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A Visitor’s Guide to Currency Exchange

Credit cards are accepted everywhere nowadays, right? Doesn’t every country accept US Dollars? It can be an easy mistake to assume you don’t have to worry about currency exchange when traveling abroad. But, there are even more reasons why you should!

Many American tourists have been stuck in the embarrassing scenario where they assume an establishment will accept US Dollars. Aren’t they more valuable anyway? This just happens to be a very old myth. The exchange rates are constantly changing and you need to be aware of what the rates are, wherever you are.

Having the proper currency also shows a sign of cultural respect. An American storeowner would never accept currency other than US Dollars and you can’t expect anyone overseas to take your money either. Bottom line: be prepared and have the proper money for the country you’re visiting.

Fees – You will likely be able to use a credit/debit card in the majority of the places you visit, but be careful: some cards may add a foreign transaction fee, sometimes referred to as an FX fee, of 3% (or much more) to each purchase; which can really add up during the length of your stay. On the other hand, there are cards that do not charge these FX fees, so it’s worth doing a bit of research before you go.

Cash Only Locations – Quite often, the small hidden gems offer the most memorable experiences when traveling. The quaint little restaurant that serves deliciously authentic food, tiny shops where local artisans craft exquisite keepsakes, or open-air markets where you can buy the most colorful fruits you’ve ever seen…what do they all have in common? CASH ONLY! Would you really want to miss out on those experiences just because you didn’t exchange a few dollars?

Know Before You Go – It’s so much easier than you think to exchange money. Especially if you’re visiting a country that uses a popular currency like the euro, all you need to do is visit your local bank before you go. They’ll have the most current exchange rates and you it will be an honest exchange.

Wait Until You Get There – Inexperienced travelers may feel a bit uneasy about this one, but most reputable banks in foreign countries are very trustworthy. Simply walk into one with your dollars, and ask a teller to make an exchange. Trust us, all you need is to do it once, and you’ll feel like a seasoned pro.

Currency Apps – Having a currency app on your phone can come in extremely handy. It will make you feel much more secure to know, before you go into a bank, how much currency you should be getting in return. And these apps are essential if you want to take money out of an ATM. Let’s say you’re in Russia and you want the equivalent of $100. Would you know how many rubles to withdraw? We recommend the XE Currency apps. If you’re concerned you’ll have WIFI issues where you’re traveling, simply download the currencies for the countries you’ll be visiting before you go and the app will still work offline.

Paying in local money contributes to your overall experience. Knowledge of exchange rates and foreign currencies certainly adds another big notch to your travel belt. It’s an additional element of the country you’re visiting that’s interesting to learn about and will make you feel even more comfortable navigating when you return!