The was a short article in the Sydney Morning Herald last weekend on withdrawing money when travelling. There’s some good tips in there, although I’m surprised that travellers cheques are listed almost as an afterthought. They’ve been around for over century, and are still the most reliable way of getting money. Here are my top ten tips for dealing with money when travelling.

  1. Try to make sure you have some currency for your destination country before you arrive, even if it means changing €30-40 at bad rates. A few years back, I arrived at Slovakia’s Bratislava-Petržalka station, without any Slovak currency, expecting there to be an ATM at the station. There wasn’t. This meant I wasn’t able to buy a ticket for the bus, and had to walk a long way – including crossing under a freeway – into the city, with a heavy backpack.
  2. Look for the Cirrus or Visa Plus logos on ATMs before you put your card in. It’s not unknown for ATMs to swallow cards, so it’s better to try a machine that you know should work with your card, first.

  3. If you’re given a choice, when withdrawing money, try to get a number of the lowest-value banknotes that you can. Shopkeepers, especially in southern Europe, have a tendency to get very annoyed when presented with large-denomination notes. This is made worse by many ATMs only issuing €50 notes.
  4. Check the value of the notes you receive carefully. Some currencies, notably the US dollar, have different valued notes that look similar to one another, and it’s very easy to get confused. Fortunately, this is slowly being resolved by the US Treasury.
  5. Keep your money in a number of places; most of it should be in your money-belt, along with your credit-cards, ATM-cards and passport, but you should keep a small amount in your wallet (enough for one day), some in your day-luggage, and a small emergency amount in your main luggage.
  6. Remember that many banks will charge you interest immediately if you withdraw money from a credit account. You can often avoid this by loading up your account with extra money before you leave, and treating it as a debit account.
  7. Keep multiple records of your travellers cheque numbers, store them on you and in all your bags. Cross off the numbers as you use the cheques, so that if they are lost or stolen, you can have them reissued.
  8. Try to keep a number of coins with you at all times; many ticket machines, such as those on public transport in Melbourne, Australia, will not accept notes at all.

  9. Do not keep your wallet in your back pocket. While you shouldn’t be carrying much money in it anyway, putting it in your back pocket almost guarantees that it will be stolen by a pick-pocket. Put it in your front-pocket – it’s no sure thing, but it makes it that little bit more difficult for them.
  10. If you find yourself unable to access cash while travelling, you can always have money wired to you from back home. Western Union and Moneygram are the two main players in this market, and you will see their logos on banks everywhere.


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