When traveling overseas, there are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to how much money to take, and in what form, since there are international policies that may limit the amount of money (cash) you can bring into some countries.
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, you may only find them in large cities. You might also find that banks are open only for very limited hours, and closed for local public holidays. Not to mention 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 have enough foreign currency in cash with you to cover expenses once you arrive – such as transportation, meals, hotels/housing, international phone sim card, etc. Just to be on the safe side, have enough with you for at least one week’s worth of expenses so you can get situated in your new location and find a bank or ATM. Some countries may ask you to declare your cash if you are carrying an amount over 10,000 euros or dollars.
Needless to say, always carry cash in a safe place, but one accessible enough for you to grab and spend without drawing unnecessary attention. Always be extra vigilant and very careful around banks and ATMs since you could become a target by thieves. Some recommendations include going to the bank during the daytime, researching the bank and ATM locations to make sure these are safe locations, wearing low-key clothing to blend in, and getting someone you trust to go with you to the bank.
Each time you exchange money, you will be required to pay a fee as part of the exchange rate. 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 exchange rate and make the most of the transaction.
Get your foreign currency from your bank or an exchange house, at least a couple of weeks before you go. Check the exchange rate for buying and selling.
Once you get to your destination, look for an exchange house or Bureau de Change close to where you are staying. They can be found at airports, of course, but you won’t usually get the best rates there.
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 budget. On the other hand, there can be substantial fees involved in using your debit card at a foreign ATM, which can bite into your budget. These include withdrawal fees and foreign exchange fees as well.
If you are going to withdraw money from an ATM, 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 grocery stores, hotels, shops, restaurants, and other businesses. Keep your cash in reserve for small purchases, market stalls, and emergencies where cards are not accepted.
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 deposit will cover your needs. You will have to pay a fee.
Additionally, note that some US cards won’t work overseas because they require using 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.
Money Transfer Apps
Some popular money transfer apps include Paypal, Wise, and WorldRemit. They may not be available in all countries, so you may need to check availability, eligibility, and other requirements before you use these apps. While Wise only charges a mid-market exchange rate (the one shown on Google), Paypal and WorldRemit do charge fees on top of their exchange rates.
Lastly, you can wire money via traditional banks, Western Union or MoneyGram. There might be a fee based on a percentage of the amount of money sent. Additionally, some countries may require their national banks to charge a fee or exit tax for sending money out of the country. Just make sure to do your research and select your best option.
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