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Money abroad

Taking money abroad has become much easier and cheaper in recent years. The rise of the Euro across much of Europe makes it much easier to travel from one county to another across the continent. ATMs are becoming much more widespread across the rest of the world too, allowing instant access to your money when you need it.


ATMs are available in many countries and provide a quick and safe access to money. Rates are calculated at the bank rate rather than the tourist rates used at foreign exchange kiosks, and even with the handling fee can work out cheaper than exchanging money elsewhere. Some banks charge a flat rate or have a cap on their fees - in this case you are better getting as much as you can in one transaction. However banks in developing countries, particularly in South East Asia, have very low daily limits - sometimes less than £100 which can reduce your savings. Check if your bank is aligned with any foreign banks (eg Barclays and BNP Paribas), as this can reduce fees even further.

Make sure you take cards with different banks or using different networks. While Mastercard and Visa are worldwide, they aren't always accepted everywhere. Most machines dispense large notes which can be difficult to break in some cases. Getting €290 rather than €300 can make life much easier!


Having some local currency before entering another country is highly recommended - although you can usually exchange cash on the border crossings if you can't obtain the currency elsewhere. Generally better rates are available in your destination country compared with home - but that's no good if it's a weekend or public holiday.


Credit and debit cards can be used to pay for many things and don't come with the cash transaction fees as with ATMs. However watch for fraud and check your statements carefully when you return home. Cards are also very useful for booking onward travel or accommodation online.

An emergency credit card is definitely important - while your travel insurance should cover you for most things, you won't necessarily be able to claim on it until you get home.

Make sure you inform your bank which countries you will be travelling to - some will look out for transactions abroad as a sign of fraud and lock your card.

Travellers Cheques

Once the main source of money abroad, travellers cheques are getting harder and harder to exchange. While they are the safest way to carry large sums, the fees added when purchasing at home and when exchanging add up. When trying to exchange cheques do shop around. Exchange kiosks will charge a hefty per cheque fee while some banks may not charge anything at all - if they even can exchange them.

Emergency Money

As a very last resport, friends and family back home can wire you money via the likes of Western Union. It's expensive but sometimes the only way to get out of a jam.

Next: Driving Abroad