How much money should I take on holiday? It’s a question that’s pretty crucial to the enjoyment of your trip. Unfortunately, it’s not a question that gets a nice and neat response!
Of course, the amount of money you’re going to spend will depend on where you’re going. Prices obviously fluctuate from country to country, city to city, and even neighbourhood to neighbourhood. Meanwhile, it will depend on what you’re actually getting up to on holiday. But that’s just the start.
How much money you actually need to take will change according to all sorts of different variables. These variables include currency, your preferred payment method, and the availability of ATMs.
So, if we’re going to help you work out how much money to take on holiday, we’ll have to get a bit “systematic”. Because there’s quite a lot to consider – and payment habits differ from country to country.
How much money should I take on holiday, you ask? Let’s take a look at one of the most difficult travel problems, and suggest some ways to think about it.
How much money to take on holiday: Four things to consider
Before your holiday has even started, it is good to know some practicalities. As any seasoned traveller will know, spending money abroad isn’t all sunshine and smooth sailing. Not all countries work in the same ways – and understanding the nuances means you won’t get caught without enough money.
No holiday budget calculator can really answer that question, “how much money should I take on holiday?”. Because managing money abroad is not all about how much you spend. It’s about different payment methods too. There’s no need to rely on ATMs and cash when a contactless card can suffice. Whereas, vice versa, contactless cards are useless in a country that still runs almost exclusively on cash.
Four things are going to affect the payment methods you’ll be using – which will in turn affect the amount of cash you’ll want to take on holiday with you:
1. How expensive is the destination?
The most obvious variable is the cost of the destination. Places like Scandinavia are known for being much more expensive than, say, Spain or eastern Europe. Meanwhile, within countries, central Milan, for example, is notoriously pricier than the Italian south.
The cost of living and of basic goods in a place will inevitably affect how much money you take on holiday. You can find out more about the costs of the most popular destinations later in this article.
2. Cash or card when abroad
How much money should you take on holiday? None, potentially, if you are heading somewhere that’s weaned itself off cash. Whilst Scandinavia is expensive, Sweden is a country known for cashless payments, with only 20% of transactions being through cash. In Spain and Italy, meanwhile, over 85% of transactions are cash-based – and cards are not always even accepted, at least for smaller transactions.
Knowing which payment method your destination prefers is pretty crucial. Because whilst cashless societies are convenient, you may get hit by foreign transaction fees by your bank back home. Meanwhile, a card becomes a useless bit of plastic if you can only pay in cash.
3. Can you get the currency?
Another thing to consider is that you might not be able to get foreign currency at home. Some countries, including India and Cuba, place restrictions on their currency being taken in and out of the country – so you can’t always get your travel money in advance.
In the case of India, withdrawing cash from an ATM on arrival is your best option – although charges will apply with traditional bank cards. For Cuba, taking foreign currency is recommended for exchange on arrival (apart from US dollars, for which there is an extra charge).
4. How much do banks charge for international transactions?
Finally, the most common sting for those of you spending money abroad is the fees your bank will charge for international transactions and ATM withdrawals.
These are difficult to avoid, unless you have a Revolut card which gives you between €200-600 worth of free ATM withdrawals per month (depending on whether you have a Standard, Premium, or Metal account). And you can spend on your card in more than 150 currencies at the interbank exchange rate.
For example, Barclays charges a 2.75% non-sterling transaction fee when using your card abroad: debit card payments, ATM withdrawals and even online shopping on a non-UK website.
Unfortunately, it usually makes better financial sense, with a traditional bank card, just to swallow those fees – rather than exchange cash. In most cases, the rate that you’ll be getting with an ATM conversion is better than at a currency exchange. It makes even more financial sense to sign up to Revolut. 😊
How much cash should you take on holiday?
When working out how much cash you should take on holiday, it also helps to know the basic prices for the things that you’ll be buying when away. That’s where a basic holiday budget calculator helps.
Here are the most popular destinations in the world, with some of the prices you can expect to pay for small transactions. Obviously, we can’t tell what you’re going to get up to, so not everything is covered. However, we are assuming that you have paid for accommodation in advance.
Remember, these are going to vary from specific place to place – so don’t take it as a certainty.
