Excuse me” a woman said to me tentatively at Bangkok airport, “ I have been hearing your accent and was hoping you are an ally.”

She pointed to two matching suitcases. “We bought one at home . We just bought the other one here in Bangkok airport. We worked out that we paid way more than we would have back home. “

When she and I discussed the price, it was clear she had indeed paid much more than she could have. A lack of research, poor knowledge of the exchange rate and no bargaining confidence had cost her money.

I have made it my discipline while travelling is to be as efficient with money as possible.


Here are seven of my disciplines;

1. I Know what i am prepared to pay for stuff. I keep a list of things I want with the prices I have found on my iPhone. A quick google while standing in a store will bet me what the real cost is. If it is a local item eg a shirt or a craft item, I try and resist buying the first one I see. It’s amazing how many “handmade” pieces crop up again and again!

2. When in the middle of a remote market in Burma or a restaurant in England or patisserie in Paris, it’s hard to know what the real currency exchange rate is. I try to know automatically what the true cost in my home currency -whether it’s using the XE app or a paper based method

3. Airport prices are usually way more than anywhere else. That goes for so called “duty free”. I have been shocked at the prices items are sold for in airport duty free store. Sometimes I could go down town in a cab, buy what I want and come back and still save money!

4. I do not buy in tourist areas. We avoid them back home, why do we frequent them overseas? A cost of a sandwich around some parts of london is triple that of identical sandwiches sold streets away. Restaurant prices on Singapore’s Clark quay are many more times what locals pay in their own restaurants. In Bangkok, tourist oriented boutiques charge 20 to 30 percent more than a Thai person would pay at one of their own stores. Follow the locals!

5. I Pleasantly ask for the price if you pay cash. Sometimes they will drop the price. Of course this is meaningless in cash only market stalls

6. If it’s a bargaining culture-know the way to do it- politely. If it’s a non bargaining place, do not force them to do so. As a westerner, I get embarrassed at the nasty lengths, some of us go to for a few cents off a price

7. Ask if a place will give a discount for a youth hostel member or AA member or senior citizen (whatever category you are in)

8. Know the discounts attached to your credit card. Sometimes department stores or amusement outlets will give a reduction for holders of a visa or Amex card

9. When I get “ripped off”, just chalk it up to experience!

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Just published my 900th post. Thanks for following along my blog.

I continue to be wild about travel and hope to share what’s important to me for a while longer.

I am writing this from a cute old hotel in the northern English countryside. Am staying here as one of the way stops on my walk from the Irish Sea on the west coast of England to the North Sea, a distance of 141 km ( 84 miles). The walk follows the 2000 year old Roman wall built by Emperor Hadrian to keep the Scots out of Britannia!

This walk is part of my goal to walk 500 000 steps in September to raise funds for cerebral palsy.

I will do a post soon on the walk. In the meantime, here are some highlights:










Looks like the United Kingdom stays united after 55per cent of Scots said no.

I am relieved for Scotland! Vive Scotland!

The referendum on whether Scotland should be an independent country will take place today.

I lived in Scotland for three years and have visited many more times. In fact, having been to the Northern Scottish Islands known as the Orkneys plus all major cities (Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Stirling), the Highlands, West Coast and more, I have seen more of the country, than many residents have! It is a stunning place to be wild about travel in!

I also have Scottish siblings and friends so discussions over the last few days have been interesting. It seems to me that culturally the “yes” vote makes sense and economically the “no ” vote makes sense. Not that this blog is about politics!

For the tourist and traveller who enjoys Scotland, not much will change whatever the outcome. Whatever happens will, however, impact the United Kingdom forever.

I will be in Scotland next Wednesday so I may be entering and leaving my 61st country! 


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Once upon a time, international travel meant organising traveller cheques (checks) and significant wads of local currency!

These days,  I travel with the following:

  • a VISA card which I will predominantly use for over the counter transactions
  • a MasterCard from another bank which does not charge me fees for overseas ATM withdrawals (I will still have to pay any local transaction fees)
  • a Travel Money Card which has six different currencies on it which is my back up card and not in my wallet
  • $50 cash in each local currency which I buy fee free from a travel exchange service using one of my memberships before leaving home

I also have an account which is not accessible via  a card. In this account, I have a reserve fund which I can transfer electronically to any of the previously listed cards.

I try to put everything onto my card while travelling. It is easier and gives me a good record of where I have spent money.

Having cash when landing can be useful because I have found that getting out of the airport or train station may require me to have cash immediately.  Some currencies are not easily available outside their country. In those cases, at the mercy of the money exchanger, I change a small amount at the airport as rates can be more unfavourable.

I miss the “good old days” of finding the American Express of Thomas Cook office to cash my travellers cheque but the convenience of the modern world is way easier.

How do you organise your money when you travel?

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imageWith touchdown in Copenhagen, the Capital of Denmark on Friday, I have officially been to 60 of this planet’s countries. My goal is 99!

1410 countries visited

Source: traveltip.org

004_4Countries by region:

  • Asia: 13 countries
  • Africa: 3 countries
  • Central America/ Caribbean: 5
  • Europe: 21
  • Middle East: 7
  • North America: 3
  • Pacific: 6
  • South America: 2


My favourite countries are:

  • Iceland
  • New Zealand
  • Australia
  • Vietnam
  • France
  • Costa Rica

Which are your favourite countries?

