In this episode, I look at how I saved money on my flights to Bangladesh, found out the appropriate things to take with me, and the different ways you can save money on gifts abroad.
Buying gifts for people is always hard, but it gets even harder when they’re from a different country, with a different culture, and different costs.
So how do you know what to buy someone who lives on the other side of the world?
In this episode, I look at how I found out what gifts were desirable in Bangladesh, the different ways global economics affects gift-giving, and how I saved over 200 dollars on my flights by shopping around…
“I easily saved over 200 dollars and it was only 2 hours away.” – Ben Jones
00:46 – The checklist for international travel.
01:18 – The challenges of getting a visa for Bangladesh.
02:29 – The culture of gift-giving when you travel for work.
03:23 – The popularity of Tamagotchis.
04:40 – In Bangladesh, Amazon doesn’t exist in.
05:35 – What people in Bangladesh want.
06:18 – How much it costs to get familiar food when you’re abroad.
07:15 – The benefits of buying candy around Halloween.
07:40 – How to use ‘luggage products’ to make money.
08:42 – How to find big savings on flight costs.
11:30 – The increased costs at airports.
Connect with Ben Jones:
Welcome back to Money with Mak & G. Happy belated Thanksgiving. I know I had a great one with family and friends. Hopefully, you started implementing your holiday shopping strategy with Black Friday and yesterday Cyber Monday. We did a podcast how the “Cyber” shopping has been gaining huge momentum, and hope you took advantage of it. I got to go to two stores on Black Friday, and it was fun to get out, but it’s much more fun sitting at home getting it all done with a click of a button.
It’s been great to be back in the USA, but it’s also great to travel while learning about other parts of the world. I feel like it’s been a really long time since I’ve traveled internationally, and I used to have a system. It was just like a checklist, almost like the checklist used for an airplane before takeoff. For me, I’d map out my itinerary, look at historical weather patterns of countries I’d visit, make sure the dop kit is full of daily necessities, count out undies, and t-shirts based on length of stay, organize pants, shirts, sweaters, light gear, heavy gear, etc, then grab my Tumi bags, my travel documents and hit it.
I did struggle a bit with laying out my itinerary this time to Bangladesh and Nepal. I guess I was just rusty, and I have to admit the visa fiasco threw me for a loop. I only had a month to get my visa for Bangladesh before I left, and I sent it up to DC. But, over 2 weeks into the process, I hadn’t heard a peep. I looked online at the Bangladesh embassy from the US, which supposedly had a login where you could track what was going on, but it wasn’t working. Luckily I reached out to my friends in Bangladesh, who checked locally and found that my documents did make it to DC but were stuck. I needed an invitation from someone in the country who was going to host me. Rookie mistake! But, I guess I wasn’t on my game. I’d say the instructions on the website were at best lacking. With my friend’s help, I got my $160 visa the week before taking off. Seven days!!! THE stress! I definitely could’ve bought it when I landed, but after 24 hours of travel to then wait in line for what could be an hour to get it and possibly be charged more just didn’t sound like my idea of fun.
Before you leave to go somewhere, especially for business, you have to put in some additional thought. Culturally, it’s a very good thing if you can bring gifts to those you’ll work with, who may host you, friends you have there, or friends you will meet along the way. In some countries, it’s kind of mandatory. And, I needed to bring lots of gifts, because these were my friends and people I’ve worked with for years but never met. But, here’s the catch. Things WE may believe make awesome gifts like, say a back massager, may not work over there due to electric voltage, or it just may not be something of interest to them. Ok, who the heck knows why I said back massager is a good gift here in the US? I don’t know, my mistake, I just went with it.
Anyway, I usually ask when possible. I think any culture views things of value differently. When I went to Japan, the rage back in the US was Tamagotchi. I literally just saw a commercial for one yesterday. I didn’t think they were around anymore. I just looked on Amazon, and guess what? You can get all kinds of them for about $20. Anyway, if this is new to you, they’re digital animals you digitally feed and digitally play with and if you take good care of them, they grow up happy. I named my baby Hiroko because I knew a Hiroko while working in public accounting. She was nice, and I liked the name. If your new baby doesn’t get what it wanted, it’d get pissed off and pout and cry and stuff. At least that’s what I remember. It was kind of like having real kids, that you could throw in the trash if it was too much trouble. But, why on earth would I want one from my Japanese friends? I can’t tell you now, it sounds stupid spending all that time as an adult dealing with it. But at the time, it was da bomb. Ok, I’m showing my age. My friends thought it was funny, but I got one, and you couldn’t find one in the US to save your life.
So, what were some of the requests for my trip? Any ideas? I hope Arif or Shourov don’t kill me, but I think it’s fun. Here’s something to think about, they really don’t have Amazon in their country. Ok, you probably just dropped your phone, spit out your drink, or maybe ran off the road a bit. Can you imagine? I know OUR household operates on Amazon. They have over 150 million users. But, not in Bangladesh. SORRY. You simply can’t order things there from Amazon….What’s PRIME, what’s next-day delivery, what’s an entire shopping experience at your fingertips? So, I was getting a lot of packages that my friends ordered on Amazon, and other places, and had them sent to me directly. Hey, their internet works. I also got all the stuff I ordered for them too. First, they wanted things they can’t get locally and also those items that would cost twice as much in Bangladesh. Remember our numerous discussions on supply and demand. Less supply and greater demand drive up prices.
