Global guide: key budgeting considerations when sending staff abroad
Preparing a budget for staff travelling abroad can be challenging as costs and logistics are often unknown until they arrive. Plus, prices for business travel necessities vary widely between countries. Our guide gives you an overview of the key things you should know when planning for staff overseas expenses.
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Larger cities in the USA have comprehensive public transit systems which are usually cheap, safe and reliable, including New York, Chicago, Boston, Washington DC, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Other cities may have smaller networks serving downtown areas, but elsewhere public transport can be sparse and isn’t usually the most convenient way of getting around. Over two-thirds of states in America have adopted 511 as an all-purpose local transport telephone helpline.
Taxis are plentiful, while ridesharing companies such as Uber and Lyft have seen a surge in popularity as a more convenient and often cheaper alternative to taxis.
Average costs (dollars)
Expect to pay between $10-$20 per person for lunch and $25-$40 for dinner at a mid-range restaurant. Tipping around 15% is customary. A glass of wine costs around $7, beer around $5.
Taxis are metered, with a starting charge of around $3, plus $2 to $3 per mile. They charge extra for waiting and handling baggage, and drivers will expect a 10% to 15% tip. Ridesharing companies will be cheaper.
Canada’s main cities are well served by public transport. Toronto and Montreal both have subway systems. Vancouver has an automated train network called SkyTrain that runs above and below ground (like London's DLR) and Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa all have light rail systems that are reliable, safe and clean. Comprehensive route maps are posted in all stations.
Buses are also a common form of transportation and most towns and cities have their own networks, although many are commuter-orientated and offer limited weekend and evening services.
Taxis are available in many towns, with ridesharing options such as Uber – and Canadian providers such as Kangaride and Allo Stop – available in bigger cities.
Average costs (Canadian dollars)
A meal in a mid-range restaurant costs around $20, rising to more than $50 at more premier establishments. Alcoholic drinks are more expensive than they are in Canada’s neighbouring USA, with a draft beer costing around $7 and a glass of wine costing around $8. Tipping is customary at around 15%.
Taxis charge a base fee of around $2.70 with a subsequent per-kilometre charge of around $1.75. You should expect to tip between 10%-15%. Ridesharing options are usually cheaper.
Public transport is comprehensive in Mexico City, but sparser elsewhere. Buses are inexpensive but often hot and crowded. The metro system is fast and efficient and goes almost everywhere, but be wary of pickpockets during rush hour. The first two cars on any metro line are usually reserved for women and children. Be aware that route information can be confusing if you don’t speak Spanish.
Taxis are often a more convenient option, but allow extra time for traffic. Never hail a taxi off the street – either have your hotel call one or wait at a designated ‘Sitio’ stand. Official taxis will have meters.
Average costs (pesos)
A quick lunch at a no-frills restaurant will cost around M$60-M$80, while dinner at a mid-to-upper range establishment will cost around M$250, including drinks. Beer and wine is relatively cheap at around M$30-M$40 a glass.
Taxis charge an average base fare of M$30 and then M$9 per kilometre.
Tipping, known as ‘propina’, is customary for most services, at between 10%-15%.
Brazil’s major business hubs, Rio and Sao Paulo, have very good public transport systems. Their metro systems are safe, cheap and efficient. One-way fares cost around R$3.50. Bus services are also comprehensive, since most Brazilians take the bus to work. However, crime can be a problem. Don’t take valuables on buses and watch your pockets during rush hour.
Taxis are convenient, and the best option for getting around at night. Keep a map or your phone’s GPS handy though, to ensure you’re not being taken on an unnecessary detour. In some areas taxis don’t have meters, so you’ll need to agree a price upfront.
Average costs (real)
A basic café lunch will cost around R$14-R$20, while dinner at a midrange restaurant costs around R$50 per person. Beer costs around R$6 per glass, and wine around R$8 a glass.
Metered taxis usually charge a base fare of around R$5.20, and an additional R$2 per kilometre.
Tipping is not generally part of Brazilian culture.
