatemala create beautiful jewelry

Artisans from a nomadic tribe currently in Guatemala create beautiful jewelry

While I was in the UK I was staying in hostels (or living in hostels technically when you consider the length of time) and while I was there I met some of the most talented musicians I think I have ever met in my life. I felt so much richer just for having been enchanted by their art.

In South America the creative types morph from buskers with guitars into jugglers, circus folk and artisans who make jewellery, handicrafts and even bars of soap to sell in their pursuit of a live lived on the road. These guys’ seem to be living a much rougher lifestyle from the outside however, they seem much happier than their often better-off European busking cousins.

In the past I’ve also met traveling hairdressers, the best hair cut I ever had was in a hostel in Belize. They’re every bit as creative in their marketing to backpackers for fast cash before moving onto the next town as the traditional artisan creatives.

Scots-Bagpipes-Edinburgh-Adventurer-Stacey

Being around all of these creative types feels amazing! While in Edinburgh I was nudged by some musicians who were living in the hostel to come to a bar and listen to music. Sounds unremarkable as most bars with live music tend to put a band on themselves however, this bar had just opened the floor to anyone who was interested in playing. As a result half of the bar was talented musicians and the other half was people like myself who happily listened. The bar was so full of people one could hardly move but that didn’t matter, you had no reason to want to go anywhere. To buy a drink one would pass their money to the bar from person-to-person (a lot of trust here) and then have their drink passed back from person-to-person (even more trust when you consider how much Scot’s love a drink!). It was such a great experience and one I will cherish always, it really fed my soul.

Being as surrounded by creative energy as I am while on the road I want to dust off a guitar and learn to play again, or start up my own travelling micro-business in handicrafts or to learn to cut hair so I can cut travellers hair and make enough to travel onwards.

Sadly, I am lacking in these areas at the moment. I am a writer and find great pleasure in a quiet corner of a hostel common room, tea mug in hand writing for my blog and for my personal travel journal. This is my creative streak expressed.

Although writing is solitary I know it won’t make me quick money like busking or selling jewellery will. Perhaps I should have polished some other skills before I left home. Hindsight is twenty-twenty!

 

Do you have skills that can make you money on the road? If so, will/do you use them to aid your travels?

Travel Jobs: (often illegal) Bar work

“Hey, you were here last night, weren’t you?” John from Nha Trang, Vietnam asks me, smiling. “No, I passed by and you tried to get me to come into your bar but I went home – long days’ travel.” I explain, looking him dead in the eye and seeing all of the boredom and loneliness there. I hate it when people’s eyes are not sparkling – it makes me sad to knowing they’re sad.

(Photo credit: Sam Howzit)

(Photo credit: Sam Howzit)

Many, many travellers have picked up bar work sometimes legally but often illegally all over the world. I’ve seen some of this in my own country Australia but also in Asia, Europe and North America. These guy’s risk having their passport blacklisted and live a life with a revolving door of new acquaintances, horrid hours, low or no pay, in a constant state of drunk or hangover which will leave the most seasoned drinker praying for it to end.

When I travelled to Lagos, Portugal the only thing bar workers needed was an ability to get drunk and party until the wee hours then repeat their performance for three to five months. Unlike most of the gigs in Asia, these guys’ were getting paid so they could afford to eat decent(ish) food, they’d do a few hours work in a hostel as well in exchange for a place to sleep at night (or rather, in the day) and free alcohol. Not a job for saving money, but enough to stretch out your travel just that few months’ longer which can be enough for some people.

In Lagos, I met Chrissy, an Australian (Legos had only a few nationalities: Portugese (minority), English, Irish, Scottish, Australian), she had beautiful, long blonde hair and a body appreciated by most bar guys, and their patrons. I went out with her for a drink one night when she had a daggy sweater on yet she still had half a dozen guys’ hitting on her and clambering to buy her drinks.

Later I met another Aussie called Mark who was deeply lonely and broke. The season proper had not started yet and he like John of Vietnam, Mark already had no light in his eyes. I stayed in the same hostel four nights, I think he had a different female visitor at least three of those nights (he was staying in a different dorm, thank god!).

Chrissy was smart and although she had been offered a job, told the bar she was doing some backpacking and would be back later in the season, could she start work then? Sure, whatever you want they said. I knew myself that she wouldn’t be back, what’s the appeal in this life for her?

Have you worked in a backpacker bar while travelling to sustain yourself? Am I unfair in my assessment? If I am, would you recommend this gig to other travellers? Please share your experience and opinion in the comments below.

Adventurer Stacey, Travel Consultant At Your Service!

