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!