My Ultimate Packing Challenge: Packing for a RTW Trip

My Ultimate Packing Challenge: Packing for a RTW Trip

So as you guys may have seen on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) I’m going to INDIA! I’ll be heading there with my friend McCall for six weeks of yoga teacher training and trekking in the Himalayas. And of course, the Taj Majal. Lonely Planet India But first I will spend six weeks in Europe (I leave tomorrow, by the way!) and then fly to Delhi in April. I’m currently debating if I will add another six weeks in Southeast Asia onto the trip but I’ll decide that further down the line.

Anyway, what does this all mean for packing? Well, it means that packing will be a mother. I have to pack stylish winter clothes for Europe, yoga and trekking clothes for India and warm weather partying clothes for Southeast Asia.

Oh dear. Here’s my game-plan- I’m packing tons of leggings because I can use them in Europe (with boots) and in India (for yoga). McCall is generously bringing a few things to India for me like hiking boots and sunscreen. And if I make it to Thailand, I’ll just go on a Thai shopping spree in Bangkok. (I’ve always wanted to do that anyway).  

Bags:

Packing Around the World Trip

Jo Totes Camera Bag- My day bag and where I store my valuable electronics: camera, Kindle, chargers.

Wristlet – Daytime it’s a wallet and nighttime it’s a clutch! Genius, right?

Backpack- All clothes organized into packing cubes.

Clothes:

Packing Around the World Trip

1 peacoat (will ship home after Europe) (not shown)

1 pair touch-screen gloves (won in Angie Away giveaway! Thanks Angie!)

1 hoodie

2 light sweaters

2 t-shirts

1 chambray shirt

1 lace dress

1 tight, knee-length skirt

1 cotton dress

1 pair jeans

3 pairs leggings

1 pair of pijama shorts and lots of tank tops

1 pair of athletic shorts (double for pijama shorts)

5 pairs socks, 1 pair thick socks (skiing, hiking)

7 pairs underwear

2 bras (1 nude, 1 black)

1 pair tights

Shoes:

1 pair tennis shoes

1 pair black Tieks ballet flats (also won in the Angie Away giveaway!)

1 pair lace-up boots

Electronics:

Packing Around the World Trip

Canon EOS Rebel T2i + LCD screen protector + camera case + BlackRapid Metro camera strap + Canon 50mm lens f/1.4 + Canon kit lens

Kindle + case

iPhone 5S + case + screen protector (not shown)

iPod

1 mini speaker

Accessories: headphones, earbud splitter, 1 extra battery for Canon EOS Rebel T2i, 3 memory cards (16 GB, 4 GB, 4 GB), 2 converters (one europe, one u.k.), USB

Chargers: Camera, Kindle, iPhone, iPod, mini speaker

Extras:

5L dirty laundry bag

2 eye-masks (lost mine last time and had trouble sleeping for a month. Never again. Bringing two.)

1 Moleskine notebook and pens 1 mini Moleskine (to carry around during the day)

1 bikini (On my Southeast Asia I brought two which was great, but for this trip I won’t be on the beach as much.)

1 travel robe (won in Angie Away giveaway!)

1 mini travel towel (for washing face)

Combination padlock

Tiny flashlight

1 pair small scissors

1 pair earrings, 1 necklace

Sunglasses + case

 

Toiletries:

Shower: 2 small bars soap, Venus razor and 4 extra blades, deodorant

Skin: Face wash, acne medication, moisturizer with sunscreen, tweezers, Neutrogena face wipes

Hair: Lush solid shampoo and case, Lush solid conditioner and case, 1 mini brush, John Freida frizz serum, hair ties

Teeth: toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, retainers

Makeup: foundation, blush, bronzer, powder, mascara, eyeshadow, brow pencil, liquid eyeliner, lip balm, lip stain, brushes, pencil sharpener

Miscellaneous: Tampons, nail clippers Medicine: sleeping pills, Midol, cold medicine, Advil, melatonin

 

Debit and credits cards:

Main: Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card (has chip-in pin, great for Europe), Charles Schwab debit card (no international transaction fees, refunds the other bank’s fees)

Extra: (In case I lose others): Chase debit card, AMEX Starwood Rewards credit card

 

What my friend is bringing to India for me (thanks so much McCall!) 1 pair hiking boots, 1 pair black flip flops, sunscreen, mosquito repellent, Imodium

 

 

What I’m doing differently from my last backpacking trip:

I upgraded my iPhone from a 4 to a 5S so now I don’t need a point and shoot!

