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Happy Monday Everyone! I’m writing this post because I’m stuck inside our AirBnB apartment waiting for a sudden thunderstorm to die down. Monsoon season is crazy here in Japan!
As a long-term traveller (and finance enthusiast!), protecting my money while abroad is always a key concern.
When you’re abroad, the last thing you want is to lose your wallet and all it’s contents!
(It almost happened to me: check out my story on losing my wallet – on my birthday…)
Whether you’re travelling on a two week holiday, or for the foreseeable future like me, protecting your finances against loss or theft is always a wise precaution to take.
Here’s my absolutely fail-safe ways to save money and make sure you’re protected when spending abroad:
Always Have More than One Credit or Debit Card
Never, ever, go abroad with just one bank card! This is rule number one. If you lose your sole bank card while you’re travelling, you’re going to be in a pretty bad situation.
Services such as Western Union are super helpful for getting cash wired to you in this situation, but the best way to avoid this situation is to have more than one bank card linked to different accounts.
For example, my boyfriend and I have:
- A separate debit card each
- A joint account with a debit card linked to each of us
- A Monzo Travel Card
Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket
Or rather, don’t put all your cards in one wallet! The one day we left both our debit cards and our travel card in the wallet was the day we lost it.
Thankfully, we found it by some sheer miracle, but if we hadn’t, accessing our money would be have been a lot more difficult. The best ways to save money are ones where you can at least access it!
If you’ve taken the very sensible step of bringing multiple bank cards abroad with you, definitely keep them separate! That way, if the worst happens and you lose a card, you still have a backup to access your money.
A good habit to get into is leaving one card in your accommodation while you go out exploring with the other card in your wallet. When you’re in transit, try to keep your cards in separate bags or separate places.
Use a Travel Card
Foreign transaction fees are brutal. Even if you’re abroad for just a week, it’s best to avoid the absolute joke that are bank transaction and exchange fees.
If you’re travelling abroad for several months and consistently withdrawing money with your regular home bank card, those fees can seriously rack up. Any budget traveller knows how valuable that money could actually be!
To avoid costly bank transaction fees, we use the Monzo Travel Card. This is a fairly new travel card that uses the Mastercard rate (a big plus point) and charges zero fees to spend and withdraw cash abroad.
Although ATMs may have separate bank charges, this still enables us to make significant savings when withdrawing cash.
Related: The Ultimate Digital Nomad Gadget Packing Guide!
That’s the banking side of protecting your money when abroad. However, there are still so many ways that you can accidentally end up spending more money than you should, or can even get conned out of your cash by scam-artists.
Case in point: when we arrived in Ho Chi Minh city we got in a ‘metered’ taxi who charged us 10x the actual rate. One situation where we were really kicking ourselves for not doing some research before arriving exhausted at the airport!
Fail-safe ways to save money when you’re out and about in a foreign city:
Always Get a Taxi from a Legitimate Company on the Meter
As you can tell from above, the taxi we got into was not legitimate and was not at the official taxi rank for Ho Chi Minh City airport. It did have the same name as one of the official taxi companies I had read about, but we later realised it was the complete wrong colour!
One of the best ways to save money on taxis abroad is to always do your research on the most recommended taxi companies in a foreign city, and only take cabs from official taxi ranks and with drivers who will put the meter on.
In many places, negotiating a rate and turning the meter off is actually illegal, and more often than not you’ll end up paying more than you should!
Alternatively, Uber is a fantastic international car ride service that we’ve used many times while travelling. Before leaving the UK, I didn’t even realise how huge Uber is – there have been drivers in almost every place we’ve stayed!
It’s particularly useful when you don’t know the local area, as you can simply pin your location.
Best of all, you can pay via card – no need for fiddling with foreign currency you don’t understand! This has been so useful for us when travelling, and has saved us a lot of money and hassle.
If you haven’t used Uber before, I highly recommend giving it a go. Sign up to create your account and take your first ride here!
Book Accommodation in Advance
Some backpackers are quite happy to rock up to a new destination and find accommodation on the day, but that’s not the way I like to travel.
For one thing, the thought of traipsing around a city with my heavy backpack in search of a place to sleep that night sounds like a nightmare!
What’s more, if you want the best bang for your buck, booking in advance is the best answer.
Pete and I always use:
These two methods have enabled us to find great accommodation well within our budget (almost) every leg of our journey!