Unless you’re travelling around Buenos Aires, which is served by a cheap and efficient subway system (called the Subte), the best way to get around Argentinian towns and cities is by bus or taxi. Buses are fast, but their routes can be complicated. Identically-numbered buses going to the same destinations may take different routes, for example, so pay attention to route placards, which are prominently displayed. Most buses operate on coins, but in bigger cities such as Buenos Aires and Mendoza, you’ll need to purchase a transportation card, which are available at kiosks.
Taxis are cheap by European standards. Meters are common but not universal, and you can also make use of ‘remises’, which are unmarked radio taxis offering journeys for fixed fares. They’re generally just as safe as regular taxis, and can be ordered through your hotel or business host.
Average costs (pesos)
A meal at an inexpensive restaurant will cost around AR$150, with a three-course dinner at a mid-range restaurant costing around AR$300 per person. Expect to pay around AR$45 for a beer and AR$110 for a bottle of good quality wine.
Taxi base rate fares average around AR$25, with each additional kilometre costing AR$15.
Tipping isn’t expected but certainly appreciated. Around 10% for services is more than enough.
New Zealand’s main cities have comprehensive bus services which are generally commuter-orientated and easy to navigate, while good local train services operate in Auckland and Wellington. Taxis are metered, plentiful and reliable, while Uber operates in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.
Average costs (New Zealand dollar)
Expect to pay around $15-$30 for a main course in a midrange restaurant, and from $80 for a three-course meal in a top-end establishment. Beer and wine costs around $8 a glass.
Taxis charge around $3 base fare, then $3 per kilometre.
Tipping for services isn’t obligatory, but welcome – 10% is more than sufficient.
Public transport in Australia is generally clean, efficient and easy to use. All of the country’s major towns have reliable public bus networks and there are train lines in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. Melbourne and Adelaide also have trams, and Sydney and Brisbane have commuter-orientated ferries. Taxis are trustworthy and plentiful, while Uber operates in most cities.
Average costs (Australian dollar)
Expect to pay around $10-$15 for a simple main meal and up to $100 for a three-course meal in an upmarket restaurant. Beer and wine will cost around $4-$8 a glass.
Baseline taxi charges start at around $4, with an additional $2 for every kilometre travelled. Expect to pay around $25 for an across-town ride in the evening – Uber will likely be cheaper.
Tipping for services is welcome, but not expected.
South Africa’s main cities have bus networks running cheap and extensive routes, but safety can be an issue, so only Cape Town’s MyCiTi buses and Durban’s People Mover service are recommended for unfamiliar visitors. Shared minibus taxis are also common, but again, aren’t recommended. Private taxis are the best option for those travelling in South Africa on business. There are taxi stands in popular areas, but you’ll usually get a better-quality vehicle if you phone for a cab. Uber is another popular option, operating in larger cities including Cape Town, Pretoria, Johannesburg, Durban and Port Elizabeth.
Average costs (rand)
A quick lunch will cost around R100 per person, while a three-course dinner at a mid-price restaurant will cost around R250. Expect to pay about R25 for a beer, and R75 for a bottle of good quality wine. Tipping at around 10%-15% is expected.
Taxi fares vary between cities but usually charge a base rate of R30, then R10 per kilometre. Uber will be cheaper.
The bus networks in China’s biggest cities are cheap and reliable, but because of written language barriers they’re rarely used by foreigners. Clean, safe and inexpensive light rail systems are in place in many cities, and they’re relatively new, so they’re better equipped to deal with English speaking visitors.
Taxis are cheap and easy to find but drivers rarely speak English, so have your destination written down in characters. China’s version of Uber, Didi Chuxing, is now available in English, which has made it much easier for foreign visitors to navigate towns and cities.
Average costs (Renminbi)
Expect to pay around ¥80-¥100 for a meal (lunch or dinner) in a local, mid-range restaurant, and up to ¥300 for a meal in an upscale hotel restaurant. A beer will cost around ¥6, and you’ll pay around ¥70 for a decent bottle of wine. Tipping is not common in China.
Taxi base fares start at around ¥10, with additional kilometres costing around ¥2.50. In unmetered taxis, make sure you agree a fare before departure.
Buses are the most common method of getting around in Japan, although with the exception of networks in Tokyo and Kyoto, stops are usually announced in Japanese. Subway systems in larger cities are clean, ultra-efficient and very safe, with many stop and line names displayed in English. An unlimited travel day ticket is a convenient way to use the network (¥800), or, for longer periods, a prepaid IC card is handy.
