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Now that you have decided where to go and have booked your accomodation and planned the itinerary (or sort of), what else do you need to do?

1. Change money at money changers in Lucky Plaza or Arcade

Always be prepared and bring some foreign currency along with you rather than change the money in your destination country as sometimes you might need the money once you leave the airport e.g. board a taxi to head to your hotel. Remember the rule of thumb, never ever change your money in the Singapore airport. The exchange rates there are pretty bad. To quote an example, we managed to get a rate of 1 SGD: 7860 Rp from a money changer in Lucky Plaza whereas my friends who changed at the airport received 7270 Rp. That is almost 8% less! You might as well go on your holiday and swipe your credit card wherever you go. The recommended places to go exchange your money would be Lucky Plaza or Arcade at Raffles Place. Where there’s intense competition, the prices would be more favourable for you. You may also wish to check the rates on Mustafa website first before you head down as it offers a baseline for comparison.

For seasoned travellers, they would be well versed as to whether it is better to change the money in Singapore or in the foreign country. For instance, there were many money changers in Indonesia offering 7950 for exchange in Seminyak, Bali during my recent trip! And people who have been to Hong Kong would know that the exchange rate there would be lousier than the Singapore airport. You may wish to check out travel forums e.g. Tripadvisor to see what others have experienced in their previous trips.

2. Buy travel insurance

Most budget travellers would want to spend as little as they can on a trip. However, one thing that you should never scrimp on is the travel insurance. There have been many calamities and natural disasters in the past few years and you can never anticipate what may happen during your trip. There are numerous examples that I can quote from my friends such as Z, who was hospitalised for pneumonia last year and had to forgo her trip to Taiwan. The hospital bill may not be covered by the travel insurance, but the bill for the hotel and airfare was borned by them. There is J as well, who was stuck in the U.S. due to bad weather and couldn’t return and had to spend money on a last minute hotel. Apart from that, you never know if you will fall sick during or after the trip. And most savvy travellers will know that they have up to 1 week after returning from their trip to see a doctor and these medical expenses are fully claimable.

Travel insurance essentially comes in two forms – single trip vs annual plans. For people who travel regularly, an annual plan would actually be cheaper. Just check out the companies that deal with travel insurance and you can get more information from them – NTUC Income, Chartis, Aviva etc.

3. Leave your mobile behind? Or buy a local SIM

Since you are going on a holiday, maybe you should just leave your mobile phone in Singapore and remain uncontactable so that you can enjoy the best of your trip. Overseas roaming calls are expensive and data plans cost SGD 15/day for unlimited 3G service. However, there are cheaper options to consider. Most countries allow tourists to purchase the SIM cards for use during their stay in the country. Some of them require you to bring your passport along to register whereas other countries can be more lax. Depending on where you are going, google to see which are the telcos available and the type of services they provide as well as the cost. You will be surprised that you can have substantial savings through this! For people who want to save more, you can consider getting a call card on top of a local sim card and you will probably spend just a few cents per minute through that.

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