Hidden Travel Costs (That You Might Not Think of)

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When budgeting for a trip abroad, it’s vital that you take into account all of the costs you might incur so that you don’t have any nasty surprises later on when you check your bank balance.

As a rule, the longer you’re going away for, the more carefully you should budget, as you’ll be spending more money on more things. By not budgeting properly you’re taking a big risk, as you might have to come home early if you run out of money.

Ideally, you want to have a strong idea of how much you money require for your entire trip, and how much you’re allowed to spend per day (on average). The true cost of travel, however, is often miscalculated as many people forget to factor in certain hidden travel costs that will inevitably crop up.

Transportation (Buses, Trains, Taxi’s, etc.)

Every city is different. Some are small enough that you can walk around and see all the sights (or whatever it is you want), whereas others are so large that you’ll need to get some kind of transportation (such as a bus, taxi or an underground subway train) to take you around all the different places. Be sure to factor transportation into your budget.

Travel CostsYou’ll also need to get some kind of taxi/shuttle-bus/tube to take you to your accommodation once you land at the airport (and at each additional airport you land at on your journey), so be sure to factor this into the cost.

Most airports will have shuttle-buses that transport lots of people at once from the airport to the city centre, and these are a lot cheaper than taxis (although you’ll usually have to wait until the bus is full or nearly full before you go, so you may be waiting around a while).

Tips & Service Charges

Remember that although each country has its own ‘rules’ on tipping, it’s a good idea to factor in an extra 10-15+% for meals and guided tours (as most tour guides will accept tips). This is most important in the United States, where tipping is expected, and you’re seen as being extremely rude if you don’t give at least a 10% tip! Conversely, staff in Japan rarely (if ever) accept tips, so how much to budget really depends on where you’re going.

Internet Usage & Phone Calls

With more and more internet cafés springing up around the world, using the internet while traveling is now remarkably easy and convenient. In major traveler’s hotspots and city centers, internet cafés are common – to the point where I managed to use the internet 95% of the days I spent traveling around South-East Asia.

Although internet access is cheap (where you’re typically charged for every 15 minutes you’re online), using the internet frequently (as I did) will soon add up, so make sure you’ve added it into your budget.

One alternative option is to make use of the free Wi-Fi that’s often supplied in hotels, hostels and coffee shops. Obviously to do this you’ll need to bring some kind of Wi-Fi device along with you (such as a laptop or a phone). The problem with this (especially with bringing a laptop) is that you’ll be a target for thieves. During my trip through North America I took my iPod Touch (mp3 player) which has built in Wi-Fi. I was able to browse the internet for free almost at will, as there’s an endless supply of places giving out free Wi-Fi in the cities. Even if you’re not staying in a hotel/hostel that offers free Wi-Fi, it’s easy enough to find a Starbucks or a building that has Wi-Fi and voila!

Generally the only phone calls you’ll make when traveling will be calls to friends and family back home. Phoning home will cost a lot (as international phone calls are always expensive), so one way to cut down the cost is to buy a pre-paid phone card, as they’ll generally let you make calls at a reduced rate.

Alternatively, if you’re near an internet café the cheapest way to call home is with Skype (which lets you make free phone and video calls over the internet), so all you’ll need to pay for is the cost of using the computer.

Buying Souvenirs

Depending on whether you plan to buy a lot or not, souvenirs can be one of the biggest travel expenses.

Fake Designer GoodsIt’s nice to pick up a souvenir from each place you travel to (whether it’s for yourself or for a loved one), but it’s easy to get carried away (especially when shopping in large markets) and fill up your bag with souvenirs and gifts if you’re not careful.

How much to set aside for souvenirs is up to you, but be sure that you DO factor it into your budget at some stage.

If you’re traveling for a long period of time (1-2+ months) it’s best to buy most of your souvenirs at the end of your trip, so you’re not carrying them around with you the whole way (as they can take up lots of bag space and might get broken).

Snacks (between meals)

One of the easiest travel costs to forget about is snacks (as in food that you eat between meals). Most people generally budget for 3 meals a day and nothing else.

Even if you don’t snack a lot at home, when you’re traveling you’ll be walking around a lot and burning lots of calories, meaning it’s likely that you’ll become hungry between meals.

So how much should you add onto your daily food budget for snacks? I’d say add around 10% extra as a guideline, then see how you get on.

Departure Tax

Bizarrely, some countries (such as New Zealand) will charge you what they call ‘departure tax’ when you leave. Occasionally this tax will be paid as part of the price of your airline ticket (but not always), so it’s a good idea to read the small print when buying your ticket.

Typically, departure tax won’t be more than $15 (around £10), but it’s best to have enough money spare just in case it costs extra.

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