Taxis are common and convenient, although drivers rarely speak English, so have your address written down in Japanese. Either book ahead, queue at a stand or hail one from the street, although somewhat confusingly, a green light means the cab is taken, while a red one means it’s free.
Average costs (Yen)
An inexpensive meal costs around ¥800, rising to around ¥3000 for dinner at a midrange restaurant, and up to as much as ¥8,000 at a good sushi restaurant. Alcohol can be expensive, so expect to pay around ¥450 for a beer and around ¥3,000 for a bottle of wine.
Taxi base rates are around ¥600- ¥700 for the first two kilometres, then around ¥100 for each 350 metres travelled. You’ll pay a surcharge when the speed drops below 10km/h (when you’re in traffic), and a 20% premium if travelling between 10pm and 5am.
Tipping is not customary in Japan, with many finding it insulting.
Vietnam is known for its bicycle rickshaws (known as a cyclo), and as well as being a tourist attraction they also serve as a cheap mode of transport. Fares range from 10,000d-20,000d for a short ride, up to 40,000d for longer journeys. Be prepared to haggle, and agree on a fare upfront. For safety reasons, it’s recommended these only be used during the day. Xe Oms (pronounced ‘zay-ohm’) are motorbike taxis and are easy to use providing you don’t have a lot of luggage. Fares are similar to those for a cyclo.
Few travellers are able to negotiate Vietnam’s complicated bus network, so if cyclos and xe oms are out of the question, opt for metered taxis which are generally safe and very cheap by European standards. Reputable companies are Mai Linh and Vinasun.
Average costs (dong)
A cheap meal in Vietnam will cost around 40,000d per person, while a three-course meal in a mid-range restaurant will cost around 200,000d. Expect to pay in the region of 20,000d for a beer and 55,000d for a bottle of wine.
Average taxi tariffs in Vietnam are about 12,000d to 15,000d per kilometre.
Tipping in Vietnam is a relatively new practice, and while welcomed, isn’t expected, especially in restaurants and bars.
Bangkok is the only city in Thailand to have a mass transit system, with both an above-ground network (BTS) and an underground light rail (MRT). Both are convenient and inexpensive, but can be very crowded during rush hour. Outside the capital, buses are common, as are motorcycle taxis and tuk-tuks, but those travelling in Thailand for business will find taxis (mostly metered) the most convenient way of getting about. The rising popularity of ride-hailing companies such as Uber and the local All Thai Taxi have also made the country easier to navigate for travellers.
Average costs (baht)
Expect to pay around 150-300B for lunch, and up to 1,000B for dinner at a fine restaurant. A bottle of beer will cost around 50B, and a bottle of mid-range wine around 500B.
Taxis charge a base rate of 35B, with additional kilometres costing around 10B. These are relatively cheap compared to western prices, but you may find journeys cheaper still with companies such as Uber.
Tipping isn’t expected but it is welcome, although in restaurants it’s traditional to simply leave any loose change in coins as a tip.
The advent of ride-hailing apps such as Uber and the local Ola Taxi have completely revolutionised transport in India. Buses and trains are often hot, cramped and unreliable, and rickshaws – while quick and freely available – can be dangerous. Traditional taxis are metered, but getting drivers to use them fairly can be challenging. Some firms provide pre-paid taxi services, which can be ordered from hotels or airports, but your smartphone is definitely your best bet for convenient local travel around Indian cities.
Average costs (rupees)
A quick lunch will cost around 150Rs, while a three-course meal at a midrange restaurant will cost in the region of 900Rs. Expect to pay around 120Rs for a domestic beer, but note that wine is much more expensive in India than in the UK – you can expect to pay around 1,000Rs for a single glass.
A metered taxi – assuming the driver uses the meter correctly – will cost around 50Rs in base fare and around 13Rs for every kilometre travelled.
For services costing up to 1,000Rs, a tip or around 7%-10% is usual, anything higher than that and 5%-7% is sufficient. Be careful not to confuse a restaurant’s service charge with the government-levied ‘service tax’.
