I’ve been looking over our old currency articles and blog posts and the repeating message in almost every one is buy your money in advance and you will get a better rate, so this time take that as said and I will move on to so more general tips.
Three Top Foreign Currency Tips
However you change your money and whoever you use to supply it you are going to be charged for the privilege. All moneychangers are commercial businesses and they exist to make a profit, they either charge you commission or adjust the exchange rate down to give them a profit margin. There is no such thing as free travel money.
1. The more you spend the more you will pay
Whoever changes your money for you will be making a small percentage profit, if you only change £350 they may only take £5 off you, if you change £2,000 then they are probably taking £50 off you for doing basically the same amount of work. If you can try and change as little money as possible then you will be paying the least amount of commission.
2. Currency ‘may’ not be the best option
You can now get pre paid currency cards. You pay money on to the card and yu can then spend the money abroad and avoid paying charges. Because after you have bought the card there is no need to post out physical money and all the insurances you are going to get a better deal. Some cards are expensive, they can charge you each month or a year eating into your travel money until it is all gone. Avoid cards like these and go for ones with no monthly/annual charges. If you were thinking buying more that £2,500 in currency you should seriously consider taking some of your travel money on a prepaid card.
3. Common sense
With the best exchange rates in the world nothing is going to spoil your holiday more than being mugged and losing it all! Here are a few common sense measures you can take to reduce the risks a little.
A moneybelt or neck pouch is harder to steal than your wallet or handbag. There is a common scam where someone dressed as a police officer asks to see your documents and ID, you give them your wallet and when you get it back half the money is missing. If the bulk of your days cash is not in your wallet it cannot be stolen this way.
Use ATM (cash machines) machines that are inside the bank or in an atrium where you have to swipe your card to enter. Cash machines are the preferred hunting ground for bag snatchers and muggers as you obviously have an amount of cash on you straight after using the machine. If you are on the street using the cash point you cannot see who is behind you. Thieves also use the zoom feature on a smart phones camera to film you entering the pin and then try and steal the card either in a bag snatch, pick pocketing or by threatening you until you give them your wallet. In the relative privacy of the atrium you can withdraw your money and slip it into a neck pouch, put your wallet away and then leave the atrium. While you are inside you are also often covered by CCTV.
Don’t ask taxi drivers to recommend a bar, club or restaurant. Taxi drivers are often paid by venue owners to refer people to them, the venue owner then adds surcharges to your bill to cover the fee. In some unscrupulous bars they add massive surcharges and then threaten violence if you do not pay. Avoid this by getting your recommendations from your hotel or online before your leave.
All of these ‘scams’ are well detailed on the FCO travel advice pages. (See individual currency pages for links to the right travel advice links.)