1. Carry Credit and Debit Cards – Credit cards can be used in most shops, restaurants and hotels in developed countries and usually in the better (read: more expensive) shops in major cities in developing countries. Small shops discourage their use and in some places, like Bhutan, shops that do accept credit cards will tack on an additional surcharge (it’s seven percent in Bhutan!).
Debit cards are ideal for retrieving cash from ATMs in the local currency. I always carry at least a couple of days worth of cash in the local currency with me in case something goes wonky and I’m unable to get access to more cash for a couple of days.
Carry the non-toll free number for your credit card company and bank in case your cards are lost or stolen. Toll free numbers don’t work outside of the U.S. and Canada and your credit card company will accept collect calls.
2. Use a Money Belt or Pouch and a Change Purse – Keep some small change easily accessible in your pocket or a change purse in your daypack so that you can pay for small purchases such as local train rides or items at a market. Then, carry the bulk of your money in a money belt, neck or leg pouch. These are large enough to also hold your passport. By keeping these underneath your clothes, no thief will be able to make a quick getaway with your precious cash.
3. Currency Converter – Before you arrive at your destination, get a relatively good understanding how much the local currency is worth in your country’s denomination. Create a little cheat sheet, perhaps on an index card you can easily carry in your, and include common exchange amounts. For example, 50 rupees = XX dollars, 100 rupees = XX dollars. Get it? You can find current exchange rates at at XE.com.
4. Carry Travelers Checks – I know, it probably sounds SO passe.
However, I never, ever, ever leave the country without them. I have heard too many stories from people who couldn’t use their credit or debit cards for unforeseen reasons and found themselves out of cash in a foreign country. With no travelers checks in hand, they were reduced to, literally, begging for help from hotel desk clerks and waiting until they could find an ATM that would work with their card(s).
Change purse: The Hills are Alive