I took my first trip abroad in the year 2003 to Sri Lanka and in those days foreign travel was very complicated and there was no ready Internet access through which one could get any information about the destination. One of the biggest problems that most international travelers faced earlier was about Foreign Exchange. What currency to take and also in which form. Multiple currencies across Europe also made it more complicated. Another headache was the constant changing rates between USD to INR. So basically apart from worrying about the hotel, food, and local travel you had to also worry about forex.
I still remember I had to use Travellers Cheque worth 100 US Dollar and to do that I had to go to a designated bank, stand in a long queue and then submit my passport and sign documents to get 100 Dollars in cash. To make matters worse along with the redemption charge we also had to pay currency conversion charge from US Dollar to Sri Lankan Rupees. Ultimately what I got in hand was much less than what I had purchased the Travellers Cheque for.
With the advent of Euro traveling to most of the European countries were sorted out and for the rest, there was always the US Dollar. I have heard horrifying stories about losing a wallet and misplacing cash during international trips so during my last major trip to Europe along with my family I had to make a tough choice whether to carry cash or to carry my credit and debit cards. What I did was a mix and match just to be sure that I had all the options at my disposal when I needed them.
What I realized a couple of days before my trip that nowadays people mostly travel around with Forex Cards rather than physical cash of for that matter credit or debit cards. Travellers Cheque are things of the past and most places do not accept these anymore. So thus began my search for that perfect Forex Cards, with Internet on our mobile phones it’s very easy actually, there are many banks and institutions that sell these forex cards of different currencies and you just need to submit a copy of your travel documents like passport, visa, air tickets, etc. and you are good to go. Initially, you can load up an amount and if the need is then you can always top up or recharge the card as per your need. The unused amount after your trip can be sold back to the bank.
Temporary (Virtual) Visa Master Cards
Many banks nowadays allow its customer to create temporary (Virtual) Visa / Master Cards which is completely independent of their existing plastic card issued by the bank. These can be loaded up and used on any online site to buy train tickets, museum tickets, and even air tickets. The benefit of these temporary cards is that you do not have to worry about the security of the card when using on unknown local country specific sites. These cards have a specific time limit and will expire once that is crossed. The unused amount automatically comes back to the original account after a specific number of days. Thus these are safe, secure, and easy to use.
Good Old Cash
Nothing, in reality, beats the good old cash, you can get direct currencies of most of the typical tourist or travel destinations like US Dollar, UK Pound, Euro, Australian Dollar, Japanese Yen, Thailand Baht etc. So you do not loose on multiple currency conversions. People worry about carrying a lot of cash which is true but it all depends on how it is being stored. Paper currencies and coins to play a vital part in your travel as some place or the other you are definitely going to need them also there can be a situation where you are unable to swipe your cards and you have to rely on cash.
When I am traveling with my family I make sure that the cash amount is equally divided amongst family members and also across different places. I do not keep a lot a cash in my wallet when traveling as this is the most pickpocketed item. I use something like a belt or you can say a money belt. You can buy these online and they exactly look like a normal belt for a trouser except that on the reverse side it has a zipper attached and once opened you can keep neatly folded currencies. Please note that this method is only for safe keeping of currencies and not for carrying unaccounted currencies. At most airports, you have to open your belt and scan it along with your bags thus during the scanning process the presence of cash can clearly be made out. This is mostly for safekeeping during travel.
Existing Bank Debit / Credit Cards
Last but not the least would be to use your existing bank debit or credit card. Please note that some banks need to be informed through their online portal or at the branch about your proposed travel dates and destination. This is to avoid your cards being blocked as being mistaken for suspicious fraudulent transactions. Also to be noted is the amount of currency conversion charge a bank will levy on each transaction.
Wire Transfer Backup
It is always a good idea to have your close friends and families know about your travel plan and if the need is due to an emergency they can wire transfer the money using facilities like the Western Union, Money Gram etc. This is a quick way to transfer emergency fund but do take a note of the service charges.
Your Own Currency
I know people who made the mistake of taking just bare minimum Indian Rupees along with them just enough for their taxi rides to and from the airport. This is a big mistake and always have a couple of thousand Indian Rupees with you as these might come handy at the airport for purchasing food and other services. Someone known to me was stuck at Mumbai airport without money for food as he had missed his connecting flight. This was a couple of years back when access to ATM machines was limited.
As mentioned earlier I always carry the majority of the currency hidden inside money belt, you do get these online but I managed to custom built mine and have been using across all my recent trips. The ones available online is bit expensive so what I have done is basically buy a simple canvas belt costing around 120 – 150 Rupees and taking it to a bag repair shop and asking them to fix (stitch) a wide zipper on the back which cost me around 80 Rupees.
Apart from this I also carry a hidden passport and cash pouch hidden under my t-shirt, just make sure that your t-shirt or shirts are tucked up so in the event someone tries to cut the cord it will not fall off but stay inside.
Hope you liked this different blog of mine, I had planned to write about this from my own personal experience so that it helps new travelers. Do keep visiting this blog more exciting things to follow soon.