This article is written from the perspective of a South African traveller but has much information which may affect travellers around the world.

The more you travel the more you will learn that an incredible amount can be spent on, what may be referred to as, the ‘Hidden Costs’. Before you know it, you are in debt unless you have planned carefully and given consideration to these costs. Here information on some of these costs is given. There may be others you have encountered and you are encouraged to share them by commenting below.


If you are travelling within your own country it is unlikely that you will have to increase insurance cover for either yourself or your vehicle BUT if you leave your home country it can be a very different issue. Our experiences have been:

In the Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries we have visited, car insurance has to be proven at the border post. A letter from the insurance company confirming that the car is covered to travel outside SA has to be produced. There was no requirement for increased personal insurance or proof of medical cover though

Travelling abroad means increased personal insurance and medical cover. Even if you have medical aid or a hospital plan, it is necessary to take out further medical insurance, of a sufficiently high value, so that the country being visited is satisfied that, should one be injured, fall ill or even, God forbid, die while in the their country, you would not be a burden to their economy. (On an aside, dying outside one’s country of residence has consequences for which our families should be prepared. On pages 36-37 of a book I have written you can get more information on this)

The older a person is the higher the premium. For some countries and situations, 70 is the age used as a break-off point but with most others it is 75.

This is a blog I have recently read on insurance and it clarifies the importance of having full travel insurance –


The approx. costs are shown in SA Rands (ZAR). You can check current exchange rates or visa costs for individual countries on the websites of each country.

  1. basic visa cost – this can up to R1500, depending upon which country is issuing your visa.
  2. photos – these are ±R50 for a set of 4. It is very important that the photos are taken and prepared by a photographer who knows the requirements for bionic photos otherwise you will be sent for another set which adds to your costs.
  3. appointment fee – most countries applications are completed on-line but the form then has to be printed and signed to take to the venue. Applicants attend at the consulate or embassy office in their own country (see d. below) for an interview; this appointment costs anything from R75 per person but is well worthwhile.
  4. Travel and accommodation costs for the appointment – embassies and consulates are only found in major cities but not necessarily in all cities of a country. Here in RSA, all countries’ which have representations in SA have an embassy in Pretoria and some of those have satellite consulates in cities such as Durban & Cape Town. If you are not resident in any of these 3 cities you will probably have to travel to one of them for your appointment. These costs will vary according to where you are based, your form of travel and whether or not you will have to pay for accommodation.
  5. Visa agents – one can make use of an agent who ensures all relevant papers and information are in good order. An agent’s fee can be upwards of R500 per visa application. Even if you do use an agent, you will have to present yourself personally for the actual appointment


Besides the basic airfare, where applicable, or fuel costs for a hire car, there are a number of other activities which are not always considered

  1. transfers – you may have to pay for a taxi to be transported from the airport to and from your home, hotel or B&B
  2. stop overs – sometimes these can be very long and it is easy to spend on meals and other bits and pieces
  3. travel in your holiday destination – if you hire a hire car, costs above the basic renatal include fuel, tolls or road taxes. Use of the train includes tickets and reserving of seats on long distance trains. Using local buses, boats and trains cost money
  4. tolls and road taxes – when travelling in a hired car you will have to pay these in differing amounts and systems in different countries.  They are very difficult to calculate unless you know exactly where you will be travelling eg Italy has many tolls most of which work directly on the distance travelled on each road whereas Switzerland charges a once off road tax valid for a year, whether you are in the country for 1 day or 1 year.
  5. international driver’s licence – this is easy to obtain from any AA Office in SA. In 2018 the AA charged R350 per licence and photos also have to be produced.


The advert usually states that one can have an all-inclusive tour of x number of days and y number of nights to a wonderful area of the world. READ THE FINE PRINT. There are bound to be some costs one has not expected. These include but are not limited to:

  1. optional tours – it is impossible to arrange for everyone on the tour to see and do every interesting and exciting activity so some are offered as optional extras at an extra cost. Often these are directly linked to a dinner which is the biggest part of this cost.
  2. tips and gratuities – some tours include all of these whereas others include only some and others include none. READ THE FINE PRINT where suggested gratuities are given. These are not cheap for those who come from countries with weaker currencies.
  3. meals – accommodation may be booked at a particular venue but this does not mean that any or all meals are provided. Lunch is virtually never included and dinner in some situations only eg a welcome or farewell meal. It is becoming more common for breakfast not to be included in the basic cost either.
  4. luggage – the advertised price usually includes unloading your luggage from the coach, delivery to your hotel room and any tips to9 hotel staff but check this carefully.


  1. ablution facilities – in many countries one has to pay for the use of ablution facilities where in others cleaners will leave out a saucer for tips
  2. credit cards – these are wonderful ways of making payments safely and promptly but if you are using it outside your own country there will be a commission to pay over and above the actual exchange rate costs. NB cards can be cloned very easily so do not let YOUR CARD OUT OF YOUR SIGHT
  3. exchange rates these change regularly, more so for some currencies than others, and it is important to take a note of these on a regular basis
  4. internet – more and more hotels and other accommodation places offer free wi-fi facilities but, where they don’t, this can be quite expensive
  5. laundry – depending on the length and format of your holiday, you may need laundry facilities which can be costly
  6. mementoes – we all want memories of our holidays but these too can be expensive. As senior citizens it is time we decluttered our homes so select small items if anything at all and think carefully before buying for everyone at home. Remember too that these add weight to luggage
  7. sight-seeing tours, museum guides etc– whether travelling independently or on an organised tour, you will possibly go on one of these tours and the driver and/or guide expects a tip in most instances. One country where we discovered tips were not the normal order of the day was New Zealand.
  8. vaccinations – some countries require you to be vaccinated against certain serious illnesses before granting your visa. The costs of these differ not only in accordance with the specific disease but also what your local clinic charges are.