Most Iranian towns and cities are served by bus services, but routes can be complicated and crowded, so most foreign travellers opt for the metro, if possible, or shared and private taxis. Iran’s metro network is still in its infancy, but services in Tehran and Mashhad are clean, efficient and more than adequate for getting around town.
Taxis, like those elsewhere in the world, can be hired privately – prices are usually open to negotiation so be sure to agree on a fare before starting your journey. Shared taxis are also an option, although they’re not always clearly marked. They operate along major city routes and can be flagged down on the street. Just get in and clearly state your destination – fares are government-regulated. If you get into an empty shuttle, the driver might assume you want to charter it privately. Make sure you’re clear about what you want by saying ‘dar baste’ (closed door) if you want private hire or ‘nah dar baste’ (no closed door) if you are happy to share.
On most public transport, men and women must sit separately. In shared taxis it’s harder to keep them segregated, but people will move around in an attempt to keep unrelated men and women apart – sometimes this will be impossible and in these instances most people are happy to accept it.
Average costs (rias)
Expect to pay around ﷼173,344 for a cheap meal, rising to ﷼600,000 for a three-course dinner at a mid-range restaurant. Tipping is not expected. Alcohol is largely prohibited in Iran, although there is a strong – albeit illegal – drinking culture. Non-Muslims won’t be penalised for consuming alcohol, but may find it difficult to get hold of in the first place.
Base rate private taxi fares start at around ﷼10,000, with each further kilometre costing around ﷼10,000 – but these are open for negotiation.
United Arab Emirates’ transport network is one of contrasts. Public transport can be non-existent in smaller towns, but in the major business hubs – Dubai and Abu Dhabi, for example – it’s far more comprehensive. In Dubai, buses are common but traffic grinds to a halt during commuter hours, so people tend to use the metro, which is straightforward and efficient. There’s no metro service in Abu Dhabi, but the bus network operates 14 routes around the clock, and isn’t too difficult to decipher. A variety of rechargeable cards, called Hafilat, are most useful for foreign travellers.
Taxis in both cities are metered and relatively inexpensive. Uber operates in Dubai, while Careem – a similar ride-hailing app – operates in larger cities across the country.
Average costs (dirham)
A quick food-court meal will cost between Dhs20-Dhs50, while a two-course meal at a midrange restaurant will start at Dhs80, without alcohol. Drinks at a high-end bar – likely a hotel bar – will average around Dhs100.
Depending on the city you’re in, base rate taxi fares will range from Dhs5 to Dhs8, with additional kilometres charged at around Dhs1.82. Base rate fares will change depending on the time of day and pick-up location (it’s usually around Dhs20 at Abu Dhabi airport, for example).
Towns and cities in France have world-class transport networks. Metros and tramways are abundant and easy to use. Buy a billet a l’unite (single ticket), a carnet (a booklet of 10 tickets) or a pass journee (all day pass) from metro and tramway stations, street kiosks and corner shops.
Taxis are usually metered and can be booked at hotels, chartered at taxi ranks or hailed off the street. Uber and other ride-sharing apps operate in France’s larger cities as well.
Average costs (euro)
Lunch in a smart restaurant will cost €20-€40, while dinner at a top restaurant will cost around €65 and between €100 and €150 for an a la carte option. Wine and beer costs around €4 a glass, but expect to pay much more for better-quality wine options. Tipping – especially in higher-class establishments – is expected.
Taxis can be expensive, with base rate fares usually €5 and additional kilometres costing around €1.85.
All major cities in Italy have good transport systems comprising buses and underground trains (although ferries are the main option in Venice), which are efficient and generally easy to use. Before boarding, purchase tickets from stations, kiosks, tobacconist’s shops and ticket machines – you’ll be fined if you don’t have a valid ticket. Many cities offer good value day travel passes.
Taxis can be caught from ranks throughout cities or by calling local providers. Uber also operates in Italy’s main cities and towns.
Average costs (euro)
A quick lunch will cost around €10, while a top restaurant dinner can range from €45 to €150. Expect to pay around €4.50 for a beer while wine is cheap at between €3 and €6 a glass for a midrange offering.
Taxi fares vary throughout the country, with base rates starting at around €5 with €1.50 charged for every additional kilometre.
Tipping is common, but not obligatory. Most restaurants will already include ‘servizo’ (service charge) or ‘coperto’ (cover charge) – sometimes both – on your bill.
