If you’re travelling overseas to an unfamiliar far-flung region of the Earth, you actually need to have your finances in place or you’re gonna have one hell of a time trying to survive. What I mean is, you need to have a bit of cash available to avoid being stranded overseas. Here are some tips to consider that will make your adventure run smooth because let’s face it…. being stranded at the airport sucks.
Here’s a no brainer: You need to have cash in your bank. I can’t stress this enough. If you don’t have at least three grand of cold-hard cash saved in the bank for emergencies, you shouldn’t be travelling… Period! This also means that if you’re flying on a Thursday to your destination and your job doesn’t pay you until Tuesday, and if there’s not enough emergency money in your bank, there’s a REAL RISK that you’ll be without money for five days! That equates to being stranded. Don’t be that guy. Airports are no fun if you’re just hanging out for the next five days and if you think about it, you won’t be able to feed yourself unless they take your foreign pocket change.
If you don’t have a credit card, get one. Credit cards add another level of security. I actually carry two credit cards from two different companies when I travel. One of my cards has a high credit limit and the other is very low. The high-credit limit card is only used for emergencies like… Oh, I dunno… you’re in Thailand and you get hit by a car… Having a card with a high limit will help pay for treatment or whatever you need until you can sort out your insurance. And, as a side note, credit cards like American Express (AMEX) have trip insurance included with the card. You need to read the fine print, but if you purchase your flights on the card, you’re pretty much covered for whatever they offer during the extent of your adventure.
And, whilst we’re talking about credit cards, it’s best to get a card that has ’no foreign transaction fees’ and if you’re a tight-arse, look for one with ‘no annual fee.’ Shop around because there are a lot of cards out there that have perks like an ‘interest free period.’ This is a great feature if you’re not online banking savvy and want to wait until you’re home to pay off all your travel bills. However, I can’t stress enough that if you aren’t able to pay your credit card off as soon as you get home, you probably shouldn’t be travelling.
If you’re after an extra sense of security, you can buy foreign money from a bank in your home country. But, be careful because all banks are different and charge different fees. What sucks is, some banks take a bloody long time to get foreign money for you. Personally, this isn’t how I work because I don’t like carrying a few grand with me. But if you do decide on this kind of financial security, invest in a money belt and also secure cash in random places amongst your stuff. Hide cash in your backpack, toiletries or some sort of creative place that you can remember. And, there’s no shame in keeping a few hundred in your shoe! Just be sure that you split up the cash, so if something gets stolen, you’ll still have a bit of it on hand to feed yourself or are able to purchase transport to the local police station or embassy.
What I normally do is take a few hundred out of the ATM when I arrive. But, you need to let you bank know your plans. Banks have a habit of freezing accounts for an indefinite amount of time if they think there’s some sort of fraud. Before you leave home, be sure to tell them which countries you’ll be going to and for how long. On a side note, I once had a bank where I could immediately turn the countries I was visiting on and off with my mobile phone banking application. This allowed me to use my credit card anywhere without calling or worry that I could be scammed. I had a lot of control over my money and I loved it! It made me feel pretty secure because it prevented someone from using my card in random countries. Not all banks use this method, but if you find one that does… it’s worth it’s weight in annual bank fees!
Yes, there are some people still use travellers cheques. I personally haven’t met one person who uses them anymore. Travellers cheques were big back in the day but not really a popular option now. They’re more like a pain because not many businesses around the world accept them. Also, worth considering is pre-paid Visa/Mastercard credit cards however I’d be careful with them. When I was in the USA, I had a pre-paid card issued from my Australian bank. The Americans wouldn’t accept my card because it didn’t have a zip code attached to the card which in “American speak” is their five digit postal code for the address where the card is registered. Even though my Aussie bank guaranteed it was accepted all over, they were wrong and it caused a major travel headache so my advice is to go with the one of the other suggestions I made above.
Got any suggestions or any crazy horror stories you’d like to share? I’d love to hear about them so please leave them in the comments!
An Aussie girl gone walkabout in the great big world!