Creative Ways I’ve Learnt to Manage Money on My Travels Abroad.

When I adopted a nomadic way of life nearly 3 years ago, I unknowingly adopted ‘nomadic’ financial ways too. I’m not sure if that’s a real term yet, but what I mean is, I’ve found sneaky creative ways of making the most of my bucks on my constant travels, without giving in to the fear of fluctuating exchange rates, getting mugged or being targeted by credit card frauds.

If you’re traveling abroad, these simple tricks will ensure that your money goes a long, safe way:

Peg the exchange rate

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Taking in the New York skyline.

That’s a lesson I learnt the hard way. On my first ever trip to the US, I booked a beautiful studio for a month, and as these things often go, decided to pay the bulk of the payment at the end of my stay. Turns out, the US dollar climbed steadily in that month and I ended up paying 1.3 times the amount in rupees, than I had planned to pay!

I promised myself that would never happen again on my travels, given how much the volatile rupee fluctuates against other currencies. My forex card, which pegs the exchange rate against 16 currencies, ensures that I never end up doubling my expenses between the start and end of a trip.

Read: How I’m Funding My Adventures Around the World Through Travel Blogging

Book flights on your home country’s travel aggregators  

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An epic sunrise in Panama!

Since my epic 6 month sojourn in Central America, this is a trick I swear by. While in the US, instead of booking flights to countries like Guatemala and Honduras on American aggregators or directly on the airline websites – which would charge me in US$ or the Central American currency – I researched flight combinations and booked them on an Indian website like Goibibo. The conversion rate seemed fair, but more importantly, I ended up saving a ton of money on foreign transactions by paying in my local currency.

Read: Saving Money to Travel? My Practical Tips

Don’t carry too much cash

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Feeling free, in Georgia 😉

On my first Euro trip, I fell prey to a common rookie mistake– money belts; gasp! My friends and family who had travelled to Europe before convinced me it wasn’t a choice, but they couldn’t have been more wrong. Countless trips to Europe (and other parts of the world) later, I can promise you: ditch that money belt. Forget traveller’s cheques too.

Carry little cash at any time, and use your plastic money. With a pegged exchange rate and little fear of fraud transactions, you can swipe your forex card at retail stores and withdraw cash from ATMs abroad. Truth is, as part of my ‘nomadic’ banking, I’ve been withdrawing money from my debit card using ATMs around the world for years; most modern ATMs have a rescue mechanism for the rare occasion that your card gets stuck (never happened to me), and the convenience of being able to withdraw a small amount of money when you run out is just incomparable.

Read: How I’ve Learnt to Stay Safe While Traveling Solo

Subscribe to transaction alerts on your phone

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Boarding down a volcano in Nicaragua!

While on the countryside of Nicaragua in Central America, I received an SMS alert of a transaction of INR 40,000 on my credit card at a Zara store in the US! I was horrified – I could spend that kind of money on an international flight, but at Zara, never. I immediately contacted my bank, who managed to stop the transaction and block my credit card. Case in point – keep your local number on and subscribe to transaction alerts over SMS. If that’s not possible, check your online banking regularly.

Read: The Story of How I Quit My Job to Travel

Buy alcohol and last-minute gifts at duty free

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Keeping warm in the Thar Desert with Seychelloise rum!

Except for local co-operatives that support a community financially and culturally, I seldom spend time shopping or buying gifts on my travels. The only way I can get away with that is airport duty free, where I’ve often made a last minute dash to buy promised gifts or local alcohol; that’s how I ended up sharing the finest Seychelloise rum with a local host in Rajasthan, and German chocolates with friends in India. A by-product of my hatred for consumerism is saving money with tax-free shopping 😉

Read: Simple Ways I’ve Learnt to Travel More Responsibly

Don’t be a penny pincher; spend on experiences

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Broke but happy – in Zanzibar!

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard fellow travellers proudly compare their travel expenses down to the penny, or hold off on tipping in a developing country to save money, or choose a miserable budget stay over a value-for-money experiential accommodation – all because traveling on a budget has become something of an egotistical competition on who can spend less. My advice – work hard, save as much as you can, and then stop counting every bit of money you spend; even scientific research proves that people who spend on experiences (as opposed to hoarding the money in fixed deposits) are happier!

Read: Unexpected Ways Long Term Travel Has Changed Me

What creative ways have you found to manage money while traveling abroad?

I wrote this post in collaboration with Axis Bank. Check out their Multi-Currency Forex Card, and connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.

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  1. Great tips! 🙂

    Couldn’t agree more with “Spend on experiences” and “Domestic Aggregators” (booked Mumbai-Munich, Amsterdam-Mum for 30,500/- inr after all discounts from Goibibo!)

    Also, can you help us with saving money on SIM cards/data cards when travelling in Europe? or free-WiFi zindaabaad? 🙂

    1. Thanks Dhaval! That flight deal was quite a steal I must say; tempted to check Europe ticket costs now 😉 I’ve mostly relied on free wifi in Western Europe – there are plenty of wireless hotspots (sometime paid hotspots, but still cheaper than data costs).

    2. I stay in the cheapest hotel available with the most decent toilet. Hotel expenses alone take one-third of the daily travel expenses. I prefer asking for lift and I cover distances less than 1 or 2 km by walking and public transportation as much as possible.

