The hidden cost of travel
First published 18th June, 2011
If you've travelled much further than down to the shops for a pint of milk, you'll know extra costs loom on every corner when you're on the road. You've probably learned, the hard way, that one of those "$1 tickets" never costs just one dollar. So with that in mind, here's our guide to making sure you're aware of some of the hidden costs of travel so you keep to your trip budget.
Airlines, especially low cost carriers are notorious for adding all sorts of extra fees onto the ticket. Some are unavoidable (fuel surcharges for example) but others are optional and by skipping them you can save close to $100 on a typical flight.
Assuming you already have travel insurance, you don't need more from the carrier. Dodge the checked bags fee by not checking bags. Skip the preferred seating fee by accepting whatever crummy seat they give you. Avoid the food and drink fees by sneaking on your own, or just don't eat or drink for a few hours. Use a credit card supported by the airline to save extra surcharges for, well, paying for the ticket. Yes, they really have no shame.
Getting to the airport
Airports being located, as they generally are, far out from a city's centre, entrepreneurial souls tend to lie in wait to whisk you there – for a charge. Do a little research in advance to discover the full range of options for getting to and from both your local airport and the destination airport and choose to fly from airports that are cheap and easy to get to – but not if the price to pay is a much more expensive flight.
Throwing liquids away at security
Don't be caught having to throw away liquids at the airport, just to have to buy them again once you're airside. Liquids include gels, creams, mascara and so on – for most international airports you can only take them in your hand luggage if the container has a capacity of 100ml or less (even if it's not full); they need to be in a clear plastic bag, holding containers with an overall capacity of not more than 1000ml.
This means you should pack all liquids you don't need during the flight into your checked baggage. If you're booked with hand luggage only, buy small travel sizes so that you don't have to throw away what's left when you come home. If you're travelling to somewhere with cheap local prices – in other words, almost anywhere in Southeast Asia – take as little with you as possible and buy everything locally; 7-Eleven stores are overflowing with cheap shampoo, conditioner, cosmetics and so on.
For the liquids you do take on board, bring your own clear plastic bag – while most airports provide these free, some charge.
Eating and drinking on board
Know what to expect on board in terms of refreshments. If you've booked with a low-cost carrier, it's unlikely you'll get any 'free' refreshments, and prices can be steep – so plan ahead. You often can't take hot drinks on-board, but there's nothing to stop you taking your own food (though technically you may be asked not to).
Get around the liquid restrictions by buying drinks in the airport terminal – though these aren't always cheaper than on the plane itself, and some carriers, notably AirAsia will stop you from taking more than 100ml of water on board - even if you bought it within the airport! Another option is to order your on-board meals when you book your ticket as that will be cheaper than paying in the air.
If there's one issue that gets the goat of the online travelling community, it's the cost of accessing the internet while you're away. Plan ahead – if you know you need internet access, pick a hotel or guesthouse that includes it in the cost of the room. Some airports in the region, such as the Low Cost Carrier Terminal in Kuala Lumpur, offer free WiFi access.
Don't be surprised if elsewhere you're expected to fork out outrageous amounts for sub-standard speed. Look out for cafés, coffee shops, restaurants – even beach shacks – that offer free internet access. Or just send postcards! Remember them?
Do watch the cost of roaming data charges for your Blackberry or iPhone while you're away – either pick up a local SIM or switch off data roaming for the duration of your trip, as roaming tariffs can get scarily high.
Don't assume your room rate includes breakfast. A place that does include breakfast will inevitably be charging more than similar spots where it's not; decide how important it is to you and look for accommodation that suits, comparing the price of rooms with and without breakfast and considering whether you can get breakfast elsewhere for the money you'll save by downgrading.
If breakfast is included, double-check what it is you're getting, whether it's a set size or buffet-style self service, and when it's served – then get up in time so you don't miss it! If it's not included, then so much the better – get yourself out onto the street and eat with the locals.
Here's one area where it's just not worth skimping. Yes, it might be an extra cost to add on to everything else you're paying for your trip, but it's one that you'll be grateful for if your flight is delayed, your bags go missing or worse still you end up sick.
