Showing posts with label International Travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label International Travel. Show all posts

July 30, 2016

Getting a Turkey e-Visa

In preparation for a day in Turkey, we needed to obtain an e-Visa.  During our last trip to Turkey, you could easily purchase a visa on the ground.  While there was a line, it was short and there was no issue in getting the visa and then heading through passport control.  Since our last trip, Turkey has launched an e-Visa program where you can apply online, pay for the visa, and download it as a PDF to bring along with you.  Essentially, you have to go through this process as (at least from what I understand) Turkey is no longer offering visa on arrival (VOA) to US Citizens.

I found purchasing the visa to be really straightforward and the entire process took me less than five minutes.

May 22, 2016

My Strategy for Managing Cash While Traveling

People often ask me how I manage cash when traveling internationally.  It's not possible to use a credit card in every situation (Thai massage on the beach, cabs in many countries, etc...) so it's a good idea to have a cost effective way of getting cash when abroad.  The easiest way to get cash is from an ATM.  But most US banks will charge a fee when withdrawing cash from an international ATM.  Sometimes even two fees (a percentage of the transaction and a flat fee)!  Note that this posted originally appeared in 2014 - I've updated a couple of items for clarity.

Fortunately, there are a number of checking accounts which feature "fee-free" ATM withdrawals worldwide.  My primary checking account (Schwab Bank HighYield Investor Checking) comes with this feature.  When I withdraw cash from an ATM (in the US or abroad) I'm typically charged a $2 - $4 fee.  At the end of each month, I receive a deposit from Schwab for the fees charged during my ATM withdrawals.

Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking Features

Schwab isn't the only bank that provides this service.  The Points Guy has a great list of the best bank accounts for this purpose.  So there are lots of options.  Once I arrive at my destination, I typically withdraw enough cash (~$100 USD) to pay for the cab to the hotel and a few other snacks/waters/tips, etc with a few dollars left over...

Depending on where we are and what we have planned for the next day, I'll make another withdrawal.  The last thing you want is a ton of extra currency when you leave for him (although I always try to keep the equivalent of $1-$2USD as a souvenir ).  I end up making 2-3 withdrawals per country and incur somewhere between $6 - $12 in fees which are rebated at the end of the month.  Schwab has had this feature as part of their High Yield Checking account for years - hopefully it's not something they change anytime soon!

March 10, 2014

Adding Global Data When Traveling Internationally

This is the second in a series of posts about helping tips for traveling internationally.  Here's the first post on avoiding foreign transaction fees.

In my old job, I used to travel to Canada a fair amount.  This is back in 2006 and 2007 and to be functional on the road, I needed my Blackberry (yes, I was very fond of mine) to make/receive phone calls and have an active data connection.  I would typically turn my international data/voice plan on and off for the weeks that I spent up there.  I remember my cell phone bill for those months exceeding $250.  It was insane.

Fortunately, mobile phone carriers, plans, and equipment have come a long way since then. It is extremely helpful (even when traveling for pleasure) to have the capability to look up directions, read a review, post an Insta, or text message friends and family.  And all of that can be done with limited cost.  Verizon offers (not sure on the other carriers but I would bet they offer something similar) the ability to add a Global Data Plan to your phone for just $25 per month...this includes 100MB of data.  Now 100MB of data isn't a lot but I used less than that during my 13 day honeymoon in Asia.

I normally turn the plan on (you can do this online in about three minutes) a few days before leaving. I backdate the (one of the options provided) feature to the start of the month so I can get the full 100MB allowance.  I always make sure to keep cellular services off when traveling  until I need something.  When walking around if I need directions, want to send a quick text, etc...I just turn cellular services on, roaming starts, I do what I need to do, and then I flip it off.  As long as you aren't sending massive attachments or streaming video, 100MB will get you pretty far.  And should you need another 100MB, it will cost you just $25.

When I return home, I log on to my Verizon account and turn off the feature.  Kudos to Verizon for making this process so easy and affordable!

March 5, 2014

Avoiding Foreign Transaction Fees When Traveling Internationally

A reader asked me this morning about a charge his girlfriend had noticed after booking an international plane ticket on a foreign airline.  The charge was a foreign transaction fee (typically 2.7% - 3.0% and incurred when issuing banks convert a transaction in a foreign currency to USD) and he asked if there was anything he could do to get the fee refunded.

Unfortunately, there's nothing that can be done about the fee after the fact but there are two main ways to avoid paying those pesky foreign transaction fees in the future.  
No Foreign Transaction Fees up here on Victoria Peak
  • Pay with cash.  I will explain my strategy for withdrawing cash (fee free) when traveling internationally in a future post.  But this is one way to minimize or eliminate extra fees especially in a situation (i.e. cabs) where credit cards are not widely accepted.
  • Carry a credit card which does not charge foreign transaction fees.  My favorite card for this purpose (and many other purposes) is the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.  In addition to the lack of foreign transaction fees, the card offers great service when traveling abroad as well as 2x points on travel and dining which is where I tend to spend most of my money when traveling.  

My other favorite cards without foreign transaction fees include the American Express Platinum, Barclays Arrival Card, and the United MileagePlus Explorer Card.

Even though the foreign transaction fee is only a few percentage points that can really add up when booking expensive airline tickets on foreign carriers on spending a decent amount of money on drinking/eating/lodging when traveling out of the country.  So make sure you get one of these cards before leaving on your next big international trip!