NB: I use the UN membership list as my guide.  I therefore count Puerto Rico as a US territory  and not a separate country. While they are technically three countries (just), I count England, Scotland and Wales as one (UK). My expectation is that I have actually entered the country. So, while I have landed at Johannesburg airport, I do not count South Africa as somewhere I have been.

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This mind blowing map illustrates the stark truth that half of the world ‘s population live in just six countries. The other live in the remaining 190 countries…pewBy area, China is the third biggest country by arae and the USA is the fourth. India is the seventh biggest and Indonesia sits at 15th.   I have been to four of the six biggest countries by population (Brazil, India, Indonesia and USA)!

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After being to 59 countries, I have now used 62 currencies (yes some countries have changed currencies). If I could have my way, the world would only have ten currencies (two per continent!). Easier to remember and less to carry! The reality is we have 180 currencies circulating amongst the 193 UN recognised nations from roubles, to lek to shekels, pesos and birr.

foreign_money_background_page-bg_7575On my next trip starting Thursday, I will be using:

  • Malaysian Ringits
  • Danish Krone
  • British Pounds
  • Euros
  • Thai Baht
  • Australian dollars

They can all become confusing to people. Even with a currency exchange tool on your phone, the actual cash can become too much.

I was talking to one English couple at Bangkok airport who in utter confusion had handed all of their money to a woman at the market and asked her to take what they owed her for their purchases! Most people are patient when you do this and will take what they are owed but some un scrupulous operators can take people for a ride.

Others, I have met, after handing over notes not having any clue what they are paying, have found they have scored huge bargain. Other travellers have found that the deal they though they had got cost then twice what they imagined.

Before travelling:

  1. Identify what currency the country you are going to uses. This list helps.
  2. Google the currency and choose images so you can see what the notes look like
  3. Print the images out
  4. Write next to each note what the value is in your currency (For currency exchange I use www.xe.com)
  5. Fold the list up and memorise on the plane or carry with you or photo it and out it on your phone

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IMG_1179In September, I am aiming to walk half a million steps. The average office worker takes just 3,000 steps a day so I am aiming to walk five times that!

This is my contribution to the Steptember charity event which raises funds and awareness for Cerebral Palsy (CP).

I will be walking those steps in seven countries: Australia, Denmark, England, Germany, Netherlands and Thailand.

A chunk of my half a million steps will be achieved when I walk along Hadrian’s Wall in the north of England starting in just over a week’s time. This walk is one of my bucket list goals.

At 141km (85 miles) long, it will take me from the West Coast of England to the East Coast. I will be staying in nice villages along the way!



I don’t often ask WildaboutTravel readers for this but I am seeking donors to CP for this event. Anyone from any country is welcome to contribute  any amount. Your funds will provide services, equipment, respite and therapy for children and adults with Cerebral Palsy. I do not receive anytjing.

Cerebral Palsy (CP) is an umbrella term that refers to a group of disorders affecting a person’s ability to move. It is a permanent life-long condition, but generally does not worsen over time. It is due to damage to the developing brain either during pregnancy or shortly after birth.

Thank you for your support and wish me good weather in England!

earn mThore

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tm_SS8 (1)

A layout refresh which actually improves things in Coach? A rarity in these days where leg room continues to vanish and more seats are crammed down the back. On this refresh, which JAL are applying to all new Dreamliner 787s, they seem to have it right.  All three classes  are very appealing to me. The new “Sky Suite 8″ (SS8) follows on from JAL’s 777 refresh (called Sky Suite 7) features:

jal 787 layout

Source: jal.co.jp

  • 38 fully-flat SkySuite 787 beds that are 25.5″ wide and 6 foot 6″ long in a 2/2/2 layout with 23″ TV screen. JAL’s Business class Skysuite won the Best Business Class seat at the 2013 Skytrax awards:


  • 35 Sky Premium economy seats, 19″ wide with a 42″ pitch (should prevent reclining wars)  arranged 2/3/2 with a 12.1″ screen,

prem y jal

  • 88 Sky Wider II Economy seats, 19″ wide with a 33″ pitch arranged 2/4/2 with 10.6″ screen, The airline has actually increased seat pitch, largely by reducing seat the padding so the seats appear narrower than on other carriers:


y seat

Every seat will have an AC and USB outlet. The planes will be installed with a new in-flight entertainment system called “MAGIC-VI” with a personal touch-panel screen interface which will give passengers access to TV, movies and access to in-flight meals/snacks and in-flight sales in all three classes. The airline will also be providing on board wi-fi.

JAL also notes that all of the lavatories (but one) will feature the Toto Washlet, an electronic bidet style toilet featuring a warm water-jet function for cleansing. Anyone who has travelled to Japan, will understand the  importance of lavatories! Previously, these facilities were only for Business Class travellers.

The airline has 15 Dreamliners already flying of its 25  787-8s and 20 787-9 on order. The new layout 787s will be used on medium to long range services starting with Narita to Frankfurt this December and then to New York in January 2015.

JAL is a Skytrax 4 star airline with customers rating it 7/10 on the Skytrax site. They are not one of the almost 90 airlines I have flown-yet! Nor have i got onto a 787. After this refresh, I am very tempted to try. More legroom, an improved entertainment system, on board wifi (and those lavatories) all make a convincing package.


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