Written by Barry Choi
Monday, April 9th, 2018
Whether you're a first-time traveller or a savvy veteran, you want to be smart with your money when you're away. A little bit of legwork before you leave can save you a lot once you're there. From managing your bills to knowing what tax refunds are available to you, these 6 tips will ensure your finances are in order by the time you're ready to leave.
Purchase Travel Insurance
As Canadians we have healthcare at home, but the second we leave the country, we're pretty much on our own. A quick trip to the doctor in the United States or overseas could cost a few hundred dollars, while an emergency room visit could cost thousands. To avoid a massive bill, purchase a travel medical insurance policy, if you don't already have the benefit through your employer or credit card. A standard policy won't typically cost you very much, but be sure to read the policy details so you know exactly what you're covered for before departing.
Exchange Some Money
These days, one of the easiest ways to get foreign currency is to use local ABMs, but keep in mind that your debit card may not work at every machine and there may be additional fees, so check with your home bank to find out who their partners are. That being said, you should arrive at your destination with at least enough local currency for a cab ride to your hotel. You can get this money from your bank or an exchange office, but be mindful of their exchange rates since they can be quite high.
Pay Your Bills in Advance
To avoid any late payments on your credit cards and other bills, always pay in advance before departing. First, log in to your account to see what you owe and when the next payment is due. You'll want to make sure that anything due while you're away is paid before you leave. You might also consider making an overpayment on your credit card to give you some buffer room while you're travelling.
Trim Your Wallet
All those loyalty cards and work ID photos may be necessary at home, but when you're on the road, for your protection, it's best to trim down what you're carrying. I only carry one credit card, my debit card, one piece of ID, and a bit of cash in my travel wallet. This way, if my wallet gets lost or stolen, I haven't lost too much. I do keep an extra credit card in my hotel safe as a backup.
Research Tax Exemptions
When you travel outside of Canada for more than 24 hours, you get some personal tax exemptions, but did you know some countries offer tax refunds to travellers for shopping? To get your VAT refund in the UK, simply shop at participating stores, request the refund forms, and provide proof (your passport) that you're eligible. With the completed forms, take your goods to the customs refund booth, which is usually located in the airport, where you can get your refund immediately or mailed to you later. In Japan, the tax-free shopping for visitors is a little easier since you can get your refund almost immediately in store by filling out a form and providing your passport.
To Tip or Not to Tip?
Every country has different standards when it comes to tipping. Who you tip and how much you tip can vary quite a bit.
In Asia, countries like South Korea, Japan, and China are mostly no-tipping, while a 10% tip in Hong Kong, Vietnam, and Thailand is pretty standard. If you're in Brazil or Chile, it's pretty normal for restaurants to add a 10% service charge, so there's no need to tip extra. However, in Colombia, adding a 5% tip on top of the service charge is standard.
Enjoy your travels!