12 Travel Money Mistakes to Avoid: The Ultimate Guide to Travel Money Exchange

Travelling is an exhilarating experience, offering a chance to explore new cultures, taste exotic cuisines, and create lasting memories. However, managing finances while on the move can be a daunting task. In this guide, we'll delve into the common travel money mistakes and provide actionable tips for savvy travel.

Table of Contents

1. Using Airport Currency Exchanges

Airport currency exchanges are convenient, but they often offer the worst exchange rates. For instance, if you're travelling to Paris and decide to exchange your pounds for euros at Heathrow, you might get a rate that's 10-15% worse than what you'd find in the city.

Example: If the current exchange rate is 1 GBP = 1.15 EUR, the airport might offer you a rate of 1 GBP = 1.05 EUR. On exchanging £500, you'd lose out on 50 EUR!

Tip: Plan ahead and exchange a small amount of currency before you travel or use local ATMs once you arrive at your destination.

2. Ignoring Local Currency

While major currencies like the US Dollar or Euro are widely accepted, relying solely on them can be a mistake. In countries like Japan or South Korea, local establishments prefer their currency, and you might end up paying a 'convenience' fee for using foreign currency.

Example: In a local market in Seoul, a souvenir might cost 10,000 KRW (Korean Won). If you pay in USD, the vendor might charge you $10, which is more than the current conversion rate.

Tip: Always keep some local currency on hand, especially for small purchases and places that might not accept cards.

7. Overlooking Hidden Fees

Many travellers get caught off guard by hidden fees, especially when using ATMs or making card transactions abroad.

Example: You might withdraw €200 from an ATM in Barcelona, only to find out later that you were charged an additional €10 as a transaction fee.

Tip: Always check for fees before making transactions. Consider using ATMs of banks that have partnerships with your home bank to avoid additional charges. For more insights, explore our Travel Hacks.

8. Using Unfamiliar Currency Exchange Services

While it's tempting to exchange money at the first available kiosk, especially after a long flight, unfamiliar exchange services might not offer the best rates.

Example: At a popular tourist spot in Bangkok, a street-side exchange booth might offer a rate that's significantly lower than a reputable bank just a few blocks away.

Tip: Research and use well-known currency exchange services or banks. Avoid exchanging money at tourist hotspots where rates are often inflated.

9. Skipping Travel Insurance

Many travellers view travel insurance as an unnecessary expense, but it can be a lifesaver, especially when it covers unexpected medical expenses or trip cancellations.

Example: During a trip to the Swiss Alps, you might sprain an ankle and face hefty medical bills. With travel insurance, such expenses could be covered.

Tip: Always invest in comprehensive travel insurance. It's a small price to pay for peace of mind during your travels.

10. Not Setting a Daily Budget

Without a daily budget, it's easy to overspend, especially in countries where the cost of living is higher than you're used to.

Example: On your first day in Tokyo, you might splurge on shopping, dining, and entertainment, only to realise you've spent half your trip's budget in 24 hours.

Tip: Set a daily budget and stick to it. Track your expenses using budgeting apps or traditional methods to ensure you don't overspend.

11. Ignoring Local Tips on Money Management

Local residents often have the best insights on how to manage money in their country. Ignoring their advice can lead to unnecessary expenses.

Example: In Marrakech, a local might advise you to haggle prices in the markets. Without this knowledge, you could end up paying double the price for souvenirs.

Tip: Engage with locals and seek their advice on managing money. They can provide invaluable tips on getting the best deals and avoiding tourist traps. For more local insights, check out our Travel Essentials Reviews.

12. Not Having a Backup Fund

Unexpected expenses can arise during travel. Whether it's a medical emergency, lost luggage, or an unplanned excursion, not having a backup fund can put a damper on your trip.

Example: While exploring the beaches of Bali, you might decide to take a last-minute boat trip to a nearby island. Without a backup fund, you'd miss out on this spontaneous adventure.

Tip: Always set aside a portion of your travel budget as a backup fund. This ensures you're prepared for any unexpected expenses and can fully enjoy your trip without financial stress.

Key Takeaways

  • Always inform your bank of your travel plans to avoid card declines.
  • Carry a mix of cash and cards to cater to all payment scenarios.
  • Invest in travel insurance to safeguard against unexpected expenses.
  • Engage with locals for the best money-saving tips.
  • Set a daily budget and stick to it to avoid overspending.

Common Misconceptions

1. "I'll get the best currency exchange rates at the airport." - Airports often offer the least favourable rates. It's best to exchange money in advance or use local ATMs.

2. "All places accept credit cards." - Many places, especially in remote areas, still operate on a cash-only basis.

3. "Travel insurance is an unnecessary expense." - Travel insurance can cover unexpected costs like medical emergencies, making it a wise investment.


Managing money while travelling doesn't have to be a daunting task. By being aware of common mistakes and equipping yourself with knowledge, you can ensure a smooth financial journey. Remember to plan ahead, engage with locals, and always have a backup fund for unexpected expenses.

With the right strategies in place, you can focus on what truly matters: exploring new destinations, experiencing new cultures, and creating lasting memories. Safe travels!

For more travel insights and tips, don't forget to visit Flight Plan Book and explore our range of resources tailored for every traveller.