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9 Great Tips to Save Money when you Travel Abroad

Baptiste Wicht | Updated: |

(Disclosure: Some of the links below may be affiliate links)

Traveling abroad is great. You get to discover a new country and culture. However, traveling abroad can get expensive. So, if you plan on traveling abroad, you must think of ways to save money. There are tips to save money when you travel abroad. You need to take advantage of them.

I want to talk about all the ways we use to save money when we travel. And many of these tips can help you save a lot of money. And you will not need hours to apply them.

I focus on things you can do when you travel abroad. But most of these tips are also useful when you travel to your own country.

Without further ado, here are 9 Tips to save money when you travel abroad!

1. Use a travel credit card

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When you travel abroad, you will use your credit card a lot. Unless you are on an all-paid vacation, you must eat at the very least. And you will probably use your credit card for that.

Did you know you will pay hefty fees with most credit cards when paying with other currencies?

Most credit cards will have a fee of between 1.5% and 2.5% when you use them with other currencies. Moreover, they are also using currency rates that are not the best. Some are using inferior exchange rates. It will make you lose a lot of money.

But there are solutions! Several travel cards will help you get rid of these foreign exchange fees:

  • Neon is the best Swiss credit card for travel. Neon is the only Swiss bank to offer free purchases abroad with the card. You can save a lot of money by using this credit card.
  • Wise is also a good option. It is not entirely free. Unfortunately, you will pay from 0.3% to 0.7% fee for each transaction. But this is much lower than regular credit cards. And the exchange rate they are using is also better than most credit cards.
  • Revolut is a good card for travel. It is also great, but it is not a Swiss bank. The only time when you should not use it is during the weekend. Indeed, they have extra fees during the weekend. However, you can easily convert the money in advance so that it will still be free during the weekend.

If you do not know which to choose, I have compared Revolut and Wise for you!

Make sure to charge your card balance in advance. It is better than being there and not being able to use it. If you have to use your standard credit card, you may well lose quite a lot of money!

You must also check whether the country you go to widely accepts credit cards. Some countries take it everywhere. But in some other cases, it is much harder to use them. In some countries, it is much easier to pay with your phone, for instance.

2. Prepare some foreign cash

In almost all cases, you should convert cash before you leave your country. It is cheaper than in the destination country.

If you need some cash during your travel, you should probably convert a little before you leave.

It can be convenient to have some cash if you need to take a taxi or metro ticket when you arrive in another country. Airports are probably the worst place to get some foreign cash. They are using terrible exchange rates. But they know they are the only ones there. And they know you need your cash!

And when you are doing that before you leave, you can compare several rates. Some banks will have a significant difference in exchange rates. Find the best bank and get some cash in advance.

Unfortunately, this is not always possible. For some exotic currencies, you cannot get them before you arrive there.

And for some countries, you must prepare local cash, especially U.S. dollars. For instance, in Egypt, they prefer that you pay with dollars than with their currency. It is much more stable. And they know it will not lose value too much.

So, you need to do your research in advance to know which currency you need for the country you go to.

3. Be flexible with your dates

You can save a lot of money if you are flexible with the vacation dates.

Some times are significantly more expensive than others. For instance, traveling on Christmas or New Year’s Eve will cost you more money than in early December.

If you have children, this is more difficult. You generally have to go during the official holidays. But if you do not have children, you should try to leave outside of standard holidays.

Another thing that you save money on flights is to fly during the week. If you can fly on weekdays, you will save a lot of money. Sometimes the difference is impressive. We have saved about 50% on flights by doing vacation from Wednesday to Wednesday. We would have paid more if we had gone from Saturday to Saturday.

4. Book your tickets in advance

Booking airplane tickets at the correct time for your travel can help a lot!
Booking airplane tickets at the correct time for your travel can help a lot!

When should you book your tickets to get the best deal?

It is a complicated question. And people do not often agree with it.

Plane Tickets

We can start with plane tickets. How long in advance will depend on where you are going.

For a trendy vacation hotspot such as Miami or the Caribbean, you should reserve at least three months in advance. These planes always become full. They quickly become more and more expensive as they fill up.

For other trips, it may depend if it is a holiday or not. For a holiday like Christmas or New Year’s Eve, you should reserve about two months in advance.

For most other trips, four to five weeks in advance seems to be the way to go, at least according to bustle.

Some people believe that booking many months in advance is always cheaper. But this is not true. If you book plane tickets ten months in advance, they will be priced higher than three months in advance. The reason is that, at this point, the airline company does not worry about filling them up.

Hotel rooms

For hotel rooms and apartments, it will also depend on which country you go to.

For instance, for hotels in Spain, you should book about seven weeks in advance. On the other hand, for France, four weeks in advance is fine. You can find more countries in this study by Trivago.

In most cases, if you book them too early, you will probably see higher prices than later on. The beginning price of a hotel room is almost always higher than the best price.

So, the best way is to research to find out when it is best for the country you go to.

