How to Avoid Hidden Costs When Travelling Part 2, Travel Prep, Accommodation, Touring and Eating

By Randall Orser | Budget

Travelling is an adventure, but it can become a financial nightmare if you do not stick to your budget and make sure that you careful to avoid the hidden costs especially at hotels and restaurants.

When making your travel budget, don’t forget expenses that you will have to cover before you leave, such as travel visas, taking care of your pet and cell phone roaming.

Travel Visa - Check if you need a visa to enter countries that you are planning to visit. You may be able to get your visa when you arrive at your destination, but sometimes it can be cheaper to get it ahead of time.  A travel visa service might be more convenient to use but will usually be more expensive. 

Pet Care - Kennels and professional pet sitters are expensive, and you don’t always want to burden friends and relatives with your pets.  Think about “house sitting” where someone will stay in your house for free in exchange for looking after your pets.  You also might be able to stay at their house, giving both parties the experience of living like a local without paying for accommodation.

Cell Phone Roaming - A big mistake that people make when travelling is to use their cell phone.  This often results in a huge unexpected charge on their bill when they return home. The best way around this is to either check with your provider to see if they offer a fixed price package to use while in another country or alternatively, if you can unlock your phone you can get a local SIM card (often available at the airport when you arrive) or purchase an unlocked phone and use it just for travel.  


Hotels can be expensive so research alternative places to stay such as Airbnb’s, hostels, house exchanges or renting an apartment .  If you have to stay in a hotel here are some of the hidden fees that you need to be aware of so that you don’t rack up a bigger than expected bill.

Minibar – These are always hugely overpriced so always avoid them, use the vending machine in the lobby or a local store for your drinks.  If drinks and treats are left in your room, check to see if they are complimentary, if not they will be as expensive as the minibar.

Hotel Parking – It might be cheaper to use a parking lot close by.

WiFi – Hotel lobby WiFi is usually free. Some hotels include free in-room WiFi in their room rate.  Check if this is the case (if you are a member of the hotel’s loyalty program it usually is) before you use it, and if not, use the WiFi in the lobby.  

Currency Exchange – Don’t use a hotel desk to exchange money, you will always be overcharged.

Phone Calls - Unless the hotel offers free local calls, don’t use the room phone for local calls, and definitely don’t use it for long distance calls!  Buy a local prepaid phone card and use a pay phone. 

Hotel Laundry – Look for a local coin-operated laundry and to save money buy detergent from the local store or bring some from home.  

Room Service – Always a luxury, very overpriced with mediocre food.  Eat at the hotel restaurant for better choices and prices. Ask the concierge for local restaurant recommendations which are usually better priced and have more authentic local food.


Travel is always an adventure and you should have wonderful experiences.  However, some experiences can be more expensive than others so here are some ways that you can save money.

Guided Tours - Do research into tours in the area, sometimes it is cheaper to book and pay when you arrive rather than booking on-line.  Consider free walking tours where guides donate their time just for tips.

Restaurants - It is always best to avoid restaurants in tourist areas as they are usually overpriced.  Lunch is usually cheaper than dinner and mostly has the same menu.  Be aware that tipping can be offensive in some countries, so make sure you are aware of local customs and tipping expectations.  Often tips are not expected, servers are paid a proper wage and tips are considered a bonus.  You should also check if a gratuity has already been added to your bill so that you don’t tip twice.

Snacks and Water - Concession stands in tourist areas are also expensive, bring your own food for the day or buy at a local store.  Instead of buying water in plastic bottles, as the cost can really add up, and it’s not good for the environment, bring your own reusable water bottle and bring a “Steripen” to use if you are worried about local water quality.

Taxis - To avoid overpaying for taxis check with hotel staff to see how much a taxi to your destination should be and confirm the rate with the driver. Alternatively take public transit or use ride sharing.

Buying Souvenirs – Everyone loves a reminder of a fabulous trip but take care when buying those “locally made” items.  Check out a number of stores and if you see the same item everywhere, it is probably cheaply made somewhere else.  Don’t forget to haggle, in many countries it is expected.  Learn a few local phrases to help you when haggling.  It is polite to do so, and the vendor might be more likely to give you a good deal!   

From an article by the Professional Hobo


About the Author

President/CEO Number Crunchers® Accounting Inc. Learn how to just say stuff it to this bookkeeping thing with our 'Just Say: "Stuff It" To Bookkeeping program.