That said, shop around for the best deal that meets your needs – Travelfish.org recommends WorldNomads, but they are not the cheapest provider out there. Whoever you do choose, read the small print and make sure you've declared everything relevant to your insurer, so that your policy pays out if you need it to and can prove itself worth the cash you're splashing.
Story by Chris Wotton
Related readingGetting a cheap airfare to Asia
Hotels should never charge extra for WiFi
How to manage your money in Asia
Ten ways to save money when travelling
Read 2 comment(s)
Add your comment
Feature story quicklinks
- Giving back in Southeast Asia (19)
- All stories
- Angkor Hospital For Children
- Blue Dragon Children's Foundation
- COPE: Helping people move on
- Epic Arts
- Free the Bears Laos
- Gibbon Rehabilitation Project
- Helping Phuket's children in need
- Helping Siem Reap's rubbish dump families
- Helping Singapore's transient workers
- Helping the Karen of Burma
- Humanitarian Services for Children of Vietnam
- Khlong Toey Music Program
- Lifestart Foundation, Hoi An
- MyME Yangon
- Soi Dog Foundation
- Swim Vietnam
- Thai Freedom House, Chiang Mai
- The Samui Prison Project
- The SET Foundation
- Burma (8)
- Cambodia (24)
- All stories
- A Cambodian Eco-lodge
- A honeymoon in Cambodia
- Angkorian traffic woes
- Battambang weekend
- Elephant riding in Cambodia: Should you?
- Great places to stay in Siem Reap
- Is Preah Vihear safe to visit?
- Kampot or Kep?
- Koh Rong: Trouble in paradise?
- Kompong Cham escape
- Northeast Cambodia in photos
- Oh Poipet!
- PEPY:Sustainable Cambodian tourism
- Phnom Tamao Wildlife Refuge
- Sihanoukville beaches lure expats
- Spas, shopping & seers in Siem Reap
- The best islands in Cambodia
- The best places to stay on Cambodia's islands
- The Death Highway
- Trekking in Virachey National Park
- Trekking the Cardamoms in Cambodia
- Which Cambodian island is right for you?
- Why you should go to Cambodia
- Why you should stay longer in Siem Reap
- Indonesia (14)
- All stories
- A funeral in Toraja, Sulawesi
- Climbing Rinjani
- How to hire a boat in Indonesia: Without drowning
- Learn to surf in Bali
- Medewi: A great Bali getaway
- Mountain biking in Bali: A ride in the woods
- Pasola, Sumba
- The Gili islands: Which is the right one for you?
- Ubud bird watching: From waterhens to witchcraft
- Ubud shopping guide
- Village trekking in Tana Toraja
- Weekend in Nusa Penida
- Yogya's student scene
- Laos (20)
- All stories
- A breeze through Luang Prabang
- Best budget rooms in Luang Prabang 2013
- Elephant trekking in Laos
- Exploring Laos' Bolaven Plateau
- Huay Xai to Pak Tha by slowboat
- Is Lao Airlines safe to fly?
- Laos' vanishing elephants
- Luang Prabang escape
- Luang Prabang for kids
- Muang Ngoi Escape
- Northern Laos or Southern Laos?
- Photos of Luang Prabang, Laos
- Pi Mai Lao in Luang Prabang: In 1999
- Southern Laos by scooter
- Temples in Luang Prabang
- The Gibbon Experience
- The Phonsavan adventure
- Vientiane's Chinatown
- Weaving and textiles in Luang Prabang
- What to buy in Luang Prabang, Laos
- Malaysia (10)
- Singapore (8)
- Thailand (85)
- All stories
- 10 Bangkok galleries worth a look-see
- 10 Thai treks aside from Chiang Mai
- 24 Hours in Bangkok: Sukhumvit to Siam Square
- 31 Thai islands
- 5 Southern Thai towns to lose time in
- A Thai homestay in Ayutthaya
- A weekend in Phra Phradaeng
- A weekend on Ko Samet, Thailand
- An extra day in Krabi
- Andaman Sea island hopper
- Are Thailand’s cheap guesthouses disappearing?