I’m also bringing stronger sunscreen to India, SPF 50, as I got horrifically burnt in Thailand.

I cut about six inches off my mane so now my hair will be so much easier to take care of. I used to spend around 45 minutes a day brushing my long, damaged hair.

I’m going to make sure to have a tiny notebook on my at all times to jot down in-the-moment observations.

I’m also bringing lots of make-up (Europe) as well as acne medication as I broke out so much in Asia. Never again!

And once I get to Asia I will always have toilet paper on me- there are so many bathrooms that don’t come stocked.

And surprise! I’m not bringing my laptop this time. I hated lugging my heavy laptop around Asia and working on the road definitely hampered my trip. As this is my last big trip I’m not working at all. (Plus I lost my main freelancing gig anyway.)

I’m also not bringing my PacSafe- as I’m not bringing my laptop I doubt I will need it.

What are some of your packing tips?

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How to Rent a Moped or Motorcycle Abroad

How to Rent a Moped or Motorcycle Abroad

I’ve wanted to write about renting a moped or motorcycle abroad for a while as it turns out there is quite a bit to know. Renting a moped abroad is something I’ve done several times now; from on the tiny Thai island of Koh Tao to the bustling beach town of Sihanoukville, Cambodia.

Mopeds rule the roads of Southeast Asia and renting one gives you the freedom to travel independently. Plus, it’s fun to do with a big group when everyone has their own bikes! (more…)

While prices vary around the world, renting a moped is incredible cheap in Southeast Asia- I usually paid 100 baht ($3) for a 24 rental in Thailand  and about $6 in Cambodia.

Aside from checking to see if your travel insurance covers motorized vehicle hire (most don’t), here are some other ways to safely rent a moped or motorcycle abroad.

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On a moped in Thailand and a motorcycle in Vietnam.

1. Bring your passport and cash

When renting a bike abroad you will always pay the full price upfront in cash. While in some countries the bike shop owners will want a cash deposit as collateral, in Southeast Asia they will keep your passport  until you return the bike.

Also bring enough money for gas, snacks and maybe a little emergency money in case you need a bike repair.

And normally in Southeast Asia the rental shop owner will ask to see your visa too, to make sure that you are legally allowed to be in the country. A friend of mine with dual-citizenship brought his non-visa passport to the rental shop and he wasn’t allowed to rent!

2. Read the fine print before you sign

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Before riding, always check how much you will be charged in the event the bike is damaged, lost or stolen. I’ve heard horror stories of tourists being charged upwards of $300 USD for only a few scratches, and I met one girl who was charged $600 for totaling the bike even though a brand-new 125cc motorbike costs around $250-300!

When choosing a bike consider how much horsepower you need the engine to have. Most bikes are 125cc, which means the engine is pretty small- getting up hills will be a challenge, or in some cases, impossible. And make sure you know what kind of  transmission the bike has: automatic, semi-automatic or manual. As an American I definitely prefer automatic!

3. Take photos of the bike

Koh Tao DSLR

Before hopping on the bike, make sure to photograph every inch of it including the license plate. I’ve heard stories of rental shop owners accusing riders of damaging the bike when it was really damaged all along!

4. Request a helmet 1374993_10153357448440144_1457960914_n

Safety is not always attractive.

While many foreigners and locals alike may be riding without a helmet, don’t do it. Every time I requested a helmet I was given one free of charge.

Also make sure the rental shop owner gives you a lock for the front wheel. And before you leave, agree on what time you’re bringing it back- most rentals are for 24 hours.

And never, never lock up a bike outside overnight even if you lock the front wheel. As you may remember my friends had their bikes stolen in Sihanoukville!

5. Fill up!

The bikes always come empty so make sure to fill up right away. Gas is very inexpensive in Southeast Asia and will only cost you a couple of bucks.

6. Take it easy if you’re a beginner

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Dirt road in Otres Beach, Cambodia.

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Dirt road on Koh Tao, Thailand.

When renting a moped or motorcycle in a non-western country, remember that the driving conditions are not  optimal; roads in the developing world are often dirt, full of potholes or barely existent.

