Business Travel Agents Tips: A Corporate Travellers’ New York Airports Guide

New York City is one of the most popular key travel destinations for corporate travellers worldwide. The city is the center of much that’s great, dynamic and profitable in America. It is home of one of the world’s principal financial centres (i.e. anchored by Wall Street), and a popular business hub for the publishing and entertainment industry at the same time. So, it’s no surprise it features three airports, Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), LaGuardia Airport (LGA) and J. F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). As a frequent corporate traveller you probably may have flown to one of the three New York airports at some point or another. With JFK being a major international gateway to the US, this city guide aims to provide some helpful travel agents tips for corporate travellers flying to or from JFK Airport.

New York JFK Facts & Figures

Located about 25km away from Manhattan in Queens, JFK Airport is the largest airport in the state of New York and one of the busiest business travel hubs (over 50 million travellers/year) in the US and internationally. It has six operating terminals (numbered 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8; terminal 6 was demolished in 2011, Terminal 3 in 2013). Currently, the 4th runway is under redevelopment to comply with the needs of Group VI aircraft (until December 2015 as planned so far), which may cause delays, but measures are in place to minimise them, so you shouldn’t be too much affected. With more than 90 airlines arriving and departing from JFK, various business travel solutions for flights to New York can be arranged. Points of origin and destinations include places within the US, Canada, Latin America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Pacific, Australia/New Zealand, basically all over the world. The airport offers corporate travellers a choice of non-stop flights to about 100 international destinations which may prove convenient for your next business trip. However, JFK is very susceptible to weather-related delays due to its position. Corporate travellers are well advised to consider and prepare for possible thunderstorms in summer, causing delays across the US, as well as snow, icing and assorted slush throughout the winter season. For the months between June and November the risk of potential hurricanes is increased.

In general, our business travel agents team advise leisure and corporate travellers to allow plenty of time for getting to and from JFK. Serious traffic incidents on the way between the city and the airport left many wondering whether they’ would be able to make it in time or miss their flight. Furthermore, don’t forget that this is America. Therefore, bear in mind that the TSA rules supreme over security checkpoints. So, take a deep breath and take maybe a book with you or something else to keep you busy. Make sure you arrive early.

Useful JFK terminal facilities for corporate travellers

In most public areas within most terminals, corporate travellers will conveniently find that Wi-Fi is available for free for up to 30min. You can get online near the ticket counters, boarding gates, designated work stations and food courts. The Wi-Fi access is provided by Boingo Wireless Company. If you need to use the internet for longer than 30mins., consider the following options: 1) $4.95 (£3.01, €3.77) per hour (pay as you go), 2) $7.95 (£4.83,€6.05) for unlimited access throughout a 24-hour period (day pass), 3) $9.95 (£6.04,€7.58) per month (unlimited access via a monthly subscription, to be used worldwide), or 4) if you already have a user account, simply log in using your user name and password. ATMs, currency exchange options (Lenlyn or Travelex), a rental phone shop, and more than 100 shops alongside various dining options are available at the terminals.

Ground transportation services from JFK Airport to New York City

The most convenient, stress-free way for travel from and to JFK Airport is to take the AirTrain. It is a cost efficient and helps you make sure you arrive at the airport in time, whilst avoiding possible traffic jams. You can access AirTrain services via the New York City subway system, which is also connected to the Long Island Railroad (LIRR). The journey from/to the city takes just over an hour. AirTrain is operated 24 hours on 365 days a year. Within the airport area, it connects terminals and also enables you to easily access car rental services, hotel shuttle areas and parking lots. At peak times the trains depart every 7 minutes and at off-peak times they go every 15 minutes. However, be clever in choosing your business travel route, as various routes make different stops within the airport. Good news for corporate travellers is that travel within the airport is usually free of charge. However, travel outside the airport is subject to a fee. AirTrain prices generally start from $5 (£3.04, €3.81). For more details on ticket prices are provided on the JFK Airport website under costs and tickets. If you travel via New York’s public transport network, then it is a good idea to use MetroCard, which is widely accepted and is worth to purchase for travel via subway, local trains, or buses. You can find vending machines for buying a MetroCard at Howard Beach and Jamaica Station. A good alternative for corporate travellers would be to take a taxi (for up to 4 passengers). Simply wait in the cab line for a licensed and insured cab to take you to your destination (about $52, i.e. about £31.58, €39.59, flat rate between JFK and Manhattan, excluding tips and tolls). The time for this trip should be about an hour. However, it can take much longer during rush hour.

