Managing Your Money On The Move – Tips For Keeping Solvent While Traveling

January 28, 2014 by  
Filed under Lodging, Money, Security

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money smiley face

The key to not worrying about money is making sure you don’t run out of it. That holds true whether you’re traveling or not; but when you are on the go and converting currencies with a variable income there is a tendency to balance your budget on the fly. That’s where most travelers get into financial trouble because our brains have evolved to focus on large expenditures (called “efficient selection“) and ignore the details of those things that don’t excite us emotionally.

Fortunately for us, computers don’t have to care to care about keeping track of our money and what does excite us – travel – is just the incentive we can use to fill in the gaps from there.

You Suck At Estimating – Science Says So

The worst thing you can try to do is keep track of a budget without assistance. We consistently overestimate our memories and concentration – a good reason to come up with an automated, efficient, and completely digital travel budget. To avoid having that “oh, where did all my money go” moment you need a backup plan. Leaving everything behind to head out on an adventure is romantic but nobody ever writes about the traveler who ends up broke and living with mom. You don’t want to be that nomad, here’s how to avoid it.

Use A 3-Month Plan Rent Strategy

Your largest expenditure most anywhere in the world is typically rent and the most important. To survive in the travel wild you need to secure shelter and this 3-month buffer plan can help you identify problems before you’re living in the streets.

sanaa yemen streets

In case your income becomes thin:

  • Month 1: Helps you identify a problem in your budget
  • Month 2: Gives you time to find a solution and save
  • Month 3: In case you don’t find a solution to your budget woes

This strategy can be adapted to your particular situation (6 month plan or something similar) but you need a buffer. Aside from keeping a roof over your head, this buffer – as you add on to it – will give you an idea of how much extra (read: travel) money you’ll have to enjoy. More buffer, more travel.

Find Banks That Don’t Charge You Fees

Depending on where you live and where you’re going this can vary but two of the best banks in the world (that don’t charge fees for withdrawals from global ATMs) are Charles Schwab and HSBC. They can be found in 85 countries and have over 7,200 branches; chances are there’s one somewhere where you’ll be visiting.

  • Transfer Money Wisely – High-interest savings accounts like INGDirect or Ally can earn you a few cents and dollars each month but are also useful as fee-free money movers between bank accounts. (They also let you send and receive money from some accounts to avoid Paypal fees.)

Aside from avoiding fees, choosing the right bank for international travel can help you earn frequent flyer miles keep your assets liquid as latinum.

Withdraw Big, Carry Small

Withdrawal and currency conversion fees add up (use Latte Factor to calculate how much) so limit how many times you go to the bank. As a general rule, each day you shouldn’t carry more than you’re willing to have stolen (as a precaution) but you don’t want to withdraw too often.

  • Have Multiple Accounts – A main, a backup, and one for emergencies. Avoid carrying all 3 cards on you in case of pick pocketing.

Track Fees And See Where Your Money Goes

My personal favorite Mint is an online budgeting tool that connects to most bank and credit card accounts to closely track where your money goes. Mint is especially useful in tracking fees and sends weekly email updates.

  • Don’t Get Stuck With The Bill – The free iOS/Android/Web app Splitwise lets you track expenses so everyone puts in their fair share during group trips.

Notify Your Bank And Protect Your Financial Flank

Now that you’re tracking your money, trick your mind into spending less by adding the right symbols to your bar tabs. Also, make sure you have access to all your funds by notifying your banks of any international travel before your trip. Many financial institutions will place temporary blocks on accounts accessed from international locations as a precaution. (Another good reason to have multiple accounts.) A quick call to let them know you’ll be headed to the beaches of Boracay for two weeks will help keep your account accessible, make the person on the phone a bit jealous, and have you even more excited to travel.

This is the updated and refreshed version of a guest post I originally wrote for, which closed its digital doors last year.

Answers To All The Questions You’re Likely To Ask Before Visiting Yemen

December 12, 2013 by  
Filed under Advice, Security, Travel Unravel

al reyadi yemen

Yemen is one of the most internally contradicting countries I have ever visited, which is why I’m not surprised it’s the place I get the most varied questions about regularly. For some, the uncertainty immediately discounts Yemen as a travel destination, though I suspect if you’re asking, the confusion is what’s peaking your interest.

Why Would I Want To Go To Yemen?

