Taking a TEFL course is an excellent way to go travelling and see the world whilst also having a decent job and some security as you do so. But you aren’t going to be earning straight away so you’ve also presumably been saving hard to fund your adventures abroad, maybe for months or even years. After all, money is central to travelling and living and sorting accommodation and you’re not going to get anywhere very fast without it. Careful saving and careful spending are both necessary for a smooth, enjoyable trip. It’s not going to be much fun if you get abroad and then can’t afford to do anything to experience it. So as far as money is concerned there are some things that you need to know and consider before you set off.
To begin with:
- Remember that buying foreign currency is expensive.
- Be wise to the fact that some ATMs will charge you a fee just for accessing your money.
- Never carry much cash.
- There’s going to be commission charged for using currency exchange places.
But worry not, this is a guide to keeping your money safe and making your funds stretch as far as possible. The more you hang onto, the more fun you can have!
- Do not buy a big bag of foreign currency before you leave the country. It will be expensive in your own country and unnecessary because these days when you’re travelling you don’t need much cash anyway. In fact, it can be downright dangerous if you are easily identified as a tourist. Pretty much everywhere accepts card these days and there are ATMs to use which are free. If you feel that you do need cash for emergencies or as a safety net, then just withdraw enough for 24 hours. You should consider things like:
- Think about how you’re going to get to the hotel/accommodation.
- Will there be an easily reachable ATM in the airport?
- Will it be easy to get a taxi? Is there a service like Uber where you’re going?
- It is easy to use a credit card in your destination country or will it be difficult?
- Organise your money so that you aren’t relying on using ATMs because there might be a charge for using them and it may not seem a problem once or twice but it will soon add up.
- Don’t use any currency exchange booths, e.g. at the airport. Use an ATM to get the currency you need once you’re actually in the country that you’re travelling to. Keep the exchange rate in mind at all times and avoid taking the easy option, however appealing it might be. Credit cards and ATMs are quickly going to become your best friends.
- Use credit cards wherever you can. It’s far easier to use them than it is to carry around bundles of cash. It also avoids awkward transactions where you have to understand what’s being asked and then fish out the correct cash right away. Cards are accepted by pretty much most merchants across the US, Asia and Europe and with a bit of emergency cash you should be fine. Which would be the best credit card to go for? One that doesn’t have a foreign transaction fee, you should see if you can choose one with which you can gather points and maybe even get some free travel!
- It’s VITALLY IMPORTANT that you keep any cash hidden or safe somewhere. There might be some occasions and situations when you can’t use a credit card, but always keep your cash as safe as you can:
- Leave it in the hotel safe if you have one, or a locker if one’s available in the hotel/wherever you’re staying.
- Split it all out into different amounts so that you aren’t putting all your eggs into one basket, as the saying goes. That way if some gets stolen or lost then you still have the rest.
- Keep it in different pockets, pouches and bags for the same reason.
- Only take enough for your excursion or day out.
- Use your luggage to your advantage; hide cash in small pockets that aren’t immediately obvious in your suitcase or toiletry bags, etc.
- Keep it rolled up and hidden inside bits of clothing. Socks usually work well. Make sure it’s completely hidden from sight, basically.
You can also get clothing with extra hidden pockets that nobody else would be aware of. (LINK) You have plenty of ways to protect your cash, it’s just a case of picking which one is best for you.
- Beware of fraud. Always keep an eye on your cards and avoid card skimming. This involves anyone making a copy of your card and using it anywhere. Be vigilant when using cash points, know where your cards are at all times and NEVER let anyone else pay for anything using your card – even trusted fellow travellers. If you have to do any online banking then make sure that you’re using a secure connection because this is a tried and tested method that scammers use to get hold of your bank details and from there it’s the work of a few seconds to empty your bank account. There is one comforting thing though, if your card is used fraudulently then it’s much easier to dispute a credit card charge than debit card.
- Make sure you tell your bank in advance where you’re going and for how long. Provide them with a detailed itinerary if necessary. If you don’t then you run the risk of them blocking your card. If your bank gets suspicious about any transactions then they can freeze it instantly leaving you stuck so do give them a call before you go.
- Take advantage of money apps like Paypal. You can keep some money in there so you have a back up if your card doesn’t work for some reason or you run out of cash.
- Prepaid debit cards are also a back-up option. They shouldn’t be used as main source of money because the banks charge premium rates for these, but they are good to have in an emergency. You can just pop online and put as much money on it as you like. Major card companies like Mastercard and VISA usually offer these.
A TEFL course will prepare you for teaching English abroad, but you need to do some research yourself to prepare for keeping hold of your money once you’re out there.