Be clever with currency
Every time you swap one currency for another, you pay for the privilege through exchange rates, fees or interest. There are ways to get travel money for less:
- Research options early. If you buy foreign exchange at the last minute – i.e., at the airport – you’ll be stuck with the worst deals.
- App-based banks such as Starling, Monzo and Revolut let you pay or withdraw in local currencies without extra fees (though check for spending limits).
- Take a mix of cash and debit or prepaid cards, plus a credit card for emergencies. For items that cost over £100 in the UK or elsewhere – paying by credit card also means you can claim refunds from the card company if things go wrong.
- When paying by card or withdrawing cash abroad, always choose the local currency if you’re given the choice (it’s cheaper!).
Use a budgeting app
The first step is working out your daily spending allowance: set aside money for travel fares, then divide your cash by the length of your trip. It’s then down to you to always spend LESS than that on food, accommodation and whale watching (or whatever) each day.
There are loads of expense tracker apps that can make light work of this, from the most basic (Moneyfy) to those which remotely track spending across different bank accounts (Money Dashboard). Prepaid cards and app-based banking can be especially useful while travelling – and some come with budgeting and tracking tools built in.
Pack the right discounts
If you’ve a student ID or discount card here in the UK, that may be enough to claim money off transport, hostels, meals and entertainment around the world. There’s also the International Student Identity Card (ISIC), which is proof of student status – and bundles in discount offers – in 130 countries. It costs from £12/year, though the TOTUM NUS Extra card includes a 1-year ISIC card for free. Not a student? The International Youth Travel card (IYTC) offers a similar set-up.
Keep small change to hand
Where possible, avoid waving flashy notes around (i.e., hundreds or fifties). Keeping small change to hand also means you can use pay-toilets or make small purchases without any drama. Try to get a couple of smaller notes or coins when you get your currency. Alternatively, if you have to hit an ATM after arriving, try withdrawing the machine’s minimum amount to avoid being stuck with large bills.
Top-up your travel funds
Whether it’s a bar job or teaching English, casual or part-time shifts can help you get under the skin of a new city – and is a great way to meet people and learn the language. If that sounds more hard graft than holiday, you could always sell your travel photos online (try EyeEym or Alamy), pitch for a remote freelance project or even send a postcard for pay.
Before diving into freelancing or fruit picking, check if you need a visa or tax criteria. If you do, get organised in advance, and factor application costs into your trip budget. Remember that getting paid can take a while, so don’t make it your only emergency B-plan.
Watch out for cultural differences
Get your hair snipped in France and you’ll pay extra for conditioner. Over in the USA, meanwhile, things often cost more than the price tag because sales tax gets added at the till. You’ll pick up the quirks as you go – though it makes sense to always confirm the price before agreeing to add-ons! While nailing the small stuff makes you feel like a trooper, don’t sweat the blunders – they give you stories to tell later on.
Don’t go for broke
If you’ve crossed four continents and three oceans, chances are you want to sample ever sight, sound and experience – but it’s rarely possible to see everything in a single trip. What’s worse is that too many spontaneous excursions or detours could mean cutting your trip short when you run out of cash. Saying no to stuff isn’t the end of the world – think of it as motivation for the return trip!
Guest blog by Ruth Bushi, an editor at Save the Student – the UK's largest student money advice site.