Posts Tagged With: money

Traveling and Money

Having easy access to the local currency when traveling in foreign countries can sometimes be difficult and sometimes seem impossible. Every country in the world has preferred payment methods and not all of them coincide with your own payment options.

You often hear from people that credit cards are accepted everywhere; while this is mostly true, there are particular places in the world where you will find it quite difficult to utilize your credit card to make purchases. For example; a year ago, I was traveling in Japan, I wanted to withdraw some of the local currency so that I could pay for my meals at smaller food joints like ramen noodle houses. Well, I must have spent 4-5 hours searching for an ATM that would accept my common credit card brand, each machine kept rejecting my card saying that “your card is not accepted”. I was in a new country, I was getting quite hungry, thirsty and lost. All I wanted to do is get myself a belly-filling meal with a cold drink to wash it out on that muggy day, but I was stuck working out this dilemma instead. Eventually, I spotted an uncommon Japanese bank and crossed my fingers that my card would dispense cash. Well, my prayers were answered and voila! After 5 or so hours of ‘suffering’, I felt free again, free to enjoy all the luxuries that this beautiful country had to offer me; but for a short time, I truly did feel like a prisoner, restrained away from my own finances.
Japan is not the only country where I ran into these kind of troubles, but also, I found myself in a similar dilemma when I visited: Peru, Cape Verde, Russia and Kuwait. The best way to avoid these kind of problems is to research ahead of time which banks accept the credit cards that you are in possession of in the countries that you plan to visit. Another option is to have your currency changed over in your home country prior to your arriving at the foreign destination.

Thankfully, there are plenty of countries out there that are up-to-par with options in regards to making your own money available to you. Based off my own travels, I would have to say that you’ll never have any troubles when traveling throughout North America (Canada and United States), or most of Western Europe (France, Germany, England, etc). As the world grows closer to each other with communication and technology, so does everything else.

Working as a Flight Steward, I often have to deal with catering agencies around the world to prepare food for our crew and passengers. One of my biggest concerns is not only the quality of food, but also, the accepted method of payment. I often favor when the catering agencies can facilitate an easy transaction by invoicing my unit, although there are many catering agencies out there that want their money upfront, therefore, they request payment to be made through a major credit card. Now, where this becomes a real problem is when the catering agency wants the entire payment in cash, upfront. Often, we find that many countries in the Middle East region (Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, UAE, etc) like to have cash for their services upfront and no other way. It’s not always fun to have to carry a large sum cash imprest with you and be accountable for every single dollar – it’s just stress that can be avoided.

When I travel for leisure and it comes to utilizing foreign currencies, I prefer to keep the cash low in my wallet and rely more on my credit cards. Why? Because if I’m robbed or pick-pocketed, I’ll never see that cash again. If my currency remains on my credit card and the card requires a PIN to access the funds, then for the most part, my funds are protected and secure. On top of that, most people would probably realize pretty fast that their wallet is missing-in-action; you can call your bank and have your account locked out from anyone who tries to access your funds, or even have your funds transferred over to another secure account which the credit card itself would not be able to access. Although there is no perfect system, for me, utilizing a credit card is the most secure system as it buys me time to protect my hard-earned dollars and more often than not, your bank will work out an option with you to access your funds as you’re on the road and travelling.

What we need is a system that is universally accepted no matter where you travel, which provides such a high level of security, that it would be impossible for anyone to steal your money. A system where if you lose your card, you could go to any bank in the world and have a new one issued to you. What we need is a stress-free, secure and reliable money dispensing/payment option for the convenience of every consumer, but especially, travellers!

Traveling and Money

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To Hostel or not to Hostel?

That is the question!

When I mention the idea of staying in a “Hostel”, what comes to mind? Believe it or not, plenty of people out there in the world think it’s a cheap, scummy and dangerous place to stay; well, let me see… Cheap? Yes, most certainly! Perfect for those that want to budget travel! Scummy? Not if you research into where you will be staying and ensure that there are well-written, unbiased reviews. Dangerous? I don’t believe that there are any dangerous places out there, just travellers that are not using their head, intuition and common-sense. Please don’t base the idea of staying or not staying at a Hostel on the movie: “Hostel”. A movie is a movie.
A stay at a hostel can be as good or as bad as you want it to be, it all boils down to preparation and travel research, but sometimes, even for the well-educated and avid traveller, you will sometimes bump into the inevitable. With proper research and travel skills, you can highly reduce that chances of staying at a crummy hostel and making the best of your trip!

