Travel Planning. Expert Advice.


May 29, 2012

7 Hidden Travel Expenses and How to Minimize Them

When planning a big trip, most travelers have a basic budget in mind, and they usually remember to include the obvious things like hotel rooms, transportation between cities, food, entrance fees, and maybe even a little flex money.

I know that I planned in all of these things before I set off on my six month long trip; however, there were several things that I forgot to include in my budget, and I’m sure I’m not the only one to forget an expense or two.

Here are seven easy travel expenses to overlook, and some suggestions on how to minimize their impact on your budget.


If you are traveling for more than a week, it is nearly impossible to take enough clean clothes with you to last for your entire trip. Thus, laundry becomes something that you need to think about. While it can be as cheap as $1 a kilogram in some countries, I’ve also seen hotels charge several dollars just to wash one shirt. One way to minimize your laundry expenses is to take a small container of washing powder and do laundry in your hotel’s sink. While some hotels discourage you from doing this, I’ve never had anyone actually ask me to stop hanging clothes to dry.

Drinking Water

For many of us who grew up in the western world, drinking water is something that we take for granted. Getting a glass of water is as simple and cheap as turning on the faucet and filling up a glass. However, in many parts of the world the water just isn’t clean enough to do this. While many hotels provide a water dispenser, many do not. Therefore, while water isn’t the most costly of items, make sure that you include it when budgeting your expenses.

ATM Fees

You can’t travel without money, but how do you get it? If you are traveling long-term, it’s not practical to take all of the money that you will need with you, and traveler’s checks are getting harder and more expensive to cash. So, most travelers resort to using ATM cards at local banks.

The problem with this is that many ATM machines charge a fee to use, on top of the fees that most banks charge. It wouldn’t be ridiculous to think that you might have to pay $8-10 just to access your own money.

To avoid some of the fees, look into a bank that doesn’t charge ATM fees before you leave home. If you are lucky, you might even find a bank that will reimburse you for the fees other banks charge.


If you are setting off on your first backpacking trip, there are some supplies that you will likely need to buy: a backpack, quick-drying clothes, shoes, etc. Don’t forget to add these into the cost of planning your trip. While I’ve seen plenty of people traveling in jeans and cotton t-shirts, keep in mind that these clothes are heavier and take much longer to dry than moisture-wicking shirts and pants.

Spending the money upfront to get some higher quality clothes will help keep your laundry expenses down because you can wash them yourself more easily. They will also pack smaller and lighter in your bag.


If you are traveling abroad, it is likely that you will want to use the internet at some point, whether it be to contact your family, update a blog, or research your next destination.

While some hostels and hotels do provide free computers to use, most of the time you will have to make your way to an internet cafe and shell out a few dollars to use a computer.

One way to avoid this is to travel with your own laptop. A small laptop won’t add too much weight to your bag, but will save you a lot of money on internet expenses and provides you with a free way to backup your photos as you travel.

Secondary Transportation

Very few travelers forget to include the cost of inter-city transportation in their budget, and you might have even included the cost of buses, subways, and taxis around the city while sightseeing; however, don’t forget to include the cost of transportation from the airport, bus terminal, or train station, to and from your hotel.

In many cases, especially with airports and, to a lesser extent, bus stations, the terminal is located outside of the city center and may not be connected to public transportation. This can result in a nasty surprise if you forget to include it in your budget.

To minimize your secondary transportation expenses, you have a few options. First, book a hotel that provides free pickup. However, keep in mind that these hotels are usually on the higher end of the price range. Second, look at all your options. Many airports have several different transportation options for getting into the city in addition to taxis. Third, walk a bit. In my experience, the most expensive taxi drivers are the most convenient ones. Walking even 2 minutes from the bus station to the street can save you as much as 75% off of the price of transportation to your hotel.

You'll likely want to buy some local handicrafts or souvenirs, so make sure to include it in your budget.

You’ll likely want to buy some local handicrafts or souvenirs, so make sure to include it in your budget.


While many backpackers buy few souvenirs due to space, it is almost inevitable that you will buy something during your travels. Make sure that you include this expense in your planning.

One way to minimize the expense to is shop around and to bargain. In many towns, the cost of an item can vary wildly from one store to another. In addition to shopping around, keep in mind that you can bargain for many souvenirs that don’t have prices listed on them, especially in second and third world countries.

If you find you’ve gone overboard and bought too much stuff, consider mailing it back home via surface instead of using air mail or paying extra baggage fees. While it can take as long as three months to arrive, surface mail is generally half to a third of the cost of air mail and, from my experiences, is just as reliable.

Do you have any other suggestions for ways to avoid hidden expenses while traveling? Did I miss anything that you want to warn others about? Let us know in the comments section below.



  1. We recently published a post which provides a solution to your drinking water costs, and avoids adding more plastic to the environment, Drink Responsibly (or, why we love our SteriPEN) –


      That’s another great idea to save money on water and be more environmentally friendly. Thanks for the comment.

  2. Thanks for the tips. Do you know of a bank you recommend that have the least amount of ATM fees? That’s probably my biggest road block right now in my planning.


      I use USAA for my banking. However, I believe that they only give accounts to military members, veterens, and their families. I’ve seen some stuff online that Charles Schwab bank might offer the same ATM refunds. I’m sure there are more if you look around.

      Thanks for the comment.

  3. Thanks for thid very helpful list – i didn’t have all on my mind when i was just reading the title. Traveling on a budget is sometimes pretty hard to do! 😉

  4. There are some countries that have a Visa fee entry, so keep it in mind too.


      Visas are certainly another hidden cost to consider when traveling. I’ve had to pay upwards of $200 for one before. Thanks for the comment.

  5. Hey,

    It’s interesting you should mention secondary travel costs. I think they are something people forget all the time. So many places stick their bus station out of town.

    We recently went to Melaka in Malaysia and it costs ups 5x as much for the taxi to take us into the town (10 minutes) as it did to do the 3 hour bus journey.

    We got the local bus on the way back to the terminal. When we arrived we were told there were only taxis. We should have known better really.

    Great blog,



      Sometimes those taxi costs can be insane. I took a taxi as well, but fortunately was able to get a fairly reasonable price. I didn’t even know that taking a train was an option. Thanks for the comment.

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