Today, I’m so excited to share my guest post over at InSpirit Financial! It is about five unexpected costs that you’ll find when travelling abroad. I’m about half way through my big European summer adventure, and I’m happy to be able to share some of the tips I’ve picked up along the way. I hope you’ll enjoy!
Here is a copy of the article:
Traveling around and enjoying the world has got to be one of the most wonderful adventures you can do during your time on earth.
You get to explore different customs, different food and different people.
To make sure that your trip is a complete pleasure, here’s a list of five costs to make sure you’ve considered before your next trip abroad.
I’ve done my fair share of travel, having recently visited by 26th, 27th and 28th countries.
Each time I leave the good old USA, I’m reminded of a few customs in other countries that might be surprising (and costly!) to people taking their first trip abroad.
Today I’ll share a list of five unexpected costs I’ve seen while I travel abroad.
I’ve experienced these costs in countries in both Europe and South America. I have less experience in Asia and no experience in Africa, so I can’t say how these customs might vary in those regions.
When you sit down at a restaurant in the US, you’re typically greeted with a nice, cold, free glass of water.
In many other countries, this is simply not the case.
First off, ice seems to be a rarity in many countries.
More important on the budget front, serving tap water just isn’t customary in many places.
My sense is that this is a vestige of the past, when tap water may have been undrinkable (and in some places still is). However, in many places where tap water is completely fine to drink it is still very uncommon to serve tap water in restaurants.
This means that you will either need to buck the trend and ask for tap water despite it being somewhat uncouth, or incur the extra cost of purchasing beverages at restaurants. This can really add up over the length of a trip, especially since it is easy to become dehydrated during long days as a tourist.
You can avoid this somewhat by always carrying a water bottle with you, but pulling that out at a restaurant may not be a real option.
I have found that recently this trend is changing in some places.
In France, “table water” as it is called is now completely common. Similarly, in Rio de Janeiro, where the tap water is not drinkable, many restaurants now offer free, filtered water.
I don’t think that I have ever paid to use a public restroom in the US.
Public restrooms may be hard to find, but when you find them, they’re free. Or, you may have to use the bathroom in Starbucks or McDonalds, in which case you may need to purchase a cheap item on the menu to get in.
In any case, I’ve never found a “fee for use” restroom in the US.
If you travel to Europe, they’re everywhere!
I recently came across one in Vienna (at a museum no less!) that charged €0.50 for use of a stall and €0.30 for use of a urinal. That definitely made me appreciate that I’m a woman and didn’t have to announce what type of business I needed to take care of to the bathroom attendant.
You’re not going to break the bank paying for a few restroom stops along your trip, but it is something to keep in mind. You can be strategic about restroom use, making sure to use the restroom at any restaurant you’re eating at, weather you need to or not.
On a side note, I have been very disappointed that many of these public restrooms that charge for entry and have an attendant stationed in them are not even well maintained.
It is one thing to use a free, crappy bathroom, but to pay for the privilege of using a dirty bathroom seems doubly annoying.
Couvert (Table Charge)
Not all restaurants in the US bring bread to your table, but I’ve yet to find one that brings bread and then charges you for it.
In many countries in Europe and South America, if bread is brought to your table you should not assume that it is free.
Often, hidden somewhere on the menu will be a small note about a “table charge” or “couvert.” This is usually a price per person and will be charged if you so much as touch that bread that is delivered.
Being aware of this policy is the most important thing.
You do have a choice and can ask for the bread to be taken away so that you will not be charged. To my knowledge, there is nothing wrong with doing this. Of course, you can also enjoy the bread.
The charge is usually relatively small – in my experience roughly equivalent to $2.
Restaurants in the US typically have one price for each menu item, regardless of if you eat it at the bar, at a table, or take it home.
In many other countries, you essentially pay for the quality of your seat and level of service by paying more or less for identical food items based on where you sit to eat.
Want to eat on the patio? That will cost you more.
Willing to take your food away and go sit in a park? You’ll pay less.
On some level, this policy makes a lot of sense.
In the US, one way you can account for the difference in the level of service is through tipping. If you take something to go, you might not tip at all. If you sit at a table, your tip can be a big part of the tab. In many other places, tipping is either non-existent or a much lower percentage of the bill.
I still struggle a bit with paying more to sit outside, but I guess that’s the in-demand location so restaurants can get away with it.
The good thing is that price differences are usually clearly advertised, so just be on the lookout so you’re not caught off guard.
With all of my travel, I’ve gotten packing down to somewhat of a science. I can now pack for a 10-day trip in a carry-on bag. Which is much more impressive when I add that for my first 10-day trip to Europe I could barely meet the 50 lb. checked bag weight limit….
In any case, when travelling abroad it is important to be aware of baggage fees getting to your destination, but also getting around within your destination.
For example, I had a recent experience flying from Paris to Budapest with my usual, carry-on suitcase.
For the first time in my life, my suitcase was actually weighed at the airport and, to my surprise, was over the carry-on weight limit and therefore needed to be checked. It honestly never occurred to me to pay attention to a carry-on weight limit since it is something that has never come up before.
This experience happened on a full-service carrier, but I would imagine the problem would only be amplified with a low-cost carrier.
It is also worth noting that, through this experience, I learned that flights between nations in Europe may not be considered “international” flights, therefore lowering the baggage allowance. It is best to check the baggage allowance for your specific flight to ensure no unexpected expenses are incurred.
What unexpected costs have you incurred while travelling? I’d especially love to hear about experiences in Asia or Africa, since those regions are not reflected here!