- Ayutthaya temple tour
- Bangkok craft villages
- Bangkok for art lovers
- Bangkok's Charoen Krung Road
- Bangkok's Thonburi: exploring the west side
- Brilliant Bangkok
- Chiang Dao getaway
- Chiang Mai's temples
- Corruption in Thailand
- Day trips from Bangkok
- Eating on the edge
- Elephant's World Kanchanaburi
- Exploring Lamphun
- Exploring the Lungs of Bangkok
- Far southern Thailand: Go or not?
- Five days in Khao Lak, Thailand
- Floating markets around Bangkok
- Great Thai food blogs
- Highlights of Chanthaburi province
- How to do Khao Yai National Park
- Khao San Road safety and scams
- Ko Chang's east coast
- Ko Lanta's best budget guesthouses
- Ko Mun Nork: a nearby paradise
- Ko Pha Ngan 7-day detox:Colonic fast
- Ko Pha Ngan's best beaches in 2013
- Ko Phi Phi on a budget
- Ko Tao for non-divers guide
- Ko Yao Noi or Ko Yao Yai?
- Learning Muay Thai in Bangkok
- Loy Krathong in Thailand
- Motorcycling the Chiang Rai loop
- Narathiwat: residence of good people
- Navigating Bangkok: The BTS Skytrain
- Phuket by night
- Phuket for kids
- Phuket heritage walk: Car parts to saris
- Phuket's secret beaches
- Planning around Thailand's civil unrest
- Roll your own Kanchanaburi
- Should I book for the full moon party?
- Should I cancel my Thai holiday? No.
- Should I cancel my trip to Thailand? No.
- Soi Thong Lo, Bangkok
- Songkran festival in Thailand
- Sorting out Suvarnabhumi Airport
- Staying at a Thai monastery
- Thai islands for nature lovers
- Thai islands to lose yourself on
- Thai visa FAQ
- Thailand tsunami wrap
- Thailand's Full Moon Party
- Thailand's Mae Khlong market
- Thailand: Where to from here?
- The best beach on Ko Samui
- The best places to stay on Ko Kut, Thailand
- The bridge over the River Kwai festival
- The changing face of Ko Lipe
- The road to Sangkhlaburi
- The road to Sangkhom
- Travelling through north-east Thailand
- Trekking in Thailand
- Trisara -- decadent luxury at its best
- Two days in Kamphaeng Phet
- What are the alternatives to Bangkok?
- What is the best beach on Ko Tao?
- What is the best island in Thailand?
- What's a good beach on Ko Pha Ngan?
- What's a good beach on Ko Samui?
- Where to stay at Railay Bay, Thailand
- Where to stay in Sukhothai?
- Where to stay on Ko Samet, Thailand
- Which beach on Ko Samui?
- Which island in Trang?
- Vietnam (33)
- All stories
- A short break in Nha Trang
- A Weekend in Can Tho
- Being fed Fido: Eating dog in Vietnam
- Buying a touring motorbike in Vietnam
- Con Dao escape
- Do nothing and see the best of Hanoi
- Doing the DMZ from Hue
- Exploring Kon Tum
- Exploring Vietnam's Mekong Delta
- Great Hanoi cafes to chill out in
- Ha Long Bay DIY
- Ha Long Bay for backpackers
- Ha Long Bay for flashpackers
- Ha Long Bay midrange budget
- Ha Long Bay or Sapa?
- Ha Long Bay: Which tour is right for you?
- Hanoi escape
- Hanoi or Saigon?
- Hoi An -- Walking over the dragon
- How to do the Dien Bien Phu loop
- How to enjoy your time in Vietnam
- Is the Hoi An culture tour worth it?
- Motorbike Vietnam's Central Highlands
- One day in Hanoi
- Responsible shopping and eating in Hoi An
- Saigon's top 10 cafés
- Sapa or Bac Ha?
- Saving Vietnam's bears
- Street food safety
- The DMZ: Traveller tactical briefing
- Travel tips for Tet in Vietnam 2013
- Two Wheels & Ricefields: A review
- Which is the best street food tour in Hanoi?
