Managing your money while travelling

We’d all love to have unlimited funds to travel the world without having to manage our finances and check our bank balance every five minutes. If only. I’d also like some rich benefactor to top up my account on a semi-regular (don’t want to be greedy you understand) basis, the ability to charter private jets and someone to carry my rucksack but let’s face facts here: In reality, most of us go from country to country on a limited budget, hoping to get as far as possible, see as much as possible and do even more. How to manage your finances well as you move around is the trick. Here are a few points that we hope will help:

Image from

Image from Denni Schnapp

1. Consider a new bank account

Before you get cracking take a look at some of the banks’ offers. Shop around to find the bank that will give you the lowest fees on withdrawing using a debit card as that’ll probably be the main way you’ll get access to your money on your travels. The travel section on the Money Saving Expert website is a super helpful website to find the best deals in the UK. Never take money out of an ATM using your credit card – the fees for that are usually extortionate.

Let your bank know where you are going to be too. I had my details stolen (somehow – I’m none the wiser but my bank told me it happened to a lot of people at the same time) while we were in New Zealand. Luckily, the bank knew where I was, contacted me straight away to check I wasn’t flashing cash around Nigeria, and so no money was lost on my part.

2. Avoid changing money at airports

One of our major bugbears about travelling is this. They catch you when you need cash most but the exchange bureaus at the airport take a huge cut from you when you change money. If you can possibly avoid it then make sure you get at least a little money changed before you go. XE.com is the main site we’ve used to give us an idea of what we should be paying, they also have an iPhone app.

3. Have cash, but keep it safe

It’s not ideal but it’s worth having an amount of cash with you for those ‘just in case’ moments. You might arrive in a country and find there are no ATMs or (though unlikely) your card can’t be accepted. This happened to us in China after arriving at the airport in Beijing, neither of our bank cards would work. We survived on our small amount of cash until we made it to a bank where everything was sorted. No drama.

Particularly on the days when you’re moving around and your kit’s not so secure split the cash up between your rucksack/suitcase and have some on your person (in a money belt ideally).

4. Online banking

A fairly obvious point I grant you but the internet is available in so many places now, even in places you’d never expect (a cave I was in in Australia springs to mind!), so there’s really no excuse not to check your current accounts regularly. It may be scary to check the finances, and I always tended to put it off, but why? Checking how much you’ve got and how much you’re spending helps to plan your trip and get you further in the long run. Make use of apps on your phone to check your balance or just make a note in the back of your notebook, keep on top of it.

5. Make a budget

Another obvious one and one I avoided until we forced ourselves to do it while living in South Korea. It’s amazing though, so simple and it doesn’t even have to be that depressing. One tip though is to make sure you do your research about each country you go to, your money will go so much further in Indonesia than pottering around Singapore for example. Set some aside if you’re planning on buying souvenirs or sending things home too, it really adds up.

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