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5 frugal tips on saving money abroad

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This is a guest post by Karen Elseworth, a writer for Oz Forex.

Travelling abroad can be an exciting and enriching experience, but it can also be rather expensive. If you don’t plan ahead, you could find yourself spending more than you intended to. The following five tips will help you enjoy your upcoming trip without breaking the bank.

1. Save on currency conversion

Using your debit card at local ATMs may be a good way to save money when travelling abroad, but make sure to check your bank’s rates before you do this, as you may be charged per withdrawal. Whatever you do, don’t exchange your money at airports as they are known for their outrageous exchange rates. If you want to bring cash, either exchange it at home, or find a local currency exchange office in the city you are visiting.

2. Do your shopping abroad

Before going abroad, many people stock up on things like sunscreen, toiletries, flip-flops and new outfits, without stopping to think that these things are readily available at their destination as well. Aside from the fact that you are unnecessarily overloading your baggage, these things are often cheaper abroad, and you will probably end up buying new clothes and shoes while abroad anyway. This could cause your bags to be overweight on your trip home, and we all know how much airports love to overcharge for excess baggage.

3. Choose your hotels wisely

While travelling abroad, staying at hostels that offer dorm rooms can save you more than half of what you would normally spend on hotels. If you prefer a bit more privacy, many hotels abroad have the option of private rooms with shared bathrooms. If you think about it, it’s not really worth paying twice the price just to avoid walking across the hall to use the shower or toilet.

4. Save on transport

Do a bit of research on your destination before you arrive in order to find out what the cheapest mode of transport is. Taxis are generally the most expensive mode of transport in any country, and you could easily spend half your budget on taxis if you aren’t careful. In most countries, public transport is fairly affordable and also allows you to explore more of the city you are visiting. In some places like Amsterdam and Paris, you can even rent a bicycle and cycle through the city, which will cost you next to nothing and give you a chance to experience the city first hand.

5. Stay off the beaten path

It goes without saying that every destination and city has its tourist traps. Unless you really want to see a particular historical site or building, steer clear of popular tourist sites and ask locals for advice on what you should see and do. Most places designed for tourists do not portray an accurate picture of the place you are visiting, and you will end up spending far more than is reasonable on meals, guides and transport.

When travelling outside of Australia, it is important to keep in mind that even though you are trying to save money, you should never be frugal with your travel insurance. No one plans for accidents to happen, but unfortunately they do. It is simply not worth taking a risk just to save a few hundred dollars. The common advice given is that if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel at all.

A guest post by Karen Elseworth, a writer for Oz Forex – find out how much your Australian dollars are worth elsewhere in the world with our free currency converter calculator.


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  1. In terms of accommodation and food, hotels often aren’t the frugal choice. In Europe you can often let a flat or house for a week more cheaply than a hotel room – and you stay in a normal residential area, rather than a touristy one. If you use the kitchen to eat most breakfasts at ‘home’, as well as making some packed lunches and perhaps the occasional dinner in, it makes a huge saving in the food budget. It’s also very helpful if you have children (or adults with dietary restrictions/picky eaters).

    Self-catering accommodation is also common in the UK outside of the big cities, although less so in them. Bed & Breakfasts are often an economical choice in the UK, and the big breakfast means a light lunch is all that’s needed. And it means you’re staying with a local person, who typically will be more than happy to tell you about the area. In the US, look for hotels with kitchenettes – the extend stay hotels often have them (and your stay needn’t actually be ‘extended’), but sometimes others do as well. In more rural areas, self-catering houses for a few days or a week are also an option. Youth hostels in both places often have private rooms, if you don’t want a dorm experience, but do want to save money and don’t mind a bit of youth hostel atmosphere.

  2. Couple of Hints from me

    I find the cheapest way with foreign exchange is to preload a ’28 Dergees’ credit card in Australian dollars and then use that to withdraw money from ATMs.

    If you plan on hiring a car its cheaper to get the risk covered with our travel insurance rather than pay by the day at the car hire company

  3. I have to quite strongly second the insurance advice. When I was a single mum, I took my two kids to the USA – they were 8 and 3 at the time. I *almost* didn’t get insurance, but found a cheap deal, so grabbed it.

    Whilst we were there, my son had febrile convulsions – I think the medical bill was over $3000 for the tests, ambulance, hospital etc – all I ended up paying was a $100 or so excess on top of the original $2-300 insurance…. WELL WORTH IT – I had NO IDEA that was going to happen and I was so glad I was covered!!

  4. If you buy your travel tickets with your gold or platinum credit card a lot offer travel insurance for free which includs the excess for hire cars. Some you have to pay the whole ticket with it others only 25% of ticket needs to be purchased with the Credit card. Also with the ANZ money travel card , you can load it by buying the cash through your ANZ Credit card ( not sure what other cards charge it as), it is not charged as a cash withdrawal but a purchase , so you get your interest free days , plus can earn frequent flyers points if you earn points on your card. So it can be an interest free loan, especially if you don’t get your holiday pay in advance.Also sets your oz $ which is a bonus while its @ a good rate. So lots of savings by using your CC.Is saves us $500/OS holiday each year. alos if your work offers a meal entertainment & accommodation tax free as part of your salary package you can also use tax free $ to travel here & OS.

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