Save on Travel by Avoiding Small Costs That Add Up

Save on Travel by Avoiding Small Costs That Add Up. Use those savings on top local tours and exhibits!

Typically every trip I take abroad as a solo traveler my budget estimate falls short about $500-$1,000. Certain costs, when taken separately, seem so minor that they go unnoticed but can really snowball. Although they apply to everyone, as single travelers already pay a premium not experienced by couples, families or groups, it is important to at least be aware of these added fees when traveling alone.


Since I am planning more solo travel for year- end  pulled out my calculator and tried to identify a few of these “mystery” items.  I found 5 types of expenses that accounted for up to approximately 10% of my estimated costs.

Save on Travel by Avoiding Small Costs That Add Up:

1.Taxes added to hotels and airfare.  Having worked to capture the best deals, I am always surprised at the totals after taxes are added. For example, past international flights from the US East Coast to Asia included a 29% tax.  On that same trip, my flights within Asia were somewhat better with an average tax of “just” 26%! Hotels averaged 21% but varied greatly from country to country. (For those who travel often to New York know, local taxes can really increase hotel costs.)

In addition, travelers pay taxes on restaurant bills and purchases. Some destinations provide limited relief as to value-added taxes or VAT taxes for local purchases. However, this refund may only apply to purchases at or above a certain minimum, such as $100/item. To apply for and receive the refund, foreign travelers can often do that on departure at the airport by showing receipts and a passport. Of course, if you are racing to catch a flight or having some linguistic challenges, you may miss this refund altogether. If so, when you arrive back at home, check the Internet to see if there is a link for online or other way to submit a refund application.

Save on Travel by Avoiding Small Costs That Add Up:

2. Country charges. Before your departure, you may find a visa is needed. They often cost $100 and require 1-2 recent “passport” photos for another $25. One caveat:  Do read the fine print since some visas are valid for only one entry. I found this out in the Mideast. I traveled to a second country for 3-4 days before returning to my starting point. At the airport, I was required to pay for another visa just to go back into town to my hotel for another 2-3 days. Fortunately, it was only about $35.   Other countries impose additional fees under a variety of names ranging from “airport charges” to “exit fees” or “port fees”.

Save on Travel by Avoiding Small Costs That Add Up:

3. Tips. Tips can easily add another $200+. On one tour, recommended tips for guides were $75 plus $75 for staff. In addition to that $150 total, there were tips to restaurants and taxi drivers, maids and baggage handlers at hotels before and after the tour.

Save on Travel by Avoiding Small Costs That Add Up:

4. Local surface transportation.  My first choice when abroad is always to take public transportation with subways being the easiest and quickest. For greater distances, I prefer trains rather than flying to get a view of the countryside.  However, as I found in the Brazilian Amazon, when I was unable to identify the correct starting point for a bus to a distant suburb, I had no choice but to take a taxi. However, it was worth the $72 roundtrip fare to avoid missing a leading science center where wildlife roamed freely, scurrying across sidewalks undaunted by gawking tourists! Friends have found paying a taxi was worth it when they were so lost in a rental car they had to follow the taxi to their destination!

Save on Travel by Avoiding Small Costs That Add Up:

5. Pre-trip medical and travel insurance charges. I have never become seriously ill while traveling or been in an accident. Nonetheless, I always follow very carefully the recommended travel shots and medications. As an ardent fan of adventure travel, I have found that exotic vaccines do add up.

I routinely purchase travel insurance for pre-paid tours.  However, if my trip is only comprised of flights and hotels that can be refunded and/or used at a later date, I may not be looking for coverage since my medical insurance is effective abroad.

Do consider it as you are booking. Even a hale and hearty traveler can crash a moped in Bermuda or break a leg on a ski slope.  On two occasions, I was really glad to have it. In one case, I woke up with the flu on the day I was to fly to Europe. The second occurrence followed my being robbed by a band of pickpockets. My loss of $211 which included a $34 taxi ride to get duplicate travel documents was covered in full by my insurance company on return.

With planning and an awareness of such hidden costs, your only surprises as a solo traveler should be the kind that keeps international travel at the top of your bucket list!

Take a look at our ways to save on travel by avoiding small costs that add up. Then send us your own tips at the Solo Trekker 4 U Contacts Page.


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