Category Archives: Travel Costs

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Companies Trying to Make Currency Exchange a Little Easier

Figuring out how to exchange foreign currencies is always a hassle for international travelers, but several companies have made it their mission to make this process less daunting. Whether you’re fretting about tipping internationally or you’re just sick of returning from vacation with wads of foreign currency, here are four companies working to make your life easier.

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1. CurrencyFair

This one’s for the traveler willing to wait around for the best deals. The service consists of a peer-to-peer marketplace in which users declare their own exchange rates and then wait for someone else to accept the transfer. The company hosts the marketplace and skims off 0.15% when users exchange currency with each other. If no one accepts your offered exchange, then CurrencyFair will—for a 4-5% fee. While the service won’t do you much good if you need to exchange currency very quickly, it can be a great way to get cash for foreign currencies after returning home from a trip.

2. Fourex

The premise of Fourex is easy to grasp: Simply insert coins and notes from any of more than 150 currencies into a kiosk, and get cash back in the form of U.S. dollars, British pounds, or Euros. The kiosks even process old European currencies like Schillings and Deutschmarks. There’s no minimum deposit required; travelers can exchange any amount between £1 and £1,000 at any Fourex kiosk.

Remarkably, travelers can expect to pay the same exchange rate at any kiosk; the company doesn’t even hike prices at its airport locations. And there are no hidden fees; Fourex makes money by buying and selling currency on the market.

The biggest downside to the service is that it’s currently only available in and around London. But if you’re passing through on a layover or traveling around England on holiday, their find-a-kiosk feature will allow you to seek out a kiosk and convert currencies into whatever form is most convenient for you.

3. TravelersBox

TravelersBox functions similarly to Fourex, only it has kiosks in airports around the world, and it applies deposits toward gift cards or donations instead of doling out cash. The idea is that travelers can invest unused currency at the end of a trip by purchasing gift cards (think Starbucks or iTunes) or donating to select causes.

After depositing money into the kiosk, travelers will receive an email confirmation with instructions for redeeming their gift card or donation. The company applies a fee of 3-10% depending on the amount that gets deposited. Currently, TravelersBox kiosks are available in Turkey, Georgia, Italy, Israel, and the Philippines. Depending on the country, kiosks will only accept certain kinds of currencies.

4. WeSwap

Similar to CurrencyFair, WeSwap allows users to exchange currencies directly with each other via a peer-to-peer marketplace. The service promises fast, secure exchanges that’s up to 10 times cheaper than the rates travelers will encounter at banks or bureaus.

Here’s how it works: Users load their account (via debit card or bank transfer) with the amount they want to exchange, input their desired currency and the date by which they need it, and then get matched with other travelers looking to swap. Users can expect to pay a mid-market exchange rate in addition to a sliding fee charged by WeSwap. (The fee varies depending on how quickly you need cash.)

As soon as a swap occurs, the money is instantly available to spend or withdraw on the WeSwap Prepaid MasterCard, which all users receive (for free) after signing up. The card can carry up to 16 different currencies at once and will recognize what country you’re in in order to access the appropriate currency. (The card is accepted everywhere that Mastercard is accepted, without additional foreign-exchange fees.)

The service works best—and costs less—with plenty of advance planning, so sign up as soon as you’ve purchased tickets for an international flight.

From London to Turkey and everywhere in between, high-tech companies like the ones featured here are helping to make currency exchange a more democratic process by lowering fees, improving competition, and enabling peer-to-peer transactions. Here’s hoping that when it comes to providing travelers with low-cost exchanges, this is only the beginning.

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How to Buy More than Flights with Your Frequent Flyer Miles

Just like any other type of rewards program, frequent flyer miles are what you make of them. Many people hoard their points in order to purchase flights, and we’re big proponents of that. After all, getting to fly more often means getting to travel more often, and that means opening yourself up to all the unique experiences and lessons that travel affords.

But redeeming miles for flights isn’t the only way to take advantage of frequent flyer rewards programs. Regardless of whether you fly every week or once a year, here are some surprising ways to get the most out of those points beyond the sky.

The Low-Down on Frequent Flyer Miles

Also called airline miles or travel points, frequent flyer miles are earned by participating in loyalty programs offered by airlines or credit card companies (which may or may not limit participants to earning points on a specific airline).

When it comes to airline loyalty programs, miles can be earned by flying or making purchases at certain stores or restaurants specified by the airline. For credit card programs, miles are earned by making purchases with the participating credit card. These miles can then be redeemed toward flights or commercial goods.

Ready to put those miles to good use? Here’s a run-down of the wide array of options available to points holders.

