All posts by carolemscott

Travel is part of my DNA and with it comes a love of photography. I share a bit of both on Footsteps and Photos. I write fiction, so expect musings about the writing process to appear on that blog too. My first novel is available on Amazon: The Broken Heart Repair Plan. I'm setting up a new blog, to track how I get on giving up dairy products - I can no longer justify consuming it but I'm not convinced I'm going to be able to. I thought a blog would help me.

Practical Travel Tip: Revolut’s pre-paid card has transformed my holiday money

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Paris. Café By MilStan on Flickr Creative Commons. https://www.flickr.com/photos/milstan/5421437212

A few weeks’ ago, I went to Paris for the weekend for the first time in 15 years. I got a Post Office pre-paid currency card because I had no idea how much I would spend and didn’t want to keep going to an ATM because the fees rack up if taking relatively modest amounts out at a time.

I was pretty disappointed with the Post Office cards, on a number of fronts. The app took days (two – three) to show transactions, so it was difficult to keep track of what I was spending. Worse still, living in the UK, where contactless payment is everywhere, I was stunned by how many shops, cafés and even restaurants refused to take cards of any kind (forget contactless!) and still operated cash only. This meant that I had to keep nipping to the ATM. Sadly, the Post Office charges for taking cash out just like banks do and quite a hefty fee per ATM visit at that.

A couple of weeks’ ago, I was gearing up for a long weekend in Stockholm. I didn’t want to buy Swedish Krona cash, as I didn’t know how much I would want (or need) to spend. Equally, I didn’t want to rack up bank or credit card charges for transactions and cash withdrawals.

Thanks to moneysavingexpert.com (where I was looking for Monzo, highly recommended on the site but not going to arrive in time), I found Revolut, an app-driven pre-paid Mastercard that allows you to withdraw up to £200 equivalent with no fee, charges no fees on transactions, and uses live international FX rates for changing from your native currency* into a foreign one.

I paid £12 to get it delivered in a hurry, as I wasn’t organised in time. Normally it would be £5 but this is the only charge you pay.

It was amazing. I rarely rave about a company or product, as I’m naturally cynical, but as an experienced and frequent traveller, I like to share ground-breaking tips. This app and card are amazing. Seriously, get one!

Topping up is fast and instant (apart from in Heathrow, where the internet seemed to block doing a secure transaction and where my 4G signal was bad). When it’s time to exchange your GBP* into foreign currency, you see the Interbank rate changing in real time, so you can decide when to hit the ‘exchange’ button to get the best rate. As the Revolut blurb explains, the Interbank exchange rate is the “top-level foreign exchange market where banks exchange currencies. It’s a wholesale market through which most currency transactions are channelled and therefore offers the best exchange rate available.”

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The Revolut app makes it all so easy. On the left, my SEK transactions, split by category. In the middle, my first exchange, showing exact exchange rate. And on the right, my GBP ‘account’.

The number one advantage of the card was that as soon as I hit ‘enter’ on a card machine, a notification bounced through to my phone immediately – and I really do mean immediately. My fingers would still be hovering above the pinpad when I heard the ping!

This makes it easy and accurate to track money spent and money left. I particularly like the fact that each currency on the card is a held as a separate ‘account’, with transactions recorded in each one rather than in one lump.

As far as I’m concerned, unless I’m going to a cash-driven country, I’ll be using Revolut for every trip from now on. I’m going to the States with my closest friend in a few weeks’ time and it’s going to be great. I will need cash there, as tips are important and best paid in dollar bills, but as there is no withdrawal fee up to £200, I can take out relatively small amounts for each days’ tip needs.

Another advantage for those of us who aren’t brilliant at separately saving up our holiday spending money – top up each money when you get paid. You can see your holiday fund grow but it’s still in £££s in case you do need access to it before the holiday (thanks to Sarah Barlow of Scrumptious Catering for that one!).

*By ‘native’ currency, I mean the one you top up in – this is limited, so do check first whether yours is one of them but it definitely includes GBP, USD and Euros.

Seven days of nature photography: last day

And so I come to the end of seven days of nature photography. It’s been huge fun. It is good to wade through the back catalogue every now and again, to remember gorgeous moments outdoors, whether at home or in an exotic location.

I might just have to set myself a new project next month – maybe my ‘best of the best’ and maybe even doing it for the entire month. Now, there’s a thought!

For my last day, there is no contest. It has to be one of my many gelada monkey photos from the Simien Mountains in Ethiopia. These are astonishing animals, who have zero fear of the trekkers that come through their territory and so it’s possible to get up close.

One evening, we walked out to a viewpoint near our campsite and couldn’t believe our luck when we saw this group huddled together, looking like a family trying to shield each other from the elements. The strange this is that it wasn’t yet dark and not yet cold.

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Seven days of nature photography: day six

Day six of seven days of nature photography and today, I’m back in Cuba. It was my second visit and I had arrived in Trinidad ahead of some Cuban and Australian friends. So I decided to do a walk from the centre of this gorgeous music-filled town to a waterfall.

I had time a-plenty (that’s the one big advantage of being alone) and so snapped every little detail that caught my eye. My favourite photo of the day was this up close detail of a vibrant green leaf.

I just love the colours and the sunlight shining through. It’s both abstract and recognisable, all in one glorious green macro.

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Seven days of nature photography: Day Five

When I think of ‘nature photography’, I tend to think of wildlife on a big scale – photos from an african safari or pictures of birds taken by people with super long lenses. Looking through my photos to pick seven, I don’t have many of those. I’m a happy amateur who has standard lenses and doesn’t see much big, rare wildlife (although I will end with Ethiopian wildlife).

But nature is everywhere.  Weeds grow in the cracks of concrete paving slabs, birds twitter in the street and cats prowl – everywhere, toomuchwhere!

I think it’s a minor miracle that even in an urban space, we still see bees. This photo was taken in the rooftop garden of the Queen Elizabeth Hall of London’s South Bank. I was so chuffed that I managed to get it in focus (ish!) with it’s tongue in the flower.

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Seven days of nature photography: Day four – have a koala

Day four of seven days of nature photography. Have a koala. Taken in Brisbane way, way back in 2011. I wouldn’t want to hold one but they sure look cute curled up! This one is in black and white, as it emphasises the textures, whereas colour distracts a little from that.

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Seven days of nature photography: Day Three

Day three of my seven days of nature photography challenge set by Moth Clark, I dug out my one and only true sunrise photo. I was in Myanmar on a boat trip along the Irrawaddy River and the sunset had been spectacular the night before. But the dawn was even better. I took many shots and waited for this fisherman to float right into the beams of the sun across the water.

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