Instead of accruing debt on a vacation abroad, go where your money is strong. With the declining value of the dollar, visiting countries with favorable currency exchange rates lets your money stretch further. In Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan (a tiny country at the western border of China), I could have an extravagant dinner for $10. Scope out how much some items cost in other countries at howmuchatyourplace.com.
When picking a destination, check travel.state.gov to see if the country is safe (the State Department is currently advising against travel to Kyrgyzstan) and if there are any special travel requirements.
Planning right can help you return safely with pictures and stories instead of lots of debt. But picking the place is only the beginning. Here’re six tips for making the most of traveling in an unfamiliar country.
1. Shop for tickets early
Look for tickets before you plan your trip. A next day, roundtrip ticket from NYC to Prague could cost about $1,500. In contrast, planning ahead ten months can give you a price of around $1,000.
2. Travel light
Avoid worrying about pickpockets and heavy bags. Unless you plan on taking thousands of pictures, why carry an expensive digital camera and all the accessories? A Kodak Zoom single use camera only costs $5.95 at ecamerafilms.com, and you can be worry free.
3. Buy locally
If we lived in Kyrgyzstan, we would all be rich. Locals make an average of $128 a month. I had my best luck with the corporate businesses in Kyrgyzstan–the chain stores charged more for most items than a local would pay in a bazaar, but less than the venders in the bazaar would try to charge me.
4. Spare no expense
When will you get another chance to ride a horse over a 3,000-meter high pass in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan? I’ve never come home from a trip overseas and wished I could give back the memories for the cash.
5. ATMs aren’t universal
There are parts of the world without ATMs, so avoid finding yourself stranded with no money. Take cash along with other forms of currency, such as traveler’s checks, credit cards and debit cards. Check out the brass article Foreign Travel Tips and travel.state.gov for tips on how to keep you and your money safe.
6. Inform your credit card company
When a charge shows up on your bill from Kyrgyzstan, the credit card company could assume the charges are fraudulent and place a hold on your card. Call and tell them where you’re going ahead of time. Visit creditcards.com for more information on foreign credit card use.