For starters, Yemen is a large country that includes the Socotra archipelago, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which you can visit without having to stop in the mainland first. (There are direct flights from the United Arab Emirates.) Socotra has more than 700 species of wildlife and plant not found anywhere else on the planet, with hardly any tourists visiting its beautiful beaches outlining what many consider Earth’s most alien landscape. I traveled to Yemen with my friend and fellow blogger Wandering Earl, who shows you why you should travel to Socotra below.

  • Travelers Interested In The Mainland – These are some of the reasons to visit Yemen I’ve written about previously.

What Is A Reputable Tour Company, Do I Need One?

Travelers to the mainland not leaving the capitol Sana’a don’t need a guide but the government requires foreigners to obtain permits before visiting other non-restricted parts of the country. Only a registered travel agency in Yemen can get those permits for you and not using a guide makes the country extremely difficult to navigate. I used and would highly recommend local company Eternal Yemen. (When making arrangements, ask for driver Ali, who’s one of the nicest people to chew khat with.)

manakah yemen

How Dangerous Is Yemen?

There is no simple answer and I’ve written in detail whether is it safe to travel to Yemen or not. Access to most of the country’s volatile regions is restricted by the government and if you use a reputable agency like Eternal Yemen, you won’t go anywhere near them. Eternal Yemen also arranges quality guides and drivers; the second point being an important one, as Yemen’s roads are some of the world’s deadliest.

hayab yemen

While Traveling In Yemen, Did I See Anything That Concerned Me?

A lot at first! What I mean is that in the mainland (not Socotra) there are security checkpoints with armored guards frequently in Sana’a and along the roads throughout cities. It looks less safe than it is, particularly inside of Sana’a where the amount of heavily armed checkpoints immediately draws your attention. Outside of the capitol, the towns are remote, have low populations, and I can describe as laid back.

bokur yemen

picard wavingHow Welcoming Are Yemenis To Foreigners, Americans, Or Other Westerners?

Very. I traveled with height-advantaged Bostonian Wandering Earl and everyone was very friendly. I never once felt unsafe or anything negative from the Yemenis I met. In the old market in Sana’a, everyone will want to talk to you, practice English, and are curious in a good way. That’s common around the country. (And if you are a Turkish man, everyone will call you Murat, I can’t count how many times I discussed Kurtlar Vadisi with locals.)

What Is It Like For Women Traveling In Yemen?

Tina Zorman, who runs Eternal Yemen, shared with us everything you might want to know about solo female travel to Yemen.

Should I Buy Travel Insurance For Yemen?

Generally speaking, it’s never a good idea to travel without insurance. Many of the reasons you need travel insurance were covered in my recent live chat with Katrina Greeves and in Yemen you might want to consider ransom insurance as well. Although the odds of kidnapping happening to you are overwhelmingly low (1-2 foreigners kidnapped monthly out of the 500,000 in Yemen) companies like Clements have plans that pay ransoms. A good precaution to take as the average kidnapping in Yemen lasts less than 48 hours – for a price.

I Enjoy Yemeni Culture, But Am Also Interested In Socotra Island. Is It worth Going For The Cultural Aspect?

There aren’t a lot of people to interact with, simply because Socotra’s so sparsely populated. You’ll likely have a guide(s) with you who will be Socotri (completely different language, distinct culture that’s a blend of east African-SE Asian) who can help you connect with other locals. I recommend you visit, I don’t think there is any place quite like it. So few people go, it’s hardly been touched by tourism, I found the people fascinating and they were just as interested in me.

socotra island dock

Can I Go Out At Night In Yemen?

Depends on where you are in the country – there is a lot of regional variation. Outside of Sana’a you probably wouldn’t have many options or reasons to go out. I felt it was safe in general but it’s important to take the advice of your guide/hotel manager/etc. You’ll have to read between the lines a bit as they don’t overtly tell you to avoid specific places but hint at it strongly. Go with their advice and all should be well.

sanaa yemen rainbow

What Should I Wear?

You can dress in typical Western clothes, though shorts would stand out and isn’t generally seen there. Also, bring warm clothes, in mainland Yemen nights are chilly, especially up in the mountains.

Let Me Know If You’re Ready To Go Or Want More To Know

Hopefully I’ve been able to clear up some aspects of traveling in Yemen for you although there’s a good chance all I’ve done is confused you further. If it’s the former and you’re considering going, here’s a bit more on how to travel to Yemen and Socotra. For everyone else, feel free to ask anything I may not have covered above in the comments below.

