Travelling can be exciting, but to make sure you have a stress-free and inexpensive journey there are a couple of potential costs you need to take note of, writes Angelique Ruzicka.
Travelling should be pleasurable and relaxing, but the reality is that there are many unforeseen charges that some are not aware of and which often make going on holiday a rather unpleasant experience. Here’s what you should be aware of to make the most of the money you’re taking abroad:
1. CITY TAX
Watch out for the “city tax” that is imposed by most cities in Europe and the US.
These are charged by the respective governments on to tourism establishments and then they, in turn, pass on the cost to you. Jennifer Morris, co-owner of Durban-based travel agency Travel Savvy, describes it as a tourism tax.
In Italy and Spain, for example, the nightly rate payable depends on the category of accommodation you’ve booked.
“So if you stay in a three-star hotel you could pay €2 (R31)* a person a night and €3 a person a night in a four- and five-star hotel.
“It can be quite pricey as much as €10 a night.
“If you were to book online that wouldn’t be included in the price but it is in the small print and the establishment will charge your credit card with that fee,” says Morris.
Morris advises travellers to check the fine print or phone ahead to ask the hotel, etc, if such charges apply, or to consult a travel agent.
And, before you think that this is an unfair charge, South Africa has the Tomsa levy, which is a 1% tourism levy charged to travellers for the use of specific tourism services.
The funds collected are used by SA Tourism to promote the country as a tourism hot spot.
2. DAMAGE AND INFRASTRUCTURE TAX
Some tourism establishments are concerned about breakages and will ensure you don’t fly off without paying for any damages.
“Some hotels charge a tax; in Zanzibar, for example, an infrastructure tax of $1 is paid per day and per person.
“If you are opting for self-catering a deposit for breakage will be held on your credit card until you depart,” says Linda Balme, head of direct sales at Travelstart.
3. DEPARTURE TAX
A departure tax is a fee charged by a country when a person leaves.
Natalia Rosa, spokesperson for the Association of SA Travel Agents (Asata) says this is a typical charge imposed on tourists who leave African countries.
“This isn’t typically included in your ticket,” she says. Be sure to find out whether a departure tax applies to you and if you have to pay cash because some countries insist that you do so.
4. INTERNATIONAL ROAMING CHARGES
Don’t just use your mobile phone abroad and hope for the best. Find out how much you’ll pay in roaming charges.
Morris says generally consumers are more careful these days when it comes to taking their phones abroad, but she believes travellers should still be warned.
“As more places have WiFi and are catering to the international phone travel market, there are a couple of solutions for travellers. Years ago we advised people to buy pre-loaded SIM cards as a lot of countries wanted proof of residence but that’s fallen away now as most countries have done away with the red tape,” says Morris.
5. ROOM SERVICE AND MINIBARS
Don’t automatically assume that the snacks and drinks in your hotel room fridge are for you to consume for free.
These snacks often come attached with expensive price tags, so don’t just help yourself without asking if there are any costs involved.
6. EXTRA CHARGES THAT ARE PRESELECTED
Online booking sites often have extra charges included in their booking forms so if you whizz through it you may not notice you’ve agreed to them.
Travelstart, for example, charges for booking details to be sent via SMS (R9), delayed and lost baggage protection (R66.56) and if you want to have flexibility in your travel dates you’d have to pay R795, (currently at a 12% discount).
Some of the charges are already preselected, meaning that you have to undo them yourself as you go through the form.
“We preselect some products that we think are suited to client’s needs depending on where they are travelling to.
“We do advise on our website that should the clients not want any of the products that they are able to deselect them or add those that were not
“Clients can contact us within 24 hours after they have booked if they accidentally did not deselect the products. We can organise a refund for them as long as it’s not for an imminent departure booking,” says Balme.
“Find out if your travel insurance covers cancellations so that you don’t have to buy it from the online provider,” advises Rosa.
Rules on tipping can vary. Speak to a local or someone who works at your hotel to find out what the customs are when it comes to tipping.
Some guidebooks might mention what the etiquette is.
8. EXTRAS LIKE WIFI
We live in a very connected world but it’s not always safe to assume that every service is free, including things like Wi-Fi.
Find out if Wi-Fi is offered inclusively at the place where you are staying or if the surrounding restaurants, cafes and bars offer it for free.
9. EXTRA BAGGAGE
If you book with some of the cheaper “no-frills” airlines, you may find that you have restrictions on the amount of baggage you can carry. With Ryanair, for example, you may check up to three pieces of checked baggage for a fee and may carry two items of cabin baggage free of charge into the aircraft cabin.
There’s often a kilo and dimension specifications so make sure you know what these are before you fly!
10. CUTTING COSTS DOESN’T ALWAYS MEAN CHEAPER
If you decide to book a hotel or B&B outside of the city because you want to save on accommodation costs it may not be the best option.
“Transport costs can be high. We think from a short-term perspective that you’re saving money but you don’t think of the long-term effect,” says Rosa.
*Currency conversions are correct as at July 24.