I’ll list off some Pros and Cons for you to weigh out:

Pros

  • Hostels are much cheaper than almost any other kind of accommodation out there. I stayed 8 nights in Cracow, Poland for 140$ USD!
  • Hostels are generally located in the heart of the best districts, usually in better locations than most Hotels!
  • Hostels often offer free Wi-Fi and sometimes even a free Breakfast!
  • Hostels often offer private rooms for just a few dollars more, for those that simply cannot sacrifice a bit of privacy.
  • Hostels will provide you with information and ideas of what to do and see in the area that you’re visiting; not only the major sights, but all the local hotspots as well!
  • Hostels often have a common-room, where you can socialize and meet other travellers just like yourself!
  • Hostels may give you a discount if you own a “Hostelling International Membership” card. (Imagine that! Cheaper than the cheap price you’re already paying!)

Of course, there are so many more “Pros” that I could list, but that should be good enough for now. Time for some “Cons”!

Cons

  • You may have to sacrifice some privacy. (Are you really going to spend all of your time in your room anyways?)
  • The bathrooms are usually shared. (You share the bathroom in your house and you share the bathroom with several other employees at your workplace, what’s the difference?)
  • It might be difficult to get some sleep if people are snoring. (The “Ear Plug” is a wonderful invention!)
  • You run the small chance of running into a hostel that is not properly maintained in several manners. (Don’t you run that risk staying at a Hotel you’ve never been to? Besides, that’s where doing your research comes in; read unbiased reviews!)
  • You run the risk of your goods potentially getting stolen if you are not provided with adequate storage facilities with appropriate security features for your gear to be stored while you’re out exploring. (Again, read the reviews. Travelling is an art and you will learn through experience).

    If you have the money, you want the posh lifestyle and don’t have a budget to worry about, then by all means, take the luxury hotel situated in the heart of the city, but if you’re on a budget like me, which is probably most people reading this blog, then you’re going to want to find options that won’t have your wallet screaming in agony.

Here’s what I do:

  1. Enter the URL: www.hostelworld.com
  2. Enter the City and Country you will be travelling to and of course, the respective dates with the amount of people that will be staying.
  3. Click “Search”
  4. Several results will show up, displaying a list of several different Hostels that you can choose from; the best thing to do at this point is to sort all your results appropriately. Click on the drop-down box right next to “Sort by:” and select “Overall Rating”.
  5. Now, all your results should be sorted by the best rated Hostel to the least rated Hostel. Check them out one at a time to ensure that the room that you want is available for the dates that you specified, the Hostel is located in the part of the city you want to be staying in, the price is affordable and the ratings are good. Always keep a keen eye as to what kind of Hostel you may be staying at, as some are themed and even oriented towards “Partying”, which may not be the type of Hostel you want to stay at if you’re trying to get a good night’s rest!

I’ve always used www.hostelworld.com for all my hostel needs. The thing I like about the site is that they provide accurate, unbiased reviews about the Hostel that you could be potentially staying at. Also, when you do decide to reserve your room/bed, you only have to place down 10% over the internet and then pay the remaining balance once you arrive at the Hostel. You also have an option, for just a few dollars more, you can protect yourself from losing your money if a cancellation on your booking is required. You will get credited the balance on the website to be used towards another Hostel in the future.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I’ve stayed at Hostels all over the globe and I’ll tell you from first-hand experience that again, with some experience and research, you will find yourself enjoying your stay at Hostels, whether you’re staying in a private room or a shared dorm. I personally, won’t choose to stay in a Hotel again unless I absolutely have to. The most important thing is that you have to keep an open-mind and with an open-mind, you’ll be a happier person in the end.

Last weekend, Amy and I stayed at a Hostel in the heart of Toronto, the “Entertainment” District to be exact. The name of the Hostel was called: “The Clarence Park” Hostel. We booked a private room that had it’s own bathroom and for 40$/per person/per night, you can’t beat it! We basically stayed 3 nights in the heart of Downtown Toronto for 240$ and the room was PRIVATE! No shared Bathroom either! If we chose to stay at any hotel in Downtown Toronto, 3 nights would have easily costed us 450-600$!

Here’s a snap of the place we stayed at:

The Clarence Park Hostel - Private Room

The Clarence Park Hostel – Private Room

As you can see, the room itself is basic, but very cozy, clean and acceptable! The bed is King-sized, there’s a television (which you can’t see in this photo) mounted onto the wall with cable facing the bed. There’s a desk, comfortable chair, balcony and a private bathroom. In the bathroom, you have the essentials: Toilet, sink and shower. There’s no bathtub, but again, think of the money you’re saving, you’re getting the absolute essentials at rock-bottom price in the heart of Downtown Toronto! A very expensive city to live in. The room itself was very quiet with the balcony door closed; we had no problem obtaining a full night’s rest, every single night!

At the end of the day, you should consider trying out a Hostel, what do you have to lose? Nothing, because you’re actually saving, big time!

Keep an open mind, explore, have fun and always try something different and new!

Categories: Hostels, Travel, Travel Tips | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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