And the flow of traffic may be on the opposite side of the road- for example, in Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia they drive on the left side of the road, and in Cambodia and Vietnam they drive on the right.

Also, you shouldn’t ride with someone on the back if you’re an inexperienced driver. Having an extra rider changes the weight distribution and can throw you off balance.

Finally don’t take on a challenging road if you’re a beginner. Many dream of the road between Chiang Mai and Pai but personally I know I’m not up for the task!

 

Other options

Consider a guided tour

I had an excellent time with my EasyRiders Tour in Vietnam, as I got to sit on the back and soak up the scenery without stressing out about stick shift. While it’s not for everyone, a guided tour is a good option for those who aren’t comfortable behind the wheel. Plus, having a local guide offers you insight into the local culture.

Consider buying a motorcycle

In order to avoid the rental scams and other dangers, consider buying a bike. My friend Victoria bought a motorcycle for less than $300 USD in Saigon and spent two months driving it up Vietnam- I was so jealous of her photos! It’s best to do research ahead of time and check out bikesales to find a used motorcycle which is usually much cheaper.

Here are some other resources on renting or buying a motorcycle and riding it on a long trip:

ADV Rider

Horizons Unlimited 

Have you ever rented a moped or motorcycle abroad? 

If you enjoyed this post please consider sharing it! Also, I’d love to keep you updated on my adventures in Europe, Asia and beyond, so feel free to subscribe to Ashley Abroad by email in the sidebar or connect with me on TwitterFacebook or Bloglovin.

How to Plan an Inexpensive but Awesome Trip Abroad

How to Plan an Inexpensive but Awesome Trip Abroad

There is a widespread (and erroneous) belief that traveling has to cost a fortune.

Let me let you in on a little secret- it doesn’t.

I have traveled to 35 countries and besides family vacations as a kid, all on a tight budget. With a bit of finagling, you can save money both by saving hard before your trip as well as watching every euro, lira and rupiah you spend on the road. (more…)

Here are some of my tricks that keep me traveling enjoyably and inexpensively.

 

Before your trip:

 Buy the ticket far in advance, using points if possible.

I’m definitely no points ninja (see The Points Guy on how to rack up frequent flier points) but I am vigilant about looking for flights far in advance.

Remember when I scored a $430 one-way flight from LA to Hong Kong? I booked that flight in April for the end of August.

I find flights using a few methods: first I do preliminary research using the Kayak Explore tool, which estimates how much it will cost to fly to various destinations from the airport of your choice.

Kayak Explore Tool

How much it would cost to fly to various airports in Europe from Detroit.

Then, before booking a ticket I compare prices on Skyscanner, Travelocity and Orbitz. I also sign up for Skyscanner Price Alerts to monitor price drops.

To date I have found my cheapest international flights with Skyscanner and cheapest domestic flights with Orbitz.

I also subscribe to lots of airline newsletters to get the cheapest deals. I highly recommend Nomadic Matt’s newsletter- he finds so many great bargains, from on-sale airfare to discounted tours.

 

Book local budget flights in advance too.

One way I save money on flights is by finding the cheapest possible flight to get to the continent where I will be traveling (i.e. Europe or Asia) and then buying another local budget flight to get to my primary destination.

For example, a few summers back I booked a cheap flight from Chicago to Ireland with AerLingus, spent a weekend enjoying Dublin and then took an inexpensive EasyJet flight to Paris. Doing it that way about $400  cheaper than flying directly to Paris and plus- I got to add a few days in Ireland to my itinerary.

Budget airlines in Europe: Ryanair, Easyjet, Wizzair (flies to Eastern Europe)

Budget Airlines in Asia: AirAsia, TigerAir

Keep in mind when flying budget airlines there are few perks. There is no free checked bag, no free water or food and you usually have to print out your boarding ticket in advance.

And with European budget carriers like Ryanair or Easyjet some flights are seasonal- certain routes are only available in summer.

Also some airports are extremely far from the actual destination- Paris Beauvais is two hours from Paris and Frankfurt Hahn is two hours from Frankfurt.

 

Favor inexpensive countries.

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You’re much better off paying in Turkish lira than in British pounds!

Your dollar will go further in some countries than others.

