Carrying Cash to International Destinations

knick1959

Level 2 Member
I've done this many times and the drill is just to hit up my local banks for crisp, newer US bills. ATMs around me spit out nice $20's so this is good; smaller bills, not so easy but my banks have been very friendly.

My question is more specific: what is the largest domination that is safe (easily accepted) to carry. For my recent trip to SE Asia, my wife and I carried $1800 in cash, knowing some specific things that would instantly use a third of this. We carried this in 1's to 20's and it made for a pretty thick stack to try to distribute across body parts.

Tempted to take some 50's or even a couple of 100's with me next trip (6 weeks). It's a shorter trip and will require less cash, but to pay a $400 hotel bill in US$ on Easter Island? Here I can email the owner; he's been very responsive to all questions. But in-general, asking folks with more experience here ... stop at 20's or can I venture into 50's and 100's??

TIA.
 

projectx

Level 2 Member
That really depends on the destination (I can't comment on Easter Island specifically). In Costa Rica, most places won't accept anything larger than a 20 as they think they are counterfeit. Regardless, I like to pay with the local currency.
 

knick1959

Level 2 Member
That really depends on the destination (I can't comment on Easter Island specifically). In Costa Rica, most places won't accept anything larger than a 20 as they think they are counterfeit. Regardless, I like to pay with the local currency.
I guess that answers my overall question. If it's a problem in Costa Rica, I'm betting it is elsewhere. I'll be safe and continue to carry 20's. But I'll ask in the case of this hotel, as I paid a similar bill in Cambodia recently in 20's and it was awkward and almost too much to carry. I'm not sure Cambodia Reils are that widely used. At least the touristy parts seem to run on US bills.

I prefer local currency, too, particularly when the units are massively different. In Vietnam where $1US was about 23,000 Vietnamese Dong, asking to pay in US$'s often ended up with a substantial rounding error. Still, when the price in quoted in US$, you're going to see the rounding error anyway and then you have to extend the conversation (in-person, via email, etc) to ask for a price in local currency. It IS kind of funny that prices are so often quoted in US$, but it does seem to be very often an excepted alternative to local money.

It's also handy to pay in the local currency when you start to run out of US cash!
 

Suzie

Level 2 Member
We have a booking coming up in Egypt that does not take credit cards, only cash. And it states "Under Eqyptian law all foreign guests must pay in a foreign currency, not in Egyptian currency."

It's only a one night stay of $110, so I will be taking $100 USD for the bulk of this bill.

I like to pay in the local currency when cc is not accepted, also, but do find it convenient to use small denominations of USD for tipping.
 

BuddyFunJet

Level 2 Member
My practice is to take the newest $100 possible for bigger expenses along with a mix of smaller bills for smaller purchases. I like $2 bills for the novelty but sometimes not considered real. In many Asian countries, large bills get a better exchange rate and worn or torn bills are refused.

I place an order with my bank for “Christmas gift” new money a few weeks before Christmas.
 

Suzie

Level 2 Member
We found the same in Uganda with the larger bills. We were giving our driver $100 USD and asked him if he preferred $20's or a $100. He preferred the $100 for the exchange rate.
 

knick1959

Level 2 Member
We found the same in Uganda with the larger bills. We were giving our driver $100 USD and asked him if he preferred $20's or a $100. He preferred the $100 for the exchange rate.
Ok, well this sounds like a better plan. And as you mentioned before ... you had your (larger) hotel break a US$100 into smaller bills. I'll try this slowly, over time, but instead of a large stack of 20's, some 20's and a couple of 100's (or 50's).
 

BuddyFunJet

Level 2 Member
For most local currency, I use my Schwab or Capital One ATM card at an airport ATM since the ATM fees are reimbursed. Taxi or other local transport can be difficult without a bit of local currency. At the hotel, I exchange the larger local bills that the ATM gives for small walking around bills.

BTW, hotel exchange rates are usually pretty bad so I prefer ATM or local exchange offices except in Argentina or other places with artificial currency controls where the street rates can be much better.
 

Suzie

Level 2 Member
Ok, well this sounds like a better plan. And as you mentioned before ... you had your (larger) hotel break a US$100 into smaller bills. I'll try this slowly, over time, but instead of a large stack of 20's, some 20's and a couple of 100's (or 50's).
@knick1959 - That comment was in connection to your recent trip and my experience with ATM in Cambodia. I had the hotel break $100 bill that the ATM spit out and since they use USD - there was no exchange fee.

Agree with @BuddyFunJet - would not use hotel desk for exchanging money.
 

HanoiIG

Silver Member
For most local currency, I use my Schwab or Capital One ATM card at an airport ATM since the ATM fees are reimbursed. Taxi or other local transport can be difficult without a bit of local currency. At the hotel, I exchange the larger local bills that the ATM gives for small walking around bills.

BTW, hotel exchange rates are usually pretty bad so I prefer ATM or local exchange offices except in Argentina or other places with artificial currency controls where the street rates can be much better.
I do the same thing. That way you can get a small amount if necessary at the end of a trip. Actually, I prefer to earn points/miles so charge nearly everything. I remember the first time we visited Vietnam in 1994 we had wads and wads of pristine US dollars as we heard they won't accept any notes with smudges, creases or other damage. Of course that doesn't stop them from giving you back local currency that is all of the above!
 

caliang

New Member
Agree with the Schwab or Capital One ATM card. That is my current practice of carrying cash to international destination. The VISA or Master conversion rate is much better than you would have get locally anywhere else.
 

knick1959

Level 2 Member
Agree with the Schwab or Capital One ATM card. That is my current practice of carrying cash to international destination. The VISA or Master conversion rate is much better than you would have get locally anywhere else.
I have the Schwab card and agree ... it works great. But moving though several countries in 2-3 weeks, this can semi-backfire if not managed well. I haven't been left with an abundance of local currency recently, but it's happened before. I can always send my wife off to spend left over money at the airport, she's very good at it (and loves her job!) But too much and I am not happy. US $ are always welcome to come home with me. That, and it's hard to get to an ATM to pay for visas and the like ... chicken/egg. In my book, there is always a need to carry US$. When you are running out of Vietnamese Dong at the end of the trip, it's nice to think that you can get by with the US cash in your pocket as an option.

I head out to Chile (including Easter Island) and Iguazu Falls (Brazil AND Argentina sides) in a couple of weeks. Still debating, but I believe I have enough US cash on hand. Still, I'm going to make a point of getting a couple of 50's and perhaps a 100 or 2 and actually try to use those in places. If they don't work, I'll happily bring them back. I'll do that this week, thanks for the reminder.
 

BuddyFunJet

Level 2 Member
I have the Schwab card and agree ... it works great. But moving though several countries in 2-3 weeks, this can semi-backfire if not managed well. I haven't been left with an abundance of local currency recently, but it's happened before. I can always send my wife off to spend left over money at the airport, she's very good at it (and loves her job!) But too much and I am not happy. .......
My habit is to reserve enough local currency for airport transport and snacks then use the excess against my hotel bill.
 
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