Over the last few years, Bitcoin has become more widely recognized as a legitimate form of currency around the world. It has quickly grown in popularity in part because of its convenience in this highly digital age. Travelers especially have taken to the idea of a completely virtual and universal form of payment, avoiding the formerly gruelling task of transferring their cash to other foreign currencies at every new location.
If you are interested in the idea of using Bitcoin on your next vacation abroad, be warned. Other travelers, like this couple, have experimented with a complete dependency on Bitcoin, and have seen their share of problems in the process. Before you slice up your credit cards, make sure you know your Bitcoin facts and can prepare for your trip accordingly.
A “Wallet” is Absolutely Necessary
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The nature of a digital currency renders your average leather wallet useless while traveling. To access your finances, make transactions, and store important information, you will need a special “wallet” software. This introduces a new set of problems for many travelers; one must have their smartphone or laptop with them whenever they need to make a purchase, and internet access is mandatory for each transaction to go through. Many travelers prefer to go without their smartphones abroad, so the necessity for this kind of software is something to think about before making the switch to Bitcoin.
Not All Countries Accept Bitcoin
Bolivia recently announced they have banned the currency within their borders. They’re not alone; Bitcoin is currently illegal in Vietnam and highly regulated in countries like Russia. Do proper research before traveling to a country that may or may not have a hostile stance towards the currency. If you are traveling to one of these countries, you will have to nix the Bitcoin plan and go with a more accepted tender.
Each Country Has its Own Bitcoin-Heavy Communities
Even the countries that do allow Bitcoin will show some bald spots when it comes to vendors who accept Bitcoin. However, in major cities and more tech-savvy communities, you’re more likely to find clusters of Bitcoin vendors that operate within the same vicinity. Neighbourhoods like Kreuzberg in Berlin hold high volumes of these types of vendors. Make sure you carefully plan out where you plan to stay during your travels, as it may be important to base these types of decisions on the Bitcoin-friendliness in each area.
Few Major Travel Merchants Accept Bitcoin
Before you head to your destination, you may find it difficult to pay for the plane ride with Bitcoin. Large travel companies have been slow to catch onto the trend and this can make booking your trip entirely with the digital currency tricky. Luckily, the travel merchant giant Expedia recently announced they now accept Bitcoin for hotel reservations. While they do not offer flight purchases with Bitcoin yet, you can find Bitcoin-priced flights at CheapAir.com.
Always Have a Back-Up
The couple who tried to solely use Bitcoin on their 100-day trip described the process as “feast-or-famine.” They experienced uncomfortably long periods of time where they were forced to go without food, unable to find a restaurant that accepted Bitcoin. Try not to depend on one form of payment alone, or even two if you are extra cautious. It’s a good idea to supplement your Bitcoin “stash” with credit cards and cash to be safe.
Security Measures are More Important with Bitcoin
While a theft of any sort can be enough to ruin your trip, a Bitcoin theft can be much more serious. Many aspects of Bitcoin make it more secure, but there are ways for hackers and scammers to trick you into giving up information you shouldn’t. Should you experience a Bitcoin theft, you will find it extremely difficult or impossible to reclaim your money. Remember Bitcoin is very high-risk, and not supported by the same security measures provided by your regular bank. It is very important to be vigilant in your own security practices while abroad, especially when it comes to your Bitcoin information.
There is no outright answer for the question of whether or not to travel with Bitcoin. Depending on the country, type of trip, and the travelers themselves, it can either serve as a hassle or a major convenience. Do your own research before you set out to ensure your trip goes according to plan or as close to the plan as a trip can get.