For example, if I were backpacking Western Europe, I would budget about €50 ($70) a day (less if I found accommodation through Couchsurfing, of course). And this would be a bare-bones budget: Hostels, picnics in the park, few adventure activities.

By comparison, I lived comfortably on $20 a day in Cambodia. And by comfortably I mean comfortably: Eating out every meal, daily massages, hostels with a pool.

So when planning a long backpacking trip, favor cheaper countries. Why live like a pauper when you can live like a king?

Nomadic Matt has great country guides that can help you set a budget for the countries where you will be traveling.

Consider working abroad.

au-pair

There are so many ways to work on the road: Picking fruit in Australia, au pair-ing in Europe, teaching English in Asia… though some opportunities are much better paid than others.

The most lucrative job abroad at the moment is teaching in Korea. My friend Audrey saved up more than $17,000 teaching for a year in Korea. In comparison, I left France with $1,200. (For more info on teaching in Korea check out FarsicknessCuriosity Travels and Atlas Sliced.)

Alex in Wanderland has a great new series called Earning Abroad in which she interviews travelers who work abroad, from co-owning a bar in Thailand to crewing a sailboat in the Caribbean. I would highly recommend checking this series out if you’re considering working on the road!

 

Use Mint.com to keep track of your money.

I LOVE Mint.com. Mint.com is a free web-based financial management system that monitors your bank accounts among other things. My favorite Mint.com feature is the weekly email telling me how much I spent, where I spent it and my total net worth and credit card debt.

Mint is perfect for travelers- it will notify you if you are unnecessarily paying any foreign transaction fees and alert you if there is a sketchy drop in any of your bank accounts.

I would highly recommend Mint.com both for saving up before traveling as well as budgeting on the road. I only wish I had started using it sooner!

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My weekly money update. I need to get out more…

Apply for a Charles Schwab debit card so you won’t pay any foreign ATM fees.

The Charles Schwab debit card has changed my life as a traveler- never again will I suffer a $5.00 foreign ATM withdrawal fee! (cough, Chase).

And not only does Charles Schwab not charge you a foreign ATM withdrawal fee, it refunds you any money that foreign ATMs charge you by depositing a lump sum into your bank account at the end of the month. Wow.

When traveling abroad I always carry at least two debit cards and two credit cards in case of theft or loss. (I also make sure to keep my backups in separate places.)

Here’s more info on which credit and debit cards are best for backpackers.

Sell things you don’t need before you leave.

If you’re looking for quick cash look into selling some things you don’t need. While many swear by eBay I’ve had great luck selling with Amazon. I’ve already made a couple hundred dollars in the last few weeks while home!

If traveling to Europe, consider getting a card with chip and pin technology.

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In Europe, the credit and debit card system is completely different. In Europe there are many automated machines that only accept cards with chip and pin technology, and not having a chip and pin card can be a huge hassle.

My Chase Sapphire Preferred thankfully has this technology (see that little silver chip on the left) and will come in handy in Europe from purchasing a ticket on the Paris metro to buying a coffee at McDonalds.

For more information on maximizing smart chip credit cards in Europe, check out The Point Guy’s helpful post.

Other credit cards with chip-in technology: British Airways Visa Signature, Barclaycard Arrival World Mastercard, Hyatt Credit Card, among others

 

Once you’re there:

Stay at hostels.

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The unglamorous side of budget travel- a $6 hostel in Vietnam.

I regularly use Hostelworld to find hostels when traveling Europe or South America. I’m very careful about checking reviews and rarely stay at a place that is rated less than 85%.

And while it is a great idea to book hostels in advance in Europe or South America, it’s not necessary in Southeast Asia- most hostels are less than $7 anyway! Just show up in town and ask other backpackers where they’re staying (and preferably check the hostel’s ratings on Hostelworld)- it’s that simple.

That being said, I would book in advance when traveling to expensive Asian cities like Hong Kong or Singapore. I also always, always book a hostel for the night after a flight- the last thing I want to do when arriving to a foreign city is worry about where I’ll be sleeping.

 

Consider Couchsurfing.

And what’s even cheaper than hostels? Couchsurfing! While I had little luck with Couchsurfing in Asia, I’ve had incredible Couchsurfing experiences in Greece, Germany and California.

