St George Underwater Centre Travel Guides – Part Two – How much money does a trip really cost?

Last week we shared a post for those divers who had questions about taking your first overseas dive trip and we got a great response through email and FaceBook about wanting to learn about the “hidden” costs of travel. Travel is of course, not cheap but when you take a dive tour through St George Underwater Centre we lay it all out, crystal clear. Sure, the package you pay is not the exact amount you will end up paying, but here are some of the things some people don’t consider when they plan a holiday.

Photo: http://icezen.com/various-ways-to-send-money-overseas/

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Food & Drinks
9 times out of 10 your dive holiday will not include meals and it should be advised that you are the captain of your nutritional ship. This is the most common question we get when we plan a trip overseas and one that can really change depending on where you go or the currency they request.
Most of our dive trips include breakfast in some form and each location

Most dive trips will be within walking distance to shops, restaurants and eating facilities and your tour guide will be able to give you some ideas. Most of our trips we have dinners together as a group – its a nice way to meet new people and form great friendships. Most people like to try different foods while they are away and your dive tour guide should help you with finding a great local experience or restaurant while you are away. If you are traveling alone, ask your dive tour guide or hotel for ideas on how to find a great restaurant to try. Drinks and alcohol will significantly increase the cost of your trip away and as a rule of thumb, its important to remember to not drink in excess while diving frequently. Never drink between dives and most importantly, when you crack open your first drink of the day, that’s when diving ends for the day too.

We normally recommend around $300-500 in personal spending money depending on the length of the trip and the location. Places such as Vanuatu and Vietnam, $300 is normal expectation to spend on food and drinks for around 5 days. Places such as Palau, where you can pay quite alot and in USD we recommend around $500+ for your food and drink bills. It honestly depends on the amount of food you eat and how much booze you drink – please use this as a guide and ask your tour guide if you are unsure.

Activities
Going overseas on a dive trip doesn’t mean you have to dive every second of every day. If you are new to a country, why not explore the area and see new things? Activities and things to try and do in another country will differ in price and you should consult the person you are travelling with. We normally arrange for some cultural activities on our trips but some can be additional in price. We always say to take a tour and take it with a local – they can offer you insights into different things and share personal stories with you rather than someone who is not from the area. Do you research before your travel to get an idea of how much to take, but it’s safe to say an additional $200.00 with you for sight seeing and recreational activities is a safe bet. Some places will charge more, so speak to your tour leader for more information.

Dive permits
Going to Palau or Micronesia? You will need a dive permit.

These are non-negotiable and you need to have it with you at all times. These change in price and are normally purchased on arrival at your dive store.
These permits allow for diving on protected areas and the price you pay normally goes back into preservation and maintaining the area. They are issued by the local Government and diving without them will result in massive fines if you are caught. Dive tour operators will not allow you to dive without your permit. People often don’t like the idea of paying for these permits, but as tour guides we have seen these used to improve areas such as the stairway to Jellyfish Lake in Palau, and so we are happy to pay to improve the area and allow for it to be safe for future trips.
Factor in around $100+ to pay for these permits – this cost is not included in your trip.

Tipping
Most countries, tipping is not required and as Australians it really isn’t something we are familiar with. But take a trip to Micronesia and you’re on American soil and tipping is the way it goes.
Each country has a different way of tipping, but as a rule of thumb 10-15% of the total bill is a normal tip and if your service has been brilliant a tip of 20% is seen as a representation of your great time. Tipping is used for any service – eating out, having a massage, a tour guide, your taxi driver. Tipping can easily dip into your travel spending so keep it in mind if you are going to a country where tipping is the norm.

Transfers
Planning your own trip? Going through a travel agent? Coming on one of our tours?

Find out about transfers from the air port and back again: do you need a taxi? Do you need to hire a bus?
Every location is different and it pays for peace of mind to arrange a transfer before you arrive. When you’ve been on a long flight and you’re tired, finding someone to take you to your accommodation can be hard: language barriers and bartering can be the last thing you want to deal with!

All of our tours at St George Underwater Centre include transfers so you don’t have to worry about additional fees to get to and from locations. Most hotels will provide transport but some will ask a fee or tip, depending on location. It pays to have cash in the local currency on hand in case these things happen.

Currency Conversion & ATM fees
Going overseas means payment in a foreign currency: and you will pay to change. It often pays to look into the exchange rate prior to your trip and when you notice a drop, buy where you can. It helps to have a bit of cash with you before you arrive in case you are required to pay for your VISA (some countries ask you to pay on arrival, some allow for purchase before hand) or if you need to hire a TAXI to the resort. You can always exchange at an air port but remember you will pay more for the convenience of their services for being at the air port.

Taking money out of the ATM is a great idea if you hate carrying cash but just remember each bank treats this service different: you may be charged a withdrawal fee PLUS an exchange fee. Always check with your bank prior to leaving the country and at the same time notify your bank that you are going overseas so they are aware of pending O/S transactions and no ‘fraud’ pings come their way!

In some countries you will come out ahead with currency conversion but other you will be behind: US Dollar is commonly accepted and preferred as a method of payment and these exchange rates drop and rise all the time.

Visa & Departure Taxes

As we mentioned earlier, many countries require you to pay to enter and to exit their soil and these are paid in local currency and in cash only.
Your travel guide will notify you of the fee for entry and exit, and it is important to have the correct amount ready and in the local denomination only.
These fees can be from anywhere from $20-50 but can be as cheap as $2.50.

Arrival into some countries require a VISA and some places require you to organise this prior to arrival. USA and their territories requires an ESTA which is applied for online and costs around $15.00 for 2 years. Places like Papua New Guinea also require paperwork to be completed prior and can take a number of weeks to be processed. It pays to be prepared and find out more from your tour guide.

Gear Hire
Don’t have your own gear?
In our Part One we spoke about the cost of hire gear and this is important to factor in as most times you will not have this included in the cost of your trip. Expect to pay between $20-$120 a day to hire your gear (depending on what you hire) although most places will give you a special rate. We recommend taking hire gear with you from a dive store such as St George Underwater Centre where you know the gear is in good condition and has been serviced regularly.

Travel Insurance
We spoke about this in our part one of the series and it something alot of people forget to factor in to a trip.
It’s important and you need it – don’t skimp on cheap insurance.

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