- Accommodation guides (14)
- All stories
- 2005 Top guesthouses in Chiang Mai
- 2008 Top Bangkok airport guesthouses
- 2008 Top spots on Phu Quoc Island
- 2009 Top Phnom Penh guesthouses
- 2011 Best places to stay in Kuala Lumpur
- Best places to stay in Hanoi 2012
- Best places to stay on Ko Phi Phi 2015
- Cheap Phuket guesthouses & hotels
- Five special hotels in Cambodia
- Ko Lipe's best budget guesthouses 2012
- The best hostels in Bangkok 2014
- The best places to stay on Ko Chang, Thailand
- The changing face of Khao San Road
- Where to stay on Koh Rong Samloem
- Travel with kids (7)
- Opinion & advice (18)
- All stories
- 10 reasons to do an adventure tour
- 10 reasons to travel independently
- A year's worth of travel for 2013
- Beach hideaways in Asia
- Christmas and New Years in Southeast Asia
- Do I need reservations for my holiday?
- Evil man of Krabi
- Fifteen tips for a great holiday in Asia
- Getting a cheap airfare to Asia
- Great river trips in Southeast Asia
- Hotels should never charge extra for WiFi
- Long distance buses in Southeast Asia
- Mass tourism in Southeast Asia
- Nine Asian upcountry hideaways
- Planning a Gap Year? Some advice.
- Ten Southeast Asian trips for 2008
- Ten thoughts on ten years with Travelfish
- Where is the best place in Southeast Asia for ...
- How do I? (11)
- All stories
- Bangkok to Ko Samui, Pha Ngan & Tao
- Bangkok to Siem Reap
- Catching a train in Thailand
- Catching a train in Vietnam
- Cheap flights with Discovery Airpass
- Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang
- Crossing the Cambodia Laos border
- Ko Chang to Phu Quoc Island
- Siem Reap to Ko Chang
- Stops between Bangkok & Chiang Mai
- Visa run from Thailand to Burma
- Cycling Asia (13)
- All stories
- 24 hours in Bangkok
- An Angkor cycling guide
- An introduction
- Battambang, bamboo trains & guides
- Confessions of a "cheating cyclist"
- Cycles of all sorts
- Ha Long Bay independently
- Ko Samet Vs Pattaya
- Muay Thai night
- Phonsavan and Luang Prabang
- The hills of Vietnam
- The road less travelled
- Tubing in Vang Vieng
- Health and safety (6)
- Money and finance (4)
- Diving guides (6)
- Photo essay (3)
- Guest blog (2)
- General (15)
- All stories
- 10 Christmas days in Asia we're yet to have
- 10 dumb things I've done while travelling
- 34 ways to travel greener
- Asian animal experiences
- Call me Mr Massage Magic
- Chefs Without Borders
- Flying is fun!
- Mr Golden
- On being a travel writer
- Teaching ESL in Asia
- The 211 country honeymoon
- The Boxing Day Tsunami: 5 years on.
- To Teach or Not to Teach
- Travel writing scholarship 2012
- Tuk to the Road Charity ride
- Book reviews (5)
- Interviews (8)
- Explore Bangkok by BTS (18)
- All stories
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ari
- Bangkok by skytrain: Asok
- Bangkok by skytrain: Chid Lom
- Bangkok by skytrain: Chong Nonsi
- Bangkok by skytrain: Mo Chit
- Bangkok by skytrain: National Stadium
- Bangkok by skytrain: On Nut
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phaya Thai
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phloen Chit
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phrom Phong
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ratchadamri
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ratchathewi
- Bangkok by skytrain: Sala Daeng (S2)
- Bangkok by skytrain: Sanam Pao
- Bangkok by skytrain: Saphan Taksin
- Bangkok by skytrain: Siam
- Bangkok by skytrain: Surasak
- Bangkok by skytrain: Thong Lor
Sign up for Travelfish Burp!
Our weekly wrap on Southeast Asian travel.
Click here to see a recent newsletter.