As many of you know, I have traveled to Greece and Italy this summer and I am heading back to Greece for almost the entire month of September. Yay!! Throughout my travels, I started writing a list of travel tips I think all my fellow travelers should know. Some of them are pretty basic, but I often get asked questions regarding all these upcoming topics. So, let’s start with one of the most important topics and one that I receive the most questions about…MONEY!
1) Don’t bring US Currency on your trip! Exchanging money is often a pain in the ass and you often get ripped off with the exchange rate. Save the cash and keep it in your bank account.
2) Don’t bring the currency you will need in your travel destination! US banks often charge a large fee to exchange US dollars to other currencies. I even think AAA rates can be high. So, unless I know I need to pay a driver at the airport in cash, I never bring cash in any currency. Exception to this rule occurs when I have some of the currency at home, which often happens with Euros.
3) Use an ATM upon arrival to get cash! Yes, you can use an ATM at the airport; however, unless if needed right away, I wait until I get settled into my first location and then walk to a bank. Just as you see in the US, in other countries you will also see ATM’s at stores and random places. I look for a bank and use their ATM. This way, if you have any problems, questions, confusion, you can go inside and ask for help. And, since you are close to your hotel, you can simply walk back some of your cash and lock it up. Be smart, just as you would at home, don’t walk around with $500. You don’t want it stolen, but you also don’t want to misplace anything; it can happen when we are excited to see a whole new part of the world!
4) Make sure to contact your bank and credit card companies! You can do this mostly online, but you can also call to confirm your travel. Make sure to notify each bank and credit card that you may use on your trip. Always have back ups in case you lose one or one doesn’t work. I typically carry three bank cards and three credit cards.
5) Check all fees for bank cards and credit cards. Some cards charge foreign transaction fees. Make sure to confirm that you will not be receiving a fee every time you use your card. In addition, just as in the States you will have ATM fees for both your bank and the bank you are using. So, if you happen to have a card that waives ATM transaction fees, make sure it is inclusive of banks out of the US. ATM’s in other countries often put a restriction on withdrawals. For example, in Sicily, I could only take out €200 at a time. Fees can add up quickly when you are in remote areas that typically only take cash.
Pro-tip: If you travel a lot, open a Charles Schwab bank account. There are zero ATM fees, including outside of the USA. I simply transfer some money into the account prior to travel. This saves me a lot of money when on long trips and short if I need to use the ATM a lot.
6) When using your credit card and you are offered the option, choose to pay in the currency of the country you are in. Your credit card will provide you with a better rate than the vendor. Save those extra dollars for an extra glass of wine.
7) Clean out your wallet! Leave home any extra bank, credit or gift cards stuffed in your wallet. If you end up losing your wallet, you will have unnecessary things to worry about and replace.
8) Lastly, give up some change to those in need! It gets a little heavy carrying all those coins that you will most likely forget to use anyways.