The secret costs of travelling

Everyone loves travelling. It’s exciting, you meet new people and you try new things. You escape the banality of life back home. It’s an adventure, and you learn new things about the world at large.

Travelling is addictive and some people never stop. There are even those who make a living out of travelling.

It’s one of those things that can be life-changing, and once you get the travel bug, you’re hooked for life. It’s because when you go out and explore the world, you realise just how much else is out there. You want to keep experiencing more.

Globetrotting can be expensive or it can be very cheap, it just depends on your preferences and your approach to your adventures.

However, there are certain costs associated with travelling that no one ever talks about. These costs can bite you in the bum at the most inconvenient of times.

Here are 13 secrets costs of travelling that no one talks about and what you can do to avoid them:

  1. “Tourist prices” – This is when you are charged more expensive prices just because you are a tourist. In countries that are much poorer, it can be understandable to charge higher than local prices. The tourist price is often still significantly lower than what the tourist would pay at home.

However, there are some places like Italy or Spain, where you may have to watch out for being charged tourist prices. For locals, the prices are much cheaper, and you could sometimes end up paying the same amount as you would back home.


To avoid this, you may want to get taken out by a local so that they can help you avoid getting taken advantage of. Some group tours offer an authentic experience where you get taken around by a local. It is even worth getting some advice from locals about good places for tourists to go and eat and shop.

  1. Insurance vs. no insurance – Getting travel insurance can be expensive and can be an additional cost to your trip. However, if something unanticipated happens while you are away such as a medical emergency or theft, this could end up costing you much more without insurance. If you have a medical emergency in foreign country, it can cost thousands of dollars in fees while could be disastrous.

It’s therefore worth doing a bit of research about what travel insurance options are available out there. There are some good companies that will offer comprehensive deals on travel insurance and, often, credit card companies offer free insurance if you use your card to book your trip, so make sure you shop around.

  1. Tipping – In certain countries it’s customary to tip. For example, in the US it is considered very impolite if you don’t leave a tip. For many countries in Europe it is also normal to tip hospitality staff. An acceptable amount is around 10% the total bill. In some countries, service is added to the end of the bill. For example, in Brazil you don’t need to leave a tip – the service is included at the end of the bill but it is not compulsory to pay it.

It is worthwhile doing some research on the local tipping practice before arriving in that destination. Another alternative could be to speak to a local and get their advice on what is considered appropriate tipping practice. That way you can factor tipping into your travel budget or leave it out altogether.

  1. Currency exchange – Currency exchange costs can be sneaky and you could unwittingly lose money this way if you haven’t done some research. If you need to exchange money while abroad, be careful where you go to exchange cash.

You can risk getting ripped off by dodgy lenders who charge you extremely high rates to exchange money. If you are unaware of how much you should receive in return for your currency, you could risk being heavily overcharged if you aren’t familiar with the exchange rate.

Ultimately, before travel abroad it’s imperative you do some research on the exchange rates for the currencies of the places you are visiting and worth asking exchange agents and banks if what they’ve offered is their best price.

  1. International Roaming charges – This can be very dangerous. If you take your phone abroad and you have a phone contract, you risk racking up huge roaming fees. Furthermore, it often happens fast. Within a few phone calls or a small use of data. Receiving your bill with these extra charges can be absolutely devastating.

It’s less risky for pre-paid phones that require you to top-up credit. They simply won’t let you do anything when they run out of credit. However, even if you top up, that credit can be eaten up incredibly fast.

To avoid, such unfortunate circumstances, it is best to check with your mobile phone provider about what deals that have when travelling abroad. You could also get a global sim card just to use while you’re are away travelling or a local one once you arrive in your destination country.

Get a global sim card here:

  1. Getting to and from the airport – this is a type of expense that might sneak up on you. It’s another example of where it is important to do your research before you go. Taxis are often waiting outside the airport, and there might be other forms of transport to get to your destination. However, these may not necessarily be the most cost-effective options.

The more economical options may not be clearly advertised and the only way to know about them would be to do some research prior to your travel. For example, the Gatwick express train that takes you from Gatwick airport into London costs £18 and is clearly advertised for everyone to see as soon as you step off the plane. In the meantime, there is another regular train that only takes 10 minutes longer and costs less than half the price! It is worth seeing if your accommodation offer any shuttles as these are often much cheaper, and they know exactly where to go.

  1. Heavy luggage fees – This is a nasty one. The last thing you want to get stung with once you arrive at the airport is hearing that your bag is overweight and that it’s going to cost you. This can be a bitter start to your trip. Similarly, it could also be a disappointing end to your travels. You’ve bought a bunch of souvenirs and gifts ready to bring home to friends and family, and now you’ve got to pay even more for them.

