Today we welcome Nick Adie of Lattitude who we invite to talk about preparing your currency when embarking on a gap year overseas.
Whether you are planning to travel abroad for a gap year, a long term volunteering placement or just for short trip, you will need money. Planning a gap year or overseas volunteering placement involves a degree of planning, to ensure that you are getting better value.
The added difficulty with gap years is that often it is difficult to understand how much money to exchange and also the number of different currencies you will need. If you plan on travelling to several different countries you will need a range of currencies and understanding the different rates can be complicated.
The main thing to consider when planning your gap year therefore is to budget for your trip as thoroughly and as meticulously as possible. You should also budget for any additional unforeseen extras which could occur and can eat into your budget, obviously this is harder to judge but the better you plan the less likely you are to run out of money.
Lattitude Global Volunteering
Volunteering overseas through a charity, such as Lattitude Global Volunteering, can offer a clear advantage in this regard, by helping volunteers plan and equate for the numerous different costs they are likely to incur and potentially even subsidising costs through bursaries. Overseas volunteering with a charity ensures that you are getting a better deal, as the fees charged by charities go entirely on running the placements, not into profits of company shareholders.
If you are planning on taking a gap year some of the important costs to consider include the daily cost of living, flights, Insurance, Visas, accommodation, equipment as well as any extras. Budgeting and preparation is key and the better prepared you are the more likely you are to get a good deal.
Airports are the worst place to exchange currency
If you have travelled before you might have noticed the so-called foreign exchange bureaus at Airports and might have considered these as a good place to exchange currency. Yet a recent survey undertaken suggests that these Airports are offer one of the worse exchange rates available. If you do exchange money to take with you long in advance, be sure to check the validity: a few countries currency can become outdated, for example old coins in Turkey.
Importantly you should try to get an idea before you go how of much things should cost, to make sure you don’t underestimate how much money you will need and to ensure you are not being ripped off, when shopping in markets for example. Your average market seller is pretty wise to exchange rates and it is unlikely you will be able to get a good exchange rate from them. So be sure to carry the local currency, but importantly know how much it equates to. A handy tip is to work out the sterling equivalent of multiples of 5,10,25,50 and 100 in local currency and either write them down or remember them.
When travelling overseas remember that carrying large amounts of cash in a crowded place or a market can make you an easy target for pickpockets, so ensure you divide your money up and never bring out a huge wad of cash when paying for something. Likewise be careful not to have too much cash on you at any one time and that you store your money in a safe place. It is always good to keep at least two types of payment – like cash, travellers cheques, cards etc and keep them on you in separate places. This way, if for example, your wallet is stolen you still have money in your money belt.
Beware of using credit or debit cards abroad
If you decide to use your credit or debit card abroad there are few things to keep in mind. Firstly be sure to call in at your local bank branch and notify them that you are going on holiday or are away on a gap year. Otherwise you run the risk of your card being blocked for security reasons. Make sure you check the validity, expiry dates and cash available on your credit or debit cards ahead of your trip. Most banks will charge you for using ATM’s abroad and for every time you use your card to pay abroad, so be warned but this can be safer than carrying around large amounts of cash. Travellers’ cheques and prepaid cards offer another alternative, but remember that some places might not accept these particular forms of payment, so it is always advisable to do some research first.
If you are staying in another country for a long period of time you may consider opening a bank account in a local branch. Some accounts are free to open and with no additional fees for less than one year or to close it.
Finally if you are abroad and are paying on a credit or debit card and an overseas retailer offers to let you pay in pounds, reject their offer. This prevents the seller from inventing his or her own exchange rates which are usually far worse than the rate the bank will offer you.
Some Useful Resources
Our Travel Money Comparison tool