Shared-ride shuttle services are a cheaper option than taxis, but can involve a lot of waiting and being driven around New York City to drop other people off first. You can find a full list of providers on the airport authority’s website. But remember to tip appropriately, as tipping (around 20% of transfer cost) is quite common and keep in mind that bridge/tunnel tolls are not included in the shared-ride shuttle services fares. Another option is to ask your business travel company to arrange a shuttle service for your trip from and to John F. Kennedy International Airport as prices can vary greatly depending on location and number of passengers. In this way you can ensure that you are travelling with a reliable supplier.

An express bus service is also available for a nominal fee from Penn Station (reachable e.g. by AirTrain or taxi). The service operates from early morning to late night, with buses running at least every half hour.

The airport is also home to several car rental agencies. Leisure and corporate travellers can choose between a number of car major rental companies including Advantage, Thrifty, Dollar, Enterprise, Budget, Hertz, National and Avis.

So, which mode of transport should corporate travellers choose for a trip from JFK to Newark and LaGuardia airports? Usually the best way to get to Newark Airport from JFK Airport is to simply take the AirTrain. However, if you need to travel to LaGuardia during your business trip, it we recommend to take advantage of a convenient shuttle bus service, using the free Route A (running every 10-15 minutes from 4:00am to 11:30pm) or Route B (running every 10-15 minutes from 6:00am to 2:00am). In any case, more details, also for connections to other airports, are available on the JFK Airport Connections page.

Hotels near JFK Airport

Hotel booking services for corporate travellers flying to New York JFK AirportAlthough there are no operating hotels at JFK Airport at the moment, New York provides corporate travellers a huge choice (from budget accommodation to luxury suites) of hotels and motels, which are conveniently located nearby the airport. Most hotel accommodations nearby offer shuttle services. Alternatively you can take the AirTrain to the Federal Circle station and follow the “Courtesy Hotel Shuttles” signs. There are telephone services for the hotel courtesy shuttles located at the AirTrain Federal Circle Station and in the arrival areas of the airport terminals ($5, i.e. about £3.04, €3.81, Service Charge for making reservations). The range of motels and hotels include the Hilton*, the Courtyard* by Marriott, Hampton Inn*, Sheraton*, Hilton Garden, Comfort Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Fairfield Inn* by Marriott, Days Inn, Best Western and Howards Johnson. The ones marked by an * are also offering conference and meeting rooms for corporate events.

Travel Money Cards – Do They Offer Advantages Over Debit Cards and Traditional Credit Cards?

How do travel money cards work?

These cards are fairly recent additions to the cards that are available out there, and they give you the ability to place a certain amount of a specific currency on the card at a predetermined exchange rate, so that you have ready access to funds when you travel.

You can apply for these cards on the providers’ websites online, and the transfer of funds to the card can be made on the phone, the internet, or through SMS services, in some instances. At this time, only the pound, euro, and U.S. dollar can be uploaded onto currency cards.

How are travel money cards better than traditional credit cards?

One major benefit is that you will receive an exchange rate that is much more favorable than if you went to High Street and use the services of the bureaux de change. Another advantage is that the exchange rate of the uploaded funds is fixed, so there will be no surprises after you use it. Traditional credit cards and debit cards typically use the exchange rate that applies at the moment of the transaction, so you never know what you have spent until you see your bill.

