Cheetahs on Camp Otjitotongwe Farm, Namibia (2012-02)Cheetahs on Camp Otjitotongwe Farm, Namibia (2012-02)

Cheat sheet: Cash


Traveling with cash is the easiest in terms of being able to buy stuff anywhere. There are still many countries where a credit card (or even a bank account for that matter) is a novelty.

  • Have a safe place for your money. Keep it in a safe if there’s one at your hotel, have a wallet that you can carry close to your body.
  • Don’t carry all of your money in the wallet you use for shopping etc. Keep a small amount there and the rest well hidden.
  • Think about how much cash you really need during your trip. Most larger cities have cash machines where you can draw local currencies with a credit card or you can wire yourself money.
  • Hard currencies (US Dollar, Euro, GBP) may be hard to come by. So bring a small stack and use it only when needed. * In my experience USD is most valuable to have, Euro and GBP are add-ons that are good to have in some countries.
  • If you’re traveling multiple countries inform yourself ahead of time whether exchanging remaining funds from the current country is easily possible in the next. Sometimes there is no official exchange. If you happen to be stuck with large amounts of currency ask at your hostel or eatery whether there is anyone going the opposite direction (very handy!) or if there is an informal money market.
  • Know what the currency should look like and whether there are any common scams.
  • Always have your own source for a realistic exchange rate (there are handy mobile apps for that – I use Oanda).
  • It might make sense to change at the border (even with informal money changers). If you see locals do it it’s probably not a tourist scam. Just keep calm, have your own calculator (in your phone) ready. The calculator is also useful for communicating what exchange rate you are expecting if the money changer doesn’t speak your language.
    Consider pooling money when traveling in a group, if one of you is mathematically savvy enough. You may get a better deal for changing a larger sum.
  • Ask at your hostel for best deals on changing money.

Do you have anything to add? Thoughts? Opinions? Let me know!

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