Currency Exchange Considerations For Travelers

currency exchange

I love traveling! Put me on a plane and send me somewhere new and I’m ready to go explore. You may be just like me and absolutely love traveling or at least the idea of it. There is plenty of information about the cheapest airfare, where to stay, and what to eat. But what is often missing is the currency exchange and how to plan your trips with that in mind.

Here are 3 tips that money-savvy travelers MUST KNOW:

  1. Know the exchange rate between currencies

Know which currencies will give you the best rate and arm yourself with information. You can search the web to learn the bank exchange rate. Don’t expect that this is the rate that you’ll get. Do expect that your rate will be a few percentage points higher and that it will vary between the exchanges.

Check to see which of the strong currencies will give you the best rate and whether exchanging yours into that one in addition to the local currency in the country you are traveling to.

This knowledge will empower you to make educated decision well before your travel and arm you with the strongest currency for the best exchange.

For example, when I was traveling to Cuba, I exchanged US Dollars into Euros while still in the States. Because official USD exchange rate was bad, this strategy made more sense. Turning USD into Euros, I was able to get the best exchange and the most for my money.

  1. Understand the customs

Knowing which currency is valued in the country you are traveling in can have a lot of advantages, if you bring it with you. Oftentimes, you can pay in the desired currency for your meal or hotel stay without having to exchange it. If there is change that you are owed, you will likely receive it in the local currency.

This you can use in your travels to pay for small bills, like coffee, museum entry fees, or bike rentals.

Couple of things to think about is to bring smaller bills for easier exchange.

For example, traveling to Serbia, I can pay for my meal in dollars easily. However, if my meal is only $7 and I give them $100 bill, they may not be able to accept it due to not having enough cash in local currency (or even foreign) to give me proper change. In this case scenario, leaving $10 or $20 bill will be very helpful and much easier for them to accept and give me my change back.

While you can often pay in strong currencies where they are desired to the local shop owners, please note that majority of the government owned entities will not accept foreign currency and will demand local one.

  1. Charge It

A safe and often the cheapest way to pay for things when you are traveling are credit cards. Easily cancelled with one phone call, this can be a great way to travel. You can have access to quite a bit of money, without having bulging pockets that attract the pick-pocketers around the world.

If this is a strategy you wish to deploy consider cards that have:

  • Zero international charge fees
  • Points for traveling

With zero foreign fee cards, there is no penalty in using the credit card. You will also get the official bank transfer rate, which is the lowest exchange rate. By ensuring you are earning traveling points, you can often get upgrades and even free flights to your next destination. And for those traveling, that is a huge win!

Consider charging the large bills on the credit card and pay the smaller amounts in cash. In places where credit cards are accepted everywhere, for example a country within the European Union, I rarely use or exchange cash.


Traveling the world can be awesome and amazing. Being cognizant of money and how the exchange works while you travel, can be incredibly helpful as you embark into the unknown and can save you a lot of money in the long run.

If credit cards are going to be your main point of payment, be sure to research whether they can be used throughout the country and get the one with no foreign fees.

Often big stores and hotels will accept credit card payments, however local merchants may need cash. Know the customs, research what’s possible, and to be on the safe side, bring cash in addition to your credit card.

Bring large bills for quicker large exchanges (often at the beginning of the trip) and only if currency is not severely volatile where you can stand to lose 20% or more overnight. If that’s the case, go small and often. Small can be great with locals as well as at the end of your trip.

Safe travels and until next time, stay forever money blessed.

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