Germany is well-known for its efficiency, and public transport is no exception. Almost every town and city has a comprehensive bus network with straightforward, traveller-friendly routes. Some cities, such as Berlin and Munich, have a system of suburban trains called the S-Bahn (routes are prefixed with an ‘S’), while underground trains, known as the U-Bahn (prefixed with a ‘U’), are usually the fastest and most convenient form of travel in major cities.
Taxis in Germany are generally quite expensive and given the country’s excellent and ample public transport coverage, there’s no real need to rely on them unless you’re in a rush. Uber, while available in the form of UberX and UberTaxi in some cities, is not widely used, although it is cheaper than a regular taxi.
Average costs (euro)
Expect to pay around €10 for a quick lunch, or around €30-€40 for a decent dinner at a midrange restaurant. Beer can be as cheap as €3, with a glass of wine costing around €4-€5.
Base fares for taxis are around €4, with each kilometre costing around €2.
Tipping is not generally expected, but it is customary to round up your total to the nearest round figure.
Spain has a thorough and reliable transport system, and by European standards prices are relatively cheap. Cities and large towns all have good bus networks, while Barcelona and Madrid both benefit from extensive metro networks. Valencia, Zaragoza, Bilbao and Seville have smaller, but just as efficient, light rail systems. Signage for all routes is generally clear and easy to understand despite potential language barriers.
There are plenty of taxis – again cheap by European standards – which can be booked in advance, obtained at taxi ranks throughout cities or hailed off the street.
Average costs (euro)
A daily set lunch menu will cost around €10-€15 at a basic café, while dinner at a midrange restaurant will cost around €20-€40. Expect to pay upwards of €150 at finer establishments. Alcohol is cheap, with beer often around €2 a glass and wine around €3 a glass.
Base fares for taxis average around €2.50 depending on which city you’re in, which each kilometre costing around €1.10, although these rates may increase at night time. Uber is not generally used in Spain.
Tipping is welcome but not obligatory.
Like other European cities, Poland boasts an excellent public transport network, but it can be particularly crowded at commuter times. Every large and medium-sized city offers a comprehensive bus network, while some have trams and trolley buses. All are well signposted and straightforward to use. Warsaw is the only city with a metro service, which is quick and easy way to get around the capital. Be sure to travel with a valid ticket, as plain-clothed inspectors can (and will) impose on-the-spot fines on those without one.
Taxis are readily-available and good value for money. Order them by phone or flag them off the street, but avoid unmarked pirate cars that just have a small ‘taxi’ sign on the roof – these are called ‘mafia’ cabs by locals.
Average costs (zloty)
Lunch in a decent restaurant will cost around 70zl, while dinner in the best restaurants costs only a little more at around 100-120zl. Expect to pay around 7zl for a beer and 35zl for a bottle of good quality wine. Tipping is expected – usually around 10%.
Starting charges for taxis are around 7zl, and around 2.50zl per kilometre. Uber operates in Poland’s bigger cities.
Bigger cities in Morocco have public bus services, but these are usually very overcrowded and routes are complicated. Foreign visitors are advised to use grand taxis, or preferably, petit taxis. Grand taxis are essentially shared taxis – often large saloon cars – that traverse main routes, picking up and setting down passengers along the way. Fares are fixed-rate, but you’ll need to make it clear that you’re paying for ‘une place’ (one place) in a ‘taxi collectif’ (shared taxi), otherwise you may end up paying for sole hire of the cab.
Petit taxis are a different colour in every city and can carry up to three people. Hire one privately or share with others, as with grand taxis. Petit taxis are metered – if the driver refuses to turn the meter on, ask to stop and get out.
Average costs (dirham)
Soup or a sandwich on the go will cost around Dh5-Dh15, while dinner at a decent restaurant can cost between Dh70 and Dh150. Although a Muslim country, Morocco is not a dry country, and alcohol is readily available. A beer will cost around Dh25, and a glass of wine around Dh35.
Grand taxi fees should be agreed before departure, while petit taxi charges are metered. Base rates are usually around Dh6, with each kilometre costing another Dh6.
There’s no ‘rule of thumb’ when it comes to tipping in Morocco. It’s not expected, but if you’ve enjoyed good service a tip is appreciated.
