1. Sign up to a bank or building society where it’s free to withdraw cash abroad.
Be aware that an overseas ATM or retailer may add their own charge, on top of your banks charge for cash withdrawals. At the time of research Cuban cash machines charged up to 11%
For UK citizens
I practically tore my hair out searching for a bank that doesn’t charge for overseas cash withdrawal. Most banks now, outside of Europe will charge up to 2.75% on overseas transactions. For up to 1 year of travelling I would have been charged nearly £600 in bank fees.
I signed up to Norwich and Peterborough Building Society’s Gold Classic Current Account, which (at the time of writing) offers FREE cash withdrawals worldwide.
Your card can be used worldwide in any cash machine with a Visa and/or PLUS symbol.
You need to be able to transfer a minimum of £500 a month into this account otherwise you will be charged £5 a month. You also need to arrange your account opening at least 4 weeks ahead of travelling.
I kept my HSBC account open (as at the time it offered the best ISA rate for my savings) and set up a standing order of £500 to be paid into the NPBS account.
I also opened an account with Metro Bank as a back-up, as their rate was 1.9% on foreign loading fees and £1 fee on withdrawals.
UPDATE: August 2017
The N&P is coming to an end and closing down. However, there are other Debit cards / Credit Cards out there that offer 0% on cash withdrawals. Here is a handy link: http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/travel/overseas-card-charges
Money Saving Expert is a great resource.
Outside of the UK
I found some really helpful information on Nomadic Matt’s site when I was researching. Here are some useful tips about how to avoid paying bank fees whilst travelling, for people who live outside of the UK .
2. Check country entry requirements before travelling.
Many countries require you to arrange Tourist Cards and Visas prior to travelling.
Although our agent was great and got us the best rates for flights, he didn’t make us aware of the entry requirements for Cuba. Had I not researched myself beforehand, we would have lost our flight, as you need to arrange a tourist card with the Cuban consulate before boarding the flight. NEVER ASSUME people are going to tell you what you need to take – you need to research this for yourself. A useful website for this kind of information is:
Search the country you are travelling to and click on Entry Requirements.
3. Get your jabs sorted and shop around!
Get to know what jabs you need before visiting the doctor.
Doctors vary and their advice, unfortunately, can’t always be trusted. Be aware that much of the advice offered by a GP may be ‘commission based’ advice. Pharmaceutical companies are out there to make money and the GP / doctor, in many cases, is the middle man.
It’s important that you know what vaccinations you need before you visit the doctors.
I discovered this site www.statravelclinic.co.uk when I was comparing prices online for Yellow Fever vaccinations. This clinic is a MASTA clinic and they source their information from local disease outbreak reports and the World Health Organisation. Pretty reliable!
- Visit www.statravelclinic.co.uk as if you were to book an appointment.
- After providing your itinerary the site tells you what vaccinations are required and recommended for each country you plan to visit. You have a full travel health brief that you can download, including maps of the countries you’re visiting detailing which areas have high malarial risks and the specific antimalarial drugs you will need.
So you now know EXACTLY what you need and how much of it you will need.
The catch with booking an appointment through a Masta Travel Clinic is that you have to pay for something when you get there, otherwise there is a consultation charge. However, there’s no harm in booking an appointment just so you can access the information you need, and then cancelling straight after.
It is always useful to do a few comparative searches. My travel nurse used this site to assess my medical needs: www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk
Find out what injections are free via your doctor or GP by calling them or visiting their website.
Malaria tablets are dished out by pharmaceutical companies and so prices are competitive. Speak to your doctor/travel nurse and refer to MASTA travel clinic/Fit-for-Travel about which Malaria tablets you will need and then shop around.
I managed to get 3 months worth of Malaria tablets on prescription (114 pills of Doxycycline for £8) just because I am a Lambeth resident. The remaining 79 tablets I needed for Indonesia I bought for £29. I visited the following site which offered the cheapest deal on the net at the time of research: www.medexpress.co.uk Also, if you keep the drugs in your medexpress shopping basket for a few hours you will receive an email asking you to come back, offering £5 off your order.
To Rabies or Not To Rabies
Do it, do it, do it!
Our friend is a tour guide in Latin America. One of the people on her tour was bitten by a dog who didn’t have an owner with him. The guy had 6 hours to get medical attention. Had he had a Rabies vaccination he would have had 36 hours and could have taken a particular drug to fight the potential disease (Immune Globulin) which would have rendered him OK. However, you cannot take that drug without having had previous rabies vaccinations. So the rabies vaccination doesn’t protect you against the fatal disease but it does buy you time and means you can access the right medication so you don’t have to fly home. This guy had to go home and his trip had only just begun.
I’m no expert on Rabies, this is just what I’ve picked up. People avoid getting the vaccination because of the cost. It is administered 3 times and each time costs on average, in the UK, £55. Again, I researched and found a local clinic who offered it for £25 a shot. http://www.yourtravelclinic.co.uk/
It is worth getting this vaccination for peace of mind!
4. Take important information with you
- Make a note of your doctor’s number. It’s perfectly feasible to call your doctor at home for a diagnosis or second opinion over the phone. In some cases, your insurance company will insist you talk to someone in your home country.
- Bank contact details
- Emergency contacts
- Hostels/hotels you have booked with
- Embassies in each country you are visiting
Tap these numbers into your phone if you’re taking one.
- Insurance papers
- Visas, tourist cards and copies of them
- Accommodation confirmations and payment confirmations
- Medical certificates, i.e., for Rabies or Yellow Fever
- Currency cheat sheets. Get a breakdown of the exchange rates via http://www.oanda.com/currency/travel-exchange-rates This site is great as you can print off the sheets and cut them down to fit in your wallet.
Take paper copies of all of the above with you and email yourself an electronic copy of all documents in case you lose anything.
5. Travel insurance – know what you’re covered for.
If you have connecting flights make sure you know where you stand if you miss the connection.
If the airlines are the same it usually means any costs or accommodation are covered by the airline, who will also make sure you can get on the next available flight.
It’s also a good idea to check the procedures you need to follow on claiming back money should you lose/break anything or need medical attention that you have to pay for.