When traveling overseas, there are a number of considerations to keep in mind when it comes to how much money to take, and in what form.
ATMs are much more common than they used to be, but there are still many parts of the world where you won’t find one on every street corner – and even then, only in large cities. You might also find that banks are open only for very limited hours, and closed for local public holidays and early closing days you might not know anything about because you’re not a local.
Here are some tips on how to take your money and manage it while abroad.
Have cash in your home currency for the airport, and enough foreign currency in cash with you to cover expenses once you arrive – such as taxis, tips, a meal and so on. Have enough with you for at least one day’s worth of expenses so you can get situated in your new location and find a bank, ATM and so on.
Needless to say, always carry your cash in a safe place, but one accessible enough for you to take it out to spend without drawing unnecessary attention.
2. Foreign Exchange
Each time you exchange money, you will be required to pay a fee. So on the one hand, you might be nervous about carrying a lot of cash, but on the other, you want to get a good rate and make the most of the fee.
Order the cash from your bank or a Bureau de Change, at least a couple of weeks before you go. Check the exchange rate for buying and selling. You probably won’t have any money left when you come back, but it is good to check if you do need to change any back again.
Once you get to your destination, look for a Bureau de Change near where you are staying. They can be found at airports, of course, but you won’t usually get a good rate there.
3. Credit and Debit Cards
Credit cards such as MasterCard and Visa are accepted all over the world. If it is a debit card attached to your bank account, this can help keep you within your vacation budget. On the other hand, there can be substantial fees involved in using a foreign ATM which can bite into your budget. These include foreign exchange fees as well.
If you are going to take money out, therefore, make sure it is enough to cover what you need, rather than $20 here or there.
Use the credit card or debit card to make purchases directly at shops, restaurants and so on. Keep your cash in reserve for small purchases, market stalls and so on.
Note that some US cards are not accepted overseas, because they are not part of the Cirrus or PLUS network. In this case, consider getting a pre-paid MasterCard. Make sure the amount you put on it will cover your needs. You will have to pay a fee.
Also note that some US cards won’t work overseas because they use chips rather than swiping the card. You might not be able to pay unless you can find staff who would be able to enter the number manually. Otherwise, you will need cash.
4. Travelers’ checks
Some people still use these, though they are a lot less common and there are fees attached. But they can be replaced if they are lost or stolen.
5. Wire transfer
In case of emergencies, your family can wire you via Western Union or MoneyGram. There might be a fee based on a percentage of the amount of money sent, or a flat fee, such as $6 at Western Union.