Even if you choose a pre-paid package holiday, there can still be plenty of potentially budget-breaking extras that sneak up on you like a pickpocket in a European station. Don’t forget to count these in when you’re doing your sums.
Essential but easy to forget. For example, a tourist visa for mainland China is $98.50 per person; for Cambodia about $50; India about $68; for the Ukraine $130; to Chile $157; and Mongolia $230 (you did want an adventure).
You have your air tickets but you need to get to and from the airport. A taxi/pre-booked car from Charles de Gaulle airport into Paris costs at least 60 euro ($85).
In Fiji, a taxi/car from Nadi Airport to the resorts on the Coral Coast can cost about $100 each way. If you fly into Colombo in Sri Lanka for a holiday at Fort Galle, taxi/car transfers are about $100 each way.
The train from Narita Airport into Tokyo is brilliant – fast and comfortable – but it still costs about $70 for two people, each way (don’t even think about taking a taxi).
Five-star eating at the airport
Five-star cost that is, not necessarily five-star food. Airports seem to operate in an entirely different financial universe from the rest of the world.
If you want to eat, it’s going to be costly, and on a long layover it can add up. It would be easy to spend $50 for lunch for two, $60 or more for dinner, plus $4-$6 for each small bottle of water (take a refillable bottle).
Costly currency exchange and travel cards
It’s your money, but it’s going to cost extra to convert it, to access it and to spend it.
Pre-paid travel cards are good, but they do cost. While most advertise “no commission”, you pay a conversion or transaction fee. For example, NAB’s Traveller Card charges 4 per cent, while Travelex Money Card charges 5.95 per cent conversion. So, with Travelex it could cost you $119 to change $2000 into a foreign currency.
The actual exchange rate (the rate you buy money at) varies between providers and fluctuates daily. It’s never much of a bargain but it is worth checking.
Some institutions charge a fee to load a travel card and then a fee to “top up”. Some only charge to top up. Some charge to close the account.
Credit card crunch
Most credit cards charge transaction or conversion fees for overseas purchases.
For example, the Commonwealth Bank charges a 3 per cent fee for purchases or cash advances on Mastercard. So a hotel bill of $900 would attract a transaction fee of at least $27. And the exchange rate from the foreign currency to AUD may not be in your favour.
Choose credit cards that don’t charge foreign transaction fees, such as 28 Degrees Platinum Mastercard or BankWest’s Zero Platinum Mastercard. Check out comparison websites such as canstar.com.au, finder.com.au or mozo.com.au. You can save hundreds of dollars.
Even if your travel card doesn’t charge a fee for ATM withdrawals, foreign banks’ will charge anything from $2.50-$8 for each withdrawal.
Withdraw using your standard Australian EFTPOS card and you will pay a transaction fee (typically 3 per cent) to convert the money to the foreign currency, plus an average $5 fee to your Oz bank and a fee to the foreign bank. That’s at least $20 paid for every $500.
Roaming charges, foreign SIMs
Telstra and Optus offer pre-paid international roaming for about $10 a day. If you are away for three weeks, that’s $210.
Local foreign SIMs and international travel SIMs are often better value but still add to your costs. Check out whistleout.com.au.
Your daily hire car rate might be a real bargain, but watch for extras. Hire companies always try to up-sell insurance – often as much as the day rate for the car.
A loading to pick up the car at the airport could add an extra 10-12 per cent to the total cost. A second driver and a GPS could add another $20 or more a day. Toll fees? Petrol? All up, it could be triple the original price quoted.
The tipping point
Tipping can add up, particularly in the US. There’s a constant drip for restaurants (15-30 per cent), housekeeping, room service, concierges, car parking valets, tour guides.