From Cash to Credit Cards – The Best way to Spend Abroad

One of the big challenges many of us face when travelling is what to do about money in a foreign country.

If you exchange money, you lose, if you take it out at a local bank, you lose, so how can you minimise the fees, charges and dodgy exchange rates and get the most out of your money on your next holiday?

It’s a question we often get asked. And fear not, there are actually a number of things you can do that will help minimise your costs.

The reality is, every country is different when it comes to the best way to access local currency. In Peru for instance you’re far better to take extra cash and use local, reputable money exchangers to change your money over, while in Mexico, it’s far more convenient and cost effective to take money out of a local machine – using either your standard ATM card or a travel card.

The benefit of using a travel card is that you can lock in a good exchange rate before you go. Savvy travellers watch the exchange rate for their chosen destination and when it works in their favour, transfer money onto the card.  Using a travel card, which is generally separate from your everyday bank, also ensures that if something happens to your card, such as theft, no one has access to the money in your primary bank account.

Fees and charges vary from bank to bank and card to card so it’s best to shop around to see what works for you.

Some ATM cards, including ING’s Everyday Saver account, now offer no international withdrawal or transaction fees. This means you can use the card anywhere in the world with no extra fees. It’s very handy if you’re a frequent traveller. (Note; there are sometimes special requirements to this feature like having to deposit $1000 into the account every month so it’s best to look up the bank’s website to make sure it works for you)

If you would prefer to take some local currency with you – which is always a sensible idea – we’d advise against changing it at the airport at the last minute where’ you’ll generally get the worst exchange rate. This is true of most airports overseas as well, except Cuba, which offers the same rate of exchange as you’ll get pretty much anywhere in the country.

Instead, think ahead and look for a local currency exchange outlet that offers no commission, no fees and good conversion rates. Most cities in Australia have a plethora of exchange outlets, but many charge fees that eat up your money. Shop around to find the best deal.

Most airports have ATMs, so if you arrive at your destination with no local money, you can generally access money. I don’t like to rely on this, though. I once got caught arriving in India with no local currency and no way to access an ATM. We had to get the cab to stop on the way into the city, which wasn’t ideal at 3am!

Still feeling confused? It’s always worth doing a quick search online to find out how you’re best to handle money in your chosen destination. There are many discussion boards across the web, including on Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor and other travellers will often have great advice on how to best access the local currency.

And finally, make sure you have multiple ways to access your money. We generally take some US dollars wherever we’re going because it’s so widely used, two different types of savings and a credit card from an entirely separate bank. That way we’re sure to be able to access money somehow! It’s a good idea to separate your cards so that if you’re wallet gets stolen, you don’t lose all your cards – and access to your finances – at once.

Oh, and if you’re going to a destination that’s off the beaten track, check with your bank that your cards can be used in that country. Some banks have restrictions in Cuba and Iran for instance. And don’t assume ATMs are easily accessible everywhere you go. In Myanmar they can be difficult to find. Again, check online forums to see just how easy it is find ATMs at your destination.

And it goes without saying you should let your bank know where and when you’re travelling so that they don’t shut down your account.

If you’re next trip is a Two’s a Crowd tour and you’re still not sure what to do, ask your tour host or our office staff who will be able to advise on the best ways to access currency at your destination.

All it takes to get the best out of your finances when travelling is a little preplanning.

*Diane Squires is a tour host with Two’s a Crowd.

What Our Clients Say

20 out of 10!