Highlights include a wonderful stay in a studio apartment in the heart of Chiang Mai for £13/night (yes, really!), a 3-night stay in our own garden bungalow on Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam for just £44, and most recently, a month long stay in our own private apartment in Canggu, Bali for just £20/night!
It’s really not hard to find super budget accommodation all over the world – you just have to put the time into finding the best deals.
We always filter the results from ‘Lowest Price to Highest’ for the best deals, but take a lot of time reading through the reviews on each place – quality still matters, even when you’re looking after your pennies!
Take a look at my 5 top resources for budget accommodation, or alternatively use the links above to see what bargains you can find on accommodation for your next trip! (My AirBnB referral link will give you £30 ($45) in credit for your first trip!)
Related: 10 Confessions No One Admits About the Digital Nomad Lifestyle!
I’m a major foodie, so I always read up on reviews of restaurants for our next destination. Who wants to just wander into the first place they see and just be disappointed?! Not me.
Researching restaurants prior to eating not only guarantees you’re getting a great meal, but also helps protect our money while on the road.
Many reviews on TripAdvisor include information about the menu selection and price – allowing us to avoid costly places and aim for the restaurants praised for being delicious and budget friendly!
Related: Travel on the Cheap: How we Make Budget Travel Possible
That’s all I have for you for today. I’m going to do a full post on the different ways to save money on food when travelling, but if there’s anything else you’d like to know just let me know in the comments!
Also be sure to subscribe to get your FREE copy of my new 7 Day Digital Declutter guide below – in just 7 days, I guarantee you’ll have the most minimal system primed for efficiency and maximum productivity!
Fingers crossed this rain dies down so we can make it to our favourite budget ramen joint in Kyoto this evening!
What are your top ways to save money when you’re abroad? Share your top tricks and tips in the comments below!
Mrs. Picky Pincher says
I would also add to know a few key phrases or words of the local language. Even if you aren’t fluent, knowing a few words can help you save money. For example, I didn’t know Europe sold carbonated water, which I think it disgusting. I found out how to correctly order tap water sans carbonation and it was a game changer!
The Wallet Moth says
Great tip! We make the effort to learn at least a few simple phrases for every country we go to – it’s become so normal I didn’t even think of recommending it!
I think as a visitor to a foreign country, you have a responsibility to make the effort to learn a bit of the language, even if we are privileged enough to be able to get by on English everywhere. Just being able to say “hello” and “thank you” can make all the difference, and really shows local people that you’re trying!
Tim Kim @ Tub of Cash says
Thank you for sharing! I think the keeping your cards in separate places, is ON POINT. Especially when you’re in common tourist places. Because there’s a ton of pick pocketing. Once we left our car on the street (I think it was in Italy, I forget if it was Rome or another city), someone broke into the car and stole everything. Except….for the envelope! Hahaha, people don’t know that Koreans and many Asians in general commonly keep cash in envelopes. We had thousands of euros in it. We stupidly thought it would be safer in the car because we were more afraid of the pick-pocketing. We outsmarted them though in the end =)
The Wallet Moth says
Haha wow that is a bit of luck! It’s amazing some of the stories you here like that. We’ve been very fortunate so far not to encounter any pick-pocketing or crime at all in Asia, but it always pays-off to take precautions should something ever happen!
Mrs. Adventure Rich says
Great tips! I haven’t traveled internationally but I would love to someday soon! This post will come in handy 🙂
The Wallet Moth says
Thank you, hope they help! What’s your number one destination you’d like to travel to?
Sarah (Smile & Conquer) says
Good tips, especially about taking a second credit card and keeping it separate. We were in Barcelona late last year and so many people told us to be extra careful about pickpockets so we made sure to only carry enough cash for the day and kept the rest locked up at the hotel. We were careful but had no problems at all.
Hopefully the storm clears up and you can get out and enjoy Japan!
The Wallet Moth says
Thanks, Sarah! It’s always better to be careful and take precautions, even if a place doesn’t feel unsafe – accidents can always happen!
And thank you, the storm didn’t clear up but we put our rain jackets on and dashed out anyway – all in the name of ramen! 😀
Francesca - From Pennies to Pounds says
This is such a good list! I really wish I could be a digital nomad 🙂 you’re living the dream!
The Wallet Moth says
Thanks Francesca! Maybe one day, hey?
Terrigal Accommodation says
this is awesome! great write up!! thanks for sharing!
Bowral Accommodation says
now i have idea! what great tips!!