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Thursday, April 26, 2012

TRAVELER'S TIPS - MONEY

These "traveler's tips" have appeared in many of the different "Logan's Voyage" blogs over the last couple years. This is my attempt to consolidate and order them.

I have pretty strong opinions on what is correct and incorrect to do with some aspects of travel. For example, I feel that if you don't have some sort of flashlight on you at all times, you are ill prepared. If it is left behind in your room, you are ill prepared. If you can't get to it easily, ill prepared. You won't know when you will unexpectedly need a flashlight.

Hopefully, this guide will help to educate newer travelers on some things I've found useful after a year of constant travel and a score of different countries on three different continents.


All of the information here is in addition to your research on the specific country you want to visit.

Due to length, I have decided to divide up the "Traveler's Tips" into sections and publish them separately.



MONEY

Money will be a constant preoccupation for travelers. Europe will cost more than Asia, however in Asia the average man on the street - and even the government - will see you as a walking ATM which should be fleeced as efficiently as possible. Knowing how to deal with money and manage it could mean a huge difference not only in how much you spend, but what you get for it.

Some of these tips may sound a bit jaded. It is illogical and counter productive to the purpose of travel to expect things will be the same as your own country - including in regards to money.



GETTING READY

This will vary a lot, depending on where you go. There are countries (Bhutan) where tourists are made to spend as much as $250 a day. Budget travelers can get by on as little as ten or twenty dollars a day. How much you take is not nearly as important as your ongoing access to money.

Well before going on a trip, contact your bank and credit card companies. Inform them of the countries you will be going to and tell them to make sure your plastic will work in those countries. If you have any flexibility in your schedule, include any other countries you may go to as well.

Obtaining foreign currency from your home country bank may not be possible or wise. I've heard stories about banks accidentally giving their customers counterfeit currency. Some currencies may not be available outside of the country you are going to.

Despite the (at the time of this writing) the steady decline of the US dollar, I recommend it for travelers. The Euro is a good second choice. Although it is often possible to exchange other currencies (British pound, Japanese yen, etc) the dollar itself is recognized and accepted world wide. Unless the country you are going to is especially expensive, I recommend carrying a minimum of two one hundred dollar bills and any money needed for visas. The maximum to carry would depend on your budget, economic level, the country you are traveling to and such. Since the plan is to get native currency as soon as you get into the country itself, going over a few hundred dollars might be extravagant.

All bills should be brand new and in pristine condition. Many countries will not accept notes (American, their own or other countries) which have writing on, are dirty, torn or missing pieces. Extreme countries will not accept notes with crease marks in them though these are rare and 'lack tourism infrastructure'. Do not accept any questionable bills, demand different bills.

Some countries only accept American currency for their visas.

Discard any coins prior to going. Nobody will exchange coins.

If you carry your money in a spot that is easy for a pickpocket to get, they probably will get it. Get a couple of pouches you can wear under your shirt or fancy pants with hidden inner pockets and zippers. It is my belief you will notice someone pulling your shirt up to have a go at your pouches.

Having a wallet in your back pocket or your documents, credit cards and money in a fanny pack worn in the back or front is stupid and someone will probably teach you the error of your ways. Dispersing credit cards, passport and money into more than one pouch ensures that if you are robbed of one pouch you won't lose absolutely everything.

Having a backup plan to be able to access more money as well as carrying well hidden money will assist you greatly should the worst case scenario happen.



ARRIVING IN THE NEW COUNTRY

As soon as you reach the new country, hunt down an ATM. Ideally, this ATM should be attached to an open bank. If there is a problem such as it sucking in your card and not returning it, or doing a transaction and not giving you any money, you have somewhere to complain rather than falling to your knees in the street and screaming "Why God, why?"

Withdraw the maximum amount possible from it. In addition to the service charge appearing on the screen, your home bank may charge additional fees. Withdrawing a small amount will cost you substantially more over time. By using the ATM, you completely miss the joy of being raped by a 'government authorized currency exchange'. [Countries lacking the infrastructure for tourism (such as Myanmar) have no ATM's. Special rules go for these countries. Since few tourists go to countries without tourist infrastructure, I won't cover those special cases here.] If you need money and can't find a currency exchange, cash in one of your two bills. Unless are in an expensive country, that will keep you fed and in lodging for at least a night until you can find a currency exchange.

The ATM's should be the only things that get access to your credit cards. Handing your plastic to someone who makes less in a year than you might in a week or month isn't a good idea.

Sort your money in private. Big bills inside the fold, small bills on top. This will help reduce the number of times you have to fan out your money and scream "Gosh I hope I get robbed!"



BUYING GOODS

Unless you are used to a foreign currency, it can often look like Monopoly money. It's strange bills that have no value you recognize. As a result, people tend to spend them very quickly. There are two things you can do combat this:

Carry a small calculator. (Note, your phone may have one.)

Carry a daily wallet. Every day, transfer your budgeted money into that wallet. If you run out early, go to a restroom or somewhere very private to dive into your money pouch under your shirt to transfer additional funds into your wallet. Having a daily wallet will help to remind you how fast you are spending money. In addition, if it gets stolen, you only lose one day worth of money.

Within Asia, Africa and parts of Europe you will need to learn to haggle. If you do not wish to, your vacation could cost over double what it would otherwise. Within Europe, rooms rates can often be negotiated for longer stays. Within Asia everything is negotiable. If shops call themselves 'fixed price', assume they are lying. If there are prices in English on products remember these are for foreigners to see - the locals do not pay this amount. Despite my saying that 'literally everything is negotiable within Asia', other tourists are often surprised at what I will negotiate. Menu prices. Medicine. Tours. Groceries. Taxi rides. Everything. If you can't negotiate everything, you are doing it wrong. If you feel awkward bargaining, you have three choices:

1. Travel with someone who enjoys constant haggling.
2. Get over it.
3. Have access to or bring a lot of extra money.

On haggling - should you ever find yourself becoming angry immediately walk away. And - here is the critical bit - do not go back nor talk to the merchant again. Period.

