How To Deal With Money On Your Travels

So you’re setting off overseas soon (pretty exciting, huh!?) and it dawned on you that you have no idea what to do about your money when you’re overseas. Should you bring travelers cheques? Should you bring foreign currency with you? Fear not my would-be traveling friends, I’ve got all the answers for you right here:

Suitcase full of cash
Not the greatest packing technique

What Money Stuff You Should Bring On Your Travels:

1)   $200 USD in hard, cold cash: Stash this in different sections of different bags. $50 here, $50 there – you get the picture. This is used for two things – visas on borders (where it’s cheaper to pay in USD than local currency) and emergency money. If you find your self neck-high in the brown stuff, $100 gets you out of a lot of problems. Don’t forget this (and don’t change it to local currency when you want a beer but have already spent your budget that week!).

2)   2 cards: One of these should be a credit card with up to $2k limit, the other can be your standard debit card that you use every day. If possible, one should be visa and the other mastercard but that’s not so important. Remember visa is king these days.

3)   Around $100 worth of currency for the first country you land in. This is a buffer to get you out of the train station/airport etc, to your hostel, get you some food, a celebratory beverage or two (you made it, you’re an official backpacker!) until you find an ATM.

American Express
You might think you’re cool carrying this around, we’ll see how cool you are when you can’t settle your bills because no one accepts it!

What Money Stuff You Shouldn’t Bring:

1)   Travelers cheques: Leave those in the nineties, along with power-rangers and saved by the bell. No one uses this stuff anymore, you’ll struggle to change them, you’ll get crap rates and you’ll have to spend time organizing them. Forget it. The world is safer than you think, the only thing travelers cheques protect you from is fun.

2)   Local currency for all the countries you’re going to: Unless you’re going to Somalia, Sudan or Burma (which I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that’s unlikely) every country has ATMs these days. Don’t carry all those notes, have enough to get you through a week or so and then use ATMs wherever you are. Easy peasy.

3)   American Express card: AMEX is not big, it’s not clever, you get charged a premium to use it and most countries won’t recognize it. That sh*t is weak, leave it at home.

Ok guys, a couple of other points. You will get charged disgusting fees from ATMs around the world ($2-$5) per transaction, it sucks. But that’s life, so when you withdraw cash, never withdraw less than $150 – I normally withdraw 200 GBP ($300) a pop and that should last you 10 days or so. Do that 3 times a month and you’re all set.

Also, cash cards are all the rage these days. Those cards that you ‘charge’ with cash before you go – there fine, but make sure you have a contingency card because you always spend more than you plan to.

Other than that folks, just hit the road and live it up. The world is waiting for ya, so take the plunge and explore it. Happy travels!


  1. These are great tips.  I’ll comment specifically on the travelers cheques.  I totally agree with you. I  did a backpacking trip several years armed with plenty of those and it was SUCH a pain in the @ss to use them.  

  2. Great Article guys. 

    Most people won’t know how important it is until they start travelling for a long time. 

    Personally, I prefer credit cards > debit cards though. Most good banks give you 30 days to dispute payments on a credit card in the event that you get overcharged or “scammed” paying for something that you did not intend to. Debit cards slash the money straight from the account with very little the bank can do to contest the dispute. If you really need a debit card, create an account with just a bit of travelling credit in it, never one from your primary account. Internet banking is a good way to transfer money from the primary account to the travelling account as need be.


  3. Wait 2k limit on credit card?! What about us 18 year olds who are lucky to get £500 on our credit card?

    And if I do not wimp out and do go to the Sudan do I need to take cash to last the time I’m there?  ..

  4. Any decent credit limit should be fine, the worst you’ll need is a flight home right? Maybe a bribe for corrupt policeman. With regards to debit cards remember that if you have all your money in your account and the card gets stolen it can be damn costly, if they use your card the money is gone immediately. My favourite is the double account method, store money in account A, when you want to withdraw some shift it to account B, for which you have a couple of cards, and withdraw it. If your cards get stolen, what do they have? An empty account.

  5. Very Imformative!  I suggest limiting the amount of cash you travel with on your local excursions. I was in Jamaica and rented scooters. I didn’t think to have my driver’;s license on me (I know so stupid!). We had a local guy as our guide and we got stopped by the police.  We got off with $20, but I if I had more money on me they would have definitely wanted more to let us off!

    Sally Stretton

  6. thank you very much for your very useful information for me
    and I was amazed by the article that you create is ..

    Thank you very much ..

  7. A lot of information in one post! That sums all the things a traveller needs about keeping money. Guessed you based it on your own experiences that made the post more reliable.

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