Any ideas about the requests? I honestly wanted to get them what they wanted. So, I received a Kindle and a lot of hair coloring products. That made me smile and someone in Bangladesh looks years younger right now, due to good ole me. It doesn’t matter which country you live in, people like to look good. You look, marvelous darling. Plus, I bought a computer, 3 watches, some Nivea body lotion, candles, and some women’s perfume. Doesn’t matter where you live, we all like to feel good and smell good too.
I get it, when I first went to live in France for a semester, I would’ve died for some good old-fashioned pancakes. Weird, huh? Possibly the best food in the WORLD was in France, but I wanted $2 pancakes. Where in the world did that come from? You just miss stuff. But my girlfriend sent over some pancake mix that was about $3 to purchase, but cost around $25 to send. Plus, when my French mom got the package she had to spend about $7 in taxes. What the heck??? Talk about not spending wisely.
Anyway, taking care of a friend’s family, like parents, wife and sons or daughters is first priority, and I think my stash made some friends and maybe Arif’s son Aish happy with a stuffed animal from Paw Patrol as well as a Mater and Lightening Macqueen Hot Wheels from the movie “Cars”. Vroom Vroom. I also carried about 10 lbs of candy for the team, which I hope brought a few smiles and lived on for several weeks after my departure. Buying candy right before Halloween is a great time to get a huge mixture of things including Milky Way, Snickers, Reeses, and a few Sour Patch kids to shock their sensibilities as well. You can’t get those babies in Bangladesh. So, lots of gifts, that got me to about $500 without the computer.
But, as I went through customs on the other side of the world, I wondered if I’d have to pay huge taxes or get in trouble. The idea of jail in another country was never my idea of fun. Nothing happened, but it always runs through my mind. But, there is an economy out there of items called “Luggage Products” in Bangladesh and it’s in every country with different names. That’s stuff you can’t get easily in the country you’re going to. Low Supply in these countries, but Huge Demand. So, if you want to buy the newest iPhone, we could get it in the US for around $1,100 or so. But, in Bangladesh, it’s pushing $2 grand USD. That’s a serious markup. And, it always made me think.
Anyway, let’s backtrack a bit. I got the shots, visa, and now I’m packed up with at least one full 35-40 lbs suitcase of gifts in my Toyota Prius and I’m driving to Chicago, where my friend Matt took me to the airport. Why not Indy? How much is your time worth? When looking at prices for flights, I couldn’t believe what I saw. You probably won’t either. It literally added an extra 10 hours of travel time, and over $400. The flight to Chicago is only a ½ hour. How the heck does that work. I guess seriously bad connections. It didn’t make one iota of sense. So, if no one has ever told you, check out other airports you might be able to drive to for better deals. I think Delta had a direct to Paris from Cincinnati that was something stupid cheap under $500. It’s less than 2 hours and you’d save that time on 1 connection. I guess they were starting a new route back then. So, Just look around, the drive may make the whole experience a ton better.
I used Google Flights to try and time my purchase to get the best deal. There are other platforms you can use. It was cool, as I got notified on price drops (and rised), and when I was ready, it literally told me to wait a couple of weeks, as the price would drop based on all their data. It worked!!! But, I was a little on pins and needles. I trusted the data, and I saved at least $250 which was at least 20%. A $1,000 ticket to travel halfway around the world is pretty insane. And get this… the taxes were literally almost half the price of the ticket. I also got to check two bags, which were full of lotions, candies, a Colts Shirt, lots of hair dye, and more. Don’t forget to always carry your electronics, as that can be a seriously expensive lesson to learn. So, computers, digital watch, and Kindle stayed with me.
Ok, I got to Chicago, on about $25 of gas, and an extra $5 in tolls. I spent $45 on dinner for my friend Matt to take me to the airport. Not required, but always nice to do. But, no parking at the airport for 15 days, so I easily saved over $200. And, it was only 3 hours Ok, got to the airport, all good, no problems. On the first leg of the flight to Istanbul, there were no issues. Landed at the beautiful Turkish airport-kudos to them. If you love baklava like I do, you’ll find a ton of it there. I was told the Turks and not the Greeks invented it. It’s sure good there, so I can’t deny it.
Ok, I had an hour or so to stretch my legs, get a stiff coffee, and head to the gate. I was already Jones’ for a Starbucks. And they had one on the way to my gate. First, the good part…It was great, but the second part is that it was CRAZY expensive. I ordered it but didn’t do the math on the exchange rate from Turkish Lira to USD as I was tired, and it turned out to be over 6 bucks. No use in arguing, asking for a refund, or being mad. You’re in their country. So I had to suck it up buttercup. It was definitely not what I was expecting. That woke me up in a hurry. I didn’t get wifi in the airport, though it was offered everywhere, had to write it off to my phone carrier. I wanted to notify my friends and wife all was good, but no luck. I’d just have to pay on the plane. Anyway, after getting frustrated, I headed off to the gate. I got a great seat, and the flight was uneventful, which is ALWAYS a good thing. It was so uneventful, I didn’t even get wifi. So, I’m coming in hot to Dhaka, and not sure if anyone will be there.
We’re just getting started. It’s fun to dust off the traveling shoes and get out there, especially after the start of COVID. Looking forward to talking next week about some of the fun things that happened along the way. Thanks for being here, as always, and I’ll see you next week for more Money with Mak &G.