Is that all there is to it?

Not at all. When you use a traditional credit card or debit card to make a purchase abroad, you are typically charged around 2.75% of the transaction as a fee for the foreign currency exchange.

These foreign currency exchange fees also apply in shops and eating establishments; however, a travel money card does not have these associated charges. The rates charged for obtaining cash with a credit or debit card can be very high, but since you have prepaid the amount on your currency card, it is not a loan, and there are no fees for the service.

Wonderful. Are there disadvantages to having a currency card?

Since you are uploading cash onto the card before your trip, your vacation is paid for up front, not with credit, so you must save for your trip. But, that may not be a disadvantage in the current economy. Currency card do have fees for withdrawing cash from ATMs, but the associated fees are much less that those incurred with credit or debit cards.

One example of this is that, when this article was written, NatWest and RBS both had a withdrawal fee of two percent, which amounts to about EUR6 each time you withdraw the sum of EUR300. Currency exchange cards, however, have a flat fee that amounts to as little as EUR1.50 no matter how much your ATM withdrawal is.

The major disadvantage of a travel money card is that you will be charged as much as 2.75% if you use the card for a currency that wasn’t assigned to it when it was issued. For instance, if you paid for something in U.S. dollars on a card issued in euros, then you would have to pay this foreign currency exchange fee. There are cards, however, that don’t carry an FX fee.

What about credit cards that can be used without FX fees?

Traditional credit cards like Post Office, Nationwide Gold, and Abbey Zero fit into this category. The first two cards, though, have 2.5% withdrawal fees for cash with a minimum charge of £3 per transaction, even though they don’t carry FX fees. This isn’t as good a deal as a travel money card, unless you don’t have the cash upfront for your vacation.

There are no cash withdrawal or FX fees associated with the Abbey card, however, which makes it the preferred credit card. Cash withdrawals do carry very high interests rates, though, which are at 25.9%; the cash withdrawal interest rates with Post Office and Nationwide are 20.83% and 22.9%, respectively.

Tell me more. So which travel money cards are the best?

The best card available for euros is the FairFX Euro Currency card, because its ATM fee is the least at EUR1.50; it has no foreign currency exchange fees and has fantastic exchange rates. Another euro card, the Indigo Travelcard Euro has just a slightly higher ATM fee of EUR1.95, but its convert fee is high at 2.75%. There is no convert fee associated with the ICE Travellers CashCard Euro, but the ATM fee is a whopping EUR3.

When considering dollar cards, again, FairFX is the best deal, as the currency card charges just $2 for ATM transactions, and it doesn’t have a convert fee. Another bargain for dollar cards is the ICE Travellers CashCard, because it does not have a convert fee, and the fee for ATM transactions is just $3. Keep in mind that when there is no convert fee, the cards can used for any available currency.

What’s the best travel money card for world travel?

FairFX have just launched what they call an ‘Anywhere Card’ which at the time of writing appears to be the best value of all the travel money cards for worldwide use.

With a FairFX Anywhere Card there are no loading fees and no ATM fees! the only fee that applies is a 1.5% transaction fee which as far as we can tell beats every other similar type of card in the market.

FairFX have just launched what they call an ‘Anywhere Card’ which at the time of writing appears to be the best value of all the travel money cards for worldwide use.

With a FairFX Anywhere Card there are no loading fees and no ATM fees! the only fee that applies is a 1.5% transaction fee which as far as we can tell beats every other similar type of card in the market.

Euro Train Pass – Quick Tips on Buying and Using a Euro Train Pass

If you are on your way to a European adventure, leave the car to the train travel! Europe has a very complete and convenient rail system with a 100,000 mile rail network to many European countries. With a euro train pass, you can have unlimited travel to all these countries. How convenient!

What you should know about getting a euro train pass?

