Financial Travel Tip #64 – Lending Money to Friends on the Road

by Nora on January 19, 2013

You make many friends on the road. They’re travelers you’ve met along the way, and locals you’ve befriended. You enjoy wonderful times together.

That is, until they ask you for money.

Lending money to friends is tricky business regardless of whether you are traveling, and can get in the way of an otherwise lovely friendship.

And on the road it’s even more complicated.

Here are some of the problems with lending money to people while you travel, and questions you should ask before opening your wallet:


Cultural and Language Differences

Be they travelers from other countries, or locals of a country you’re visiting, everybody has different ingrained ideas about money and finance. Thus it’s easy for the “terms” of a loan to be misinterpreted – and further mangled with language barriers. Is everybody on the same page?


Time Sensitive

Friendships come and go quickly on the road, largely due to the logistics of travel itself. Could somebody be asking you for money knowing you’ll be on your way soon with the hopes of dodging you until then?


Economic Rifts

Lending money to friends immediately highlights financial disparities between parties, which can make things awkward. This economic rift is even more pronounced when you are in a developing country living a western currency lifestyle. Will lending money to a local friend create bigger barriers?



If you lend money to somebody and word gets around, you may now be seen as a source of cash. This makes you a bigger target for not only fickle friendships and loan requests, but also theft. Will you be seen as a source of cash?



I’ve known very smart savvy travelers get scammed out of their money by fellow travelers with polished routines designed to part you with your cash. It all starts with a loan request.


Here’s a more detailed post about lending to and borrowing from friends that gives both parties some good questions to ask:

Borrowing From Friends: The Friendship Killer



Bah Humbug! Okay, Go Ahead…

This post makes me seem like a Scrooge. Please allow me to back-peddle a bit now that I’ve got all the icky stuff out of the way:

If your travel budget allows you to help a friend in need and you won’t starve without the money (and you won’t be upset if they don’t repay you), then you are a commendably generous person….and a good friend indeed.




{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Matthew Karsten January 19, 2013 at 10:25 am

Reminds me of a friend who was traveling in South America with a new “friend” for a week or so. They bought plane tickets together, and at the time she paid for him with the promise that he’d pay her back later. When they got to the destination, he disappeared. Fortunately this girl is a bad-ass, and remembered him mentioning a town he’d be at later. She went there, saw him in the street one day, and tackled him to the sidewalk demanding her money back. 🙂


2 theprofessionalhobo January 20, 2013 at 7:56 am

Matthew – Maybe I should have put a bad-ass proviso in there! Good for her for going “Lara Croft” on the guy! 🙂


3 Just One Boomer (Suzanne) January 19, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Just. Don’t. Do. It.


4 theprofessionalhobo January 20, 2013 at 7:58 am

Ha ha! I know the feeling. The few times I’ve lent money on the road, even if I did get paid back it changed the friendship.


5 Izy Berry - The Wrong Way Home January 20, 2013 at 8:51 pm

I lend money only if I answer yes to the questions “Will I be ok if I don’t get the money back?” and “Do I trust this person?”


6 theprofessionalhobo January 21, 2013 at 10:57 am

Hey Izy – Good questions to ask! Even if something unforeseen goes wrong, you won’t be in trouble for having lent out money.


7 Turner January 22, 2013 at 4:31 pm

Ah the old who do I lend money to hassle…I hate it too. But I always follow the advice my dad gave me: Never loan someone you wouldn’t want to borrow from yourself.

There are lots of shade balls out there. Especially when you are in a new place overseas you need to be patient and look at people’s actions more than just there words.

good advice.


8 theprofessionalhobo January 24, 2013 at 7:35 am

Hey Turner – right on. While I do believe that 99% of the people in this world are fundamentally good, I also believe that we need a good dose of street sense and a slightly guarded sense of trust to be safe. And it’s not always because the people we’re guarded against are bad – just part of a different culture with a different way of doing things.


9 eemusings January 24, 2013 at 3:46 am

Oh, that is hard. My philosophy at home is only lend what you can afford to give. I can’t imagine doing so on the road.

That said, we had an amazing experience on the road last year. We went on a fishing charter, and at the end realised he only accepted cash (they did take Visa but only if you paid online in advance, which we didn’t). The other guys on the trip with us had cash and offered to pay our share as long as we went straight to an ATM and got the money out to give to them, which of course we did.


10 theprofessionalhobo January 24, 2013 at 7:37 am

I’m so glad you had a good experience! Your tour mates would have had a chance to get to know you a bit on the charter, and unless you disembarked and took out their kneecaps they knew they could accompany you to the ATM so their own risk of not getting paid back was pretty small. But even to have extended the offer to you – is wonderful. There are a lot of genuinely good people out there.


11 Danny Henshaw January 29, 2013 at 5:12 am

In the past I don’t think people would even ask for a laon for fear of rebuff. I would have said I would just refuse, as the opportunity for them to disappear without paying would be too great. Maybe, in these days with a smartphone in hand and being able to check them out and get back to them it is different, but my inclination would be to just decline any request. There you have it.


12 theprofessionalhobo January 29, 2013 at 8:28 am

Hi Danny – That’s a very interesting observation that smartphones (and the advent of being able to contact people easier) would make people more willing to loan money.
I don’t know that I agree (I think if somebody is the sort who is willing/predisposed to lending money out, smartphones are irrelevant), but it’s something I’d never thought of before.


13 kazari February 13, 2013 at 6:42 pm

I won’t lend money to friends anywhere – but I will give them the money outright, if I can spare it.
If they pay me back one day, that’s wonderful, but by taking away the requirement, it puts much less stress on the friendship.


14 theprofessionalhobo February 15, 2013 at 7:27 am

Kazari – That’s the way to do it! 🙂


15 Tony Chan March 1, 2013 at 3:10 am

I normally don’t lend money to anyone. However, while I was in Greece a friend I met had trouble with his bank account and couldn’t withdraw any money. I knew which hostel he was staying at (he was my roommate…). So instead of lending him money, I offered to pay for his dinner that day. He was almost in tears that a complete stranger would help him like this.
The next day when his account was all straightened out, a group of us went out again for dinner. He gave the menu to me and said “Whatever you want. It’s on me!”.


16 theprofessionalhobo March 1, 2013 at 7:53 am

Hey Tony – That’s wonderful, and an example of how kindness and generosity on the road can be rewarding for everybody. And I would assume that you came from a place of offering a helping hand without expectation of getting anything out of it….and his graceful acceptance of your offer and reciprocation is heart-warming.


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