Dealing with a large number of currencies can be difficult, following these few guidelines should help your money go a little bit further.
Common sense Cash
Pay for as much as you can with cash; everything will miraculously become cheaper when you offer to pay with it and it will strengthen your bargaining position considerably.
Take US dollars, as many as you feel safe carrying. Pretty much every country will take US currency and in a lot of places you can get things a little cheaper if you pay with Messers Lincoln, Washington, Hamilton and Co.
Don’t carry all your money with you, split it up between you and in your belongings or leave what you don’t need in the hotel safe.
In Argentina the blue market means that you can exchange dollars for a much better rate of Peso than you would get at a bank. Just be careful where and with whom you do the exchange and remember it’s not strictly legal either.
Try and have some small denominations of currency with you when paying for low cost items like taxis and tuc-tucs. The drivers won’t carry much change and will just shrug when you hand them that 500 Baht note.
Don’t make the mistake we did of having loads of currency when leaving the country (not so smug about the blue market now) Nobody outside of Argentina wants Peso, in fact they don’t seem to want it in Argentina either, run your cash down accordingly.
Countries like India and Laos have closed currencies, you aren’t supposed to take cash out of the country, you’ll struggle to exchange these notes elsewhere so either change them before you leave or stock up on souvenirs or medicines.
Do a bit of research first, your ATM card won’t work in Burma so you will have to take cash in.
Common sense don’t pay the banker
Most banks will charge you for accessing your money abroad be it through ATM withdrawal fees or foreign currency transaction fees. Some bank accounts and credit cards offer free usage abroad, sign up to one of these (we have no affiliation with MSE, it’s just a useful article) if you withdraw an average of £150 per week you could end up paying £250 in 12 months just on bank charges that is without the ATM charge itself. The same applies to credit cards so shop around.
Common sense make your money work for you
So you have scraped together your hard earned cash? Keep it in an ISA or a high interest account for as long as you can. Even using a zero Forex credit card and paying it all off each month is worth doing if you can make an extra few quid on your savings. For 12 months abroad a broad cost figure of £20,000 gets banded around a lot. Putting that in a high interest account and only moving what you need at the end of each month could net you about £250 if invested wisely. If there are two of you you can both have ISAs to save tax free.
Common sense learn the currency
When you first arrive in a new country the currency is often new, and in some countries you are dealing in millions. Make sure you are handing the taxi driver a 10,000 note and not a 100,000 (they often won’t point out your error). Get a good currency converter like XE for your phone or tablet and get to grips with the currency before you arrive.
Common sense travelers cheques
We didn’t bother with travelers cheques as they are becoming a bit obsolete. ATMs are everywhere, we haven’t run into problems yet.
Common sense changing money at the airport
Just don’t do it. The rates are absolutely vile. Wait until you get to your destination and use an ATM or bring out your trusty USD.