More for your money: The unexpected costs of traveling abroad

Costa Rica, with sites including Poas Volcano National Park, charges a departure tax.
(Ezequiel Becerra / AFP/Getty Images)

When you travel abroad, you know you must budget for airfare, lodging, transportation and meals, but some costs may catch you off guard. Among them:

Visas: In addition to a U.S. passport, which is valid for 10 years and costs $110 for adults, some countries require a visa, the document that gives you permission to enter or leave a country. Some countries don’t require a visa, but they will charge reciprocity fees based on what the U.S. charges residents from those countries for a tourist visa.

Generally, the reciprocity fee applies to each person traveling. Budget $640 for a family of four traveling to a country that charges a $160 reciprocity fee.


Some countries, including Argentina, require travelers to pay those fees in advance, by the way. Those who don’t pay the $160 fee online before departing may be refused entry. Argentina’s fee is good for 10 years of entrance to the country.

There is some good news about reciprocity fees: The U.S. and Chile ended them this spring. But several South American countries, including Brazil and Bolivia, do charge them.

Some countries allow you to get a visa on arrival; Indonesia, for example, charges $25, and the visa is good for 30 days. But the Russian Federation, for example, insists you have a visa before you step foot in the country; cost begins at $160. And don’t wait until the last minute to obtain that document.

You can check the requirements for your destination at

Possible passport cost: As you’re checking your visa requirement, note that many countries won’t allow you to travel there if your passport is expiring in less than three or six months. To be safe, if your passport expires within six months of your arrival, you may as well go ahead and renew it now.

International taxes and departure fees: These are usually included in the cost of plane tickets, which can add to the cost of travel. The fees for London, for instance, add up to $199, but they are included in the ticket. Not all places do that, though, so you may be hit with a departure tax before leaving Honduras ($37), Costa Rica ($28) and Cambodia ($20). Keep in mind that these fees sometimes must be paid in the local currency, so be sure to ask.

Temporary driver’s licenses: Renting a car? You may need a temporary license in some countries, although some let you bypass the fee if you have an international driving permit. Info from AAA:

Other countries charge a fee for a temporary license.

In Antigua, it’s $20 regardless of whether you have an international driver’s license. Several Caribbean islands require a temporary local permit. Anguilla, Antigua, Barbados, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines require you to present a valid driver’s license and pay a small fee to obtain a local permit. An international driving permit is sufficient on St. Lucia and St. Vincent.

Extra insurance: Your insurance may cover you when renting a car abroad, but make sure you check with your insurer before you leave.