Who doesn’t like to travel?

Traveling is fun and exciting, but it can also be scary and overwhelming if you aren’t used to it.  Especially when traveling internationally.

There are many things to know and this guide doesn’t cover everything, but it does show you the most important things that you need to know.

First, here’s what you need to do before you hit the road…or the sky…

Before You Leave Home

You’ll want to make sure you take care of some business before you leave.  Planning ahead makes traveling smooth and easy.  Here are a few things you’ll want to do before you take off:

  • Inform your bank and credit card companies of the travel.  Financial institutions will often see this type of spending as a red flag and they could suspend your account when they see purchases showing up from a different country (this is also true for traveling within your country).
  • Pay and automate your bills.  You already don’t want to have to worry about your bills while you’re traveling, and when you’re traveling internationally, you may not be in a place where you can easily access your online banking.  Take care of that before you leave.  Automate and schedule all of your payments for the period you will be gone.  Why not automate your entire budget while your at it?
  • Know how you’re going to spend, and have a backup.  We’ll get into the best forms of payment in a moment, but whichever forms you decide on, make sure they’re ready to go.  You’ll also want to have an alternate form of payment (think: other brands of credit cards and/or debit cards).

How Spending Money Internationally Works

Spending money internationally is the same as spending at home in a lot of ways; however, there are differences.  Some countries may accept your form of currency.  The U.S. dollar, for example, is accepted in many countries around the world.  But if they don’t accept your currency, you’ll have to convert it.  You can eliminate this issue by using credit cards and debit cards.

Caution: Another thing to watch out for is price gouging.  This is especially true for Americans traveling abroad.  It’s common for the locals to charge foreigners a higher rate.  You can help reduce this by using the local currency or just by using credit cards and pretending like you know what you’re doing; however, sometimes our “pretending” isn’t all we think it is.

This is an area where it pays to go for the big names.  Bigger credit card companies generally have more protection and options for overseas travel.  When traveling abroad, ATMs can come with all kinds of fees, including additional international fees.  Check with your bank for an approved list of international partner banks that offer free or cheap ATM usage.

Just remember, unless you have a card that’s specifically made for international usage, you’ll want to use the local currency for your small purchases.  It’s worth paying the fee on larger purchases since the alternate would mean carrying heaps of money in an unfamiliar country.

Transferring Money Internationally

No matter how much you plan and prepare, you could still need to transfer money internationally.  Don’t panic!  There are several ways to transfer.

Transferring money internationally can be covered in fees.  This is definitely an area where you’ll want to plan ahead, and know how you’re going to transfer the money before you leave your country, even if “plan A” doesn’t include transferring funds.  International Money Transfers created a handy Money Transfer Wizard that shows you the best transfer rates available – I highly recommend using it if you need to transfer funds internationally.

It’s important to know the best rates, because there are plenty of companies that will charge insane amounts and take advantage of you when you’re in a bind.

Traveling internationally doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Remember to plan ahead and most of the “newbie traveler” issues won’t come up.

Are you a frequent international traveler?  What are some more tips?