Nobody likes throwing away money, and when you're traveling, you have to work especially hard to avoid spending it. And there's a very good reason to keep a tight fist on your wallet: the more money you save while traveling, the more you can justify splurging on life-changing experiences. You don't want to miss out on a lagoon tour in Fiji because you've been scammed the day before, after all.
Here are five ways you might be throwing away money when you travel.
On Bank Fees
You'd be surprised to know just how much money you can throw away on ATM and foreign transaction fees. I regularly end up losing $1000 a year on ATM fees when I'm traveling, as there aren't any banks in the U.K. Europe or Asia that don't charge you at least $5.00 CAD for withdrawing overseas.
U.S. citizens are much luckier. Before you head out to travel, make sure to get an account with Charles Schwab, which charges no fees and refunds all of your foreign ATM fees as you travel. You'll end up saving yourself so much money for very little research and work. As Canadians were not so lucky. Our big five banks are greedy beasts.
I have met very few travelers who haven't been scammed while they've been on the run. It's a fact of travel, and it happens to most people eventually.
Unless you're well-prepared, that is. You can minimize your chances of being scammed quite easily. The main thing to do is be cautious of any locals with fantastic English, who approach you for no real reason. Most locals won't just rush up to a foreigner and try to make friends with them -- especially if it's in a place where many tourists visit, so this should immediately be a warning sign.
Trust your instincts. If something doesn't feel right, pay attention to your intuition and walk away.
On Fake Souvenirs
I've lost count of the number of people I've met who have unintentionally bought a souvenir, only to get home and discover it's fake. A popular one I have seen all to many times is Silver jewelry. Ladies buy all these amazing "silver"rings and bracelets etc... only to get home and find the turn black or brown within a few months. In Latin America don't get fooled by "Alpaca Silver" it's an un-pure form of Silver thats very popular.
The easiest way to avoid this is to do your research in advance in order to figure out how to spot fakes.
Look for recommended retailers that have been mentioned by trusted sources. Trusting a random recommendation on WikiTravel or someone on TripAdvisor, for example, isn't a smart thing to do -- it could just as easily be the owner of the shop as it could a well-meaning traveler.
On Poor Haggling
Haggling can be daunting, and as Westerners, we aren't used to doing it. It sometimes feel like you're being rude to ask for a lower price, but you have to remember that in certain parts of the world, it's expected. The last thing you want to do is agree to the first price and end up paying 20 times what the item is worth.
Again, a small amount of research to find out what the typical price is will sort you out. If in doubt, ask for a ridiculously low price and walk away when the seller turns you down. Slowly work your way up the price ladder at different vendors until someone agrees -- then you'll know you've got a fantastic price.
By Following Your Guidebook
As convenient as Guidebooks are, it's likely that as soon as a guesthouse is featured in Lonely Planet, they're going to up their prices because they know that they now have a guaranteed stream of travelers passing through their doors. Even worse: they can let their standards slip as well.
When you follow your guidebook as a bible, you'll end up paying way more for a potentially lower quality of accommodation. Instead, you should head to the place next door -- they'll have lower prices and most likely higher quality because they're working to compete with the place in the guidebook.