There are many types of euro train pass available with a great selection of global pass, select pass, country & regional pass etc. But if you have lived in Europe for more than six months or you are a resident of Algeria, Morocco, the Russian Federation, Tunisia or Turkey, you are not eligible to purchase such passes. For others, you have no problem in getting it.

Where can you get cheap euro train pass?

Normally, the price of train pass increases on January 1st of each year. So if you are planning to travel during the first half of the year ( Jan – June ) and you have your travel plan set, it is recommended to purchase the train passes in December to save some bucks. Your pass is valid for six months after the purchase. So, plan early and start traveling before it expires!

Should you reserve the train passes?

It all depends on your travel plan. If you have a flexible schedule, there is no need to reserve a train pass as there is a fee for every reservation you make. But if you are on a tight schedule and you can’t afford to miss the train, it is better for you to reserve the pass well in advance. Here’s a real story. My friend, Natalie and her husband went on a train travel through Europe for 30 days. During their travel from Munich to Venice, they could not board the desired train as they did not have reservations. Therefore, they had to wait for 12 hours to catch the next most desired train with available seats. They faced the same problem when they were traveling from Brussels to Germany. But this time, they only needed to wait for 2.5 hours. Since then, they made reservations for their remaining journey. So, is your travel plan flexible enough for such incidents?

How to validate your train passes in Europe?

It is very easy to validate your euro train pass. Before you use your pass for the first time, just go to the ticket window and validate for you. They will require you to show them your passport. So, get your passport ready. After that, they will put on the date and stamp it. Before you use it each day or each time, put down the date in European format (DD/MM/YYYY). Make sure when you write ‘seven’, it must have a “bar” through it to show it is not a ‘one’.

Rome on a Shoe String Budget – 50 Euros per day Or Less

How much spending money you need to budget in Rome is a hard question to answer as it depends on the lifestyle of the traveler, and what kinds of things are non-negotiable while touring.

Back in college, I went backpacking with my best friend. At the time we managed to get by on about 30 US dollars per day to sleep, eat, and sight-see. My friend managed to do this while still buying at least three cans of coke (at about 3 dollars each) per day, normally from an obvious tourist trap of a snack mobile parked about ten feet in front of the Eiffel Tower.

While such a budget would now be totally impossible (Yikes, how many years HAS it been?!), my tastes are no longer those of a young carefree backpacker, and so I’ll write about what it would now take to keep a city slicker such as myself fed, entertained and bused around Rome today.

As accommodation in Rome can vary so much for price and quality, it will really throw off a daily budget, So I won’t include it in my daily tally. Let it suffice to say that a bed in a shared dormitory goes for about 23 Euro, and a Room at the five star Hotel Hassler sells for about 600 Euro per night. Somewhere in that range, a bed to suit your needs and your wallet awaits you in Rome.!!

I would budget a minimum of 50 Euro per day to cover your basic needs, such as travel and food (shopping not included) and Rome sightseeing agenda. If you calculate that you are likely to spend around 10 -15 Euro per day in entry fees to monuments like the Vatican Museum or to see the ancient city, etc, that will leave you 40 Euro or so per day for all your food and travel expenses. Tours in Rome normally start at about 20 or so Euros, so as much as I advocate the added value of having a tour guide to fulfill your sightseeing wishes we’d better leave the tour guides out of the agenda for now as well. As realistically if you are looking at shoestring budget a tour guide no matter how good and informative is considered a bit of an extravagance!

So here is how to make the most of your budget. Most hotels, hostels, and B&B’s offer complimentary breakfast. Be sure to eat up and maybe if you can try take some fruit ‘to go’ this will do as snack through out the day, just be sure to leave some for the other guests!! If you carry a water bottle around with you, just refill it at the many water fountains around the city instead of buying a new one all the time. Save money at lunch time by having “pizza a taglio” (pizza by the slice) and a drink. If you get hungry mid afternoon, 1.50 Euro will buy you a heavenly cone of gelato which will keep your bellies pleasantly full for a few hours. Just make sure to stay away from the tourist trap vans, they always charge over the odds for goods that you can get in a shop near by.

