Travel pr0 tip #2: foreign currencies
One of the advantages of the European Union is that it laid the foundation for the Euro Zone. While it has its disadvantages as well, it has made travel a lot easier. Gone are the days of having 19 (current number of Euro members) different foreign currencies in your drawer.
Asia (as well as most other continents) are still very fragmented when it comes to currencies. A frequent headache is exchanging money and being left over with small amounts that add up.
Below is my approach when it comes to foreign currencies:
- Get a bank account that comes with free withdrawals worldwide: there are bank that give you a credit card that allows for free withdrawals worldwide. Not only do you not have to worry about getting the best exchange rate (well at least that’s how it should be), but you can also start withdrawing smaller amounts as you get closer to the end of your trip in a particular country. When I can I try to avoid exchanging money but instead just rely on ATMs (exceptions are countries like Argentina with a black/grey market exchange rate that is better than the official)
- Withdraw uneven amounts: if you arrive at the airport and withdraw the equivalent of let’s say $100, chances are you will be getting large notes. And chances will be even higher that your taxi driver, restaurant owner or merchant won’t have change. For this reason, try to withdraw an uneven amount like $90 as this will give you some smaller notes to start out with
- Check Google for exchange rates: make it a habit before flying off to quickly check Google for the current exchange rate. Typing in “1 EUR in SGD” will give you the current Euro/Singapore Dollar exchange rate and avoid that you have no idea how much to withdraw at the ATM after arriving. Take a screenshot in case you forget and don’t have data connection upon arrival (there are various apps out there do achieve the same, I just find Google the quickest)
While it can be annoying to deal with many foreign currencies, there are also upsides… you get to be a millionaire in some countries (I am looking at you, Vietnam & Indonesia)