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For U.S. tourists, a weaker pound and euro makes international travel even more appealing in a year when the dollar was already stronger than it has been in over a decade. However, traveling abroad comes with plenty of hidden expenses ranging from foreign transaction fees to roaming charges and tourist taxes that can add plenty to the cost of your trip. Here's what you can expect to pay on top of your holiday.
-- By CNBC's Jessica Dickler. Posted on 22 July 2016
Before you even step foot on foreign soil, be prepared to shell out at the airport. "The taxes on a plane ticket can be more than the airfare itself, " said Carl Richardson, the director of travel administration for AAA Northeast, not to mention the extra fees for seat selection or checked bags. Global Entry, which expedites the wait time at customs, is another $100 per person and must be set up well in advance of your trip to ensure your application is reviewed and approved in time.
If you are considering trip insurance, there's a wide range of options and prices from a simple waiver if you want to cancel in advance of your travel date to full protection from a third-party insurance provider, like Allianz, in case you twist your ankle and need to medical care abroad or must return home earlier than expected. If you are worried about your health coverage, check with your existing insurance provider, Richardson said. "Your medical insurance may not cover you in another country, or it could be secondary (meaning you pay upfront and then submit your expenses for reimbursement)," he said.
You may have budgeted for the room and even prepaid, but that doesn't mean your hotel bill is settled. Wifi, breakfast and even the water bottle by the bed could all be extra. Then there are the resort fees, occupancy charges and taxes that vary by city and hotel. "These can range between $10 to $40 per person, per night " said Cheryl Rosner, the CEO of Stayful, a site that caters exclusively to last-minute bookings. That "can add up quickly over the course of your stay."
"With a tour, these costs are often built in, but if you are travelling independently you will incur all of these taxes as you go," Richardson said.
Renting a car in another country presents obstacles aside from the ones on the road. Your car insurance at home generally won't protect you abroad. Adding on insurance can double the cost of the rental. "Insuring yourself against a mishap is very expensive," Richardson said. "Let's face it, that's one of their income streams."
Many car companies also charge extra for a GPS or if you add on a second driver. "While big car companies like Hertz offer discounts, to AAA members for example, small local companies may be more willing to negotiate on the extra costs," said Susan Farewell, founder and CEO of Farewell Travels.
And check whether the rental company requires you to have an international driver's license as well (in addition to your regular license). If so, it will need to be obtained in advance of the trip and will add another $20 per person plus the cost of passport photos.
Finally, before you get behind the wheel, familiarize yourself with the rules of the road, like whether the headlights must remain on, and how to handle tolls. In some countries, like Austria or Switzerland, you'll need to purchase a vignette, similar to an EZ pass – getting caught without one is a $100 to $200 fine.
One call to your cell phone provider before you leave will save you hundreds of dollars on the calls and texts you make while you are away. Most providers have several options for an international calling, texting and data plan to cover you for the duration of the trip. Expect those plans to set you back about $25 to $100 a month – per person – as long as it's set up in advance. "If you don't pre-plan it, it will be five times that, " Richardson said.
Then, be sure to turn off the roaming options under settings and avoid using your phone for multi-media, like watching a movie, which can quickly eat up data. Rosner also suggests using an app like Whatsapp to send texts outside of your data plan.
Thanks to the favorable exchange rate, shopping may seem like a particularly good deal these days, but each item will cost more than you think when you tack on foreign transaction fees. Some credit cards charge an additional 3 percent to 5 percent on each purchase made overseas. Before you go, "see where you will get the lowest transaction rate, whether that's American Express, Visa or MasterCard," Rosner said.
Chances are your debit card has international fees for cash withdrawals as well. Those can range from $5 to $15 per transaction. Check to see if your bank has alliances with international banks for reduced fees, Rosner said, and try to minimize the number of times you hit the ATM.
Of course, also give your bank and credit card company a heads up that you'll be travelling outside of the country so they don't freeze you out of your account just as your trip gets off the ground.