Airlines can charge you ridiculous amounts per kilo over your baggage limit. Though, some airlines offer discounts if you book extra baggage online before arriving at the airport. However, it’s always worth checking how much you bag weighs and trying to get it under the limit to avoid those unnecessary fees.

You could also find out what your total luggage allowance is – if your airline allows it, it may be much cheaper to buy an extra bag at the airport and check it in.

  1. Cancellation fees – It’s always important to look at the cancellation fees associated with accommodation. There are lots of accommodation options you can book whereby you have free cancellation up to a certain date. However, there are some places that will have a non-refundable deposit policy. It is therefore imperative to look at the fine print of the terms and conditions to make sure that you know where you stand.

If you know you need some flexibility with your accommodation, make sure you look at the accommodation policy to see if you able to cancel if need be.

  1. Missed flights – If you miss a flight and don’t have insurance, it could cost you a lot to rebook the flights. If it is your fault for missing the flight, an airline won’t take responsibility. Airlines also don’t have to take responsibility when natural causes prevent you from catching the flight. For larger and well-reputed airline carriers, they may re-book flights for you in the case of a natural disaster, but this is a lot less likely to occur with low cost carriers.
  2. Card fees – Using your card abroad can incur transaction fees that add up. If you use your card abroad you can end paying unnecessary transaction fees for the convenience. There are often fees for using a certain bank machine, plus the cost of the exchange rate that your bank gives you.

A way to avoid this would be to get a travel card, which is a special travel credit card that allows you to put money on it before you travel and withdraw money abroad without incurring those extra fees. You could also take out a certain amount of cash in that currency and take it with you. The only drawback with this option is that it can be risky to carry a lot of cash around with you when you are travelling around.

  1. Car rental fees – You can find good deals out there for car rentals when travelling. However, there are still some hidden fees that can slip in under the rug. For instance, if you are under 25, car rental companies will charge you much higher fees. This is because you are considered riskier drivers as you have less driving experience.

In addition, car rental companies will often charge you more if you want to add an extra driver to the contract and will try to throw in extra insurance costs even though the standard option is more than suitable. It’s worth checking the policy to find out how they’ll charge you for filling the fuel tank up once you return the car – sometimes it can be cheaper to fill it up yourself. Make sure to check out our 6 car tips n tricks.

Finally, it’s important to check the condition of the car before you start driving it, in case there are any damages or marks that you could be charged for when you return the car.

  1. Airline fees – low cost carriers often charge a bunch of additional fees if you want to add anything to your service. If you want to choose your seat, there is a fee. Do you have a bag to check in? You’ve got to pay for that too. If you would like to consume any food or drinks, this will also have to be paid for.

Low cost carriers that do long-haul flights may even charge you to use their in-flight entertainment system. These fees add up.

If, for some reason, you had to change your flight, there are often high charges for changes, and it’s sometimes worth buying a whole new ticket with a low-cost carrier.

  1. Opportunity costs – Another thing to consider is, what else could you be doing that might be more cost effective. For instance, is the destination you choose to go to the most affordable place to travel to right now, or should it go onto your bucket list? There may be an array of other destinations that are much less expensive where you could get more out of your money and your time. What is the opportunity cost of your travels?

In addition, you could consider whether travelling is the best decision to make in your life now. Perhaps you are saving up for a car or a home. Consider what implications taking a big trip could have on those plans, especially if it ends up costing a bit more than expected as holidays often do. It’s much more cost effective to save up a larger sum of money when you apply for a home loan. If you have a greater deposit it could save you thousands of dollars from years of paying interest.

As you can tell there are many secret costs associated with travelling that can easily be overlooked. Many of the things mentioned above are things that we often don’t even think about. Some of them are are unexpected costs, that may be a result of an emergency. It is therefore useful to do a bit of research on each one of these issues before you travel.

Getting things like travel insurance, a global sim or a travel credit card could all help you avoid such unnecessary expenses. Though there are some other secret costs that you may not be able to plan, such as tourist prices. Getting some advice from locals when you arrive could help with this.

However, if you do find yourself in one of the above situations and have not taken the preventative measures outlined above, not all hope is lost. You could still always consider taking out a quick personal loan. You simply apply online, state the amount that you wish to borrow and repay it over a certain period. This could be the answer to any unexpected expenses that occur during your travels. So, don’t stress if you’ve been stung by a hidden travel costs, you know what to do.