Travel 101 - Money Matters

Where money is concerned, it is best to cover all your bases and bring numerous mediums of money. For safety reasons, it is advised to separate your cash, credit cards and traveler's checks and disperse them throughout your luggage. That way, in the unfortunate event that a money belt, purse, wallet or bag is stolen you will have an alternative access to money and the remainder of your trip will not have to be spent trying to get a money transfer.

Credit Cards

  • Although we have become very used to using our credit cards for all purchases, outside of the First world credit cards are a luxury available only to a lucky few. Expensive establishments will typically accept credit cards, but this should be previously verified with each individual establishment. Otherwise, most smaller, local establishments will only accept cash as a form of payment.
  • No matter where you are planning on traveling, it is always smart to bring a credit card in the case of an emergency. But prior to departure, be sure to determine if your credit card is accepted in the country of your destination and call your provider to let them know you will be using the card internationally.

Cash

U.S. dollars are generally the most accepted and easily exchangeable medium of currency. And small denomination bills are always preferred to larger bills. Unfortunately, it is necessary to bring a significant amount of cash with you when you travel. There are several factors to consider when determining your budget and the amount of cash to bring.

  • Where are you going? First of all, when deciding how much cash to bring it is crucial to determine in advance whether or not your destination has access to ATM machines, while remembering that ATM accessibility can vary within a country. Secondly, a country's exchange rates, economic status and cost of living are other major determinants in budgeting for your trip. Similarly, costs of living can vary within a country; oftentimes major tourist destinations or large cities are more expensive than off-the-grid destinations.
  • When are going? Although exchange rates do fluctuate overtime, the major determinant that timing has on a budget is due to peak and off-peak travel seasons. Prices are dramatically lower and much more negotiable during off-peak travel seasons than they are during peak travel seasons.
  • For how long? The length of your trip will obviously affect your budget due to daily living expenses. However, a longer trip doesn't necessarily mean a more expensive trip. In fact, some people budget their money more wisely when they know they will be traveling for a longer amount of time and in some cases, certain establishments are willing to give discounts to long-term guests.
  • What will you be doing? The most difficult to budget for are the day-to-day activities and expenses. Although it is impossible to determine ahead of time the amount of money you will need for food and drink, transportation and shopping, budgeting for recreational activities and/or tours is generally more manageable.
  • What is your personal style, preference and budget? Do you like to stay in nice hotels or do you prefer to rough it? Do you like to dine at high-end restaurants or will you try local establishments? Do you like to travel by car, bus, train or plane? You get the point. Traveling costs money, however you have a say in how you choose to spend your money.
  • ATM's: Contrary to popular belief, ATM's are not always accessible and when traveling it is imperative to not solely rely on them as your only means for obtaining cash. Some developing countries still do not have ATM's and if they do their accessibility is generally limited to larger cities and even then they are not entirely dependable. This rings true for many remote and island destinations as well. So, previous to departure be sure to do your research: access updated information about such monetary concerns from your guidebook and confirm with your bank that your card is accepted worldwide.

Ultimately, it is better to be safe than sorry!

Traveler's Checks

In addition to bringing cash, it is also advised to bring some traveler’s checks. Even though they can seem outdated and inefficient, traveler’s checks are a good safety net. Similar to cash, they are widely accepted and where remote destinations tend to lack ATM’s you can almost always find a moneychanger.