In France, ATMs are widely available, and cash is still used for two-thirds of all transactions. You can expect to pay the following, in Euros:
- A beer / a glass of wine: €3.50
- Sandwich: €5-6.50
- Museum entry: up to €15
- A sit-down meal for two: €20-40
- Local public transport (single ticket): €1.90
The same applies to Spain: you’re dealing with Euros, and cash is used in nearly 90% of cases. However, when you’re off the beaten track, ATMs are less available. So, be prepared.
- A beer / a glass of wine: €2-4
- Meal for two: €20-40
- Local public transport (single ticket): €1.50
- Museum entry: up to €15
As big as the USA is, there’s a huge range by which prices can differ – from New York’s Time Square to the rural south. Only a third of transactions these days are still made with cash – so you can use a card pretty much anywhere if you have one that won’t cost a fortune to use (e.g. Revolut).
Prices here are in USD, with $1 being worth €0.90 at the time of writing (using Google’s exchange rate calculator).
- Café meal: $6-10
- Local public transport (single ticket): $2-4
- Meal for two: $30-60
- Beer: $4-10
In China, the local currency, the Yuan, is worth about €0.13 at the time of writing (according to Google). Whilst ATMs are everywhere in major cities, you should take cash out before heading somewhere rural.
- Restaurant: ¥80-100
- Drinks in a bar: ¥60
- Taxi: ¥60
- Museums are free
Like Spain, Italy has a very high rate of transactions made in cash. This even applies in the big cities such as Rome and Milan. Otherwise, the average prices for basic purchases are as follows:
- Coffee: €1
- A beer / a glass of wine: €2-6
- Dinner: €25-45
- Museum entry: €4-15
In Turkey, one lira is worth €0.15 at the time of writing (source: Google). Known as one of the cheapest destinations in Europe, your money can go quite far here. Common prices are as follows, whilst ATMs are widely available in tourist areas.
- Kebab: ₺8-10
- Beer: ₺7-12
- Coffee: ₺2-15 (from local place to Starbucks)
- Proper meal: ₺40
Mexico’s economy is largely still cash-based, with the exception of big stores and popular restaurant chains. You can buy the Mexican peso before you travel, or take it out at an ATM, at a rate of about MX$1 for €0.04 at the time of writing (source: Google).
- Budget meal: MX$60-90
- Restaurant meal with drinks: MX$250-350
- Beer: MX$20
- Museums: MX$50-300
- Taxi: MX$25 basic rate
Perhaps surprisingly, Germany still has a very high rate of cash transactions, whilst credit cards are not always accepted as a payment method – especially for smaller transactions. You’ll find plenty of ATMs in towns and cities, but it is worth having a bit of spare cash.
- A beer: €3
- Meal for two: €30-40
- Sandwich: €8
- Day ticket on public transport: €5-7
The majority of places in Thailand will only accept cash – with only the fancier hotels and international shops taking cards. And whilst ATMs are everywhere, they do charge: on top of your currency conversion and bank fee, expect a 220B fee for every transaction.
That’s about £5, with every baht equalling about €0.03 at the time of writing (source: Google).
- Beer: 90B
- Proper lunch: 150-350B
- Local public transport (single): 20-50B
- An excursion or tour: 1000-1500B
In the UK, card transactions have pretty much become the norm, with contactless technology common across all parts of the country. ATMs, however, are everywhere – although some of them do charge. A pound is worth about €1.15 these days (source: Google), though of course this is subject to change.
- Beer: £3-5
- Coffee: £2
- Meal for two: £20-40
- Local public transport (single): £2 single
- Public museums are free
How much money do I need per day in Europe?
So, how much money should you take on holiday in Europe?
After your accommodation, a general rule would say that you need roughly 40-60€ a day in western Europe, and a little less in eastern Europe. This would include a cheap meal and a more substantial one, plus a coffee and a beer – and any transport and museum visits.
However, this will depend on where you are precisely, and what you get up to: a hiking trip through Poland will cost a lot less day-to-day than a cultural tour of Paris, for example.
Conclusion: How much money should I take on holiday?
How much money should I take on holiday? You can see that nobody honest can give you the straight answer you’re probably looking for. Where you’re going, what you’re getting up to, and how expensive your tastes are… these are all things that will change the figure.
What we can do, however, is point you in the direction of things to consider. And something that you will want to keep off your holiday budget calculations are the hidden fees charged by banks and ATMs for foreign transactions. Revolut will help you avoid the unseen international charges. You can use your Revolut card to make payments at the interbank exchange rate in 150 currencies, and access cash from ATMs without hidden fees.
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