  • Book a hotel or rent a car. This can be a good option for people who have earned a ton of miles and can’t redeem them for the flights they want. While miles might not be worth quite as much as if you redeemed them for a flight, applying them toward hotels or car rentals can be a great way to plan a vacation without letting points go to waste.
  • Join the club. Some airlines allow travelers to apply miles to an annual club membership. Members enjoy access to airport lounges that typically offer complimentary snacks, beverages, and Wi-Fi in a quiet setting away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the airport. While your miles may have more value when applied directly to flights, no one can deny the allure of a comfortable chair and some peace and quiet.
  • Buy a gift voucher or gift card. These can be exchanged for goods or services at a specific store. By purchasing a voucher instead of a commercial product, you’ll be able to wait to buy the item until it goes on sale, thereby saving some extra cash.
  • Buy merchandise. Most points experts advise against applying miles to merchandise, because it’s rarely the best way to squeeze value out of those points. However, anyone looking to offload extra points (or simply feel like you’ve gotten a new iPhone for “free”), can apply miles to any number of items, from sunglasses, to books, juicers, e-readers, smartphones, laptops, espresso machines, exercise systems, watches, and even furniture.
  • Share the love. Tired of traveling solo? Offer to let friends or family redeem your miles for their own flights. Occasionally it might even make sense to transfer your miles into the other person’s account so they can redeem points for flights on their own. However, most often you’re better off simply making the purchase from your own account on their behalf.

When it comes down to it, how you use frequent flyer miles is up to you. While you’re likely to get the most value by booking flights, you earned those points and they’re yours to dispose of—so if an espresso machine is calling, we promise we won’t judge.

 

Don't forget to get travel insurance before flying to your destination and hotel!

10 Reasons to Buy Travel Insurance

Sometimes things in life don’t go according to plan, and traveling is no exception. With the right attitude, and great travel insurance, you can rest assured that your trip will still be a memorable one.

Travel insurance helps protect more than just the traveler’s trip investment. Here are 10 important reasons to purchase travel insurance.

1. Trip Cancellation — It doesn’t matter whether you are flying domestically or traveling internationally to a destination like Norway. Plane tickets are expensive. Travel insurance will reimburse the price of the airline tickets if the flight is suddenly canceled due to some unexpected life event.

2. Lost Baggage — Airlines, hotels and travelers lose baggage. It’s not a frequent occurrence, but it can happen. Personal belongings cost money to replace, and an insurance policy will help cover the replacement expense. A traveler can also opt to purchase excess valuation travel insurance on their luggage to cover over and above the airline’s liability amounts.

3. Evacuation — Mother nature is unpredictable. It’s not unusual for typhoons or hurricanes to hit places like Cancun or other beach side places such as hotels in Cabo San Lucas. In these situations, the areas must be evacuated.

4. Medical Coverage — Private health insurance coverage often does not cover medical expenses when traveling abroad. Travelers insurance covers varying amounts of emergency medical care anywhere in the world.

5. Theft — Theft happens both domestically and internationally. With travelers insurance, the cost of the stolen items are covered.

6. Airline Ticket Reimbursement — Few travelers realize that most airlines will not reimburse the cost of airline tickets if a natural disaster or act of terrorism occurs.

7. Emergency Stay Coverage — If a passport is lost, the traveler might be faced with a costly departure delay. Insurance alleviates the cost of the extension by covering the hotel and food expenses.

8. Rental Car Coverage — Even purchasing rental car insurance from the rental car company is often not enough. High deductibles frequently need to be paid before the car rental company’s insurance steps forward. Travel insurance helps to pick up the cost of deductibles or other unforeseen expenses.

9. Credit Card Shortfall — Many credit card companies provide some form of insurance protection, but they might fall short. Travel insurance picks up the excess that the credit card company will not pay.

10. Medication Coverage — People with prescription medication can forget their prescriptions at home, only to discover their health insurance will not cover the pharmaceuticals when traveling overseas. Travel insurance covers all or a portion of medication costs and will also help locate a pharmacy anywhere in the world.

It doesn’t matter if a traveler is taking a short local trip or flying to an exotic location; traveler’s insurance provides priceless peace of mind.
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The Joys of Asian Food on My Bank Account

Bar none, Asian Food (and specifically Thai food) is my favorite food on the planet. Seriously, it’s not even close. And that doesn’t even factor in the impact Asian food has on my budget. I paid 7.8 Euro a few nights ago in Barcelona for a decent dish of cashew chicken from Wok to Walk. In Southeast Asia, that same dish is usually twice as good and cost less than $2 (unless at a fancy tourist restaurant).

Suffice to say, my bank account and my taste buds are both certainly happy to be back in Asia for Startup Abroad Bali 2012.

