Monday, March 3, 2014

How to not get ripped off when you travel abroad

It's time for yet another How to! Last week I wrote about who I would travel smart to Greece, where I gave tips about how travelling and saving money with my limited knowledge. But then i though why not ask an expert? Someone who has travelled so much more than I have and who can give much better advice than I can. So for this week's How to I am handing over my blog to A. 

But before he begins, let me introduce him to you. I realise I have never formerly introduced A, even though I have written about him loads.  A is my boyfriend, partner; call it what you may and we have been dating since November 2011 He is a very kind-hearted, generous, friendly, ever helpful guy. Apart from that he is a cyclist, swimmer, itinerary planner and a huge travel enthusiast!. Also tolerates my moods, crankyness, weirdness etc . Yes yes, I know I am very lucky to have him. Over to him, now. 

When Anjee asked me to write a guest post for her blog, it felt very nice. She had given me a very specific topic too and I like specifics! Although, nobody can really claim to never get cheated in a foreign country, there are always some things which will reduce that probability by a large extent. As to my experience in the subject matter, I have been to Europe for a 3 month student exchange program and then to Vietnam more recently for a vacation with some of my friends. Also, the topic is mostly relevant when one is planning to travel on their own, without a tour operator as they take care of almost everything leaving hardly any scope of goofing up. So, starting out with some basic points when traveling on your own!

The key point to saving money is Research – Research, Research, Research! With the internet, smartphones and the mobile revolution, traveling on your own is so much more easier nowadays. I've tried to compile all the gyan in 6 points and  here they are. 


Main points of interest, how far they are from each other, what modes of transport to take, what is the best order to visit them in, what will be the entry and exit points. Being informed of these helps in case you want to change your itinerary mid-tour and be most economical about it.


     One of the most important elements on how good your vacation went is how good your hotel was. Also, after a tiring day of travel you want a good nights sleep and not pay a bomb for it. So, it makes sense to spend a decent amount of time to research where you want to stay. Sites such as Tripadviser and Agoda are good for scouting good hotels with multiple reviews. Always make sure to read 2-3 reviews of a hotel before booking.

3     Communication 

      It makes sense to get a local sim card with data. Google on the go helps save bucks other than being able to stay connected! One Hanoi taxi driver with a rigged meter was trying to charging us 3 times the money and Google maps with GPS saved us! We threatened to call the police as we were confident of the distance traveled and that rattled him. So, google maps, points of interest, restaurant reviews and public transport, all at your fingertips help a lot and pay for the sim card charges more often than not.


     Dealing with a new currency takes some getting used to. And one should definitely take the time to do that. Don’t get panicky as the first few transactions in a new currency will take time. The exchange rate in Vietnam is 1USD=21000 Vietnamese Dong, so daily transactions often run into lakhs and millions. My friend ended up paying a bomb for a taxi ride from the airport because she got confused with the currency and the taxi driver was hurrying her. She is a very smart person, but got irritated and lost her patience while calculating the taxi fare. One should be patience and not bother if someone is hurrying you up.

Also, always have your spare money dollars. Unfortunately, the INR isn’t so liquid in some of the countries such as Vietnam. Having Indian currency is pretty much pointless there. And even if one does manage to find a conversion point, it would be charging a completely obscene exchange rate.


       If you are traveling alone or just 2 people, exploring options for public transport such as bus/metro often saves a lot of money compared to a cab. A taxi ride from Hanoi airport to our hotel costs around $20 compared to just $2 for a bus ride! And the thrill of saving money like this a big boost for me! An alternative transport option in some places is hiring a car or a motorcycle. It gives you the freedom of exploring the country in your own way at your own pace! Two of us hired a motorbike in Hoi An, Vietnam and saw a place 18km away for just $5. Also, add to that the thrill of riding in a foreign country and the feeling of wind in your hair – absolutely worth it!

6       Purchasing 

       If you want to food items that a country is famous for, then a departmental store is a good idea. This is because the concept of MRP doesn’t exist in some countries and even if it does, it might be in a language you don’t understand. I loved the taste of Vietnamese filter coffee, googled the best brand online and found it was Trunh Nguyen. Now, this particular brand was available in shops on the street and I asked one of them who said a 250gm costs about $4. However, the exact same variety cost me about half that money when I bought it from a department store when the price was tagged in. However, if you are buying non-branded items which are available only at local stores, then the key point is to bargain hard – at least in developing countries where it is completely acceptable. One good bargaining strategy is to quote a price in the first shop and if the guy agrees, then don’t buy and move on. In the next shop, quote a lower price and see if you can get it for less. If not, then you know you don’t have much more room to bargain!

      An important disclaimer is that the above points are just pointers on things which can save you some money while traveling abroad. Ultimately, I think there are just two things which save you from getting ripped off – confidence and common sense. Oh, and of course, sheer good luck! So good luck to all of you who have the travel bug and feet itching to go somewhere.. Pack your bags, plan your next vacation, life is short and the world too big!


  1. Nicely edited with all the pics and everything! Thank you.. When do I get my next invite?

    1. Haha. Thanks. We should do this more often. Soon, soon :D