How to Beat a Bad Exchange Rate

(original article is from Megan’s Travel Column on Life2PointOh, entitled Weekly Wanders)

Let’s be honest. The American dollar hasn’t exactly been doing that great the last few years. Back in 2008 when I was studying in London, I almost cried one morning after calculating how much my tall vanilla latte was actually costing me in American dollars. Just a few weeks ago, I was surprised to discover that bar tabs in Santiago, Chile are pretty much equivalent to those one might have in New York City.

So how do you enjoy your trip without constantly worrying about your dwindling bank account? After years of experience, I’ve mastered the art of budget travel, or at least I’ve worked toward finding a temporary solution. Here are three tips to help save you money on your next foreign jaunt.

Speak the language (or travel with someone who does): As much as I wish I could speak multiple languages, I can’t. The trick is to at least attempt to speak the local language. Even though you may feel stupid, and you probably will, people really appreciate when you give it a shot and it might just score you a discount here or there. In my case, I’ve often traveled with people who are fluent in multiple languages. While this does make me feel slightly inept at times, it’s worked out in my favor. In Egypt, South America and various countries throughout Europe, this has saved me countless dollars.

My very helpful tour guide / friend of the day Paul (at Machu Picchu)

Market Shop: As a bohemian at heart, I naturally gravitate toward outdoor food or vintage shopping markets. London, for example has a ton of markets where you can buy dresses for only five pounds. Even with a bad exchange rate, that’s a hard deal to beat. If you are in a country where you speak the language, give haggling a try. I personally love a good haggle, but some people shy away from it. Depending on what country you visit, haggling may actually be expected. Traveling is all about going out of your comfort zone, so there’s really nothing to lose.

large market in Cochabamba, Bolivia

Get to the Clubs Early: If you’re traveling with friends, it’s almost expected that you will want to party. While clubs and bars can get expensive, it’s never a bad idea to pre-game at your apartment before you step foot inside the venue. Most clubs and lounges don’t charge a cover before midnight, so getting there just before the cut-off is your best bet. If you happen to meet a promoter during your trip, you’ve hit the jackpot!

Greenhouse, NYC

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