Friday, January 10, 2014

Foreign Travel Myth? "I get a better exchange rate if I bring cash with me!"

"I am taking a trip to Thailand, Cambodia and Laos going through Vietnam. My friend told me to bring cash and I would get a better exchange rate. "
I was sitting in the chair with the back rub device running. I had slipped into the coma I always experience when I am getting a pedicure when the woman next to me began talking to her pedicure girl.  Everyone in the salon is from Vietnam so when the lady announced that she was flying into "Saigon" the next day, the girls were very excited.  I sat up and took notice. Of course I wanted to know what her plans were because my husband and I had been in Vietnam a couple of years ago. That was when she told me that she planned on taking cash so she could get a better exchange rate.

My radar went up immediately. She had already had the conversation about not taking expensive jewelry and the girls in the shop warned her about con-men but I don't think she was really focusing in on what she was proposing to do. It sounded very iffy and even dangerous to me.

Here is what we have always done:
  1. We take two or three credit cards but only carry one and we put the other two in the hotel safe (along with our passport). We make sure they are international credit cards that charge no foreign exchange rate. Photo copy the cards and keep that in a safe place. Then, if you have it stolen, you will know who to call
  2. We go to a reputable bank and get enough cash to last a day or two.
  3. We bring very little cash into a country...just enough to get us through airport, etc.  Usually taxi drivers don't even want our US dollars. Our first stop is usually a bank machine. You need cash for taxis, etc.
  4. We haven't carried travelers checks for years.
Shanghai, China 2007 by b+ (Flickr)
See the thing is, I had my wallet stolen by gypsies in Spain. I only had a few Euros but the one credit card I was carrying was gone. It was a big hassle! Thankfully we were prepared for that to happen.

Check your travel guide and online to see what customs about money are in the country you are visiting. Don't plan on saving big money by playing the "exchange rate" game. MSN says that even the big players in that area only save a few dollars. But most importantly, do not carry a big amount of cash. Even the savviest travels can be tricked.

I have one last tip that will save you a lot of time and maybe even money...when you arrive and are walking through the airport, never, never stop until you are standing at the taxi stand. Scam artists are allowed to set up shop in many countries. The scam artists look very official...don't be fooled!


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