A credit card is actually an absolute must for a traveller, especially if you want to book flights or accommodation online or rent a car locally during your trip. What is more, if you have medical expenses during your trip, there is no other option than to pay by credit card. One final argument for having a credit card: in some countries ATMs are still scarce and it is very annoying if that one ATM only accepts credit cards!
It is important to make sure others do not abuse your credit card. Therefore, never give it to the staff to pay. And make sure that nobody is watching when you enter your PIN at the time of payment, because then there is a risk of fraud with your credit card. We were very careful during our trip to South America, we thought. But still, a few weeks after we got home, we received a phone call from the credit card company. It turned out that someone in America the night before had tried to order electronics for €15,000 from a web shop with our card! Fortunately, most airlines’ checks are strict and this was considered a suspicious transaction. The credit card was therefore immediately blocked by the company.
There are also disadvantages to using a credit card: a cash withdrawal with your credit card is often more expensive than with a bank card. Furthermore, in South America, paying with a credit card in hotels and restaurants is almost always more expensive than paying by cash. Count on a surcharge of 5 to 6%. In Asia, this also occurs regularly, but there the surcharge is often less high. The credit card company uses an exchange rate surcharge too for payments in a foreign currency. This is on average about 2%.
If you lose your credit card while travelling, or worse, if it is stolen, it takes a long time before you get a new one. The new one is sent to your home address by default. You will receive the activation code with a different letter. So, before you can use your credit card somewhere far away, you have some time to wait! As such, always make sure you have one or more debit cards, and ALWAYS keep them separate from your credit card. This way, you will not suddenly lose all your payment options if a pickpocket takes your wallet or if you lose it in some other way.
Money in your pocket
Before you leave for your dream destination, there is no harm in buying some cash in the local currency before departure. This can be done at Travelex. You can even order it online and then pick it up at a location of your choice. Money in cash is very handy for the first day. Often there are long queues at that one ATM (the rest don’t work) at the airport where you arrive. Also, the commission at many airports abroad is relatively high. With some cash in your pocket you can carry out your first transactions, such as transport to your hotel.
Another option is to bring some Euros or Dollars as these currencies are also accepted in many countries. Please consider unfavourable conversion rates. Please note: some countries only accept brand new Dollars that are not damaged, creased or folded. So, you’ll have to keep them very clean if you don’t want to have any problems paying. We had a separate folder with us containing a piece of cardboard the size of a banknote. We kept our Dollars in this folder so that they were always in good condition.
During your stay it is wise to carry as little money as possible on you. Almost every hotel has a safe where you can securely store the remainder. Estimate how much you think you need for the day and take that with you, preferably divided over two people. We always fix a maximum daily limit abroad. In this way, we kept the one-off transaction costs under control. However, we put most of the money in the safe. If you are going to do the same: don’t forget to empty your safe when you check out of the hotel; you won’t be the first to leave some money behind in the safe!
You can of course put your money in a thick wallet kept in your back pocket. Chances are it will be stolen sooner or later! But you probably don’t do that in London or Dublin either, so why do it when travelling? Instead choose to use one of those handy money belts that you can wear under your clothes. Out of sight and very safe if you’re on a busy city bus! There are many smart, small and hardly noticeable storage spaces for your money and cards for sale. Take a look at the page handy products.
Don’t look like a rich tourist!
Anyone who goes on a trip should realise how the local population sees the holidaymaker: a very rich person from the West who comes to visit our poor country. When we went to the busy local market in the poorest part of town in Iquitos, we saw an American couple, dressed in fashionable designer clothes, decorated with expensive jewellery, a beautiful gold watch, a large SLR camera with an enormous telephoto lens around their neck and the latest model smartphone in their hand. Immediately, at the entrance of the market, they were approached by the police and told that they were a willing victim for the occasional thief looking like that.
But you of course take a camera with you on a journey to capture all the unforgettable moments. In addition, you always want to have it at the ready to capture any special scenes. So, you can’t really help having your SLR camera around your neck. In such a situation, it is useful to take some extra precautions as well. Place your hand constantly on the device, so it is less easy for a malicious person to snatch. Even better: preferably use a small compact camera or your smartphone in some places, like a colourful busy market in a poor neighbourhood. Their quality is very good nowadays and you stand out less.
Why travel with ornaments, jewellery and expensive watches on you? Just leave them at home and you won’t have to worry about losing them! The less you look like a rich Westerner, the better. If you’re so attached to it that you have to carry that beautiful necklace with you, just don’t wear it in very busy places (tourist attractions) or neighbourhoods known for street crime. Then put the necklace in your hotel safe. You can also buy a special “travel safe”. This is a very strong, foldable, lightweight nylon pouch with a steel net inside. The travel safe has a combination lock and a steel cable to attach it to a fixed point. For more information about the travel safe, see also the page handy products.