Now, this is not science. It is entirely possible that the day after you book your hotel, a special offer starts at a much lower price. But this is impossible to predict. So you should not rely on this. And do not wait too much for these offers.

And if you want to book in advance to be safe, that may be better for your peace of mind.

5. Consider Last Minute offers

If you do not know exactly where you want to go, last-minute offers can save you a lot of money.

Last-minute offers start around two weeks before the arrival dates. And you can still fetch some offers one day before your arrival. Sometimes the savings are impressive. It is especially interesting for hotels.

However, you will not have all the choices you have three months in advance at the last minute. If you are open about where to go, it is often okay. But if you do not like some destinations, you may be disappointed.

We have taken last-minute offers a few times with my family. If you are not too picky and you want a relaxing vacation, it is quite okay. However, if you want to discover something great or some historical places, it does not offer much choice.

6. Research frugal tips before you go

We went for free into this castle
We went for free into this castle

If you plan on doing some tourist sightseeing, there are often some tips you can learn in advance. These tips can save you a lot of money.

For instance, when we were in Barcelona, we discovered that several tourist attractions were free on the first Sunday of the month. And they were also free each Sunday starting at 3 pm. The Louvre in Paris is also free every first Sunday of the month!

In some places, you can also find some outstanding deals in the tourism office. They often have offer packs. These packs can save you a lot of money if you plan to do several attractions.

Another terrific deal is that some cities offer city passes. I used such city passes in Houston, for instance. I paid 62 USD, giving me access to five tourist attractions in the city. I went to four, saving me more than 40% of the cost! I went to the Houston Space Center with this pass. And it was great!

Sometimes, there are also deals between hotels and attractions. And sometimes does offer deals within cities. When we went to Paris, we took this offer. And we saved about 50% off the big tourist attractions.

If you search on Google for money-saving tips for the place you plan to go, you are guaranteed to find some! It will take you only a few minutes and can save you a lot of money. And this can also give you good ideas on what to do!

7. Consider an apartment over a hotel

Sometimes, you can save a significant amount of money by taking an apartment over a hotel room.

Sometimes it is cheaper than a hotel room. And you also have the advantage of cooking by yourself if you take an apartment. And cooking in your apartment will be much cheaper than going to a restaurant.

You will also have more room, usually. That is not always true, but most apartments are bigger than hotel rooms. And even if you could take a huge hotel room, it could be costly.

Of course, there are some disadvantages. You will not have breakfast in the apartment (unless you prepare it yourself, of course). In most apartments, they will not make your bed every day. And the towels will not be changed every day either. However, there are some apartments where they will make your bed.

One other disadvantage is that it is more complicated to check in and check out of an apartment. It is especially true if the owner only has one or a few apartments. Once you deal with a building manager for tens of apartments, it becomes easier.

We have found some pretty great apartments over the years. I would not always choose this over a hotel. Sometimes, the comfort of the hotel feels great! And I really appreciate hotel breakfasts! But when we want to save money, we take an apartment.

8. Use the cheapest transportation onsite

Taking the bus can be very cheap when you travel
Taking the bus can be very affordable when you travel

If you visit a city, you probably do not need a car during your vacation.

The cheapest way to get around in a city is to walk. You should walk as much as possible. Walking is also a great way to experience more of the town. But of course, you cannot walk a very long distance, or at least most people cannot.

So, you must find the best transportation method to save money. In most countries, taking the bus is the cheapest way of traveling. In some cities, the subway is very affordable. Personally, the subway is my favorite means of transportation when I visit a city. But in some cities, the subway is expensive. In others, like Shenzen, it is very cheap.

If you want to save money, you should avoid taking taxis. On the other hand, Uber and Lyft can be very affordable in some places. In Shenzen, I was amazed at how cheap Didi (the Uber equivalent) was!

Moreover, you need to take advantage of daily passes for your transportation. In Barcelona, we took a five-day pass for all subways and buses. These passes are of great value. In Paris, we used a pack of metro tickets to get around. And it also saved us money!

I recommend that you research in advance which means of transportation is the best for your destination.

9. Do not forget to have fun

This tip is probably the most important of the tips!

Traveling for cheap is great, but traveling for fun is much better! Some people are so focused on traveling for the least amount of money that they forget to have fun.

The reason to take a vacation is to learn new things, have fun, and relax. It is not to save money. If you want to save money, the best way is not to go on vacation. It is good to save money, but you should not take it too far.

If you budget correctly for your vacation, you should be without guilt when spending the money on them!


As you can see, there are many ways you can save money when you travel abroad. Many of these ways are also applicable when you travel in your own country. You will not need a travel credit card, though!

If you follow these tips, I am sure you can travel abroad cheaper! However, do not forget to focus on the fun, as well. If you get lost in saving the most money possible, you may forget to enjoy the vacation!

If you want more general tips, I have a list of 12 ways to save money in Switzerland.

What about you? Do you have any tips to save money while traveling?

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Download this e-book and optimize your finances and save money by using the best financial services available in Switzerland!

