Accessing Money While Traveling

Now that you're going on this great trip, how do you access your money once you're traveling? You could carry a lot of cash, but that's risky. Also, Traveler's Cheques are not as universal as they are advertised to be. You'll often have to pay hefty fees to cash them, and depending on where you're going, you won't be able to find a place that will take them. Furthermore, credit cards often charge a hefty exchange rate fee.

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The best way to get money while you're abroad is with ATMs. You'll get the best exchange rate and will usually have minimal additional fees. Believe it or not, ATMs are everywhere. We found them in remote towns in Africa, within the souqs of the Middle East, along the Ganges in India, and by the rice paddies of Vietnam.

In fact, one of the places where we had the most trouble with ATMs was in Tokyo. This hyper-modern city only has a few ATMs that are on the same network as our cards. This is very important: pay attention to the network that your bank and card uses. Look at the logos on the back of your card. You might want to ask for a second ATM or credit card with a different network. For example, if you have a Mastercard ATM card, get a Visa card as well. Outside of the U.S., Europe, and Australia, many of the worldwide ATMs only work on one of the main networks instead of all of them. If you're in a jam, you can use most credit cards as ATM cards, but expect to pay those high exchange rate fees. (Make sure you get a PIN number for your credit card!)

Another extremely important thing to do is to inform your bank and credit card companies that you will be traveling abroad. Many travelers have arrived in a place, gotten their first bit of cash from the machine, and then been stranded. Expensive international phone calls to banks often follow, along with much wasted time.

Before you leave on your trip, get a few hundred U.S. dollars or Euros, broken into twenties. Stick some in your money belt and hide some in your bag. This will be your backup in case you can't get to an ATM somewhere. U.S. Dollars or Euros can be exchanged anywhere in the world, so if one of these currencies is not your home currency, it's best to go out of your way to find some before you leave.

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