When it comes to saving money, popular wisdom doesn't always hold true. Think twice when you encounter these 6 common situations during vacations.
There’s a difference between thrift, and being cheap. Bring thrifty saves you money, whereas being cheap doesn’t necessarily do that - sometimes, buying things at the lowest possible price just gets you ripped off. Here are some forms of money saving advice you’d best avoid, while on holidays:
Buy Tickets from Third Parties
Going to see a show, or a famous landmark? Sometimes, you can buy “last minute” tickets online, from people who couldn’t make use of them (there are whole websites devoted to this).
Most of the time, the sellers will try to scalp you (i.e. sell the tickets for a higher than usual price); but it’s when they sell it for cheaper that you need to watch out. There’s a lucrative market in fake tickets - all it takes to make them is a camera, and a cheap printer. Also, there’s probably no way you can tell the tickets are fake, until you make it to the gates.
So when someone hints that they “know someone” who has cheap tickets, you’d best be wary. Only purchase if you can somehow ascertain the tickets are genuine. Even then, be aware that you may be purchasing someone’s lost of stolen tickets.
Save Money by Picking Accommodations Far From the City Centre
If the accommodations are just a bit further, like 15 minutes by train, this may be okay advice; but there should be clear limits.
If you stay very far from the city centre, such an hour or more, then consider how much vacation time you’re wasting. Two hours a day is a lot of time wasted, over the course of a one-week visit; 14 hours of travel practically amounts to wasting a whole day. That may not be worth the savings.
Next, you need to consider the cost of transport. The cheapest accommodations may not just be far; they may be inaccessible. Not every country has a reliable train and bus system (in some countries, a bus may come by every other day at some locations). If you end up having to pay for an Uber ride, for every trip to town, all your “savings” will be outweighed by the cost.
Refuse to Use Credit Cards and Only Bring Cash
The two arguments for this advice are that, first, credit cards invite identity theft; second, credit cards charge fees, and make you spend more.
But you have to realise that you’re not “safer” without a credit card. Carrying around big wads of cash is just as dangerous; in fact it’s worse. If your credit card is stolen, you can call the bank to suspend it - there’s nothing you can do to stop someone spending your cash, if they pick your pocket. It’s just gone.
You can also choose to lower the credit limit on your card, before enabling it for overseas use. While the usual limit is four times your monthly income, you can tell the bank to make it lower (e.g. capped at just S$1,500), and explain it’s for safety reasons as you’re using it abroad. Not only does this limit the maximum that can be stolen, it also helps to control how much you spend.
As for foreign exchange fees, there are some ways around this. For example, if you have a DBS Visa card linked to a DBS Multi-Currency Account, you don't pay for the foreign exchange fee. Look around for cards with reduced or zero forex fees.
Finally, remember that credit cards give you bonus rewards and cashback. Some credit cards will even give you bigger rebates, for overseas spending.
Just Buy the Cheapest Airline Tickets
Contrary to popular belief, not all flights are the same.
While we won’t malign any specific airlines, we will point out that some of them (mainly budget carriers) have terrible reputations. Google for their reviews, before you decide it’s worth saving money on their ticket prices.
One thing to note is that, when airlines try to save money (i.e. give you a cheaper ticket), they often use the runway at odd hours. This is to minimise airport taxes on their part. This usually means your flight will feature inconvenient timings, such as 4am arrivals.
You also need to check if the cheap flight is just giving you a stripped down, teaser rate: when you actually buy, you may find you’re charged hundreds of dollars extra (e.g. for printing your boarding ticket, or because the entire airport tax is foisted on you).
Also, consider that cheaper routes often mean layovers. If something goes wrong, and you need a hotel room because the connecting flight is cancelled, that’s going to cost you money; probably way more than you saved.
Don’t Buy the Bottled Water
Unless you’re in a developed country, always buy the bottled water (even then, buy the bottled water unless authorities state the water supply is fit for drinking). It’s true that many locals may get by on drinking tap water, but remember they’re adapted to it.
Water is never “just water”, when untreated. It contains trace elements of different chemicals, and bacteria that your body may not be used to. Locals who have been drinking “raw” tap water since birth have developed the right immunities - but a tourist may end up with conditions like dysentery, or even parasites.
It’s not worth saving a few dollars, just to end up with a medical emergency.
Use the Cheaper, Unofficial Taxis
Private hire cars, from companies like Uber, are safe to use - but be careful when using “unofficial” taxis. These include everything from non-registered taxis, to locals who volunteer to give you a ride for money.
At best, these taxis will charge you exorbitant prices, as you’re in their power the moment you get in (how are you getting to your hotel, if they get angry and kick you out in the middle of nowhere?)
At worst, you may become the target of a mugging or kidnapping, as you have no easy way to escape. Lone travellers should be especially wary of this.
It’s undeniable that, in some countries, the official cab services jack up prices for tourists. But it’s usually better to pay the “tourist tax”, than to get in a locked car with a criminal.
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