Ask One Of The World’s Largest Providers: When Do I Really Need To Get Travel Insurance?

December 3, 2013 by  
Filed under Discussion, Security, Travel Unravel

katrina world nomadsThe words travel and insurance put together sound reasonable but it’s not always clear when you might need to consider it and if you do, what to look for. My live chat guest today can clear up the somewhat hazy subject of travel insurance so you can ultimately be more secure in your travels.

As the Global Product Marketing Manager for World Nomads, Katrina Greeves keeps their travel insurance program relevant, competitive and accessible to English speaking travelers from over 140 countries. A traditionally trained marketer with a tourism background, Katrina translates insurance speak into language travelers understand. She also listens and connects with travelers to develop travel services to support their passions, envisaging new ways to sell online and coding just enough HTML to make the web developers sweat.

The chat is now closed, thank you everyone for joining!

Katrina will be online later tonight from the future, in Sydney, Australia (where World Nomads is based) to answers all of your questions about what travel insurance covers, the costs, and when you may not need it. What’s been confusing you about travel insurance shouldn’t be for much longer – ask away in the comments below.

Is Sarajevo Safe?

November 14, 2013 by  
Filed under Advice, Car, Security

is sarajevo safe

That question, whether or not Sarajevo is safe enough to visit, is one I’m surprised to be writing; nearly as surprising as it was to hear from many curious travelers. Although safety and security are valid concerns worth brushing up on before you visit anywhere, it seems in the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s capital, extraordinary worries of war remain but the real concerns are more mundane.

sebilj fountain sarajevoYour Self Is Safe

Sarajevo was the center of the 1992-1995 Bosnian War and endured the longest siege of a capital city since World War II. An important part of their history you should learn about during your visit; I highly recommend a day HYH City Tour which will give you an excellent overview. However, the violence of the Bosnian War is long gone, so much so that according to the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) violent crime in Sarajevo is not something to be concerned about. The Canadian embassy in Bosnia says the same, which makes sense since both countries have about the same violent crime rate. [United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report; Excel]

Less Dangerous Than Belgium But Watch Your Pockets

On the whole, although Bosnia and Herzegovina is safer than Belgium and 73% of all other countries in the world, theft and property crime rates in Sarajevo are high. There are no foreign troops (NATO left in 2005) or snipers in the hills but the effects of a lost generation with 40% unemployment fuels the main threat to travelers in Sarajevo – petty crime such as pickpocketing and purse-snatching.

Those of you driving into Sarajevo should be especially careful as the roads are most likely to get you killed while being mindful not to leave anything in your car. Vehicles with foreign plates are especially tempting targets as are the compartments of day packs tourists like to walk around with. The less interaction you have with the police – advice that goes for anywhere in the world – the better. Corruption among government institutions is rampant as any Bosnian will frustratingly tell you.

The UNODC says if you’re paying a bribe in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it’s probably to either a cop or doctor. Keep in mind that 40% of Bosnians refuse to pay up to crooked authorities and you should too – but the key is realizing it’s happening first.

Remnants Of War Underfoot

There are an estimated 200,000 landmines scattered across 2.5% Bosnia and Herzegovina, sadly killing 600 locals since the end of the Bosnian War. However, as a tourist the chance of you encountering one is non-existent within the city of Sarajevo and negligent in the surrounding countryside – provided you stick to established trails and heed warning signs.

I hiked up to Sarajevo’s Zuta Tabija (Yellow Fortress) to unexpectedly discover the filming of a Bosnian comedy movie, sticking to the well marked trails. I also visited the site of the discarded 1984 Olympic bobsled tube, again, not wandering off the main paths. As I explored the hills by foot, many locals reminded me to follow that basic advice. If you do too, you’ll have nothing to worry about.

To Answer Your Question: Yes

Crime statistics rarely sound comforting, even if somewhere is 95% crime-free, our minds tend to remember that 5% is not. But like most safe cities in the world, you don’t need more than the usual dose of common sense before visiting Sarajevo. Anecdotally, this city of 297,000 felt much safer than its larger European counterparts, just one more good reason Sarajevo was voted the best to visit in 2012.

Safety, and comfort in it, often comes in numbers. For those of you who’ve been to Sarajevo, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the city, misconceptions you had before going, and what you’d tell someone who might be a little afraid to visit; in the comments below.

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