What to Do If You Run out of Money While Abroad

With proper planning, you should never run out money while abroad. With the existence of knives, masks, and fast fingers, you can totally run out of money while abroad. Whether it’s carelessness or (more probably) crime, you might sometimes find yourself out of cash, overseas. Take a few minutes to panic and cry hysterically, because you’re in a lot of trouble. Then try the following:

Read also: 7 Ways to Stay Safe While Travelling


#1 Your First Stop Should be the Embassy

If, for whatever reason you have no money left, your first stop should be your home country’s embassy. You don’t have to be there in person, just get the hotel receptionist to call on your behalf (do not use the hotel room phone; the charges run tremendously high).

As a last resort, contact the local police and ask them to put you in touch with the embassy.

You’ll probably have to pay back whatever aid was rendered after you get home. But the embassy can help out if you can’t afford a ticket home, have zero cash for food and lodgings, and so forth.

As a rule of thumb, always have the address and phone number your embassy abroad, wherever you travel.

#2 Get Someone at Home to Wire You Cash via Western Union

So you don’t have a bank account over there; no problem. You need to look for remittance services, the most trustworthy of which is usually Western Union. Here’s how it works:

Someone back home goes to a Western Union outlet, and sends you cash through them. They’ll need some details, like your name and address. Once they pass the money to Western Union, they’ll get a code.

They then pass you that code, and you can claim the money from any Western Union outlet. In places like America and Europe, this is pretty convenient since drugstores, supermarkets, local grocers, etc. may all have Western Union services. There is a charge for this, but it can be paid by the person sending the cash.

Never get money sent to the hotel. Sure, you could make a police report if it doesn’t get to you; but do you really have time for that when you’re down to 80 cents and haven’t eaten in a day?

#3 Find Friends and Family Abroad

Call the home brigade for help. If your friends or family have colleagues or other associates where you are, they might be willing to give you a quickie loan. But don’t wait until disaster strikes.

Before you travel abroad, find out if your relatives or friends have contacts in the area. If possible, drop them a message and say hi before you travel. This will give you someone to turn to if things go bad. Also, you might be able to solicit a few good travel tips.


#4 Sell Your Stuff

This is the absolute, last resort method, which can nonetheless be a life saver: sell something of yours. Likely, this is going to be something expensive and painful; like your laptop. Don’t sell your phone though, unless you have a spare or you’re sure you won’t need it.

Obviously, don’t approach strangers on the street to hawk your stuff; that’s a good way to get robbed. Rather, look for pawn shops or second-hand stores. You might even be able to arrange for someone to get your stuff back, once you’re safe at home.

#5 Unofficial Employment

Remember the days when you were 15 years old, and had to wax cars for $30? You now have a glorious chance to relive that childhood (or a new anecdote about the crappiest vacation you ever had. Positivity is all in the mind, you know).

Bear in mind, it’s generally illegal to employ you in any real sense. But people can and do fork out money if you help to paint a fence, carry hay into a barn, wash their car, and so forth. This is especially true in rural areas, where this type of “drifter work” is quite common.

Just be sure to turn on your common sense before accepting a job. We don’t want any readers caught delivering suspicious white powder in an alleyway in the Bronx.

#6 Plan Properly, and This Won’t Happen in the First Place

Always keep some spare cash in a hotel safe, and about $200 ready to be Western Union’ed over (keep it in an envelope at home, where your family can find it). Also, set aside about 10% of your vacation budget as a “buffer”, which you absolutely can’t spend up to the last day or two.

Splurge or save on your villa? You decide

Photo credit: Main, 1 and 2

Ryan Ong

Ryan Ong has been a writer for 12 years, and formerly contributed to magazines such as Men's Health, Esquire, and Her World. Some of them may even have forgiven him. Ryan currently writes for a large number of blogs, so that the shouts of the editors cancel each other out. He is into property investment, personal finance, and buying books that make him look smart if he dies suddenly and people search his room. At the age of 10, his ambition in life was to be an apple tree. Things have since gone downhill since then. Ryan is a frequent traveller, as every country he visits seems quick to suggest he visit another one.

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