Not only is Couchsurfing is an incredible way to save cash, it’s a great way to meet locals. All you have to do is create a profile, add lots of info and photos and reach out to potential hosts. Personalized messages always go further so read their profile!

Track on the ground expenses with Trail Wallet.

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My spending for a month in southern Thailand. Also just for the record I spent around $1,200- I forgot to add the last five days or so.

When I’m traveling I use Trail Wallet to track my spending- it really helps me stick to a budget. Because I pay mostly in cash when backpacking, it’s easy to lose track of where your money is going.

I love Trail Wallet’s pie chart feature because it shows you what percentage of your money you spend on various amenities, including accommodation, transportation and food. (You can add and remove categories too which is a very cool feature.)

Find cheap transportation.

I use Megabus frequently when traveling in the U.S. (and plan on using it in the U.K.) The last time I was in Europe I discovered car-sharing and it is definitely a service I will use again. Essentially you pay a stranger for a ride in their car- and while it sounds sketchy I have friends who use it all the time.

They have carsharing in many European countries: BlaBlaCar (France), Carpooling (UK), Flinkster (Germany) among others.

My money set-up:

Finances

Charles Schwab- My go-to debit card.

Chase- My back-up debit card. Has a high foreign transaction fee and foreign ATM withdrawal fee so I only use it in case of emergencies.

Paypal- How I am paid for most of my online jobs. (Just an account, not a card.)

American Express Starwood Rewards- My main credit card.

Chase Sapphire Preferred- My backup credit card. I also plan on using this in Europe because it has a smart chip.

More of my money-saving trick posts:

How to Eat Cheaply Abroad

How to Drink Cheaply Abroad

How to Open a Bank Account in Europe

Your turn! What to you do to cut costs abroad?

 I was not perked or paid by any of these companies for the mention. I honestly use them all when I travel and wanted to share them with you.

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If you enjoyed this post please consider sharing it! Also, I’d love to keep you updated on my adventures in Asia and beyond, so feel free to subscribe to Ashley Abroad by email in the sidebar or connect with me on TwitterFacebook or Bloglovin.

Dealing with Flashers and Other Creeps on the Road

Dealing with Flashers and Other Creeps on the Road

 This post is graphic in nature, so please stop reading if you are a blood relative or I have babysat you. Thanks!

So in light of a recent incident here in France, I wanted to write about how to handle creeps both at home and abroad.

In short, last weekend a guy flashed me in the street and it really freaked me out.

It was six in the morning and I was walking home by myself in my safe, wealthy town of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. Granted it was late (or rather, early) but I was walking on a wide, well-lit, residential avenue, equipped with pepper spray. If you have to walk home alone, it should be like that.

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My extraordinarily wholesome town. Which goes to show you, bad things can happen anywhere.

But, no matter where you are, there are crazy, crazy men. Like this guy, who was standing in his doorway, pants down, staring at me, masturbating.

 

How I reacted:

Once I figured out what was going on I stopped walking, turned to look at him and released several blood-curling screams. I wanted him to know that what he was doing was HIGHLY unwanted and disgusting.

He reacted by putting his fingers to his lips to say, “shush.” Oh, so now you’re considerate, buddy, and don’t want to wake the neighbors?

Then I started sprinting in four-inch heels through the middle of the street. Obviously that’s a bit of a strange reaction, but my theory is that you should always try to out-crazy the crazies, right?

I ran to the main square of the town, which is the area most likely to be well-lit and full of people. And it was- the market vendors were already setting up the Sunday farmers’ market.

I walked into the first open store, the butcher’s shop, and asked them to call me a cab. They said they didn’t have a number and basically did nothing.

Sorry but mini-rant- doesn’t that seem weird not to help a visibly shaken-up girl with tears streaming down her cheeks who comes into your shop saying in broken French that she “saw a naked man on the street” and needs you to call her a cab? What happened to chivalry? Or basic human empathy?

I debated walking home from the main square. I live about 30 minutes on foot, and I decided to either wait until the sun came up or until I saw a cab.

Thirty minutes later I decided that I would just be brave and go alone. MIRACULOUSLY, a few hundred yards out of the main square a guardian angel cab driver picked me up and drove me home.

 

What I didn’t do:

I didn’t call the police. I’m not sure if this was the right choice but as I am a foreigner on a visa I really didn’t want to start legal trouble for myself. I also didn’t know if they would be able to find the creep anyway.

