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Money, money, money… oh and travel too…

Money… Ok now that I have your attention…

Let me guess, you’ve booked your next adventure, it’s approaching quickly, next month… next week… tomorrow?

If your adventure starts tomorrow what are you doing reading this blog? Your backpack is still half empty, hurry up and finish packing!!!

On a serious note picture this… your next holiday is booked and you are thinking “What should I do about keeping money with me on holiday?” This is where I can give you some tips… Have you had your caffeine fix? Ready to pay attention?

Now when money is involved there have historically been two different options… can you guess what they are? Yes you’re right, its cash and travellers cheques. These two have been around for donkey’s years so you could be forgiven for thinking this is where the buck stops… 

Oh but there are many more options… with the advent of the modern age and digitisation of the economy we were introduced to card based transactions, these cards are not just for use at home, they can be used abroad during your many many adventures as well…

To simplify things these are the options that you have, all of which I will be talking about:

1 – Cash

2 – Travellers cheques

3 – Cards 

To start with there is and will always be (possibly), the all mighty cash. I will always recommend someone to keep 3 different types of cash on them:

1 – Your home currency – This one is purely a backup of a backup and hide it so temptation doesn’t find it. The reason I say take some of this with you is because you don’t want to end up in the situation where you have run out of cash, as you typically do on your journey back home, and you don’t have any way of getting a cab. You want your journey back to be as stress free as possible.

2 – Destination local currency – This one is so in particular on arrival at your destination airport, you don’t have to stress about trying to find somewhere to convert your money to local currency and at the very least you can grab a cab and get to your first true destination. Now this format of currency is one that you may want to bring more of but it is dependant on exchange rate. If the exchange rate is greatly variable at the time of your holiday, you may not want to take a lot of local currency with you. In addition if you are going to a small country with more rural than urban areas, their local currency may not be available in your home country readily and as a result it may prove difficult to obtain a large amount or any amount of this currency. I personally say you should have some of this, I would try and source enough to cover at least half of my holiday in local currency.

3 – US Dollar $ – Now this one is the saviour (sort of). As I said above your destination’s home currency may not be available in your home country, but the US Dollar will almost certainly be available as it is one of the few currencies that almost all countries will accept, at least in the larger institutions. With the US Dollar you have two options, the first of which is to use this as an intermediary currency that you can exchange into your destination’s local currency at your destination, this depends on how readily your home currency is available as an exchange currency across the world. The second option is to use the US Dollar as your currency of choice whilst on holiday, which is accepted practice in a number of countries as I have seen in Cambodia and Costa Rica. You have to be aware of one thing though, if you use the US Dollar as your currency of choice, at least in the smaller institutions at your destination i.e. markets, the exchange rate that they give you may mean that the product/service that you purchase would work out to be a lot more expensive than it would in the local currency. The most savvy way to pay whilst abroad is to use the local currency.

Does this give you an idea how the value of having cash? Do bear in mind that in the more rural countries, the facility may not be available to use any other means of payment other than cash. This is true at least in a proportion of the destinations, and in particular those that are off the beaten path…

Travellers cheques… You may be fond if this if you remember a time before the world was conquered but the all powerful card!!! Millennials may be stumped with confusion here…. Ok listen up millennials, time for a history lesson… Travellers cheques are essentially like buying a Love2Shop voucher in your home currency, that is backed by the issuing bank because you’ve already paid for it. You would take it to a bank or other institution abroad where it would be converted to local currency cash but ID would need to be provided as it would be in a set person’s name. The benefit was that if the traveller’s cheques were stollen, they could be cancelled meaning you don’t lose you money, where as if you had cash it would be lost.

All joking aside, travellers cheques were once a gold standard method of taking money with you on your travels, but now like with all other forms of cheque, their use has declined. If you are comfortable with these, you can still use them but these may not be accepted in many places aside from large institutions such as major banks at your destination.

