What to do if you run out of money while travelling

08 Feb 2019

Guest blog post by Ruth Bushi from SavetheStudent.org.

I once ran out of money one day into a week-long trip to Turkey – so been there, done that! We then wasted another day panicking and wondering where all the cash had gone (answer: gin).

The point is, running out of money abroad is easily done, especially when you’re on a budget or are a travel newbie. It can also be pretty scary if you’re on the other side of the world, or have weeks of travel still ahead of you. So, if you ever do run out of money on holiday, here’s how to put the wheels back on your holiday.

Tell someone

Running out of cash might be embarrassing, but don’t let that stop you asking for help or keeping family and friends in the loop. This is doubly important if your cash or bank cards have been lost or stolen. Contact your bank or the local police and your insurance company ASAP. Depending on the situation, you may also want to involve your holiday rep or tour guide, and/or the British embassy.

Friends talking and having a coffee

Ask friends or family

The simplest option is to ask someone back home to top-up your account. If you don’t have your bank cards or access to your account, a friend could send cash for you to collect locally via a money transfer or ‘wire’ service for a fee instead.

Borrow money safely

If you have, or can arrange, an overdraft for your bank account you’ll be able to can carry on spending (up to your overdraft limit) without paying penalty fees. A credit card is also good for emergencies; as with overdrafts it’s good to plan to repay these ASAP to minimise any interest charges. The local British embassy won’t usually lend money, but will be able to talk you through other options to tide you over.

Man using laptop

Earn money online

A laptop plus decent Wi-Fi can be a nice earner on longer trips, as there are loads of ways to make money online. One option is to use freelancer marketplaces online to pick up one-off projects. This can include anything from recording voice-overs to copywriting, web design and more. Finding work is always easier with a bit of prep, so it’s worth thinking about your options before you go on your travels.

Cashier working in a shop

Find local employment

If you’re allowed to work in your host country, now’s the time to make use of your skills, certificates and self-belief! Ask at your hotel or hostel for suggestions or check the local press. Alternatively, you may be able to swap skills for things you need – i.e., bar shifts in exchange for accommodation or meals.

Make sure you check your visa allowances before you apply for any jobs abroad.

Ask the internet

Crowdfunding could be an option if you find yourself in a pickle. Essentially, crowdfunding involves using a specialist website to ask strangers for money. It’s no quick fix – it can take 1-2 weeks to withdraw cash into your bank account, plus the platform may take admin fees out of the money you raise. How successful you are depends on your situation and how well you can tell your story!


You’ve now got some options if you ever run out of cash abroad. Ideally, pair them with ways to stop it happening in the first place, including…

  • Work out your daily spending limit before you go – and stick to it
  • Take holiday money in a mix of cash, traveller’s cheques and on pre-paid travel cards. Debit and credit cards can charge a lot of money to use abroad so always check with your bank before taking them on your travels.
  • Don’t keep everything in the same bag or pocket!
  • Be security minded! Use a money belt, never let your card out of your sight, and don’t get distracted at ATMs.

Common sense and forward planning won’t make you immune to accidents, but they’ll help you get back on-track sooner if any issues do occur.


Guest blog by Ruth Bushi, an editor at Save the Student – the UK's largest student money advice site.

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