Save the real meal, your precious Euros, and your appetite, for dinner. A nice dinner in a typical Roman restaurant (Trattoria) can be had for about 20-30 Euro per person including wine. Share a starter between a few of you and fill up on the bread if needs be. Again staying away from the usual tourist areas will ensure you get a decent meal at a reasonable price.

Converting Your Money – Exchanging Your Euro Money For American Money

Before you travel between Europe and the United States, you’re going to need to convert your Euro money to American money. This will make purchasing everything you need much easier while you’re abroad, as opposed to traveler’s checks which are only accepted by a limited number of retailers. If you need some tips on how to convert your money, this article can help.

Monitoring the exchange rates on a regular basis is very important. This is because they are constantly changing. In addition to fluctuating each and every day, they also change several times throughout the day. These rates are affected by many different things, so keep a watchful eye on them regularly to see how they are changing.

Finding out what the most current rates are is very easy. By searching the Web, you can find the rates for the Great British pound, Euro, and US dollar in an instant. Many websites also show the rates as they change in real time, so you can rest assured that you have the latest facts and figures before you decide to exchange your cash.

The best thing you can do before you travel is exchange your Euro money to American money. You don’t want to get caught in a foreign place without any cash. Always travel with the right currency on you, so you can pay for your food and shelter while you’re away from home.

Before exchanging your money, find out how much you will need for your trip. Do a Web search to find out where you’re going to stay and how much it’s going to cost. Also, think about where you’re going to eat and if you plan on buying any gifts and mementos for yourself and for friends and family members. After you’ve figured out what you’re going to spend your money on, all you have to do is add up the numbers. You may want to add a little extra to the final total, however, to account for unexpected costs.

Do not exchange your money until you’ve shopped around for the best deal. It is a common misconception that all businesses will give you the same rate, but this simply isn’t true. Each business will either charge a flat fee or will ask for a percentage based upon how much money you exchange. Some businesses may take a fee and a percentage.

Fortunately, it is easy to find the best deals nowadays. Doing a simple Web search will help you find tons of businesses that exchange money and they will also let you know what their commission rates are. If you put in the time and effort to search for the best rates on converting Euro money to American money, you can rest assured that you’ll have more money for your travels than if you didn’t.

Planning Your Next Europe Travel

Word Vacation rings a bell in everyone’s mind and reminds us of the good times we have had, the different places we visited and some of the pictures of things seen come in the mind’s eye.

When you think of traveling overseas, the long duration flights do make us weary just by thinking about it. You have got to get to the airport a few hours in advance, stand in queue, customs formalities and waiting for boarding announcement can easily tire you out even before you get into the flight.

Those who travel to Europe on holiday cover the entire length and breadth of Europe by euro rail. Europe has one of the best rail service system across the entire continent and more over one can buy passes at cheap rates and well in advance. In fact there are many students who travel over the weekends by trains to other stations and even save on hotel stay. A trip from London to Paris can cost you just about $50. Un believable isn’t it?

Euro Start takes you from London to Paris and Brussels on its fast speed train service and it is worth getting on board this train from St.Pancras Station in London. After its recent refurbishing and revival, traffic has increased tremendously from the station and people love this place.

Traveling across Europe and visiting different countries need not give you jitters about having to buy tickets at every station. All you need to do is to buy euro rail pass for a certain amount. It has a certain period validity and you can travel on those particular lines across several countries without having to bother about buying new ticket.

You can start anywhere in Europe and travel the entire length and breadth of the continent. For example most people take the super fast train between London to Paris and Munich to Madrid and so on, thereby cover all of the cities across Europe.

Read up complete information on Euro rail passes and check out very many options available like ferry travel service from port Copenhagen etc. With detailed planning you can zig zag across Europe and have an adventurous holiday without having to spend a lot of money.