Adventurer-Stacey-WaterfallAdventurer Stacey so far has evolved very naturally. After years of answering the same common questions about travel, I launched a blog first to help clear up common misconceptions about travel and urge people to take the plunge by both sharing my journey with them and with straight up advice on how to travel independently on a budget. I then grew a website around the blog with travel guides and all.

After over a year of blogging primarily for my friends and family, I now have readers who I have not met face-to-face. It makes me really happy to think my little blog is making a positive difference in the lives of people I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting.

On top of maintaining my website, I also write a weekly email newsletter with tips, travel deals and other info I only talk about in email, I also spend a bit of time on social media, forums and travel related websites helping people with their travel plans. I really enjoy interacting with the online travel community and knowing that people are going to get more out of their journey because I helped them.

While I was answering a question about itineraries about two weeks ago I thought, “hey, I give advice, whether through my website, to my email list subscribers, through social media or forums. It’s good advice and no-one complains, everyone seems really happy with my help but I never get to see their travel coming together and I mostly just give odd bits of advice people then take and make their own plans with.” Although this is usually fine, I saw a great opportunity to extend myself further, polish my skills as a blogger/travel consultant and start offering one-on-one sessions.

I set to work putting together a page on my website where people can get in touch and book a time to consult with me while I asked around what my friends’ and family thought of my idea. They loved it but kept telling me that I wasn’t charging enough for the service I was providing.

Realizing that most people are not aware of the hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars they pay commission based travel consultants/travel agents, I decided to start with low rates and then offer higher rates as the travel consulting arm of Adventurer Stacey grows. I think this is the way I want to grow this as the first people who come to me are taking a (very small) risk that I might not be a very good consultant. I say the risk is small as I assume most people who’re interested in my travel consults have read my blog and know how knowledgeable I am.

My rates will rise after six months, so right now is the time to book a travel consult.

If you’re planning a trip soon and are unsure where to start with your travel planning, I can help. If you’re tired of paying too much for travel, I can help. If you’re wanting to experience the joy and freedom of planning your own travel, I can help.

I am very excited about this and hope I can continue to help as many people as I can in the future.

Happy travels,

How You get a Good Exchange Rate

A friend of mine is heading to the US next month and asked me the easiest and best ways to get foreign currency without losing too much money in the exchange. I started to tell him what I knew when I realised I hadn’t written about this in enough detail, I usually refer my friends to my website if they have travel questions already answered there to both save time and also to utilise this resource I’ve put so much time and effort into.

So here they are guys, the best ways to get your hot little hands on foreign currency without losing a bundle. The list is ordered so the methods with the best exchange rates are at the top and it flows from there.

(image credit: kirsten)

(image credit: kirsten)

Credit Cards

Credit Cards have the best exchange rate on foreign cash however, you have to contend with the interest rates and often withdrawing cash is expensive. I would recommend people use their credit card to book things or buy items in big stores and restaurants (as opposed to small local restaurants and shops where the credit card fees may be high if they have the facility at all). As when you’re at home it’s a good idea to ensure your credit card it paid off before you accumulate interest or this method isn’t as good as it first appears.

ATM’s (or cashpoints in some countries)

The preferred method of anyone who doesn’t have a credit card but does want convenience and savings when they exchange currency is to just take your ATM card with you and withdraw at any local ATM. The exchange rate at an ATM is not as good as a credit card however you still get a reasonable rate. Beware of bank fees: you’ll be hit by the local bank’s card fee as well as a card fee from your bank at home that’s slapped onto you because you used your card outside of your homeland. Some banks have international branches or international partners. I will expand on this in another post at a later date.

Travel Money Cards

Travel money cards are those pre-paid cards, “lock in today’s exchange rate!” to this piece of plastic that won’t be accepted everywhere have as many upsides as they do downsides. You do get to lock in a more favourable exchange rate if your home currency is sliding downwards however, you get slugged with ATM and sometimes credit card fees when you want to use the card. As with regular plastic, these won’t be accepted everywhere. My own experience with them was pretty negative in the company sold me the wrong product then wanted more money out of me to fix their mistakes. I don’t recommend them personally but still put them here because I feel people need to know their options.

Exchange Hard Currency

I have discussed the best ways to exchange hard currency in the past. Although this is not the option you want to take because you’ll get the worst exchange rate it’s one that sometimes has to be taken because it can be difficult to budget on the road and often we wind up with more cash than we need in the end.

I hope this guide has been useful. Keep an eye out for more travel money related pieces. I will be exploring international banks in a few weeks’ time as well as other travel money matters.

