Side Street Style

A family lifestyle, interiors & travel blog


Expat Life - The banking reality

Stylish traveller
Me, enjoying life in Rimini, Italy

When I first left South Africa more than 12 years ago to venture out into the world on my own at the tender age of 16 - yes I know what was I thinking! I first landed my feet in Edinburgh, a city I truly fell in love with and will always have a special place in my heart. Luckily I had pre-arranged my accommodation before leaving home and soon found a job in the city, but little did I know how tricky it was going to be to open a bank account, especially at 16 and believe it or not it was harder a few years ago than it is now, I needed a reference, they wanted me to have lived in the UK for at least 2 years and  various other loops I needed to jump through to just get a debit account and there wasn't really internet banking yet but after a few failed attempts I did manage to sort one out, which was a huge relief as my work would only pay into a bank. Luckily while I was sorting this out, my brother who was living in Wales allowed for my pay to go into his bank in the interim and then money-grammed to me (at an expense!). Such was the reality of living in another country, it's much easier now with easy access to wifi and internet, you can do online international money transfers which would of be so much easier for me at the time, especially when on the odd occasion my parents needed to help me out.

Edinburgh - a city close to my heart and where my big travel plans started

After a year in Edinburgh, I moved to Wales for a while than did a bit more travelling before returning to South Africa for 2 years, which meant having to reopen bank accounts I had four years prior, another pain although for some reason getting a debit card sorted out there is easier than in Europe. On return to the UK I again spent some time in Scotland and then Cornwall, although now I was over 18 and banking by this point had become easier, especially with the rise in popularity of internet banking.

Amsterdam apartment
A view from my Amsterdam apartment

However I found had came across the international banking issue again when I moved to Amsterdam in Holland, where it's particularly difficult to get a bank account, I think this may be because so many people come and in and out of that city who have no intention of staying a long-time and it's such a hard city to find a long-term place to live those who do find work end up often having to move on simply do to lack of accommodation. Luckly my job was happy to pay in cash but this still meant having to moneygram money back to my mother to keep my debit card in the UK in credit should I want to order anything online, which was a bit of a pain.

Enjoying life in Amsterdam

Looking back now I managed around 2 years in Europe without a card from the continent, instead on the few occasions I returned home to the UK I would top up my visa debit account which was accepted across most of europe, although when I did use it my bank often put a block on it thinking it was being used overseas without my knowing so I decided to have a chat with my bank advisor who pointed me in the direction of Lloyds International Banking who gave me loads of advice on how to travel and bank safely and who offer advice on frequent travel banking, which was particularly helpful when you will be spending a few months at a time in a country and then moving on to another one. I you are thinking of doing some long-term travel I would advise speaking to your bank advisor as it really does make things easier and they are there to help.

bike and street art
Amsterdam - an amazing city

This post contains a supported link, but opinions, words and views are 100% my own


  1. Wow, sounds like you have done so much travelling! Shame it was an issue sorting our your banking details each time you moved :(

    Away From The Blue

    1. Hi Mica
      Thanks so much for stopping by, I know a hassle right, I think it's easier now though with internet banking :)

      Laura x

  2. I moved to Northern Ireland from Canada 10 years ago and had the same problems. Payment by cheque but no account to cash them, then to get a permanent job I had to have a bank account to be paid into, and I couldn't get an account opened (and it was a bank I worked for!) It came down to the wire, but thankfully things worked themselves out with the transfer of my address from my Canadian account statements to my NI address. I think it is probably much easier now to do international banking, but there are still some glitches. Good for you to get out and about at 16, I waited until I as 29 to move to Japan. Happy travels!

  3. You 'The Who' patch blazer is fantastic!

    1. Hi Pearl

      Thanks so much for stopping by - I love the WHO :) seen them a few times, great band

      Laura x

  4. Laura,
    what a sweet and fantastic blog you have! I'm so glad we connected through the Thursday link up :)
    These pictures are stunning, I hope to travel someday! Happy weekend friend



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