Top 10 Money Tips for VolunteersVolunteering & Travel Advice / 22 June 2014
Here are my top 10 money tips for volunteers, but they also apply to travellers in general. Travelling overseas is a great experience, but it can become stressful if you have issues accessing your money or using your usual payment methods overseas. These tips should provide you with useful advice to make your trip a stress-free, enjoyable experience.
- Buying currency - It is not always possible to buy the currency of your chosen country before you leave, but for these countries there is often another currency that they will accept e.g. US Dollars. Before you buy currency, it’s always worth comparing exchange rates between different sellers and checking whether they offer a discounted rate for buying online so that you get the best deal. Some sellers also offer a buy back scheme where you pay a small fee when you buy the currency and this allows you to sell your currency back to the seller when you return at the same rate as you bought it.
- Familiarise yourself with the currency - You should try to become familiar with the currency you are going to be using. This can be easier than it sounds, especially if you are travelling to numerous different countries during your trip. You may find it useful to write a small table showing the currency conversions for set amounts using the conversion rate that you bought your money at. This is useful to know especially when buying souvenirs (where prices can fluctuate dramatically) and taxis or other transport. You also don’t want to find out that you’ve just tipped way over the odds just because you weren’t familiar with the currency!
- Take cash - No matter where you are travelling to, you should always take enough cash with you to get you through the first few days. Although most airports will have cash machines, you will find that when you are travelling, especially in developing countries, these may be out of order, so it’s best to come prepared so that you have enough cash to tide you over until you can get to a cash machine.
- Carrying cash - They may not be the most fashionable of accessories, but money wallets are an excellent way of carrying cash in a concealed way. If you are carrying large amounts of money, or cash and cards, consider separating these so you are not keeping them all in the same place; this way if you lose your purse/wallet you haven’t lost everything.
- Small denominations - It’s important to remember that small shops and local transport such as tuk tuks will not accept large denominations, so when you buy your currency try to ask for it in a range of denominations. Alternatively it’s a good idea to ‘break’ a larger note at the airport, a hotel or a large shop where they will be able to give you change.
- Travellers cheques - Although travellers cheques do have some benefits, many of the rural areas of the countries we work in do not accept travellers cheques and therefore we would not recommend taking money in this form.
- Prepaid cards - These are a great option for travellers. They are cards that you pre-load with money before you travel and they can be topped up while you are away. They offer a more secure alternative to cash and more flexibility than travellers cheques. They also generally offer better value and exchange rates than banks or bureaus. Once you are booked onto your Pod Volunteer project, we will send you the details of the discounted prepaid card that our volunteers can use.
- Keep your options open - It’s a good idea to travel with more than one card (e.g. a debit card, credit card and/or prepaid card). This means that if the worst comes to the worst and one of your cards is lost or stolen, then you have alternative options for accessing your money.
- Banking - You should inform your bank that you plan to go travelling and let them know where you are planning to visit. They can make a note of this in their records so that they know it is you using your card overseas, otherwise they may cancel the card if they suspect it is being used fraudulently. Depending on your bank, they may call you when you have just tried to withdraw money overseas for the first time to check that it is you using the card so it’s a good idea to have your phone on you when you use the cash machine in order to take this call. You should also make a note of the contact number for your bank in case you should need to contact them while you are overseas.
- Internet banking - This can be really useful to set up before you go travelling. However internet banking it is not without its problems; you should avoid accessing your internet banking account using an open WIFI system as this is not always a secure method and can potentially allow others to access to your account.
At Pod Volunteer we provide volunteers with information about money and budgeting in our detailed Volunteering Guides which we send to volunteers when they have applied for a project.
If you would like to join one of our fantastic projects then check out our volunteer opportunities around the world.
Erin – Pod Volunteer Placement Manager