How You Can Afford to Travel Without a Money Tree

ralph-waldo-emerson-money-quote-adventurer-staceyI know money is one my readers biggest hurdles when it comes to travel. They don’t feel they have enough, make enough or can budget before they go away or on their trip. Having money is a big part of travel as it is a big part of life – you have to be able to afford to pay your rent or mortgage as you have to be able to pay for your flight or hotel/hostel. Money is part of life and it’s understandable – completely – when people want travel to be part of their lives too.

I’ve broken this down into a number of steps to make easier reading and because sometimes it’s difficult to tackle what seem like huge concepts all at once. Keep it simple silly is my mantra.

(image credit:  kirsten)

(image credit: kirsten)

Where are you going? How much will it cost? – rough budgets can be drawn up using guide books or just finding out how much a nights accommodation is then tripling that amount for your daily budget.

Keep in mind the relative costs in your everyday life at home – I saved $7 on my Melbourne Zoo ticket, that’s one night in Bangkok. My friend saves $5-$8 a day taking her lunch to work, that’s a days’ eating out and drinking in Laos or India.

Work out a budget you’ll need while away and how you can reach that savings goal before you leave – if your budget is $30 a day, work out how long you’re going, air fare and a bit of an ‘emergencies and incidentals’ cushion then work towards saving that amount.

Keep yourself motivated with daily reminders about your pending adventure – a girlfriend was going on a relaxing trip to Bali (along with every other Australian) and placed pictures of the beach, hotel pool, etc. around her home to keep her motivated through her long, boring work weeks.

Set your savings goals at regular intervals – researchers found if they made farmers in India save a certain amount of money by January 1 of the following year rather than December 31 of that year, the farmers were slower to reach their goals than if it were in the same year. Make sure your goals are regular (ie. Save a certain amount each month). And close to the date you make them.

Only book when you’ve met your savings goals – put your onus on saving enough to have a good time later and force yourself to save by only booking flights, tours, hotels, etc. when you reach certain savings goals.

Keep to your budget when you’re away – you wants one more beer and an extra hour at the bar now, borrowing an extra hour of sleep and tomorrows discomfort from future you, sound familiar? We all do it and it’s the same when keeping to a budget while travelling, we figure if we spend a little more now while we’re having fun we can save more later. Although being present in the moment is super important while travelling and while living generally it’s also important to not borrow too much from future you and keep to your budget.

Leave enough to get home and stay there for at least a month if you’re not going back to work. – this one’s pretty important and ties into not borrowing from future you. How miserable will you be if you get home and find that not only do you have no money but you also cannot afford the basics in your own country? Be good to yourself.

Now it’s your turn! Is there anything you think people need to keep in mind about money and travel that hasn’t been covered in this post? Please let us know in the comments below.

Changing hard currency

Today it’s far cheaper to use credit cards or ATMs worldwide to grab some hard currency either via your banks partners overseas or branches of your bank overseas or even sometimes just taking your card to any machine worldwide and taking some money out as you would at home.

Although the most economical methods are in theory the best and you’d use them all the time sometimes you’re still left with a bunch of hard currency you don’t what. Here are my best tips to money changing for hard currency all rounded up into one place for your convenience:

  • Avoid changing money at hotels and bureaux de change. Sure they’re well located and open long hours but you’ll find yourself paying for all of this convenience.
  • Always compare the rate between a few places before you choose one. Often rates can change, sometimes even on the same street.
  • Some countries do require exchange receipts if you want to exchange your leftover currency on the way out of that country: make sure you save at least one or two to cover yourself.
  • By far the best deal I have found is exchanging with other travellers. On my way to the islands in the south of Thailand I met an American who was going home and was happy to trade me his Thai Baht for my USD. Easy swap and getting rid of the third party saved us both a bundle.
  • Sometimes you can get a better black market rate also. I prefer to do my research before I exchange though to make sure the black market isn’t filled with counterfeit currency and the rates are okay but if both check out, go for it. Make sure you count the currency yourself too as a slip of the hand can have you coming up short, it is the black market after all. However, you can save big and you’re giving a local a job (well, a sort-of job…)
  • Spend your coins. They’re super difficult to exchange. Take it from someone who has a piggy bank at home filled with Canadian pennies, they’re now a disused form of currency in Canada so good luck to me should I want to return and use them.
  • Change money in large cities as the rates are better than in rural areas.
  • Continuing from the last point, don’t change at the airport. You can lose a lot because they know they’ve got you at the airport.

I hope these suggestions are helpful and feel free to post your own in the comments below for other readers.