Currency Exchange Resources
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Currency Exchange Resources

There are many pre-travel arrangements to complete for international humanitarians including passport, visas, health checks, vaccinations, and more. One key step is to ensure you have money once you arrive at your destination. Not only is it convenient, but it is also a question of safety. Many seasoned humanitarian and development workers have their pre-travel routine.

However, there are many currency exchange options. So, the right one for you will really depend on where you are traveling. Most countries have different currencies and markets, so it’s important to research the best way before you go. You should also consider what you need to pay for upon arrival to help determine how much cash to bring. Here is our guide on currency exchange resources.

How Much Money do I Need?

The first step is to calculate how much money you need to bring with you. This depends on many factors. It is probably a good idea to ask your organization for their recommendation. Plus, you should consider the main expenses that you will need to cover upon arrival.

Do you need to pay for accommodations or just food and personal expenses? Is there an ATM available where you will be staying? Are credit cards widely accepted? Have you notified your bank that you will be traveling? In addition, always bring some cash for emergency situations.

Bringing Cash with You

You should always travel with cash in case any situation arises along the way. But there is always a fine balance between bringing some cash and not bringing too much. If you travel with too much cash, it can become a safety concern.

A good rule of thumb is to bring fewer than 1,000 US dollars or euros. This will give you a good start, but you won’t be worried about your money being lost or stolen all the time. It’s always best to bring currencies that are accepted internationally. Typically, this includes US dollars, euros and British pounds. If you are coming from a country where the currency is different, it may be a good idea to exchange in advance.

When bringing cash with you abroad, check that the bills are clean and crisp. Many countries won’t accept crumpled or torn bills. It’s also best to bring larger denominations such as 50s or 100s.

not for the profit

How to Exchange Cash

Anywhere you go, the safest way to exchange money is through a reputable bank. It can be tempting to go to a money changer to get a better rate. However, this is often unsafe. Money changers are also notorious for giving back the wrong amount or even passing fake bills.

In any case, you should always follow advice from the locals. They will know where to go and what places to avoid. It is best not to go out alone or in the evening. This is for your own safety to prevent robberies.

When you exchange currency, make sure to get a receipt. To always be up-to-date on the current exchange rates, you can go to They also have a handy app that you can download on your phone.

An alternative to purchasing foreign currency in-country is to buy some at your bank back home. Typically, the rate won’t be very favorable, but you do get the convenience of arriving with local currency.

Getting Money from an ATM

Often, the best way to get foreign currency when you travel is through an ATM upon arrival. Many banks give really good rates, and plenty of countries don’t charge ATM fees. It’s also a safe way to withdraw money as you need it throughout your humanitarian journey.

To make sure that this option works for you, inquire with your bank whether there are any fees. They may charge a conversion fee, a withdrawal fee, or both. There are various banks that offer no-fee travel accounts. So, it may be a good idea to look into one before you go. You should also advise your bank when and where you will be traveling. This way, they won’t be suspicious of international transactions and freeze your account.

At your destination, find out whether there is an ATM in the area that you will be staying. Also, find out which machines are the most reputable – you don’t want to be the target of an ATM scam. Once again, do not go out to withdraw cash at night and preferably go with a friend or co-worker.

Using your Credit Card

Do not withdraw cash from your credit card abroad. This is the first and foremost thing to remember! The charges are absolutely crazy, and you will lose a lot of money this way. Withdrawing cash from your credit card is for emergency situations only.

That said, you can use your credit card for purchases. In most countries, you can put large purchases on a credit card. For example, you can likely pay for your accommodation. When it comes to smaller things like food and entertainment, it will depend on how developed the credit card system is at your destination.

Be vigilant about credit card fraud. It is still very frequent in many places so be aware of this. Don’t let your credit card out of your sight! Also, make sure that you only use it at reputable businesses. Additionally, try not to use it online through shared Wi-Fi connections. Plus, do remember to put a travel alert on your credit card with your bank.

Pro Tip! Do some research on travel forums and ask for advice from your partner organization. You might also consider reading our article on how to save on travel expenses as unnecessary costs are always unwanted and can be detrimental to humanitarians and their budgets.

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