Outside of western Europe, assume that once you give the merchant your money, it is gone. The words 'refund' and 'customer service' are simply not recognized. Check every purchase carefully. For example if you purchase a cigarette lighter, test it in the store. Walking outside and discovering it doesn't work may mean you just wasted your money.

Within Europe, question locals as to whether taxi meters are reliable. Within Asia and parts of Africa any meters should be ignored. Negotiate before getting into the cab. They will try to get you into the cab and going to your destination without any mention of money. Allowing them to do so is to say "I am stupid and rich - I will pay whatever you wish when we get there." If a taxi driver tells you there is a 'fixed rate', they are liars.

Small change is often critical. Whether due to poverty or habitual lack of planning ahead, many stores/merchants/taxi drivers routinely have no change. Also, after you bargain and have reduced the price you will really feel like an idiot if you pull out a bill the merchant can't even break to purchase the item.

Banks may not wish to provide change. Purchasing something cheap at a posh grocery store or chain store often can secure needed smaller bills.

Find out from locals you are not doing business with (and preferably ones who do not normally deal with tourists) if tipping is necessary. In many countries it is not - or the amount of the tips is tiny. Tipping the same rate as in your own country is unnecessary and serves to drive up prices.



PAYING FOR YOUR ROOM

Always get a dated receipt. Failure to do so may result in an argument, threats of police and paying again of the room. Do this habitually, despite how 'cool' or 'friendly' the proprietor seems. If they aren't planning on ripping you off, they won't have any problem making you a receipt. Get it as you are paying for the room - no excuses, no delays.



LEAVING THE COUNTRY

Aside from any local currency you wish to keep as mementos of your trip, dump all remaining currency. Either exchange it with fellow travelers or visit a currency exchange and have it converted. Depending on the country, it is very difficult or impossible to exchange local money after exiting the country. Some currencies are illegal to export - or import to other countries.

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PICTURES

{{2011}} London, GB | Rail N Sail | Amsterdam, Netherlands | Prague, Czech Republic | Budapest, Hungary | Sarajevo, Bosnia | Romania | Chisinau, Moldova | Ukraine: Odessa - Sevastopol | Crossed Black Sea by ship | Georgia: Batumi - Tbilisi - Telavi - Sighnaghi - Chabukiani | Turkey: Kars - Lost City of Ani - Goreme - Istanbul | Jordan: Amman - Wadi Rum | Israel | Egypt: Neweiba - Luxor - Karnak - Cairo | Thailand: Bangkok - Pattaya - Chaing Mai - Chaing Rei | Laos: Luang Prabang - Pakse | Cambodia: Phnom Penh | Vietnam: Vung Tau - Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh City

{{2012}} Cambodia: Kampot - Sihanoukville - Siem Reap - Angkor Wat | Thailand: Bangkok | India: Rishikesh - Ajmer - Pushkar - Bundi - Udaipur - Jodhpur - Jasalmer - Bikaner - Jaipur - Agra - Varanasi | Nepal: Kathmandu - Chitwan - Pokhara - Bhaktapur - (Rafting) - Dharan | India: Darjeeling - Calcutta Panaji | Thailand: Bangkok - again - Krabi Town | Malaysia, Malaka | Indonesia: Dumas - Bukittinggi - Kuta - Ubud - 'Full Throttle' - Gili Islands - Senggigi | Cambodia: Siem Reap | Thailand: Trat | Turkey: Istanbul | Georgia: Tbilisi

{{2013}} Latvia: Riga | Germany: Berlin | Spain: Malaga - Grenada | Morocco: Marrakech - Essauira - Casablanca - Chefchawen - Fes | Germany: Frankfurt | Logan's Home Invasion USA: Virginia - Michigan - Indiana - Illinois - Illinois - Colorado | Guatemala: Antigua - San Pedro | Honduras: Copan Ruinas - Utila | Nicaragua: Granada | Colombia: Cartagena | Ecuador: Otavalo - Quito - Banos - Samari (a spa outside of Banos) - Puyo - Mera

{{2014}} Peru: Lima - Nasca - Cusco | Dominican Republic | Ukraine: Odessa | Bulgaria: Varna - Plovdiv | Macedonia: Skopje - Bitola - Ohrid - Struga | Albania: Berat - Sarande | Greece: Athens | Italy: Naples - Pompeii - Salerno | Tunisia: Hammamet 1

{{2015}} Hammamet 2 | South Africa: Johnnesburg | Thailand: Hua Hin - Hat Yai | Malaysia: Georgetown | Thailand: Krabi Town | Indonesia:
Sabang Island | Bulgaria: Plovdiv | Romania: Ploiesti - Targu Mures | Poland: Warsaw | Czech Republic: Prague | Germany: Munich | Netherlands: Groningen | England: Slough | Thailand: Ayutthaya - Khon Kaen - Vang Vieng | Cambodia: Siem Reap

{{2016}} Thailand: Kanchanaburi - Chumphon | Malaysia: Ipoh - Kuala Lumpur - Kuching - Miri | Ukraine: Kiev | Romania: Targu Mures - Barsov | Morocco: Tetouan

{{2017}} Portugal: Faro | USA: Virginia | Michigan | Illinois | Colorado |

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