Expect the unexpected; we hear this all too often before and while traveling. You’re at a restaurant and the entire menu and employees don’t speak your language. Having difficulty trying to communicate with the resturant employees, you decide to order according to the pictures illustrated on the menu. You received your food and it was delicious way beyond what you had expected. Now the bill comes and your meal was priced at $300USD! This was a mistake on my friend’s part that caused him to kick and scream. Eventually, they were able to work on a price.
We have all experienced a similar story whether it was your cell phone bill or taxi cab. Here are a few tips to help you keep the cash in your wallet.
1. Ask Questions
If you’re not sure, ask! Don’t assume the price will stay the same or you’re getting the best price. Use your haggling skills. The restaurant might seem inexpensive but perhaps the item you’ve ordered is the most expensive item on the menu while the rest of the menu is indeed inexpensive. If you’re running a tab at the bar, be sure to ask how much you’ve spent so far before continuing to drink. Don’t be shy to ask questions. You’ll save yourself from the embarrassment if you can’t afford the service or product.
2. Learn The Local Language
No matter how much English is spoken in a non-English country; it’s always helpful to know the local language. If my buddy had known at least how to say “How much?” then he could have avoided the mess. You’ll only need to know the basics, for instance “Hello, How Much, Thank You, and Bye” are some good ones to go by. Although you might be killing the language, you’ll find greater respect from the locals hearing you attempt to speak they’re tongue. Asking for directions will be much easier as well.
3. Book Early During High Season
Traveling during high season can often raise prices by 100% or more and have rooms booked for miles on end. Often the only rooms left can be the more luxury hotels. Luxury hotels are usually avoided by backpackers and having a one night stay there can mean several nights elsewhere. Use the power of the internet to search for the best price and book it early. Try to look for rooms with no fees if you decide to cancel. This allows you to be more flexible and you’ve already guaranteed somewhere to sleep at the price you want. (Look for coupon codes on Google!).
4. Pay with Cash
Credit cards and debit cards is your enemy when it comes to fees. Be sure to check the details with the card company if there will be any international fees for using the card abroad. I have found the best conversion rates to be on debit cards so use this to your advantage to take out all the cash you would need for a few days instead of charging each meal on it. Don’t let them freeze your account either, let them know you’re traveling otherwise for security purposes they will freeze your account. Capital One offers a no fees international card. Research your options and your fees.
4. Don’t lose your stuff!
Losing what little you already have during your backpacking trip may depress you for a little while. Don’t stress. Remember where you are and why you are there. Go with the experience and learn for next time. Losing or having your things stolen can be avoided. Be cautious of your surroundings and use your instincts. Lock it up when it’s not with you and keep your belongings close to you at all times. I might be speaking the obvious but we have all heard or know someone that has had their things stolen even after being told this. Cancel all bank cards that were lost immediately. Several travelers have unfortunately experienced this and you’ll find that they are very supportive during this. When a fellow traveler is going through this, support them the same way they have been supporting you.
5. Agree on a price with Taxi cabs
Always agree on a price before entering in a taxi cab. If you’re traveling with two people, make sure to agree on a price for both of you. If the driver says its $20, make sure it’s for both of you and not per person. If it’s going to be metered, make sure your driver knows exactly where you want to go. You wouldn’t want to be charged for his mistakes and having to haggle afterwards can be troublesome.
There are hundreds of precautions you could take to avoid spending more then you should be. Taking every precaution in existence will put you in a boring box. Take risks and have fun. Just use common sense as you would when you’re at home. You WILL spend more then you should be somewhere down the road but that’s just part of the experience. Because of this, it is always advisable to bring extra cash and hide it in a safe spot. As cliché as this is… Go with the flow.