Saving and budgeting for overseas travel

Note: This article was originally published on Zonotho, a financial education start-up, in August 2019. I wanted to share what I’d learned on my various travels through Europe and Asia.

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Whether it’s to Amsterdam, Bangkok, or Dubai, travelling is a dream of many South Africans and an expensive one at that. Here are some tips to bring that dream a little closer to reality.

Start a Travel Fund

Before you start travelling, it’s important to pay off your debts, especially high interest debts like your credit card. For tips on that see here.

Once your debts are paid, it’s time to start putting money away. How much? Whatever you can. Even a small amount each month will add up over time. Maybe your DSTV subscription could help you get overseas. Keep the money in an interest-bearing account at your bank.

How much do you need?

Once you’ve started saving, how much do you need? It really depends on where you’re going. A trip to Thailand can cost you R10,000 for flights and accommodation, whereas London could cost you R30,000 or more*. Here is a breakdown of your main costs:

Flights and Accommodation – These are usually your biggest expenses. You can get an estimate of flight prices using and of accommodation using or Airbnb. Prices are seasonal. During Christmas and school holidays, you can pay double of what you’d pay during other times. Sometimes you might get lucky and find a discount package during the ‘off-peak’ season.

Visas – Most countries require a visa which you’ll need to apply for 2-4 weeks before you enter. Depending on the country, it can cost between hundreds and thousands of Rands.

Transport – Many big cities have a metro which will take you anywhere in the city. Usually you can buy a weekly ticket. Otherwise you’ll need taxis or Uber. Often it is worth it to take accommodation near the city centre because even though it is more expensive, you’ll save money and time on transport. Use Google Maps to locate the places you want to go, and stay closer to them if you can.

Communication – Roaming is expensive, so price a SIM card and data for while you’re there.

Food – You need to eat! And this varies widely between cities. A lunch in Milan can cost you 10 Euros (currently approx. R160) whereas one in Phuket will cost you 90 Baht (currently approx. R40)*. You can estimate this by Googling restaurant menus or the country’s KFC and work out how much you’d pay for a meal. Factor in breakfast, lunch, and supper, and double that to get a safe estimate for food each day. If you like street food, this cost will go down. If you prefer restaurants, this cost goes up. If your accommodation includes breakfast it will save you money on food.

Sightseeing –If you plan to visit Museums or go on tours, you can find the prices on their websites.

Shopping – This one is highly personal and will depend on you. One approach is to budget some ‘spending money’ per day so that if you see something you want, you can buy it.

And if you know someone who’s been to your destination, ask them for advice on the costs.

Happy travels!

*These prices were accurate as at the time of writing

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