I didn’t tell the family I work for. I’m sure if this was the right choice either, but I didn’t want to worry them. Or explain that I encountered a half-naked, masturbating man on the street.

 

So naturally, I learned a few things from this experience. Namely that I will try not to walk home by myself in the middle of the night- if I go out in Paris I will either stay with a friend or take a cab back home. On that note…

 

Here are some ways to protect yourself when you’re on the road.

Never listen to your iPod at night.

It’s just not a good idea as you won’t be aware of your surroundings.

Carry pepper spray.

Thankfully I had pepper spray on me- it’s not fool-proof but it’s better than nothing. One problem? Pepper spray buried deep in your hand-bag is useless. Make sure to have it ready to go in your pocket.

Always have a cell phone- and know how to call the police.

I have a French cell phone. The only problem is I idiotically do not know how to call the police. (Wikipedia tells me the French emergency number is 17, fyi.)

Scream fire.

I actually learned this one from Adventurous Kate (ironically I read this post the night before this happened) but screaming fire is much smarter than screaming, “help.”

 People hear “help” and don’t want to get involved.  People hear “fire” and are curious.  That curiosity could save your life.

Travel with travel insurance.

I currently have no insurance as I’m not really traveling; and do you know how much it would cost to ensure nine months of living abroad? For my next backpacking adventure I’m going to purchase World Nomad’s insurance to safe-guard any injuries, attacks or misallaneous misfortunes.

 

Other resources for keeping you safe on the road:

Essential Safety Tips for Backpackers

Nomadic Matt – How to Buy Good Travel Insurance

Adventurous Kate – How I Survived a Mugging

Alex in Wanderland – The Hazards of Traveling with a Computer

 

The sad truth I realized?

Despite any illusions of safety, you’re never really safe, especially not as a woman. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t travel- bad things really do happen everywhere. You could be pick-pocketed on a bus in Argentina just as easily as you could be verbally abused on the subway in Chicago (ahem, I may be speaking from personal experience here.)

So travel, and live, with the knowledge that you can’t predict what will happen, but with the foresight to protect yourself as best you can.

 

Have you ever had a similar experience to mine? How did you react?

Also, this post has nothing to do with the very sad and tragic death of Sarai Sierra. I am a huge supporter of solo female travel and travel alone frequently- I just want women everywhere to be safer and to be aware of potential dangers.

The Expat’s Guide to Opening a Bank Account in Europe

The Expat’s Guide to Opening a Bank Account in Europe

As I recently discovered, European banking is completely different from U.S. banking. When I first arrived in France, I was completely baffled: How do you open a bank account in Europe?

And while I have a Charles Schwab debit card that allows me to pay abroad with no international transaction fees, I recently decided that I need a French bank account for a few reasons:

I am working as an au pair in Paris and need somewhere to deposit the money I am earning.

I need a card with a “chip” in it. (See the small silver box on the left side of the card below?) There are many places in Europe where you can’t swipe with your card (like the Paris métro for example), and must pay with a card that has a chip.

French Credit Card In Europe, the debit and credit card system works very differently. There are basically two cards: ATM cards and credit cards. An ATM card can only take cash out of an ATM and can’t make purchases. A credit card can charge credit as well as take cash out of the ATM; it’s like a combination of a debit and credit card.

 

Advice for opening an account in Europe:

  • Schedule an appointment with an English-speaking banker. Sit down with him or her and talk about your options, and make sure to read the fine print regarding online banking, monthly charges, etc.
  • Even if you speak the local language fluently, bring along a local because you may not understand all the banking terms or contract differences between your own country.
  • Bring along your passport, your proof of residence (like a utility bill or rental agreement, or  bring your host’s proof of residence if you’re staying with a family) and any kind of paperwork that proves you are working or studying in Europe.
  • Open the bank account once you get to Europe; it will be easier than opening it from your home country.
  • Make sure that your bank charges a flat fee as opposed to a percentage when transferring funds to a non-Euro bank account, so that when you leave the country for good the bank charges you around 20 euros to transfer your money into your bank account back home, as opposed to taking a percentage. Imagine losing 3% of all of your money!
  • Choose a bank that’s close to your house or apartment because in Europe you have to go into the bank more often than in the U.S.
  • Study abroad students can also open bank accounts in Europe, they just need to bring proof that they are in fact studying abroad.

