Foreign Currency

7 Hidden Travel Expenses

When budgeting for a trip, even seasoned backpackers like me tend to include only the “Big Three” travel expenses – food, lodging and transport – in our calculations. Although this method usually provides at least a ballpark figure for how much a particular journey will cost, one major pitfall exists: Many travel costs are what you might call hidden.

Unless you plan on bypassing uncertainty altogether and booking holiday deals from cheap holiday specialists, keep an eye out for these hidden travel expenses the next time you hit the road. Can you think of any others?

1. Airport transfers

Some cities in the world offer airport transfer options that are both low-cost and convenient (The Bangkok airport train costs just 45 baht one-way), but travel between airports and city centers is often surprisingly expensive. A one-way ticket to or from Oslo’s airport to its central station costs a whopping 170 NOK, for example, while the “affordable” NJ Transit train from Newark airport to Manhattan costs $12.50. Ouch!

2. Foreigner prices

One of my biggest disappointments during my recent trip to Sri Lanka was the fact that as a foreigner, I paid as much as 40 times more as locals to see the exact same attractions. I understand the underlying reason foreigners are sometimes made to pay higher prices than locals, particularly in developing countries, but it doesn’t make damage to your bottom line any less painful.

3. Penalty fees

If you ever read celebrity gossip blogs (guilty as charged!) you might remember the Twitter tantrum British songbird Lily Allen threw upon being charged £40 by RyanAir when she forgot to print out her boarding pass in advance of a 2011 flight. 40 quid is probably not a lot to a millionaire pop star, but no matter your walk of life, penalty fees can add up, whether due to airline restrictions, late hotel or hostel check-outs or accidental visa overstays.

4. Things you never asked for

In America, most things that are brought to the dinner table without you asking are free, so I was surprised upon paying my first restaurant bill in Argentina a couple years ago to see a cubierto, or “cover charge” levied for a basket of stale bread I didn’t ask for.

Later that year, I hired a taxi driver in Sharm el Shiekh, Egypt to take me to Ras Mohammed National Park. The good news? He was kind enough to take me into Sharm el Shiekh’s town center on the way back. The bad news? He wasn’t being kind at all – and he threatened to smash my camera when I refused to pay him!

5. Specialty items

I’ve been wearing contact lenses almost 20 years, but I have yet to bring enough contact lens solutions with me on a particular trip. This would be fine, were the stuff not extremely expensive – and only available from pharmacies, which also have strange hours – in most foreign countries. If you need to buy an item you can’t find at an ordinary convenience store or supermarket, expect to pay a pretty penny for it.

6. Leftover foreign currency

Lebanon ended up being way cheaper than I expected when I visited back in 2010, which left me with more than 100 USD in Lebanese pounds upon my departure to Jordan. Unfortunately, none of the exchange booths at the airport wanted to give me dollars in exchange, and had it not been for a very nice shopkeeper, I would’ve been out all that money. Calibrate your ATM withdrawals as precisely as possible to make sure you don’t get stuck with currency you can’t exchange or spend.

7. Exit taxes

But don’t spend all your foreign currency. Although the majority of countries include exit taxes, for air travel anyway, in the price of your onward ticket, this isn’t uniformly the case. Countries as far and wide as Colombia, The Philippines and Israel assess exit taxes, which can sometimes be quite high – approximately 25 USD per person in the case of Israel!


About The Author

is the author of 669 posts on Leave Your Daily Hell.

Robert founded Leave Your Daily Hell in 2010 so that other travelers would have an entertaining, reliable source of information, advice and inspiration at their fingertips. Want to travel more often? Subscribe to email updates today!

  • Bethaney

    Yes! All these little things can really put a dent in your wallet if you’re not careful.

  • TwoBadTourists

    Left over currency has gotten us a few times and those exchanges booths can be so stingy! We’ve gotten in the habit of spending as much change as possible before we leave and spending cruddy looking bills too because they can be difficult to exchange.

  • Noosa beachfront accommodation

    Thanks for these tips, really found them useful.

  • Micamyx|Senyorita

    Oh, taxes T_T

  • Mason James

    i wanted/want to go to sharm el-shiekh! how did you get there do you have to fly?? would be cool if they had a day/sleeper train, even though i’m guessing the scenery would be endless desert.
    and also, very good tips :) thanks

  • Jade Adele

    wow, now here’s a real good list about things you don’t think about until it’s done. Thanks

  • David Callis

    FX exchange rates. You get quoted one rate at home but when you get to the airport/hotel or even a bank in country you get ripped on the rate. Losing 5% of my purchasing power hurts. And let’s not even go into the rates used in credit cards…

  • Frank VH

    Airport transfers. Stay a night in a city like Jakarta and you pay 50USD for your taxi (return) to stay in a cheap room downtown that cost you 25USD.

  • Lindsay

    Great list. Leaving Paris we recently experienced one of “budget” airline Ryan Air’s most annoying hidden costs. While the penalty for not printing the boarding passes ahead is much higher, they still charged us 10 euros per ticket for “online booking”. They also wanted to charge extra (10 euros each, I think) for reserved seats. We didn’t and it turned out fine, as it seems very few opt to reserve. Once you start to add up the baggage fees and airport transfer (16 euros ea), Ryan Air is not that great of a deal!

  • Robert Schrader

    Thanks for providing your perspective, Lindsay, although I’m sorry you experienced such crappy service!

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