Drew Meyers

Drew Meyers is the co-founder of Horizon & Oh Hey World. He worked for Zillow from September of 2005 to January of 2010 on the marketing team managing Zillow’s API program and various online partnerships. Founder of Geek Estate Blog, a multi-author blog focused on real estate technology for real estate professionals, and myKRO.org, a blog devoted to exploring the world of microfinance. As passionate as you get about travel.

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Cost of a Men’s Haircut in Barcelona, Spain

A full head of hair in a hot climate is one of my least favorite things. A few days ago, I borrowed my AirBnB’s host’s clippers to buzz my own head for free only to find out they didn’t work anymore (darn). This afternoon, I got fed up with my sweaty hair and decided to brave the local barbershops and finally get it buzzed. “Cuantos cuesta?” (meaning how much does it cost) I asked the man in a barber shop right down the street from where I’m staying in Barcelona about an hour ago. I was pleasantly surprised when I heard “cuatro” (meaning 4). “Perfecto”.

About 10 minutes later, I walked out with a LOT less hair, as it’s been about 6 weeks since I’ve buzzed my head.

4 euro and a 1 euro tip, the equivalent of roughly 6.50 US dollars, is a bargain for a haircut anywhere in Europe in my mind. Not quite the sub $3 haircut in Cebu, Philippines, but I won’t complain since I was expecting it to be closer to 10 Euro.

Drew Meyers

Drew Meyers is the co-founder of Horizon & Oh Hey World. He worked for Zillow from September of 2005 to January of 2010 on the marketing team managing Zillow’s API program and various online partnerships. Founder of Geek Estate Blog, a multi-author blog focused on real estate technology for real estate professionals, and myKRO.org, a blog devoted to exploring the world of microfinance. As passionate as you get about travel.

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folding my own laundry

The Costs of Clean Laundry while Traveling

The scent of fresh laundry is to be savored if you’re on an extended trip living out of a backpack. 4 days in the same underwear? The same tshirt 3-4 times? Leads to going a few weeks without clean clothes. Sure, its not ideal. But sometimes necessary due to the fact that laundry often takes more than 24 hours from the time you drop it off to the time you can pick it up because it usually air dried. The challenge with that, for me, is that I generally do all my clothes at once, which leaves me only what I’m wearing that day (I often try to make it a bathing suit) until I pick up my laundry and can change my clothes. Particularly when you are on the go every few days, timing of actually having a 24-48 hour window is challenging.

What does clean laundry cost while traveling?

It varies greatly depending on location. In Noordwijk, an hour outside of Amsterdam, I paid 10 Euro for one load of laundry. They didn’t even fold the laundry (shame on them). That’s the most I’ve ever paid abroad.

My unfolded travel laundry

I had to fold it myself

In Chiang Mai, that same load of Laundry would have costs about 90 Thai baht. The equivalent of about $3. It would have been folded neatly, and smelled better than the pile they returned to me in Noordwijk.

In Barcelona, my friend paid 4 Euro to run her clothes through the washing machine at a laundromat. Plus another 1 Euro for 15 minutes of dryer time.

So your range is somewhere from a few US Dollars to upwards of $10 or $15. Don’t ask me what dry cleaning abroad costs, as I’ve never done it.

PS: I still think the Scubba Wash Bag would be a great investment.

More reading on doing your laundry here.

Drew Meyers

Drew Meyers is the co-founder of Horizon & Oh Hey World. He worked for Zillow from September of 2005 to January of 2010 on the marketing team managing Zillow’s API program and various online partnerships. Founder of Geek Estate Blog, a multi-author blog focused on real estate technology for real estate professionals, and myKRO.org, a blog devoted to exploring the world of microfinance. As passionate as you get about travel.

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Cost of a Men’s Haircut in Cebu, Philippines

I’ve now gotten my hair cut somewhere other than Thailand in Southeast Asia (see my post on getting a haircut in Chiang Mai) — this time in Cebu in the Philippines.

I went to the Salon De Rose at the Ayala Center. The cost of a basic men’s haircut in Cebu? A quick buzz cut with a #4 on top and #2 on the sides blended ran me 100 Pesos — 150 if you include the 50 peso tip I left (prior to even knowing the final price of the bill).

Regarding the quality? I have to admit, it might be the best buzz cut I’ve ever received — complete with meticulous attention to detail and a head massage.

A haircut for less than $3 US dollars? I’m a fan. In the US, this would have cost no less than $10.

Drew Meyers

Drew Meyers is the co-founder of Horizon & Oh Hey World. He worked for Zillow from September of 2005 to January of 2010 on the marketing team managing Zillow’s API program and various online partnerships. Founder of Geek Estate Blog, a multi-author blog focused on real estate technology for real estate professionals, and myKRO.org, a blog devoted to exploring the world of microfinance. As passionate as you get about travel.

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