9 Great Tips to Save Money when you Travel Abroad

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9 Great Tips to Save Money when you Travel Abroad

It is great to travel abroad. You get to discover a new country and culture. However, it can get expensive. So, if you plan on traveling abroad, you need to 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 have used 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 am going to focus on things you can do when you travel abroad. But you can also use most of these tips when you travel to your own country.

Without further ado, let’s see 9 Tips to save money when you travel abroad!

1. Use a travel credit card

Revolut Revolut offers a credit card without any fees for currency exchange. And it is entirely free! Sign up Now! Revolut Free Card

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

Did you know that with most credit cards, you will pay hefty fees 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:

  • Revolut is my favorite card for travel. When we travel abroad, I am paying almost everything with this card. The only exception is that they have more substantial fees during the weekend. However, you can easily convert the money in advance so that it will still be free during the weekend.
  • TransferWise is also a good option. It is not entirely free. Unfortunately, you will pay from 0.3 to 0.7% fee on 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.

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

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

You also need to check whether credit cards are widely accepted in the country you go to. Some countries take it everywhere. But in some other cases, it is much harder to use them.

2. Prepare some foreign cash

In some countries, cash is still necessary
In some countries, cash is still necessary

In almost all cases, you should convert cash, in your country. It is cheaper than in the country you are traveling to.

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

It can be very practical to have some cash if you need to take a taxi or metro tickets when you arrive in the other 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 it before you arrive there.

And for some countries, you need to prepare some 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 are going to.

3. Be flexible with your dates

When you can, 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 going 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 have the time when everybody goes on vacation.

Another thing that you save you money on the 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 been able to save 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

Let’s 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. This means that 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. This is because, 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 are going 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 do some research to find out when it is best for the country you are going 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.

5. Consider Last Minute offers

If you are not set on 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 the arrival. Sometimes the savings are impressive. It is especially interesting for hotels.

However, at the last minute, you will not have all the choice you will have three months in advance. 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 ok. 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 found out 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 by going to the tourism office. They often have offer packs. These packs can save you a lot of money if you are planning on doing several attractions.

Another terrific deal is that some cities offer city passes. This is something I used in Houston. I paid 62 USD, and this gave me access to five tourist attractions in the city. I went to four of them, and this saved 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 booking.com 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 that you can cook by yourself if you take an apartment. And cooking in your apartment will be much cheaper than going out 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 apartment, it becomes easier.

We have found some pretty great apartment over the years. I would not always choose this over a hotel. Sometimes, the comfort of the hotel feels great! 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 are visiting 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. This is also a great way to experience more of the city. But of course, you cannot walk a very long distance, or at least most people cannot.

So, you will need to find the best transportation method to save money. In most countries, 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 in 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 means of transportation. In Barcelona, we took a five-day pass for all subways and buses. This is a great value. In Paris, we used a pack of metro tickets to get around. And it also saved us money!

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

9. Do not forget to have fun

This 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 the least amount of money that they forget to have fun.

The reason to take a vacation is to learn new things, to have fun and relax. It is not to save money. If you want to save money, the best way is to not 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 you spend the money on them!

Conclusion

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 as possible, you may forget to enjoy the vacations!

To read more, you can read about our cheap vacation to Orléans.

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

Mr. The Poor Swiss

Mr. The Poor Swiss is the author behind thepoorswiss.com. In 2017, he realized that he was falling into the trap of lifestyle inflation. He decided to cut on 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.

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

  1. 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,

        1. 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!

  2. 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!

  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.

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