Currency Exchange

Know the cost of money exchange before you start your trip. Depending on your source, the fees for money exchange can vary greatly. Here is a website, XE Currency Converter, for converting dollars to various foreign currencies to get you into the ballpark. Now move on to obtaining your walking around money.

 

PLAN A - Get currency before you leave home

It's a good idea to have some foreign currency with you as you arrive at your destination to cover immediate expenses such as a taxi to the hotel. You can exchange dollars for the local currency at your local bank or with your AAA membership.

BUT NUTS! You waited too long and can't get the currency in time for your departure.

SOLUTION: Proceed to PLAN B.

 

PLAN B - Get currency at destination airport

DOWNSIDES 

  • Fees: You will generally pay much higher fees for this convenience/necessity at the Currency Exchange Booth or ATM Machine at any airport compared with a bank or ATM machine in town. 

  • Access: No problem if you arrive at a major airport in a first world country. ATMs and currency exchanges will abound at all times of day or night. But if you're going to land at a wonderfully exotic location at the back of the beyond in the wee hours, the currency exchange may be closed and the ATM machine may be nonexistent, broken or simply unwilling to accept your card.

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

  • Traveling with others?  Beg for mercy and a bit of their local cash.

  • Traveling alone?  Ask if the taxi accepts a credit card to get you to your hotel.

  • Otherwise, stay safe. Wait at the airport for normal business hours before venturing out by cab to your hotel - then proceed to PLAN C.

 

Plan C - Get currency after leaving the airport

WHERE?

  • An ATM. This is your very best bet. The fees are generally less than the costs of doing business at a face to face transaction anywhere else.

  • Your Hotel. If they even offer the service, they commonly charge a substantial transaction fee for the convenience. This is usually our source of last resort.

  • Local Bank. We avoid them. You end up standing in a long line waiting to get to a teller. And then she'll either tell you they don't handle foreign currency exchange or they can't accept your crisp $50 bills or our old and tattered $20 bills. But wait! They have the service. They like the look of your money. And their transaction fee is only a bit more than the ATM right in front of the building. Now all the teller needs to see is your passport which you've secured back in your hotel room safe! 

BEEN THERE - DONE THAT

 

DOs AND DON'Ts
  • DO take some American money with you in small bills. US dollars are accepted around the world for small street purchases such as postcards, souvenir trinkets, and tips to the bus driver or local guide. So take along a handful of 1s and 5s but nothing larger than 20s. And make sure the bills are in good shape. Banks and currency exchange kiosks will not exchange torn, defaced or worn out bills. 

  • DO plan to spend all your foreign money before coming home. You lose value every time you convert from one currency to another - it's simply the cost of doing business. So pay cash for meals, transportation, tips, etc. over the last few days of your trip. If you still have a lot of cash left - pay part or all of your hotel bill with it. 

  • DO get rid of all your foreign coins unless you want a few as souvenirs. You'll not be able to exchange any of them at home - even at your arrival airport. Again - tip the maids, buy goodies or lunch at the airport, And drop the rest of the small change with a porter or restroom attendant.​​

  • DON'T deal with street money changers. It's against the law in most countries and you might end up with counterfeit money or the currency of a completely different country in exchange.

  • DON'T keep all your money and plastic in the same place. Take out some cash from your stash for the day and leave the rest in the hotel safe or at least in a separate pocket or money belt.

  • DON'T count your money in public. That's like wearing a sign around your neck that screams, "Pickpocket Alert".

  • DON'T carry the same account credit card as your traveling companion. They may have different numbers on the face of the card - but they are both tied to the identical account. So if yours is stolen and you call and cancel your card, you have canceled the account and your companion's card immediately becomes useless. 

BEEN THERE and DONE THAT TOO