With summer vacations round the corner, your airline tickets, hotel reservations, and sightseeing packages may long have been in place. More important, you may have already decided on a budget for the trip. But are you sure it would be enough? There are totally unexpected expenses, keeping with each country’s unique spending culture and practices, that crop up leaving you out of budget.
We have identified a few unforeseen expenses that you should be prepared to meet. While some of these are unavoidable, your knowledge may help you curb some others to certain extent.
Tipping the balance
In India, we may part with little tips if the service provider pleases us, but there is no obligation to do so. Tipping taxi drivers or porters is uncommon, haggling nosily is more the norm. On the rare occasion that we do, it’s a really small amount, often loose change. But that is not the case in many other countries. For example, in Europe, the US and Canada, the coach and taxi drivers, bell boys, waiters, tour guides, room service attendants, doormen, theatre attendants and even washroom attendants are to be tipped as a norm.
Frequent travellers would advise you to travel light and in some countries this advise has nothing to do with your ease but with what you will pay for every bag that the bell boy will lift for you. In Canada, you pay Canadian $2 (around Rs88) a bag. Similarly, in Europe, the coach driver would expect a €2 (around Rs117.80) tip per day per person, and if you don’t part with it on your own, he is likely to remind you politely that he earns less and you are expected to pay. In most countries, the tip amount is 10-15% of the bill.
Graphic: Yogesh Kumar / Mint
On the last day of his tour, when Godrej Sachinwalla, finance manager with Godrej and Boyce Manufacturing Co. Ltd, disembarked from the coach, he was shocked when the driver demanded $50 (Rs2,230) each from all passengers. “It was a huge amount,” he said, “and we didn’t even know the driver had to be tipped everyday. So when he asked for the lump sum on the final day, I was indeed surprised.” It always helps to carry some small denomination notes.
However, make sure you don’t tip twice, especially in a restaurant. An official tourism website of the UK says that some restaurants in the country include the tip amount in the bill under the service charge head, while others suggest an amount. Do read your bill carefully before tipping.
Testing your taste buds
If you are travelling on your own, then you would budget for the food, but if you are travelling with a tour operator, there is no reason why you should. But, remember that they usually have Indian food on their menu as it suits everyone’s palate.
On her first trip to Europe, Neha Ranadive, a student at Alliance Française, was looking forward to French recipes. “But our tour operator arranged every single meal in an Indian restaurant,” she says. She sampled Italian and French food and really enjoyed it—at her own expense.
A complete meal in London can cost you around £15-45 (Rs1,015-3,046). Similarly, in Singapore, it could cost you around Singapore $20-40 (around Rs648-1,297). The minimum you may have to shell out in Paris is around €25. So, in case you want to sample the local cuisine, be prepared for the extra cost.
If you want to cut down on the food cost, drive-in restaurants would make sense. These are cheaper and since there is self-service you are saved those few dollar/euros you would pay as tip. Lunch snacks, lunch at cafes and carts and McDonalds are the other cheaper options available in most countries.
That afternoon tea is dear to us. But if you are with a tour operator, they have no such category in their itinerary. Buy your own if you can’t do without it and remember to tip every time you order one.
Annahita Desai, who had gone holidaying abroad with her family, warns, “Operators take an afternoon toilet, tea, coffee break at food plazas on the highways. With kids around, you can’t just have tea or coffee, you also buy some croissant or cookies or muffins.” Most items on the menu there would cost €2 each. So, every day the afternoon break cost the family around €12-14. In the US and Canada, the tea/coffee will cost you $1-4 and in Singapore, about S$3-4.
Water it down
If you are with an operator, your share of bottled water would be rationed; if you are on your own, you may have to buy at least one at every meal. A one-litre bottle of water would cost you anything between $1 and $4 in the US, and at least £1.5 in the UK. One way to save this cost is use the toilet washbasins. The water in the washbasins is portable, but most of us would frown at having to fill our bottles from the toilet tap.
You may also want to watch out for some hotels in the US that have water bottles that rest on sensors. Lift the bottle for more than 30 seconds and add another $5 to your bill. It doesn’t matter whether you drink or don’t.
Lug it around
In North America, luggage trolleys have to be paid for. Though its just a few dollars, ($3 in the US and C$2 in Canada), it will add to your bill the moment you land. Airports also have service boys who help lift luggage from the conveyor belt. They will expect a dollar or two and if they help you push the trolley all the way out, then get ready to pay some more.
When the Ranadive family went on the their European vacation, little did they know that they would spend over Rs5,000 just to use the washroom. “The thought of paying €1 to use the washroom gave me constipation,” says Neha. In most countries, there are clean public toilets at food malls and petrol pumps that don’t need to be paid for their use. However, in Europe, using toilets could be really expensive. The charge for using public toilets range from 50 pence to £1 per person. On an average, a person uses the washroom at least twice a day if he’s out sightseeing the whole day.
So, don’t forget to keep some slack in the budget for some of these strange costs. Have a nice trip!