Money To Live

September 5, 2008

Stories from abroad

Filed under: travel — by moneytolive @ 5:00 am

After the reader question earlier in the week, I wanted to share a few stories from traveling abroad.

Credit vs. Debit

On a very crowded subway in Santiago, my wallet stolen. The wallet contained a small amount of cash, a credit card, and a debit card. It was trivial to cancel the credit card and all fraudulent charges were immediately removed. With the debit card, though, I had to spend a half day and $50 running around Santiago gathering a police statement and sending notarized documents back to the US.

My back-up plan for money in Santiago was a second credit card tucked away in my suitcase at the hotel. I was able to use this credit card for large expenses and borrowed cash from a friend, who I repaid with a check when we returned home. An alternative would have been to carry travellers checks.

I was later told (after being followed by a pickpocket from the streets into a museum and then being ‘rescued’ by a security guard who kept watch to make sure nothing happened) that my watch was too flashy and indicated that I had a lot of money. This was a $15 watch from Target (trust me, it wasn’t flashy). In the US, no one would have mistaken this watch for an expensive watch. The nice Chilean ladies at the museum gift shop said that my wallet was probably stolen because I wore this watch.


During my four months in Hungary, my landlord called on a Sunday morning and wanted two months rent on that very afternoon. I had the money in my bank account and went to the nearest ATM to make the withdrawal. What I did not know was that ATMs in Budapest ran low on Sunday morning. I could only withdraw half of one month’s rent from that ATM, and I ran around town withdrawing small amounts of money from five different ATMs.

Health Insurance

In Hungary, an American friend Kat tripped while getting off the bus and had to see a doctor. I do not remember the details now, but she was mad that she had not bought an international insurance plan.


One of my classmates in Hungary was a tall guy with a big stomach. Each morning, he bought the biggest loaf of bread he could find. He ate that all day and then ate a nice dinner. The bread was one of the best deals of calories/$.

During spring break in Greece, I made a sweet bread to accompany dinner. Because none of my companions nor I spoke or read Greek, we bought salt instead of sugar. Fortunately I tasted the dough before baking the bread, and I discovered our mistake — it was the worst bread I ever made. I was ready to give up, but a hungry friend returned to the store and found sugar so that I could make another loaf.

Holidays and Vacations

Traveling in the off season (i.e., fall and spring) can be cheaper than in the peak summer season. This can be prime time to negotiate. When buying souvenirs from small vendors, you can usually pay less than the listed amount. Talk with locals or other students to find out how much can be negotiated.

Exchange rates

Don’t change all of your money ahead of time. If you feel better, go ahead and change some in the US, but you can usually get better exchange rates abroad.



  1. In all honesty, I did notice your watch when we were drinking bubble tea, and I did mean to say that I liked it very much. I wouldn’t have guessed it was from Target. 🙂

    Comment by Shannon — September 8, 2008 @ 2:25 pm |Reply

  2. love the image of you running around to different ATMs to pay your landlord!
    I like the travelers checks idea, I brought some w/ me to Europe.

    Comment by katherine — September 18, 2008 @ 4:18 pm |Reply

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