One of the most important facets – and we look more – when it comes to planning a trip is the economy. How much are the tickets, the hotel, purchases, excursions, etc.
Since we entered the euro, the cost of our trips through the countries of the European Union is easy to calculate, but when we are going to travel to a destination where they do not accept the Union currency, things start to get complicated. In addition to the usual expenses, in any trip you have to add the cost of the currency exchange.
Choosing well how we change our euros, depending on the duration of the trip and the expenses that we have foreseen in it, can mean a significant saving of money.
1. Banks: comfortable option, but expensive
The first natural option in which any traveler thinks when chooses where to exchange currency is the bank.
It’s normal: in these times, we have a bank practically on every corner.
The main advantage of changing currency in a bank is the comfort and reliability. For usual currencies – like dollars or sterling pounds – you’ll just have to wait and you will not have to ask for them long in advance.
However, if you travel to a country with an unusual currency – like Malaysian Ringgits , for example – it will be much more difficult for you to find a bank that can get it.
In addition, the type of change that banks usually apply is quite detrimental to the customer, adding, in some cases, some commissions that may end up deserving the term abusive (reaching tens of euros per transaction).
Another banking option is to change your currency in a bank in the country of destination. There they will accept your euros and usually offer a better exchange rate than what you would have obtained in your country of origin.
2. Exchange offices: there is everything
If you are traveling to a destination whose currency cannot be freely exchanged in any country – such as the kyat of Myanmar , the Chinese Yuan or the Moroccan dirham’s – you will have no choice but to take cash and / or credit card (or debit) to be able to get currency at the exchange offices or using ATMs.
The exchange offices are a good barometer of the expertise of any traveler.
One mistake that beginners usually make is to change a large amount of money to local currency at the first exchange office located at the airport. In 99% of cases, that office will be the most expensive you can find in the country. It does not fail.
The exchange rate offered by the offices located next to the baggage checkout is ridiculously unfavorable to the traveler, with differences of up to 35% -50% with respect to the prices you will find at other exchange offices in the country.
Surely there will be some airport exception. To find it, always do something before leaving for a trip to a country where you have to exchange currency: check the official exchange rate of the moment. I found a company called Nihonex that will even deliver the money to your doorstep before the trip.
If you need some money as soon as you arrive in the country, change the minimum in the airport and the rest in some other office in the center of the city.
As for the rest of exchange offices that you will find in the country, there are of all kinds. Some will offer more security and others less; some better exchange rate and others worse. In any case, do not forget two fundamental maxims: always count the money in front of the clerk who attended you before leaving the counter and always keep in mind what is the official exchange rate.
If you travel to a country that’s rural or coastal areas are lost in the middle of nowhere and you are going to explore them, keep in mind that most likely you will not find any exchange office there. and change currencies in the previous urban center that has an office. In case of doubt, always calculate high.
3. Take money from ATMs
Today, almost everyone has a card with the MasterCard or VISA symbol engraved on it in their wallet. Likewise, the majority of ATMs in the world accept the cards of these two global financial giants.
With these cards you can get money in almost any country on the planet (although there are still large areas of the world where you will not find a single ATM).
With the subject of the ATM we must also be careful, being advisable to inform you in your bank, before the departure, of the conditions and charges applicable to this type of operations. Normally, the card company will apply a more or less worthy exchange rate and your bank a commission for using the card abroad (which is usually higher than the one applied when you use it in national ATMs that are not in your network).
In addition, the local bank owner of the ATM that you are using usually charges you a service fee. For example, in Thailand there is always a rate of between THB 150 and THB 300 when you take it out of the ATM. As they charge per transaction, it will be more profitable to take large quantities than small ones. They will charge you less fees, taking the THB 5,000 at a time, than two extractions of THB 2,500 each.
The truth is that it is very difficult for the business to work out better than using an exchange office, however it has a great advantage: it allows you to not have to travel with a large amount of cash in your pocket (either in euros or in local currency)
4. Pay with a credit card
It is one of the best options. If you pay with a credit card, many times you will not suffer any commission and only the exchange rate offered by your bank will be applied.
When you make the payment with card and in the trade they offer you the possibility of applying a rate of change directly and make the charge in your currency (euros), reject it: that rate, 99% of the time, is less favorable than the one that will apply your card.
The handicap of this option is that in remote places you will find it practically impossible to find shops where you can pay by card.
5. Black market
The most risky way to change money. In some countries – or areas of countries – the nearest office or position to be considered as a financial one is the home of the only shopkeeper within 100 km.
If you do not have any cash in local currency, you will have to negotiate with him. The exchange rate, in these cases, is usually abusive, but you do not have another. Try to have a local person you trust mediate for you in the operation.
However, in other cases the exchange works in your favor, with dark types that offer you better change than banks and official agencies. Sometimes it goes well, but make sure you count the money and someone knows that guy. False bills and small bills placed in bundles in which others of greater value face the usual scams in these types of transactions.