Handling Your Money Abroad


Honestly, I don’t handle my money as well as I would like in regular life or when traveling. However, I do have a routine that seems to work well enough (for now) when I am abroad.

My first trip abroad was to Spain in the summer of 2012. I was fresh out of high school traveling with my Spanish class. I took the advice of my teacher without questioning. Although, I did go against her advice and exchange some of my cash at the airport in Chicago before arriving in Madrid. That was big money related travel mistake #1.

You never exchange your money at the airport unless it is your last resort. More often than not, they will give you a crappy exchange rate and charge you fees.


Many of the other students going on the trip with me ordered Euros from their bank prior to leaving. If you know me, you would know that I absolutely suck at planning. So, what did I do when I ran out of my airport Euros and needed more? I went to the ATM across the street from the hotel.

While in Spain I found that the ATM’s were the best way to get money converted into Euro’s because, 1) they have the most up to date exchange rate and 2) I didn’t have to deal with a person and struggle over my Spanish looking like a fool.

Ready for big money related travel mistake #2? I went to Canada with a class trip and didn’t get any Canadian money beforehand. Now, you may be thinking, no big deal, she went to an ATM. Truth be told, I didn’t do that either.

Thankfully, the grocery store we stopped at was able to exchange my currency, otherwise I would have been out of luck with no food for the evening or the following day. I gave them 50 USD and the took at face value of 50 CAD. Pretty cool.

2013 Field Trips 098

Would I recommend this method for others traveling abroad? Not at all! You should always be prepared financially wherever you go.

Regardless where I go abroad, I usually always pay with cash. Only because my cards charge and international conversion fee, which sucks. With everything, there are pros and cons to using cash exclusively.

One of the pros that comes with using local currency in the form of cash is that you don’t have to worry about vendors not accepting your money or your card. One of the cons is someone could steal your purse or you wallet with all of your cash and that would be that.

I recommend that you plan ahead whether that means ordering a small amount of money from your bank or exchanging a very small amount of money in your country of origin at the airport. Either way you want to have a small amount of local currency on you for minor emergencies, like needing to take a taxi.

What are your essential money tips when traveling abroad?

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