One other way of traveling across Europe is to finish sight seeing all through the day and catch a night train to the next destination in another country. You can sleep through the night and get rested well and be ready to start exploring the new country again in the morning. The long journey trains provide you with sleeping cabin births and are very comfortable for you to sleep or relax.

On arrival you can check out the next train on your schedule and head out for breakfast before hitting the road to discover the magic of the new town. You can let your hair down and go ahead without any bother.

Amsterdam Travel Tips

Amsterdam, Holland, is a popular destination for euro-travelers. Amsterdam offers a diverse set of attractions for the modern tourist, ranging from museums that house the work of such painters as Van Gogh and Rembrandt, to the house of Ann Frank during WWII. For the more mature traveler, there is the famous Amsterdam red light district, which is a tourist attraction on its own.

Although Amsterdam does have its red light district, that should not distract from the beauty of the city for family vacation. Explore Amsterdam on foot, on a bike, or on a boat. People are friendly and the city is safe, and most people know English well, so do strike a conversation with the locals. For shopping, don’t forget the Waterlloplein flea market and then let the fragrance of flowers lead you to the floating flower market, which is amazing.

How to get around?

Bicycles are the most practical means of getting around Amsterdam but it is also an excellent city to explore by foot. Although you can easily get lost in Amsterdam, where the ancient streets and alleys are like a puzzle, if you are getting lost, this is the place to do it at!

Anne Frank House

Ann Frank House is an amazing museum that has a story attached to it. The museum is located at the center of Amsterdam, twenty minutes from the Central Station. Visiting the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam is a moving experience for everyone. Visitors can see the very room in which Anne wrote most of her diary and, although the Nazis stripped the house after her arrest, audiovisual presentations show what the rooms would have looked like at that time. The original version of the diary can be seen at the museum. The original building, the Opekta warehouse, was preserved, while a next door building was modernized and converted into offices and cafes for the museum.

Van Gogh Museum:

Visit to The Van Gogh Museum is a must as he is truly a legend in Holland. Van Gogh Museum is located in the museum district in the south part of the city, between Leidseplein and Vondelpark. Van Gogh Museum houses the greatest collection of Vincent van Gogh paintings in the world. It is an incredibly popular museum with tourists. The museum contains over 200 paintings by Van Gogh, as well as collections by other famous artists. Van Gogh is Holland’s most admired artist and rightly so. Do plan your visit on Friday where museum’s café serves nice dinners.

Canal Cruises:

Amsterdam is a canal town (somewhat like Venice). You will find the canals in the old town. Take a one or two hour cruise on the canals. There are several cruise companies that operate the tours, departing almost every hour, from the main canal down the hill near the train station. It is a great way to see some of the sights, in a cruise boat. These tours afford you the opportunity to see the older Amsterdam.

The New Travel Essential – The Prepaid Travel Money Card

Prepaid travel money cards are quickly becoming the preferred option among people to do transactions while they are traveling. They are fast replacing using foreign currency or traveler cheques as the leading paying medium during traveling. Prepaid travel cards allow you to load your card with any desired amount of money that falls under the minimum and maximum loading limit from financial institutions that offer this service. You can use it as a debit card to acquire money from an ATM or use it as a credit card to pay for the purchases made.

Prepaid Travel cards in the era of the Credit Crunch – what do you need to get one?

Prepaid credit cards are taking center stage especially as the economic slump is tightening its grip on the world economy. You no longer need to carry money with you when you are on a trip. Each card is allotted a PIN number that contributes significantly to the safety of the product. As this is an international option, you can get the relevant authority informed about the loss of your card with the PIN number identifying your card to them. Customer support will block all activities that involve the lost product and should make arrangements for a new card to be sent out to you. These cards remain an independent entity without any relations with a bank account. You will not be able to avail any credit or overdraft facilities with prepaid travel money cards and this will help you keep your spending under check. You can easily retrieve information on your recent transactions and know your balance. This will keep you informed about the money left in your card and therefore, you will be able to manage your spending more judiciously. Your card can be reloaded at any time from any where in the world using your credit or debit card. It is also very easy to secure a prepaid travel card. You just need to submit your ID and documents that will validate your ID and address details and you should be approved and your prepaid travel money card will be in the post. Your card will be readily available for transactions.

