Updated: Jan 1
Being so frugal for all of my life, you’d think I would have all the answers about money when travelling. The truth is, you'd be absolutely right, you sexy genius. I said I was frugal, not modest. Jokes. I don’t have all the answers, I have what I do most of the time when travelling but it is by no means one size fits all.
It is kind of like when I waited in line to the Grand Temple in Bangkok, wearing a sleeveless dress but with a shawl over it and the woman checking the clothing said nuh uh you need to fully cover your shoulders. This would only happen to me #BIGshoulderproblems. I am like a male rugby player. Anyhoo, I go to this overpriced temple shop to buy a shirt and they are all terrible. I am talking tacky tourist’s would be embarrassed wearing these pieces. I point to a small semi decent bland looking shirt and the woman goes “you no small. you laaaaarge.” and proceeds to hand me an XXL purple sack of a shirt, with a fat cartoon hippo on it. In that case, much like money whilst travelling, it is not one size fits all. Sometimes you are a petite small, other times you look like the Purple People Eater.
Here is what I do with my precious money while travelling:
In general, when going to Asian countries, cash is king. And by king, I mean if you don’t have cash then you’re f’d. The little corner shack serving Fanta out of a organ transplant cooler won’t accept credit or debit cards. Legit accommodation, for the most part will, even if they are not a huge chain. And the 7-11’s of this world I think will also accept card. Transportation will be hit or miss. Again, most buses where you need to sit on a cage with a live chicken in it won’t but some main train stations might.
So you need cash in Asia but you will be horrified to know that most countries such as Thailand and Vietnam will charge, on their end, an ATM fee. It varies, but those with a set fee it was about 8 euros per transaction. Regardless of how much money you take out, it will still be that set amount. This isn’t including the fee (if there is any) that your own bank charges you. If you are Fancy Miss Pansy then you may have one of those bank accounts that give you so many free international ATM withdrawals but I have no la dee da friends, so I am not sure which banks/ cards do this.
When taking out money in a foreign country, I was told to always take out in the local currency, never have it exchanged to your home currency. Meaning, when the ATM in Bangkok has a message like “would you like to convert this to CAD currency” say no. I don’t know how valid this advice was, but it apparently if you say yes, it adds one extra exchange, costing you money.
Most banks will have different withdrawal limits as well (both the local bank and your own) so keep this in mind.
Before I leave my home country, I usually take out 250-350 cash in my local currency for a two week Asian adventure and find a good place to exchange it once I am at my travel destination. Again, this is not for everyone. Some people don’t feel comfortable caring so much money around. Large purchases I try to book beforehand and pay with a credit card whether online at booking.com or in person once I am at the accommodation. Again, this is not for everyone. Especially when going for longer duration’s, you won’t have any set itinerary and winging it may entail rocking up to a dock, picking a boat and getting on.
Once in Asia and my money is running thin, I play chicken with whether or not I need to take out more. The stupid ATM usually wins.
I also download a currency converter that works offline on my phone just so I know what I am spending.
Vietnam Best Banks
ANZ (No longer open according to some blogs)
Agribank has ATMs in smaller cities