Paying for travel – how to manage your money while you’re away:
A common issue we often hear first-time interrailers discussing is how to manage their money whilst abroad. From keeping it safe to budget spending money, we’ve rounded up some of the most common things we’re asked. Check out our suggestions for protecting your pennies and making Interrail cost-effective for you and your mates!
Buying foreign currency and exchange rates
A large part of your interrail cost will depend on what you spend while you’re away. First, work out a rough daily budget for your trip. Be sure to include food, public transport and fun stuff like sightseeing/activities/going out. We reckon a budget of around €25 per day should be doable for most people – depending on your spending habits!
Then you can start thinking about which currencies you will need for your trip. Not every country in Europe uses or will accept Euros. Make sure you research each place you’re going to and find out which currencies are accepted locally. If you’re only going to be spending a couple of days in non-euro countries, it might be better to take some pounds sterling (GBP) to exchange. Alternatively, you could withdraw from an ATM in the country – but make sure you check the fees on using your card abroad!
Either way, make sure you don’t have too much left over at the end of your stay. It’s generally not worth re-exchanging small amounts of currency back into Euros or GBP at the end of your trip. The rate will be much worse, so it’s better to keep it for your next trip instead or spend it before you leave!
If you plan to stay a bit longer in a place and will need more funds, you should consider when and where you will get your currency. We suggest getting the bulk of it before you go -you will usually get better exchange rates buying currency at home before you travel than once already abroad. You can buy foreign currency on the high street (for example the Post Office, Debenhams, travel agencies) or via an online retailer.
Shop around to see who has the best exchange rates and remember that the more you buy in one go, the better the rate will usually be. This also applies to withdrawing local currency on your card at an ATM abroad.
There are a few countries where you can’t buy currency outside the country itself. These include Albania, Macedonia, Serbia and Bosnia. The best option in these places is to head to an exchange kiosk with some GBP or Euros when you arrive. They usually offer a decent exchange rate, but just make sure you count the cash you’ve been given to check it’s correct. Again, you could also just use an ATM.
Using a prepaid currency card is an ideal way to carry your travel money safely AND save money. Many companies such as Caxton and Revolut offer a prepaid card which you load with foreign currency before you travel. The card can then be topped up on the go, either online or via the app. One benefit of a currency card over a regular debit card is that you won’t be subject to any bank transaction fees.
In addition, the rate is fixed so you know how much those 100 euros cost you in advance. Both of these advantages make it really easy to budget. Plus the balance on the card isn’t linked to your bank account. That means if someone was to steal your card details they could only spend what is on the card, not empty your entire bank balance! Read on for why you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket when it comes to carrying your travel money. Want more safety tips? Check out our advice here.
Top Tip: We don’t recommend getting any currency at the airport before you go – this is where you will find the worst rates!
Carrying your currency safely:
The most important thing to think about before you start buying your currency is how you will carry it. By far the safest option is to split your money across various payment methods. These might include cash, debit card, credit card, or prepaid currency card.
This means you can access your money in a variety of different places and don’t have to worry about losing it all- for example if your cash is stolen or your debit card is swallowed by the ATM.
For any cash you carry, you should stash your money in a few locations. Place some in different parts of your luggage – some in your purse/wallet, some hidden in your main backpack/toiletry bag/sock. This way if your bag does get lost or your wallet is stolen, you’ll have a backup supply of money. Pickpockets are common in all big cities including in the UK, so don’t carry large amounts of cash.
If you’re going out to the beach or on a night out, use the hostel locker or safe provided to store your cash. Alternatively, ask your hostel reception if they can securely store it along with other valuables.
Managing your budget while you’re away:
Your trip is here; the time for worrying about how much interrail costs is over. Of course, you can still be savvy with your money – for example cooking in the hostel kitchen instead of eating out every night, taking advantage of free activities such as walking tours, walking instead of using public transport. However, remember that it’s the trip of a lifetime! You’ve been saving for months – what’s the point if you can’t enjoy yourself whilst you’re away?
Plus, no matter how hard you have saved, unexpected things can happen on your trip. You need to allow for flexibility and make sure you have a bit extra put away just in case. You might fancy a spontaneous day trip with new friends, go on a once-in-a-lifetime skydive or meet your one true love in Venice and upgrade to a fancy hotel suite!!
Planning your daily budget is one thing; sticking to it is a whole other kettle of fish. Even the most strong-willed of us can’t resist a cheeky gelato now and then. You can’t miss out taking those amazing souvenirs home, but you don’t want the cost of interrailing to run you into the ground!
In order to ensure you don’t run out of money mid-trip (nobody wants to have to call the Bank of Mum and Dad or worse still, go home early), our top tip would be to keep track of your spending as you go.
If you keep a note of how much you’ve spent so far on your trip, you’ll feel more at ease in the long run – leaving you free to enjoy your holiday!
Companies like Monzo offer a card and an app where you receive a notification each time you spend money. The app also keeps track of how much of your daily budget you have left. This will help you keep track of your spending and each payment appears deducted from the balance straight away. So nasty surprises a few days later with all your transactions appearing at once. Plus, this type of ‘online’ debit card doesn’t usually charge any international transaction fees for spending abroad.
So, what’s the conclusion?
To sum up, our top tips for managing your travel spending money while Interrailing are:
- Make a budget for how much you’re able to spend while travelling, to make sure you can afford the day to day cost of interrailing.
- Get the majority of your currency in advance of your trip.
- Shop around for the best rates.
- Spread your money across different platforms for security (cash, debit, credit, prepaid card).
- Keep your money safe whilst travelling – don’t carry large amounts of cash and don’t keep it all in one place – i.e. only in your wallet.
- Finally, keep a lid on your spending by noting down your purchases regularly while on the road. Think about getting a card or app which will notify you each time you buy something.
Of course, the main thing is to enjoy your trip. But, being safe in the knowledge that you are managing your money carefully can’t hurt! For more tips on managing your money while you’re away, check out our planning section.
Euroventure puts together bespoke interrailing trips, including all passes, tickets, compulsory reservations, accommodation and 24-hour support. Either pick from one of our example routes, or create your own. It’s exactly the same as organising it yourself – except you don’t have to!