Global Prepaid Acceptance

The extent of worldwide acceptance of your prepaid product will depend on your scheme provider. In comparison with electron and maestro prepaid travel cards, Visa and MasterCard prepaid travel cards enjoy better acceptance across the world with MasterCard being the most widely accepted option at over 26 million merchant locations worldwide.

Card Currency and FX Rates – why do they matter?

The currency of your card can play a major role in establishing exactly how much you can save on your trip. You can also take advantage of the exchange rate with your prepaid travel money card. You can have your currency as Euro or Dollar as these are two most popular options available for travellers travelling abroad outside the UK. Euro or dollar prepaid cards can be used in exactly the same way as a standard prepaid card. To get a Euro or dollar prepaid product, you should buy currency online from the service provider and the amount bought will be loaded into your card and sent to you. With Euro or dollar prepaid product, you may have to pay a fee for withdrawing cash from ATM’s and a fee may be incurred from currency exchange bureau’s and banks worldwide. The most important factor is choosing euro cards when traveling around Europe or dollar cards for other territories where USD is the accepted currency.

Find the right Pre paid Travel Money Card

Prepaid365 is a web portal that provides detailed information regarding prepaid cards in the UK. It provides a comparison of the leading prepaid travel cards offered by different companies across the UK, presenting the pros and cons of these prepaid programs and make a comparison between them and helps you identify the perfect prepaid product that suits your preferences. Find the right travel money card at Prepaid365 because prepaid cards are here to stay permanently even if the credit crunch may be temporary.

Counterfeit Money – Tips to Avoid Fakes at Home and When Travelling

Would you notice if you were handed a fake bank note? It can be hard enough to tell the difference with currency you are familiar with, but even more difficult when travelling in a foreign country. Many people are unaware that either knowingly or innocently passing along counterfeit money could result in a fine or even a spell in jail. This is definitely something you want to avoid when travelling. For those who have never given it much thought it is worth spending some time learning how to spot forgeries.

Never take risks with your hard-earned cash when travelling. Use legitimate Bureaux de Change or banks to exchange currency and avoid changing money on the street, no matter how tempting an offer may appear.

There are many different ways to check for counterfeit notes. Businesses use ultra-violet light machines, automatic note checkers, marker pens or other gadgets. However, the average person at home, or travelling, has to rely on their wits and senses.

After exchanging your travel money at a legitimate bank or Bureaux de Change, take some time to examine the notes you receive. Feel the texture and observe the quality and clarity of the print, especially if parts of the print are raised rather than flat. It is said that the easiest way to spot a fake, other than by using a gadget, is by the feel of it. Bank notes are normally printed on paper made from a mixture of cotton and linen which has a distinct feel and is very different from ordinary paper. Currency varies from country to country and unwary travellers are often targeted.

Here are a few tips to help you become a savvy traveller and avoid getting stuck with counterfeit notes:

If in good condition a bank note should feel crisp, never slippery or limp
Notes should carry a watermark, which can be seen when held up to the light
A genuine note may have a metallic thread embedded into the paper
Genuine notes often have red and blue fibers woven into the paper
Check for a hologram, or colour-shifting ink
Images and text should be sharp, not fuzzy or smudged

Be wary of accepting bank notes in high denominations. Despite claims that the Euro is practically counterfeit-proof there has been a problem with fake Euros in circulation in recent years and the 50 Euro note has been a favourite among forgers. Forged notes are more likely to be made in smaller denominations. For example, a £50/$50 note attracts immediate attention and scrutiny, whereas a £20/$20 note usually does not and is easier to palm off on an unsuspecting victim.

