Posted by Allison on 4 April 2009, 10:11
While most of us restrict our foreign travel to once or perhaps twice a year when we go on holiday, some people are flying backwards and forwards into and out of other countries on a regular basis.
Business people in particular tend to do this, especially if the business they work for has offices in many countries and their job takes them to one in particular every few weeks.
But whatever the reason for the frequent foreign travels, it is always a good idea to stay on top of your money. The chances are high that the country you are visiting will use a different currency to the one you use at home, and that can bring problems for you unless you have a strategy to avoid them.
Firstly even though you will no doubt have a credit card or bank card of some kind to pay for items or services while you are away, you will need some actual cash to use on some occasions. Now you won't want to be queuing at the Bureau de Change every few weeks to change up some more sterling into the currency you need, so it can be a good idea to wait until the exchange rate is particularly good and is working in your favour, and then change up a larger amount into the currency you need. This should then last you for a few trips and save you time as well. If you are going to do this keep an eye on the rates for a while and try and pick the best moment to make the exchange.
Of course, you shouldn't be carrying a large amount of cash on you, especially if you are staying in an area which is known for pickpocketing. You will be at your most vulnerable during your first few visits though, when you have no real knowledge of your surroundings and you look more like a tourist than anything. Pickpockets tend to go for easy targets so make sure you don't look like one. And be sure not to flash your wallet or purse unnecessarily in public. It's a fact that when the announcement is made to look after your valuables on the London Underground, people will naturally tap their pocket or handbag, or wherever else they have stashed their money, to check that it's still safe.
What you may not know is that the pickpockets are watching and looking out for people who do exactly that, which means that you are automatically making yourself a more desirable target! Make sure you resist the urge to fall for this one, and keep your belongings safe at all times.
Another tip you may be interested in if you go abroad a lot is the idea of getting a foreign currency bank account. These are a very good idea for frequent travellers since they allow you to keep a bank account loaded with another currency other than your own home currency. There are conditions to these though, so it's worth doing some research into which accounts would work best for you. Some will have certain charges applied to them, while others require you to keep a certain amount of cash in them at all times.
A good way to find the best foreign currency bank account is to search online and do a comparison between the different options available. Watch out for the requirements of the bank you are considering though – some ask you to open a regular current account with them as well, which you may not want to do.
So far we have talked about what you should take with you and be prepared for when you go abroad, but it's also wise to think about what you ought to leave at home. Travelling light is usually the way most business people go anyway, but while it's a good idea to have an emergency credit card with you, don't take any more than that. Leave the others tucked safely away in a lockable box or safe at home instead.
Once you have visited the location you are required to go to for your business a few times, you will have a much better idea of what you need to take and what you don't. You will usually find you take too much of the local currency to begin with, and on future trips you can leave some more at home instead of carrying large amounts of cash around with you.
While some people dislike the regular monotony of flying backwards and forwards, other people actually quite enjoy it. But whatever camp you fall into you will find it far easier to get through the trip when you are fully prepared. And it is often the little things that make all the difference.
A good example of this is having some small change in the local currency. It's a great idea to have a small bundle of notes to carry around with you, but supposing you are gasping for a drink and the only way to get it is to put a coin or two in the only vending machine in sight? If you didn't have the foresight to put some of those coins in your pocket you would have to go thirsty.
It's pretty clear that the most organised travellers will be those who have been used to foreign travel and have done it for quite a while. But with the proper insight and a little bit of forward thinking and research, you can get most things right even on your first trip abroad.
Make sure you have all the relevant contacts with you for people at home as well, since you may want to contact family or business colleagues while you are away. You'll soon get the hang of travelling for business, and even if you forget something once, you won't forget it again the next time! It's not as easy as simply popping back home for it, after all…