Consider an international travel adventure if you are in good physical and financial health. Use these tips to help avoid rarely-discussed “surprise” financial drains:
The passport: An adult passport is good for 10 years for $135. More info on fees and requirements here. For most travelers, this is a necessary expense. However, US citizens can still travel internationally without a passport to the US territories of Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa and the Virgin Islands. Additionally, certain cruises which depart from the US—even some with international stops—do not require US passports.
The visas: Some countries require a visa or entry request fee upon visiting, and those fees can add up. Learn about a country’s visa fees here. For example, Brazil requires a visa to enter the country for any reason and charges $100. Don’t want to pay fees? Choose a country that doesn’t require a visa for short tourist visits, like Belgium, Hong Kong (China), Norway or South Africa.
Baggage fees: In recent years, airlines are charging passengers for checked baggage. Seriously, airline officials, who is going abroad without luggage?! Be sure to consider such fees when you book airfares. One option is to choose an airline, like Delta, that allows a free checked bag when traveling abroad. Another option is to pack light with a single carry-on.
Food and tips: Tips for food, taxi service, and hotel baggage handling can be a pricey addition to a trip. To avoid paying these, choose a country where tipping is NOT a social norm or expected by those in service industries, like Iceland. Or build tipping into the travel budget. Tip correctly and see better service. Another option is to consider countries like Holland, Germany, or Spain where tipping is handled more as a “rounding up” of, say, the final bill in a restaurant rather than American expectation for 15 to 20 percent. Here are some good guidelines.
Taxes: When you research expected costs of food, accommodations, and souvenirs of a country, don’t forget to research whether it taxes those products (or whether it is built into the price). For instance, in Turkey, an item’s listed price is the bottom line. There are no taxes added. But if you travel in Europe, get ready for the Value Added Tax (VAT). It is applied to nearly all purchases, food and beverage. Keep receipts and get some VAT refunded at the customs office. Learn more here.
Transaction Fees for Debit/Credit Cards: If you use a card internationally, your bank or financial institution will likely charge an international transaction fee every time you use the card in a store or ATM. So if you take your card, use it wisely! Don’t forget to notify your banks and credit card companies that you are traveling internationally, and provide dates so your accounts aren’t frozen.
International Exchange Rates: Know the exchange rate of the country you are visiting—and make sure it is accurate for the time of your travel. Don’t base a rate on a three-year-old travel book or a year-old internet posting you saw. Stop at an airport exchange location to inquire as to that day’s posted exchange rate. Then, use that rate as the basis for calculating (in American dollars) what a potential purchase in the country you are visiting will cost.
International travel is exciting, and it doesn’t have to be lifestyles of the rich and famous.