One method crooks often use is to bleach the paper of a legitimate note and reprint it in a higher denomination. Counterfeit notes are often torn or crumpled deliberately to hide evidence of forgery and appear genuine.

Counterfeit currency is mostly confined to bank notes, but occasionally coins are forged. Counterfeit British pound coins have been in circulation but are relatively easy to spot – once you know what to look for.

It is not possible to explain all the intricacies of spotting a dud in every currency in this article, but perhaps it will help to raise awareness of the problem – especially for travellers in foreign countries. The Bank of England’s website and its ‘Take a Closer Look’ section provides very good information and is an excellent place to start to learn what to look for. Their website contains useful information, including demonstrations, a very watchable ten-minute film, videos, and educational materials. Check for similar information provided by the banks or governments of other countries.

Businesses have the right to refuse to accept currency they suspect to be forged, and you should do the same – especially if a note appears damaged or suspicious. If you end up with a counterfeit note you will be stuck with it and should hand it in to the police. Be aware that your travel insurance will not cover financial losses of this type either.

The hard truth is that a forged bank note is as worthless as Monopoly money. A bank will not exchange it for real money – and there is no return to Go!

Jean Andrews is an employee of Travel Insurance Agencies Ltd (TIA Ltd). Jean regularly contributes informative articles about travel insurance and travel related matters.

Stretch Your Euros Without Skimping on Madrid Hotels

Recently, Madrid has become one of the hottest European destinations. The city has something for everyone, whether you want to visit the Prado Museum, enjoy a cold bottle of Mahou beer in Plaza Mayor, see Picasso’s Guernica in the Reina Sofía Museum, or visit the disco bars until the sun comes up.

And yet, with the dollar weak against the euro, travelers need to squeeze every ounce of value out of the money they spend. Some do this by staying at low quality Madrid hotels, but that isn’t necessary. A few tips let you enjoy a luxury vacation on an economy budget.

How to pay less at luxurious Madrid hotels

There are a several ways you can save money at Madrid hotels.

Travel with a group of friends

A room for four isn’t much more expensive than a room for one, but each person pays far less than for a single. Visit off season, which is October through April. Although you may find fewer tourist-oriented special events during these times, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The locals still live their lives and the centuries of culture and art are there year round.

One secret many tourists don’t know is that Madrid hotels which cater to business clients are desperate for guests during the summer and on weekends. They will lower their price during these times, but often only if the guest asks for a deal.

Make your reservations a few days in advance. Having to book a room at the last minute due to a reservation mix up usually means you will pay a premium on the room price. Use a consumer-friendly agency such as EuroBookings.com that does not charge a reservation fee or a cancellation fee. This allows you to lock in the going rate, but get the current’ day’s best rate if it’s lower than the online price. Also, if you find a hotel you like better once there, you won’t pay big bucks to cancel your reservation or be forced to stay.

Save money on meals

It should come as no surprise that restaurants in Madrid hotels tend to be overpriced, just like American hotels. Get your meals from an outside restaurant instead. Avoid the places that cater to tourists and boast that they speak English. Look for local hangouts to get a taste of what real Spanish food tastes like.

Don’t be afraid to try local specialties. That’s why you’re traveling after all. Not only does this expose you to authentic Spanish cuisine, but also saves you from paying inflated tourist prices.

For tighter budgets, stock your hotel room with food from a local market. Packing a picnic lunch for your daytime tours is a good way to save big, while still allowing you to enjoy restaurant meals for lunch and dinner.

Do it yourself

The staff at Madrid hotels can be a great source for advice on local attractions, but they are often biased and may even be getting incentives to direct you to certain places. Don’t book tickets or other services through the hotel staff. Go to the source and do it yourself and you can probably save money. Plus you are more likely to avoid the glitzy tourist activities that don’t reflect real local culture.