Thursday, May 30, 2013

Cash and currency exchange

When traveling abroad, you have to consider how you’re going to pay for things.  While you may be able to use your credit or debit card for many of your purchases, you’ll still need some local currency, whether it’s for food, tickets, or transportation.

It’s a good idea to have some local currency when you arrive, particularly if you’re planning to take a taxi to your hotel.  While most airports will have ATMs or currency exchange offices, you don’t want to risk the machines being out of cash or service or the exchange office being closed.  So if you have enough cash to get you to your hotel, that should get you where someone can help you get the currency you need for your stay.

No one wants to risk carrying too much cash, though, so you want to carefully consider how much cash you want to have on you, whether it’s for when you arrive or as you go from day to day on your vacation.  You will want to check with your local bank for any limits to ATM withdrawals as well as any associated fees, and you want to be careful about using your credit card for cash as there are hefty rates associated with cash advances. It’s fine to use it to pay for things; call the company to find out what foreign transaction fees may be incurred (typically 3%, but some cards offer lower rates).

Our cruise ship offers currency exchange on board; we’ve used it before in our overseas travels.  The way it works on DCL is that you can exchange your dollars (or whatever your own local currency is) for the currency you need at a set, posted exchange rate. This exchange rate is based on what the ship was able to exchange for and in our experience has been comparable to what we could exchange for via ATM or otherwise.  When you make the exchange, DCL provides you with a receipt that shows how much you exchanged and what the rate was.  Then, if you find you have some foreign currency leftover and want to exchange it back, as long as you have your receipt, you may return the foreign currency for your own local currency at the same rate you made the original transaction.  We have sometimes used this service when we weren’t sure if we’d gotten enough cash from other methods and wanted to have some extra, just in case.

The Disney ships will accept cash, checks (up to limited amounts), and travelers checks for currency exchange.  You cannot charge a currency exchange to your stateroom account.  So in order to use the onboard currency exchange, one needs to have something to exchange.  We have taken cash before but never quite feel comfortable with having “that much” cash in hand on the way to the ship, so this time we have decided to use the old-fashioned traveler’s check.  Our bank offers them with no additional fees, so we can get the amount we want, and because they have a guaranteed replacement should they be lost or stolen, we will take the necessary precautions and steps to have the information needed in the unlikely, unfortunate event of their loss.  We also figure that if we have any left over that we don’t exchange for local currency, we will just apply that to our stateroom account (more about that in another blog post).


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