5 Things You Shouldn’t Spend Money On While Abroad

5 Things You Shouldn’t Spend Money On While Abroad

by Sam Bryan

If you’re spending extended time abroad – whether as a student, a volunteer, a digital nomad, or whatever else – sticking to your budget is usually a priority. Of course there are some exceptions, and people who do well enough to indulge wherever they may be. If you’ve set yourself up in that camp, more power to you! But for most regular travelers or people spending months at a time in foreign countries, the financial picture can be a complicated one. It’s important to know how much you have available, know how much your day-to-day activity will cost and, above all else, know when not to spend. While some of the novelty can wear off for regular travelers, it’s still deceptively easy to spend more than you mean to in a foreign place. So I wrote up some tips on how to avoid doing just that!

Here are a few of the things you should avoid spending money on:

1. Fancy Restaurants

Some particularly experienced travelers may roll their eyes at the very idea of spending a lot of money on a fancy restaurant. But it can be tempting, even if you’re used to sticking tightly to your budget. Most major destinations have at least some sort of place that rates highly in only travel guides, costs a bit more, and has a fancier ambiance and more expensive menu. These places, however, should be avoided at all costs (no pun intended). Usually they’re not particularly authentic, which means you can get a more affordable and more genuine feel for the destination you’re in by simply eating cheaper, local foods.

2. Souvenirs

Money wasted on meaningless trinkets could have been spent on meaningful memories. That’s a bit harsh, but it’s a line I’m borrowing from a more thorough account on why it’s not a good idea to buy souvenirs. The debate would be around whether souvenirs are really “wasted” or “meaningless,” and in some cases they’re certainly more than that. But the general idea stands. Buying souvenirs adds up quickly, and ultimately it’s the experience and the photos you’ll remember most. Try to limit yourself to a small token or something particularly meaningful rather than getting bogged down with ordinary souvenirs.

5 Things You Shouldn't Spend Money On While Abroad

3. Tours

Paid city tours may become a thing of the past anyway. The truth of the matter is that we have such easy access to guidebooks and online itineraries that there’s less and less need to pay someone on the ground to show you around. Granted, some traditionalists will argue that a true, skilled local guide can do better than any book or article, and it may be true. However, such a guide isn’t necessary, particularly if you’re staying somewhere for a while, or even living there. Half the fun is getting to know a destination on your own terms anyway.

4. Casinos

Lots of places around the world still list live casinos among their top attractions, but the truth is they’re largely outdated. A huge variety of international websites now provide the same games, either for free or for paid play. You can also find guides online to which games to play and where to play them to enjoy a fun and successful gaming experience. And this is all without paying for the extras of an in-person casino: the drinks, the tips for the dealers, the side entertainment or in-house restaurant, etc. The bottom line is that in-person casinos are common attractions, but also specifically designed to drain your wallet. So, if you want to play these games, online is a better option anyway.

5. Banking Fees

Banking fees are fairly easy to avoid, though a lot of people don’t take the basic steps necessary to do so. Basically, if you’re abroad with your ordinary credit cards and you don’t prepare, you’ll probably be charged fees for any transactions you initiate. However, by getting a credit card without foreign fees, exchanging currency in advance, avoiding ATMs, or even opening a new bank account that doesn’t have foreign fees, you can steer clear of these fees – which do add up over time.


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