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Archive for July 28th, 2008

Money Matters

 

Monies

Monies

Tied with Time as the most important factor to consider when traveling is money. While planning the trip I recommend to carefully consider how much everything will cost and find the best deals for getting around and housing. Once out in the world and traveling just stick loosely to a budget initially set out and don’t worry about it. Otherwise the entire trip will be spent looking up the best exchange rate and counting foreign coins (unless you collect coins in which case it is fun to do).

After a time and duration of a trip is set then buy transportation over as soon as possible. If you are in the U.S. then getting over to Europe can be the most expensive part. This may put you off to airfare within Europe but inter-country flights can be cheaper and faster then other means (more on this tomorrow). 

Make a budget based on how much you will spend each day, averaging out large transportation costs and accommodation. Let us say that the trip is fourteen days in Germany with a side trip to Switzerland. Given a total budget of $3000 the first things to do is subtract off airfare to make it, lets say, $2000. You now have $142 dollars a day to spend on food, attractions, transportation and a place to sleep. Once you have this number I would recommend converting it to the local currency (euros) and working with it from there. So $142 would become €90.

With a daily amount I would suggest you make pessimistic estimations of daily expenses. For food I would say €20 for dinner and €20 for the rest of the day. If hotels/hostels are picked correctly you could have breakfast included which would result in roughly €30 a day for food instead of €40. Since my experience is exclusively hostels I would say €25 – €30 a night, some places could be as low as €8 a night (like East Berlin). This leaves €20 a day for day trips, museums, or whatever looks interesting as you walk around that morning.

Try to keep at least a rough count of how much you spent in a day, that way at the end you can look and think: “I only spent €70 today, that lets me spend €110 tomorrow”. Creating a rough guide of daily expenditures helps manage a budget, if there are large expenses you can plan for those separate of the daily expenses.

Traveling in hostels at the age of twenty I found myself spending roughly $100 a day. Since I was based out of Edinburgh and not the U.S. I did not have to factor in the transatlantic airfare. 

Another money issue; how to get it there. I used a mixture of ATM card, Credit Card and Travelers’ Checks. In retrospect I did not need the travelers check (I got them from my Dad). There are plenty of ATMs everywhere and every one I used had an option at the beginning to switch to english. For a credit card I was a Capital One card since there were no transaction fees for exchange rates so I get a good rate. If you are planning to use a card a lot I would only use it at large stores or hostel/hotels, small stores have to pay for the card or may pass their fee onto you. Besides every small business owner loves to be paid in cash anyway.

For converting prices on the go I find two methods work best. The first is write down some benchmark numbers, say €5, €10, €20, €50, €100 and use those to gauge prices. The second was pioneered by my grandmother (an avid traveler) she priced everything in the local cost for beer. So a €15 train ride would be about four to five beers. Choose an commonly bought item figure out the cost of it in the new currency and then use that to gauge prices while working through cities.

The dollar may be at a low point right now but if you start waiting for it to recover you may pass up your chance to travel and it is hard to pay back regrets.

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