The Gap Year Travel Guide was lucky enough to grab money guru Martin Lewis and ask him about the best way to keep your bank balance looking as sunny as your holiday! Since 2000 Martin has been giving out his advice via his website, radio programmes and features on TV; now he’s sharing a few tips on how to manage your gap year finance.
“Make sure you have the money, and plan accordingly. Most people only think of flights, travel and accommodation. Think about how you’re going to live whilst you’re away.”
Most people, especially first time travellers, only take into account key things when travelling; but life isn’t predictable. While a budget is great to have, you just can’t anticipate some expenses — like if you needed medical care.
Have a checklist of all of your money needs. This can include membership fees, registration fees, living costs, visas – each one of these requires money and isn’t quite as obvious as a flight!
“The thing you need to consider is: how are you going to live when you are away?”
If you’re driving around your destination city, you’re going to need petrol. If you’re getting a bus, you need bus fair. Expenses we don’t think about at home become more apparent when you don’t have access to all of your funds. Be sure to make allowances in your budget for commuting, buying snacks or souvenirs and other mundane things — all the little things you take for granted when you can draw cash out easily.
On carrying money abroad…
Carrying money abroad is a risky option, but Martin asks:
“If you do take cash, how are you going to store it and keep it safe?”
If you really want to carry cash around with you there are a few things to remember:
• The safest way to carry money abroad is by using a money belt around your waist. Hide it under your t-shirt and it’s completely out of sight. The best rule to follow is out of sight, out of mind. If no one see’s your cash they won’t know it’s there.
• You may want to hide some money on you, like in your socks – just in case you lose your bag.
• When you go out, only take the amount you need and leave the rest of your cash in a safe at your accommodation.
• Check your change! As you aren’t familiar with the currency, working it out will be a little harder but it stops you being short changed!
On using money abroad…
There are many ways of accessing your cash online, so we asked Martin for his top tips.
“Try a prepaid currency card, essentially an electronic traveller’s cheque”
According to Martin, the best way to go is by getting a prepaid currency card. This works like a holiday gift card; before you leave you can load on your currency and you are good to go! It’s safer than carrying a lot of cash on you.
Most can be linked to a bank account so you can top up while you’re travelling. You can also get family at home to load the cards if you need a little bit extra.
Loading the cards is free too so there’s no excuse for going without! When you want to pay for something using this card it’s normally a chip and pin system like a debit card. You can also often withdraw the money from cash points but you may be charged a small fee each time.
Martin’s pick of currency cards:
“The thing to remember about a gap year is it has to be paid for. Plan Accordingly”
Getting out the plastic-fantastic can be a good way to free up extra money on your trip. Look out for credit cards that have a perfect exchange rate and low withdrawal rates. It’s safer than using your debit card, if it is lost or stolen, the thief will only have access to some of your money, rather than all of your savings.
While this is all well and good, credit cards have to be paid off. Remember to set up a direct debit to repay the money back every month to avoid sky-high interest charges.
Martin’s pick of credit cards to use overseas:
While this is a time to go a little bit mad, you still need to keep a good head on your shoulders.