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  • Danh Truong

5 Practical Tips When Visiting a New Country

As Vietnamese Americans we are often taught cash is king as we have memories of our moms carry wads of cash when traveling to other countries. We also have fears ATM machines may not accept our cards or we don't want to incur extra foreign transaction fees or credit card charges so we continue to carry cash while fearing pick-pocketers.

We also assume without access to wifi we cannot use our commonly used phone apps to help us navigate the local scenes.

Here are some Danh's Tips to help improve your traveling experience and ease your fears.

1. Use Google Maps Offline Feature to find your way around.

Did you know you can download parts of a region from Google Maps to use it on your phone offline? Here is a step by step guide:

  • Open Google Maps app on your mobile device.

  • Search for the city that you will visit. For example, Paris, France.

  • Tap on the Menu symbol on the top left corner.

  • Tap on Offline areas

  • Tap on Custom area

  • Tap on Download at the bottom right corner.

  • I recommend to do this when you have Wifi connection.

There you go. When you travel to Paris, you do not need cell phone signal to use Google Maps on your mobile device.

2. Carry a credit card with NO foreign transaction fees.

Always have at least two credit cards with no foreign transaction fee. Here are several options to consider:

  • Discover Card, although Discover is not very popular in many countries, there is no annual fee.

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred is a Visa card so you can use it in most countries. It has an annual fee of $95 after the first year.

  • American Express SPG which also has an annual fee of $95 after the first year.

  • Barclays Arrival+ is a Master Card and has an annual fee of $89 after the first year.

Most cards mentioned above have big spending bonus that can easily offset the annual fee and offer help with your travels as well.

3. Carry a Debit Card with a Chip and PIN and NO ATM Withdrawal Fees.

The Charles Schwab Debit card is the most underrated yet most useful card to have. You can open a Checking Account with no minimum balance and no monthly fee. It is useful for people who do not like to carry cash around because you can always get cash from an ATM.

Most Vietnamese or Asian restaurants prefer cash so this card is gold. Here are some of the benefits:

  • No minimum balance

  • No monthly fee

  • Unlimited ATM Fee reimbursement

  • Unlimited check writing

This card has some limitations such as limited locations when you want to deposit cash in your account. So this option is more convenient for Millennials or those who are tech savvy.

This is THE card I bring on all my trips, domestic and international. I have never had any problem with it. On one of my trip I was able to book tickets to the Vatican via its website a day before arrival when my Chase card failed. I love this card!

4. Use Google Translate to Communicate with the Locals.

Google Translate is another useful app from Google. You can download this app and get offline languages to use on your trip. Type in a simple phrase or word and show it on the screen to the locals and they can help you.

The limitation of this app is the Camera translate function is not accurate. I tried this function in Japan and Korea and it wasn’t helpful at all. In addition, you will need to have online connection to use the Camera translate function.

5. Use TripAdvisor for Attractions.

TripAdvisor is great because there are so many recommendations written by local guides.

You can download this app on your mobile device and it has an offline function too. I usually Google “What to do in XYZ for N days? TripAdvisor has great contents and contains highly accurate information; however, make sure you have the time and energy to follow the itinerary from these local guides.

We hope these tips will give you a "Fear-Less" travel experience. In the mean time, get your mom a cash pouch to wear close to her body so she doesn't lose all her money if her purse were to ever get snatched.

Do you have any tips you'd like to share? Please send them to us under the comment section or send an email to

Follow Chopsticks Alley on social media for more tips like these.

Danh Truong CAL BRE#01951829 Realtor at EQ1 Real Estate

Danh is a team member of EQ1 Real Estate and a Realtor practicing in the Greater Bay Area. He has been a personal finance student for the last 10 years. As a Coach for United Way Silicon Valley Credit Coaching program, he trained and educated low-income clients to improve their credit reports and scores. He helped them with budgeting and improving their finances. He is passionate about helping Vietnamese-American students manage their personal finance.

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