Although I am currently living in the US, my next trip is around the corner and I want to share with you some practical information. In January I am planning to travel around the world and I am concerned about the best ways to carry money and to have access to foreign currency, so this is what I’ve been doing in the last 3-4 weeks prior to my departure:
1. Cash: I asked my bank to save some new bills for me. Dollars are well accepted everywhere, so carrying some cash will help me along the way. For example, I will be visiting Argentina, where I know people I trust who will give me a better exchange rate (dollar blue) than the banks, but they will only accept brand new crispy bills.
2. Debit cards: They will become handy in order to get foreign currency directly from the ATMs. The biggest problem is they charge high fees. However, I found out that if you open an account with Schwab bank (www.schwab.com) they will send you a debit card with NO ATM fees!!!! They will even reimburse you for those fees other banks will charge you with. And it works anywhere in the world. You can open a Schwab account online and their customer service is fantastic.
3. Credit cards: I don’t like having different credit cards, but it is cautious to have more than one in case yours gets lost or stolen. I like how my actual credit card gives me not only frequent flyer miles, but also virtual encoded numbers for extra protection when I buy things online. However, it charges fees when I use it abroad. So, I was considering getting a Capital One card to avoid these fees, but I’ve heard horrifying stories about their customer service. Finally, I ended up getting the Saphire preferred card from my bank, with no foreign transaction fees and a good rewards system. On top of it, it gives me rental car theft and collision damage insurance and trip cancellation/interruption insurance, among other benefits. It is not the only one out there, but it is a product I feel comfortable with.
4. Foreign currency: I am only changing some petty cash for the first country I will be visiting: Guatemala. I just want to have a few quetzales to handle my arrival. The hostal I booked for my first night in Guatemala City gave me some good advice: “Do not exchange money at the airport because they charge a high commission. When you get to the hotel we can take you to a trustworthy bank so you can get a better rate.” Well, this is what I will do.
El dinero va y viene y su valor es siempre relativo. Las mejores experiencias de un viaje poco o nada tienen que ver con asuntos monetarios. Siempre me he preparado para lo peor, pensando que me iban a robar o a quitar algo. Sin embargo, viajando, nunca nadie me ha asaltado ni me ha hecho daño. Al contrario, he descubierto gente generosa que siempre me ha ayudado sin esperar nada a cambio. Por eso en esta nueva aventura sé que no tengo nada que perder, pero sí mucho que recibir.