Part 1 of 2 (The First 5 Things – Stay Tuned for 6-10)
From years of International Travel we have learned key things to do before and during travel to make it more enjoyable. International Travel is often both exciting and stressful. Some of us find it fun to plan an excursion to a place we have never been, while others don’t have the time, inclination or knowledge of all the details to cover before leaving on their trip. Here is a checklist:
Money, ATM, Credit Cards, and Phones
- Many places, especially smaller countries and islands, prefer cash. We have traveled to places where they won’t accept credit cards, so cash is a must. For example, most establishments in Galapagos do not accept credit cards. With International Travel, when going to smaller more local establishments, often they do not accept credit cards, even restaurants in capitol cities. In some countries, where there are great craftspeople and attractive things you may want to bring home from your International Travel, you’ll need cash to purchase them.
- Key Point #1: Take enough cash when you travel. Don’t keep it all in one place, and don’t carry it all with you when sightseeing.
- In your International Travel, you will find that there are very few ATMs that do not charge fees. Some have high fees, with 2 charges – one from your bank and another from the bank you use while traveling. We have found that when using our Credit Union ATM/debit card to withdraw cash during International Travel, there is no fee.
- Key Point #2: If you travel a lot, consider maintaining an ATM/debit card that has no foreign transaction fees.
Find Banks that will take your ATM card
- We were sent to a large well-known bank in a capitol city, a bank that was considered safe by locals who we trusted. However, it rejected our ATM card. Luckily I speak a little Spanish because nobody working in the bank spoke English. Finally a patron who understood what was going on helped translate my spotty Spanish and English. We learned that we must use only an international bank to get cash from an ATM with our debit card from the US.
- Key Point #3: Make sure you know where the international banks are located if you need cash on your trip.
Credit Card Fees
- Like ATM cards, there are very few credit cards internationally that do not charge fees. Some can be high, with 2 charges – one from your credit card company and another from the vendor. Some Capital One cards have no international fee. However, some vendors, hotels, and restaurants will tack on 2.5-5% more if you use a credit card. If spending the extra percent concerns you, ask hotels, restaurants and vendors about their policy in advance.
- Key Point #4: Before you go, make sure your credit card is one that does not charge more when used internationally.
- We found it extremely useful to be able to make local calls during International Travel. In most countries, you can get a local SIM card put in your phone for only $5-$10. (NOTE: This is possible for smart phones and even some flip cell phones.) Make sure your phone is unlocked and has a replaceable SIM card. You may have to go to your local carrier’s store in the US to make sure the phone is unlocked; but it is worth it. When I wanted to make dinner reservations, or confirm a tour, or call about a flat tire on our car, I found it much better to talk to people in foreign countries than trying to communicate via email or texts.
Key Point #5: Make sure your phone is “unlocked” for local SIM cards, and have a local SIM card installed when you arrive.
Please add any advice you have. And be sure to read Part 2 with Key Points 6 through 10. Happy Travels!