These fees can add up quickly!
We want our money to go as far as possible when we travel. We picture spending our money on tours or sites or long memorable meals. We don’t picture our money going towards extra fees like not printing your boarding pass or eating bread at a restaurant. Know these 10 things ahead of time so your money will go towards eating creme brulee in Paris instead of using the restroom at a train station. Make sure you know these fees so you can avoid the unnecessary ones (and budget for the necessary ones).
1.) Using the restroom
Yes, some places charge to use the bathroom. Trying to find change to use the restroom (when you really have to go) can be one of the worst things ever. Many of the “pay to use” restrooms I have seen have been at train stations. Many public bathrooms in cities will also charge you. As a rule, if the bathroom is free then use it. Use the restroom at the restaurant or airport so hopefully you won’t have to pay for one later. However, sometimes you just have to pay up. If it’s the only option around it’s not worth being cheap. (And usually these are the nicest restrooms too!)
2.) Extra airline fees
When traveling by plane, READ ALL THE FINE PRINT ahead of time! This especially applies to budget airlines, but even the standard airlines are getting more strict with their rules. Budget airlines are notorious for making money off of all the tiny extra fees. You will be charged if you don’t print and bring your boarding pass. All drinks and food on flights are an extra charge (even bottled water) so bring your own on board if it’s a long flight. All airlines are super strict on luggage weight/size and they will charge you if even your carry-on is over the limits. (Yes, I have seen flight attendants measuring and weighing carry-ons at the gate!)
3.) Extra hostel fees
If you are staying in a hostel, make sure you know if they charge fees for towel or sheet rentals. Bringing your own will save you money or choosing a different hostel that includes everything could save you if you don’t want to travel with bedding.
4.) Bottled water at restaurants
The charge for your bottled water at the table will quickly add up. Sometimes (especially in nice restaurants) it is best to be polite and pay for the bottled water. However, I ask for tap water at European restaurants all the time. They will usually fill a glass bottle (just like the ones you pay for) and place it on your table just the same. Just make sure the tap water in the country is ok to drink.
5.) ATM and international transaction fees
Check with your bank before you leave to get all the details on what fees you will be charged at ATMs or using your credit card internationally. Some banks charge a flat fee each time you use an ATM as well as a percentage of how much money you withdraw. Some banks have alliances with other international banks and don’t charge initial fees at partner ATMs. Most credit cards will charge a percentage for all charges not in US dollars. However, many credit cards are now offering no international fees. When I travel, I use my Bank of America card for cash withdrawals (they have international alliances) and I use my credit card with no international fees for any charge I can put on credit. I always research ahead of time the closest ATM to my hotel where I won’t be charged the initial fee so I don’t get stuck searching at the last minute.
6.) Service charges in restaurants
Check the menu or ask before sitting down. Some restaurants charge an extra service charge or bread charge in addition to your total bill. Usually these restaurants are the ones surrounding tourist areas. This is an especially common practice in Italy. Don’t argue the service charge, but do make sure you know ahead of time that this charge is coming. If you are in Italy, check the menu for the phrases “pane e coperto” or “servizio”. The best way to avoid this is to eat at “non-tourist” restaurants. For more tips on that read my post on 6 Ways to Eat Like a Local.
7.) Parking fees
If you are renting a car in Europe, make sure you know all the parking charges for your hotel and city spots. Parking charges can skyrocket if you are staying in a crowded city. Just make sure you factor all of these charges in ahead of time or seek out cheaper parking spots.
8.) Traveling to and from the airport
Research the best way to travel back and forth from the airport ahead of time. Many cities have express trains from the airport to the city center, which may save on time but not necessarily on money. Depending on where your hotel is located the faster transportation may be a good idea, but sometimes general (and cheaper!) public transportation can get you there in a similar amount of time for less money (especially if your hotel is not exactly in the city center).
9.) Per person fees at hotels
Many hotels will charge you for additional people in your room. This is especially true for hotels that include breakfast. Make sure you know this extra cost up front instead of just seeing the base rate and assuming that’s what you will pay.
10.) Tricky taxis
Taxis are notorious for being expensive. Grab a taxi from a reputable company (don’t use unmarked cabs) and make sure they are using their meter (unless it’s a set price trip, like a ride to the airport). It should have a starting rate of a couple of euros (the base rate varies depending on the city and time of day) and the per mile/minute rate posted inside the taxi. Also remember that if you have your hotel or restaurant call a taxi for you, they will sometimes start charging you from the time of that call, not from when you hop in the car. If you are weary of using taxis, most cities in Europe have great public transportation systems.
*One more note – tipping in Europe is not the same as tipping in the US. You tip for great service and typical tipping amounts range from a couple of Euros to 10% of the bill. The exact “standard” amount varies depending on the country, so I would recommend researching it before your trip. Also, a cash tip is much more common and appreciated than writing it on the bill (sometimes there isn’t even an option to write in on the bill).*
Here’s some good news on fees in Europe: Most items already have tax included in the price you see. It’s so nice to not have to worry about adding on tax!