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Baptiste Wicht started in 2017. He realized that he was falling into the trap of lifestyle inflation. He decided to cut his expenses and increase his income. This blog is relating his story and findings. In 2019, he is saving more than 50% of his income. He made it a goal to reach Financial Independence. You can send Mr. The Poor Swiss a message here.

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16 thoughts on “9 Great Tips to Save Money when you Travel Abroad”

  1. Hi Mr. The Poor Swiss

    Going back to #2 (Prepare some foreign cash), it would be great if you could elaborate on that, comparing cheapest with easier solutions. How to you get cheap foreign cash in Switzerland? With the exception of Euros, no ATM in Switzerland will give you foreign cash. So you rely on a bank with their high FX charge.
    What do you do if you need cash abroad? I see the following: Revolut for the first CHF 200, only on weekdays. But what if you need more cash? Is is cheaper to pay a one time fee but high FX rate (e.g. Yuh) or a percentage with lower FX rate (e.g. Neon)? Thanks!

    1. Hi Jens

      I don’t have a good strategy for that. If it’s Euros, I use any ATM or bank. If it’s any other currency, I will either buy it at a bank locally or buy it in the airport. It’s not great, but we are talkint about 200-300 CHF worth of foreign currency just to be safe. I don’t think it matters much.

      If I need cash abroad, I use Neon. Once on vacation, I don’t want to think about that, if I need cash, I get it as simply as possible :)

  2. hi,

    Do you use If yes how did you setup to pay there? With a certo card we pay there a lot for foreign payment and you cannot use there neon card.


  3. An addition on choosing the travel dates wisely: Travelling on New Year’s Eve can actually be very cheap! Book a flight for the evening of December 31th and prices will be low and airports empty. Usually you’ll still be in time for the party.

  4. Great tips, especially #1! It’s true that we always relied on our bank for money withdrawal in foreign countries and we lost a lot in transaction and FOREX fees. I should look more into using Revolut/TransferWise.

    You covered all of the money saving tips here, but another one comes to mind is to avoid buying food or souvenirs at the airport. Even with duty free, they usually charge more than shops outside and this include all the brand name products. With internet and mobile phones, it’s easy to compare pricing nowadays. :)

    1. Hi Mama Bear,

      Yes, #1 is really powerful but really underused. I also spent a lot on fees and bad exchange rates before I found out about that.

      That’s a very good tip! Almost everything should be avoided at the airport!
      And it’s easy to bring some food to the airport. No need to pay insane prices for it.
      And bringing an empty bottle to the airport is always a good idea as well.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      1. Hey there,

        What I did to avoid high expenses in the airport is to get a credit card with access to airport Business Lounges.
        I found something really accesible (cost is about 40€/year) from a local bank in my country comming with Priority Pass. This card gives you access to 1000 Lounges arround the world.
        And if you travel frequently like I do (flying every month) it is really useful. You can have drinks, food and a place to rest in crowded airports (plus others like wi-fi, shower in some cases, kids corner, etc.).
        For example Basel airport has a great lounge, if you travel often fron there.

        Best Regards,

      2. Hi Bogdan,

        That’s a nice tip! Thanks for sharing!

        I only spent time in a lounge once because I had a long layover and I had a special price with my ticket. It was a nice experience. I had coffee and food for free.
        I do not travel frequently, but I can definitely see the appeal if you fly frequently. And especially for 40 EUR a year, this is more than worth it!

        Thanks for sharing!

  5. Bonjour,

    For point number 2:Prepare some foreign cash; one good solution in Switzerland is to buy Currencies at CFF/SBB; they have better rate than Banks, you can order on internet in advance and they have a lot of choice.

    Have a nice day,

    1. Hi Alexis,

      This is a good tip. But are you sure about that? I just checked their online rates for CNY and EUR (the two foreign currencies I use the most) and for both they were worst than Postfinance and BCF. They are better than Travelex and Global Exchange but do not seem better than banks.

      With which bank did you compare?

      Thanks for stopping by!

      1. Hi,

        I used their service for Danish currency last year compare to BCV, Raiffesissen and Postfinance.
        Maybe it depends which currency. Point for CFF/SBB is they were super fact to get currencies, I ordered on evening and day after at lunch time they call me to confirm it was ready to pick-up at train station/ thier service is good and hours are extended compare to Banks.
        But now I have Revolut card since 9 months and it’s enough for me, it’s the best way to reduce cost when I go travel in EU.
        For CNY, I usually buy some goods in Swiss for some chinese Friends and they give me back Remindbi when I arrive there, it’s best way to have money without fees (P.S: I’m like you, my wife is Chinese and I travel frequently to HK or Guangzhou).

        Have a nice day,

      2. Hi Alexis,

        It probably depends on the currency and maybe on the time. It is always a good idea to compare before converting currencies, especially for large amounts.
        Extended hours can be very practical indeed. I did not think of that.

        As you said, the Revolut card is probably the best way to reduce fees for travel.

        For CNY, that is great advice! I should try to do the same. Good idea!

        Thanks for stopping by!

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