  2. In case you loose your credit card, then Western Union and the likes are a life saver! It was for me 🙂 My parents sent me cash from France to China that I could withdraw with a 10-digit number not long after they had done their share of the transaction and sent me the code.. I think something like 30 min after.

    1. Wow, that’s great to know Sev. Definitely will keep it in mind for dire situations!

  3. A smart way to save money and guard your finances during travel. I feel it makes sense to rent an apartment if you staying for a month or two:)

    1. I agree, doing exactly that in August, also because I need to slow down and catch up on work and rebuild the bank balance 😉 The joy of slow travel, here I come!

      1. Angshuman says:

        @Shivya..briliant writing and experiences.Iam enamoured and even i like to travel as well although not like a nomad. but as you have left your job where do you get money from?you already spend money on these travels.

  4. Reblogged this on aadildesai and commented:
    Worth following these useful tips during your travels.

    1. It makes sense to get one from where you do your banking, since then you can top it up with netbanking if needed. I love the features of the Axis forex card though – SMS / email alerts for every transaction help me keep my peace of mind 😉

  5. debosmita says:

    I used Axis Bank forex card during my recent travel to UK and had a not-so-pleasant experience! I was especially aghast by the fact that one does not need to put in pin after swiping in a merchant establishment (like in debit cards or credit cards) . So if one loses the card, one loses all money unless of course one is quick enough to block. I found this a bit unnerving.
    My Axis Bank card did not work at a few places but money got deducted. Their customer care was not helpful enough and the money was credited back to the account only after we left UK and had no use for pounds. We had to borrow from friends to manage the rest of the trip! Thereafter we withdrew the forex in our card and used it, which sort of negated the point of a forex card. Each withdrawal is also charged with 1 pound!

    I have blogged about it so that people are aware. Your tips here are great. Pinning this post.

  6. I’ve become obsessed with your blog now!
    So many handy little tips. Keep up the amazing work, i want to keep reading all your posts haha 😛

  7. Great tips! I especially liked the spend on experience part 😉

  8. very useful tips, Shivya. Especially for a non seasoned traveler like me

  9. Really useful tips Shivya! I especially liked the advice on using local travel aggregators.

  10. Great tips! Never used a forex card but next time I travel I may get one. Just wondering if using a credit card and debit card would be enough?

    1. Robin puri says:

      Get a ICICI bank international coral debit gives you access to Airport lounges for free and it has several other fees for foreign cash withdraw 🙂

  11. Very nice tips Shivya!

    I especially like “Don’t be a penny pincher; spend on experiences” as it’s so important to have a real feel of your destination.

    There is a debate among travellers concerning not going to tourist sights or destinations, which I think is quite wrong. You can’t be in Paris, if you haven’t gone up the Eiffel Tower, or if you’re in Rome, you should go to the Vatican regardless of the crowds or religious affiliations. It’s as bad as going to England, and not having High Tea ‘cos “it’s too expensive!” Then why bother?

    Have a great time, spend your hard-earned money doing stuff that you wouldn’t usually do, or living your dream, and when the cash is gone, go back home, work heaps, then get back out there again!

  12. Such a nice tips for save money on travels abroad. Good and complete full of information and motivation, all pictures are awesome.

  13. Pingback: Ways to Manage Money on Travelling. – TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY
  14. Couldn’t Agree more. Spend on experiences, I would rather have a life filled with memories than anything monetary.

  15. Great post, particularly love the mention of basically ‘competitive budgeting’ there’
    s definitely a limit!

  16. Wooo! I’m in my first 2 months of adopting the nomadic lifestyle and am so glad I stumbled across your blog.

  17. Ivory Wanderer says:

    Great post! Another great way to save up during travels is doing housesitting! This gives you the best places to live without any charge 🙂

  18. Great tips! Especially about carrying as little cash as possible and withdrawing money from ATM’s. This is something I have been doing for a couple of years now too, it saves the trouble of having to convert money before travelling and it means I only carry on me what I need 🙂

  19. pourtravelers says:

    Great tips! Love your page it motivates me to explore further! One of the things we do is try and put away certain amount of cash each month from our pay checks just for traveling. Then as I research things that we want to do, I withdraw from that account. Either pay upfront online for the excursion, or put the cash in an envelop marked for that trip. It actually amps me up to save more and then do more while we are out on a voyage!

  20. Pingback: Monetary Advice for the Traveler – Travel With Bri
  21. Very nice recommendations and I like your last advice most 🙂 Travelling is buying experiences, so i always justify my spending on specialties, tickets, etc. as worthy.

  22. Very handy article. We religiously follow the plastic money strategy. It’s so handy and saves us lot of tension associated with carrying cash. We normally carry <500USD while arriving at the destination airport just in case 😄

  23. So inspiring Shivya! Got me pumped up to begin the nomadic way of life next year, this year is about setting that up! Loved reading this!

  24. Sumit Mukherjee says:

    Another detailed guide! Thanks, Shivya! I have one tip to add, though many would not find it cool, I think it helps save a few bucks. Can’t we stay at hostels, rather than 3-stars? Also, don’t you think we get an opportunity to meet many like-minded people?

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