 

What I learned about French banking, and especially CIC, the bank I chose:

I decided to open a bank account with French bank CIC simply because it’s close to my house and because the lady I work for banks there. Luckily the bank’s policies are quite fair (besides the absurd charge to access my bank account online) so I think I made a good choice.

  • At all banks in France you are assigned a pin code for your ATM or credit card, and can’t choose one like in the United States.
  • In France I have found that the best way to transfer my money into and out of the country is by using the Xendpay money transfer service. It’s so easy!
  • CIC charges no ATM withdrawal fees anywhere within the Eurozone (any country that uses the Euro). Even if you withdrawal at a non-CIC ATM there will be no charges. If you are paying or taking money out of an ATM outside of the Eurozone, the bank will charge you a fee (i.e. if you were in the U.K., United States, etc.)
  • CIC charges for online access to your bank account, but if you pay 2.50 euros a month you get unlimited access so that’s what I chose to do.
  • At CIC sends you your PIN code in the mail, but you have to come into the bank to pick up your new card.
  • At CIC you can’t overdraft your account (the card will be denied once it has no money left).
  • CIC charges about 20 euros to transfer funds to a non-Euro account.

 

Am I missing any important points? If you have opened a bank account abroad what was your experience like?

Travel Credit and Debit Cards for Backpackers

Travel Credit and Debit Cards for Backpackers

Next week I leave for France for more than nine months, and it’s high time I change my international money management strategy. For too long I have been the victim of budget-killing $5.00 international ATM fees and 3% foreign transaction fees- so I started doing some research to find the best travel credit cards out there.

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When I began my credit card search I knew I needed both a credit card and debit card with no international transaction fees. I first went after the credit card that other travelers seemed to adore – the Capital One Venture Rewards card. After my application was promptly rejected, I was terrified (and tearing up a bit).

Luckily Chase accepted my application for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card soon after and now I’m breathing again. Here is a list of all the credit and debit cards I’m taking with me this year, and the ones that best suit my backpacker budget.

 

Best travel debit cards

Best Travel Credit Cards

Charles Schwab debit card – This card is the hands-down the best debit card for travelers. It has no international transaction fees, no currency conversion fees, no monthly maintenance fees and no annual fee. While you will still be charged by other ATMS for taking out money, Schwab will reimburse you for the charges at the end of the month.

Note: by opening a Charles Schwab debit account you automatically open a brokerage account, but it’s no hassle and you don’t have to use it.

 

Best Travel Credit Cards

Chase debit card – This is my go-to card I’ve used for the past four years. This card probably won’t see much action in France considering it charges a 3% international transaction fee and foreign ATM withdrawal fee, but I’ll keep it with me in case of emergency and resume using it when I get home.

 

 Best travel credit cards

Best Travel Credit Cards

Chase Sapphire Preferred – This is a great travel credit card because it charges no international fees of any kind. It also gives you with a killer 40,000 points upon sign-up if you spend $3,000 in the first three months (which translates to about $500 in airfare). And finally, it rewards you with two times the points on travel and dining purchases.

I know the initial $3,000 limit seems high, but three months of backpacking, including the flight, will certainly add up to $1,000 a month, or $250 a week. The only downside? There is an annual fee of $95, but it’s waived the first year.

 

While abroad I would advise carrying at least two debit cards and one credit card. When I was studying abroad in Buenos Aires I was pick-pocketed and ended up waiting three weeks for a new debit card. It was a huge hassle and if I would’ve had a back-up I could’ve avoided the whole situation.

The money management do’s and don’ts of traveling abroad:

  • DO call your bank to alert them that you will be traveling outside of the country.
  • DO have at least two debit cards in case one gets eaten by an ATM or is stolen.
  • DO have your bank’s number handy (like on a piece of paper in your backpack) as well as scanned copies of all of your cards in case they are stolen.
  • DO enroll in online banking so you can check it from anywhere in the world. And be careful about accessing your account in sketchy internet cafés – consider bringing an smartphone or iTouch to check your balance more safely.
  • DON’T use traveler’s checks.
  • DON’T wear a moneybelt.
  • DON’T exchange money at the airport, the rates are always the worst. Wait until you get into town.