Iceland’s towns are generally well-served by local bus networks, but Reykjavik’s is the most comprehensive. With no other transport infrastructure, this is how the locals get around, and services are reliable and straightforward. There’s ample taxi provision, but outside Reykjavik it’s wise to pre-book. Taxis are metered but can be pricey. Uber hasn’t yet arrived in Iceland.
Average costs (krona)
Because of its island geography, things in Iceland can be expensive. A basic lunch will cost around kr2000, and a dish in a top-end restaurant anywhere between kr4000 and kr7000. Expect to pay around kr1000 for glasses of beer and wine.
Taxi base fares start at around kr690, with kr300 charged for each kilometre travelled.
Tipping is not compulsory but welcome.
Sweden has a good network of reliable bus routes, which are usually cheaper than trains. Services are prompt and efficient and won’t be too taxing for foreign visitors. Local commuter trains operate in larger urban and suburban areas and are usually the fastest way to get around. Local transport is always linked with regional transport, with day travel passes representing the best value for money.
There are plenty of taxis to be found in bigger towns and cities, but their prices aren’t regulated so fares can vary greatly. Prices will be displayed prominently on the rear door windows of approved cabs, which will be metered.
Average costs (krona)
A quick fast food style lunch will cost between 65kr-85kr while a meal at a midrange restaurant will cost between 100kr-295kr. For dinner and drinks at a top-end establishment, expect to pay up to 600kr. Alcohol is expensive – a beer at a restaurant will cost around 55kr.
Prices for taxis vary between towns and providers, but a ballpark base rate is around 50kr, with each kilometre travelled costing around 14kr.
Denmark’s public transport system is clean and comprehensive. Copenhagen boasts easy-to-use train, metro and bus services, while larger towns have efficient bus networks. Daily travel passes are best for convenience and value and can be bought at stations and bus terminals.
There are plenty of metered taxis which can be booked in advance or flagged on the street if the green light is on. Tips are included in the fare. Uber was recently banned in Denmark.
Average costs (krone)
You’ll pay under 125kr for a cheap meal, while a three-course dinner in a midrange restaurant will cost around 300kr-400kr. A beer costs around 40kr, a glass of wine around 50kr.
Taxi base fares are usually around 40kr, and then around 15kr per kilometre.
Tipping for services is not obligatory, with the general consensus being that tips are included in the overall price.
All Finnish towns and cities have reliable bus services with regular departures, while Helsinki also offers an efficient metro and tram service, both of which are easy to navigate.
Taxis in Finland are very expensive with numerous surcharges added for everything from time of the day, whether it’s the weekend and the number of people travelling. There’s no Uber yet, but the company has said it’ll be up and running in the country by 2018.
Average costs (euro)
A basic meal at an inexpensive restaurant will cost around €11, while a two-course meal with wine in a decent local restaurant will cost between €50 and €80. Beer and wine costs around €6 a glass.
Taxi base fares start at around €6, with a per-kilometre charge of around €1.60.
Getting around Russian cities and larger towns is usually a straightforward affair, despite the language – although it helps if you can decipher some Cyrillic. Most areas are served by bus, trolleybus and tram, with stops clearly marked on roadsides (‘A’ for buses, ‘T’ for trolleybuses and ‘ТРАМВАЙ’ for trams). Bigger cities also have metro systems.
Traditional yellow taxis largely disappeared after the fall of Communism. Now though, cities are served by local ride-sharing apps such as Gett and Yandex, which makes it easy and convenient to order a cab if you don’t want to telephone a local provider. It’s still possible to hail a taxi off the street but take precautions. Don’t flash large amounts of money and if you’re staying at a private residence ask to be dropped off nearby, rather than at the exact address. Familiarise yourself with your route and how long it should take, and trust your instincts.
Average costs (ruble)
Expect to pay around ₽200-R500 for a café meal and up to ₽1000 for a two-course meal at a decent restaurant – double that for a top-end establishment. A beer will cost around ₽60, a glass of wine around ₽80 – vodka, of course, is considerably cheaper.
For taxis, expect to pay a base fare of around ₽100 and ₽12 for additional kilometres.
It’s customary to tip between 10% and 15% for most services.
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