Now we step forth into the modern era… And again… Multiple options… Decisions decisions, where does it end? Don’t worry this is the last option that I will be talking about so here goes…

With cards now there are three different options; credit card, debit card and a pre-paid travel card. Here you can also include options like ApplePay, although used widely in the developed economies, may not be so readily used in other countries. With these options there a millions of different cards you can choose depending on your home country so this is where I will have to leave the research in your hand.

Here is a link for those of you who are in the UK, this is a site that I use a fair bit and you may find useful as well https://travelmoney.moneysavingexpert.com/

One thing that I can say however, is that VISA and Mastercard are generally accepted in most countries and although you may get a better deal on some less well known card companies, VISA and Mastercard are usually a safe bet.

Oh don’t forget, before you take your card with you, let your bank know where you are going, you don’t want to find you’re on holiday trying to use your card and turns out it’s declined.

There are two things that you want to check, regardless of whether the card the you chose to use is a credit, debit or prepaid card.

1 – Fees on use – Make sure the card you use has no fees on purchases and withdrawals as this would be throwing money away, quite literally. Do however bear in mind that in a lot of countries ATM machines do apply a small charge to withdrawals regardless of which card you use.

2 – Exchange rate – This one will require a fair bit of research. Using comparison websites will help you with this but it may still be a tricky one to get your head around. Many websites do quote their exchange rates regardless of the type of card and you’ll soon start to see a trend so try to shop around. This will also impact you whilst withdrawing money from an ATM so try to withdraw in local currency as your card provider will work out the exchange rate that way.

I hope this has helped and if you need any more information please to let me know.

Here is a curveball for you now, particularly for those of who living in the post modern futuristic era… You know what I mean… Yes Cryptocurrency… I know I know, this is a controversial topic and this would start up a debate in itself, but there are countries across the world where Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ripple are being used at ATM machines, this could be an idea for those of you who like to try new things and are not afraid to take risks. Maybe you have already tried this, let me know of your experiences…

I’d love to hear what options you have decided to go with.

You're all excited, you've booked your holiday, you've got time off work, but wait, what about money??? No no, your local currency won't do, well not for the most of us, this post will tell you what you should know about travel money, what are the options? how much do you know? I want to hear from you!
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Wait… Stop… Who pays how much???

Have you ever found yourself asking this question “Who pays how much?”

Ok so picture this… You are on holiday with your friends, you pay for a cab to the hotel, one friend pays for snacks, while another pays for an activity that you do later in the day. You decide to “sort it out” later and when later comes you all end up faffing about with your calculators out trying to figure out who owes what to whom.

Let me tell you a story… On my last trip I found myself in a the following scenario. I was on holiday with two friends. We started off splitting costs evenly but found ourselves in the scenario where one person would cover the cost of an entire activity and then we would put our heads together at the end of the day to pay that person back. Now one day, we were at Soda Viquez, an unmissable restaurant in La Fortuna, and we were seated next to another small group having the same dilemma of how to split their costs. Thats when I heard one of them talk about Splitwise.

For those of you who have never heard of Splitwise, it’s an app that you can download to your phone. Once downloaded and set up, you can connect with friends, add expenses in various/multiple currencies, and Splitwise will do all the calculations for you saving that headache of doing the sums. The good thing about this app is not just that this app will do the maths, you can also tell it that only two out of three people contributed to a cost, then it’ll work out what the third person owes, quite handy if you ask me.

For all those accountants out there, yes you know who I mean, Splitwise also gives you a spreadsheet with a running tally of expenses, feel free to print and file this for your records….

I’m a fan of Splitwise and I’ll tell you one thing, you don’t have to wait until you go on holiday use this app, you can use it for any group activity… Are you planning to go to an escape room tomorrow? Are you due to go for drinks over the weekend? Have you bought a present and you need to share the cost with colleagues? Theres an endless number of uses to this app, how do you plan to make use of it? Let me know…

On that thought, I’m Today’s traveller and I’ll be back with another strange and entertaining post soon…