How (NOT) to Arrive in a New Country

I made some stupid decisions when I went to Singapore. Mistakes that by now I should know better than to make.  I think that every seasoned traveler has made at least one of these mistakes while entering a new country and just one of them isn’t a big deal but when they all happen at the same time you just end up feeling incredibly foolish. Sometimes things just don’t go your way and everything you thought would happen just simply doesn’t.

First Mistake: For some reason I thought that my Malaysian debt card would work in the ATMs in Singapore. Nope. So I didn’t convert any money before I left. I figured I could just find an ATM, find a cab and get to my hostel from the bus stop. Nope! My card didn’t work. And my American account didn’t have any money in it. Whoops!

Second Mistake: I also didn’t really look up where my bus dropped me off at; I thought it would probably be near a subway station but nope! It was about a mile away from the closest one.

Third Mistake: I figured if I had any problems pulling out money, I could probably find some Wifi and call an Uber to get to my hostel, especially since Singapore is such a developed country. Nope! No Wifi in sight.

So there I was at 1pm standing in the middle of Singapore, on a very hot day, with no money and no working cell phone. Luckily I had at least downloaded a map of Singapore before I left.  So I walked, and walked to the closest subway station hoping that there’d be a different ATM there that would work. After 45 minutes, I had tried at least six different ATMs. And still had no money. The subway station I found was attached to the mall, as most of them are, so I walked around inside and found a money changer! Score! I converted everything I had, which was a very small about of Malaysian Ringgit and the $100 USD which I thankfully grabbed right as I walked out the door to catch my bus that morning. It converted to about 200 Singaporean Dollars (about 150USD). That $150 had to last me until my bus back on Saturday night, it was Thursday afternoon and I still had to pay cash for two nights in my hostel. Singapore is a pretty expensive country but I figured if I stretched it I could make it work. And maybe I could convince the people at the hostel to let me pay online.

After I finally got to my hostel, I walked around Clarke Quay, the downtown area of Singapore. And after a few hours of freaking out, I came across an ATM for my Malaysian bank and was able to actually pull out some money. Thankfully! Ah!

Walking in the hot sun, with my heavy backpack, not knowing if I was going to be able to get any money for the weekend was borderline terrifying.  Luckily it all worked out. And I ended up having a great (and inexpensive) time in Singapore. There are a lot of free things to do in the area so I think even if I hadn’t found that last ATM, I probably would have been ok. In the end I laughed it off and as lesson to be learned from. Never assume your card will work in a foreign country even an extremely modern one! Always travel with some cash!

What was your worst travel mistake?! Let me know in the comments below!


Read Next: How to Plan (or rather not plan) Your Trip to South East Asia






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Megan is from sunny California and is currently living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She funds her travels by teaching students with learning challenges and students applying to U.S. universities. She loves traveling like a local, eating amazing food and is always up for an adventure. Check out her about me section to learn more!

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