Cost is the key factor that determines your travel duration, destination and activities. Even time availability issues can be adjusted with some effort, but it all ultimately boils down to money. People try to work around this by checking for travel discounts, cheap medical insurance, and advance trip booking and so on. They forget one of the biggest cost factors; spending while shopping abroad. You know what we’re talking about.
General Shopping Tips
- Make a shopping list: List out the things you want for yourself, for your family, friends and co-workers. This gives you an idea of exactly how many people you need to shop for.
- Set a spending limit: Set spending limits on the amount you spend for each person. You don’t need to go all out to get expensive gifts for everyone.
- Look for bargain stores: Don’t start shopping at the first place you see. Study your environment, see what’s special in the area and shop at bargain stores that don’t have fixed prices.
- Don’t forget to bargain: Check out 4-5 similar stores, enquire rates and then buy at the place that quotes the cheapest. Never forget to let the merchant know that you’ve done your homework. Tell the merchant exactly how much the object is worth, based on your study and get it at a bargain.
- Check out discounts: Look for student discounts, discounts if you use certain credit cards and so on. If there’s a two for one kind of deal, see if the pricing is ok and then go for it.
- Buy only what you need: Don’t deviate from your shopping list. Do you go around buying random stuff when at home? You buy only what you need; do the same when abroad.
- Insist on knowing the price in local currency: Foreign merchants use this trick of informing the price of an item in dollars. When they swipe your card, they usually apply a not very competitive exchange rate. Insist on knowing the price in the local currency before you pay.
Money Conversion Tips
- Be wary of commission free places: Some exchange offices put up a ‘commission free’ board to entice tourists. These places mostly offer worse rates than they receive. Be sure to ask for the exchange rate before committing.
- Do your homework: Check online for the exchange range from that country’s central bank. If you’re traveling in India, check the Reserve Bank of India’s rate of exchange before you convert your dollars.
- Know the difference: A flat fee or minimum charge is good only if you’re exchanging a large sum of money. For small sums of money, these charges can be difficult. Check out handling fees as well; these should not be more than the set percentage stipulated by the central bank.
Tips On Using Traveler’s Checks
- Make copies: There’s nothing wrong with using traveler’s checks, as long as you keep photocopies. Note down the check numbers as well.
- Take advantage: Remember that when you cash your traveler’s checks, you will be charged handling fees. The fee is the same irrespective of the value of your check. Get checks for larger amounts to take advantage of this aspect.
- Don’t carry too many checks: Remember you pay commission while buying these checks, and also pay the exchange rate when you get the checks converted to local currency.
- Watch out for exchange rates: Keep a firm eye out on the exchange rate for travelers’ checks and cash them when the rate is good. If the rate looks like it will drop in the next few days, cash your checks in advance.
Tips On Using Cards
- Shop for the right credit card: Get a credit card that’s meant for overseas use. Make sure ATM fees are low and there are no loading charges on the card. There are cards which offer 0% interest on purchases for many months, even for a year. Find out if there are restrictions with regard to overseas purchases.
- Watch for change in interest rates: Some cards hike up their interest rates when you withdraw cash abroad. Check this factor with the card providers before you sign up for the card. As much as possible, use the card for direct payments instead of withdrawing cash.
- Get a prepaid card: Get a prepaid card that offers 0% foreign exchange fee. If your card is stolen and used fraudulently, the money is returned to you. Plus, you’re using your own funds so there won’t be credit interest. You can get one of these cards without worrying about your credit history as well. Get a card that allows you to top-up through your bank over the internet.
- Debit card: Check your bank’s exchange rates and additional fee per withdrawal while using your Debit card at an overseas ATM