For most Singaporeans, overseas holidays are an escape from reality. Whether you’re lying by the pool at a resort in Bali, shopping your brains out in Bangkok or stalking Kpop stars in Seoul, that holiday helps you forget real life.
But that’s precisely why it’s so easy to overspend on holiday. Just for the duration of that weekend/week/month, we ignore the fact that we’ve got bills to pay, MRT cabins to squeeze into, retirement to plan for and a huge pile of work on our desks, and we immerse ourselves in a fantasy world.
Here are four tips that can mitigate the damage.
Get a SIM card so you can Uber
Taxis in countries such as the UK, Australia and France are hideously expensive. And by expensive, that means that paying 100 SGD for a 45 minute ride is totally possible.
In such places, taking uberX is usually a LOT cheaper. (The price difference between taxis and Uber in Singapore isn’t as pronounced because taxi fares here are much lower relative to the average person’s income).
For example, to get from Tullamarine Airport to Melbourne city centre, a taxi would cost you between 45 to 63 AUD. An uberX ride would cost you about 24 AUD to 32 AUD during non-surge periods.
Find out ahead of time where you can get a cheap reloadable data SIM card (often available at airports, convenience stores and newstands) so you can use the Uber app. This is especially ideal if you’re travelling in a group, which makes using public transport less cost-effective. Even if the city you’re visiting has a great metro/subway system, Uber can be useful for trips to the outskirts or to/from the airports.
Don’t pay by credit card if you can help it
While there is something to be said about not carrying around large wads of cash, relying on your credit card to make every transaction on your holiday is a bad idea.
Not only does it make you lose track of your spending, you also get slapped with all sorts of fees like foreign currency conversion fees (most definitely worse than the rate you’d get at Mustafa, especially since banks convert the currency to USD before converting it to SGD) and transaction fees of about 1.5% to 3%. Unless you’ve got a card that gives back very generously in cash rebates or air miles, it’s unlikely to be worth it.
It’s easier to stay within your budget when you withdraw a set amount of cash than if you’re swiping plastic with abandon. Using your card also makes you less likely to fall victim to credit card fraud or card skimming, which is a problem in some countries. That being said, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t good credit cards that will reward you for spending overseas and make the fees worth it. Just make sure you get the card that best suits your travel needs.
Be wary of having to pay for check-in baggage if you’re flying budget
Budget flights within the region are often dirt cheap. But they do come with inconveniences, one of the biggest being the lack of baggage allowance, and strict rules governing carry-on luggage.
You might have left Singapore with a near-empty carry-on bag, but when you head back with 10kg worth of shopping and souvenirs, be wary of needing to purchase baggage space. At certain airports, staff are very strict about weighing your carry-on luggage, and if your bags are overweight (eg. Jetstar imposes a 7kg maximum on many flights), you’ll be forced to pay to check-in your baggage, at rates that could exceed the price of your ticket.
For example, Singaporeans who head to Bangkok for hardcore shopping might want to consider buying luggage space for their homebound ticket ahead of time, as it’s cheaper than paying for it at the airport.
Also don’t forget that if you plan to take all your bags on board with you, you won’t be able to bring home any liquids. Yes, that includes the bottles of tom yum sauce you bought in Bangkok, or kecap manis from Jakarta.
Pack strategically to minimise costs
“If you forgot to pack something, it’s okay, we can just buy it there,” says just about every Singaporean before leaving on an overseas holiday.
But in reality, you want to be strategic about what you pack. There is no one-size-fits-all packing strategy, and what you bring along depends on your accommodation options and costs in your destination.
For example, if you’re going to Bangkok, where prices are generally much lower and there are convenience stores everywhere, it’s fine to buy disposable necessities like toothpaste and toothbrushes upon arrival.
On the other hand, you always want to remember to bring along items like refillable water bottles (they can save you from having to buy bottled water) and towels (if you’re staying in guesthouses or hostels where they won’t be provided), spare contact lenses, lens solution and so on.
If you’re flying with a budget airline and won’t have baggage allowance, contact lens wearers will also want to look for mini bottles of lens solution at Guardian Pharmacy or Watsons (this is especially so if you’re going to destinations like Australia where lens solution can cost a lot more than it does here), and purchase small refillable bottles for any shampoos/soaps/creams you’d like to bring along with you.
Also, if you really want to make sure you don’t overspend on something completely unnecessary, please make sure you purchase travel insurance before your trip. It might seem like an additional inconvenience, but for less than $50, you can avoid finding out what the true meaning of inconvenience is should something unexpected happen on your trip.
How do you avoid overspending when you go on holiday? Share your tips in the comments!