The trip was just great - I can't really think of any negatives. Diane will back me up when I say I usually give 10/10s - I gave her 20/10. Trish, Canada/Alaska

Excellent trip

I found the overall trip excellent. I believe Diane's professionalism, inclusive personality and ability to relate to all contributed to this. She worked to ensure the group was cohesive without individuals impinging on the personal space of others etc. a good skill to have and one she applied effectively. Kate, Canada/Alaska

Fantastic value for money

Fantastic value for money paid. Russell our guide is an asset to your company... he was fantastic! Overall the trip was magical from start to finish. Well done Two's a Crowd ... the best trip ever. Barbara, Canada/Alaska

Fantastic first solo trip

I had a fantastic trip. Absolutely loved Canada and Alaska. It's the first time I have travelled solo and was pleasantly surprised to find a bunch of people that all got on so well. Diane our host was great. She did a good job of getting us altogether for meals, excursions, shopping trips etc. I liked that she quietly got things done without being loud or "in-your-face". She was good at being one of us as well as our leader. Wendy, Canada/Alaska

Good balance of activities and spare time

Had a great time. Good mixture of organised activities and spare time. Diane was an excellent tour host. Russell the tour guide was great, very knowledgeable and personable with his insights into growing up and living in Canada. Sharon, Canada/Alaska

Well organised trip with an excellent host

The trip was well organised, with a good mix of activity and free time. The scenery was spectacular and fellow travellers were a great bunch. Diane is a excellent host - helpful, courteous and above all a pleasure to know. I found her bubbly personality a bonus and can only speak highly of her. Gary, Canada/Alaska

I had a fabulous time

I had a fabulous time. Lake Louise and the hotel were magnificent. The cruise was excellent. Diane made sure that she was available for group meals and sightseeing, and was alway in good humour and great fun. I would recommend your company to everyone and am very interested in the Scandinavia  tour at the end of 2017.

Cathy, Adelaide - Canada/Alaska May 2016

Great holiday

What a great trip! I experienced so much and participated in all that was offered. I had read and reviewed as much as time allowed me but was not prepared for what the trip gave me and that is a better understanding of the beautiful people of both countries. - Lesley on Vietnam/Cambodia

In good company

I thought the suggestions for optional things to do, in the "free" time were very good. So good, we really ended up with very little free time. So much to do! - Mary on Vietnam

Great time together

I found the trip interesting and eye opening with a great overview of both Vietnam and Cambodia. The other travellers on the trip were fabulous and we had a great time together. - Anonymous on Vietnam/Cambodia

Fantastic first experience!

Extremely well organised with fabulous guides throughout - especially in Vietnam! First holiday with your company and certainly not the last. - Glenys on Vietnam

Great group to travel with

Having a small group meant that the days were more relaxed and flexible and I really felt spoilt and looked after. Melinda on Borneo

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Can’t stop talking about my experience

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Absolutely enjoyable

Gillian was a fantastic host. She was there for us from the moment we reached Hotel Troy. Heather on Africa

Best holiday I’ve been on!

One of the best holidays that I have been on - really well organised. I would never have travelled to Vietnam or Cambodia on my own. Bronwyn

Well organised

Fun, well organised and a really great group. Barbara on Vietnam/Cambodia

Great time together

I found the trip interesting and eye opening with a great overview of both Vietnam and Cambodia. The other travellers on the trip were fabulous and we had a great time together.

Great value

Well done. No complaints. Very pleased with this trip. Great value for my hard earned dollars! Really enjoyed the [Vietnam/Cambodia] tour. 

Fabulous rapport filled with much humour!

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I couldn’t fault anything.

The (Uniworld River) cruise was great, I met up with some wonderful people who treated me like part of the family !
The ship & crew were fantastic & the excursions were very good, I couldn't fault anything. I'd recommend this cruise to anyone.  Peter

Informative and educational

The entire trip was one of the most enjoyable and exciting. Also so informative and educational. I was so pleased to make the trip. Wish I was over there in that magical place.  Marjorie


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I need not have worried

Being my first tour and a senior member, I admit I was apprehensive but I need not have worried. It was great and I was very well looked after.  Can’t wait to go to Kenya with Two’s a Crowd.  Maureen

Smooth and seamless

A memorable trip of a lifetime, a wish fulfilled.  A fascinating cultural country steeped in history which I found totally enthralling.  Two’s a Crowd service was smooth and seamless.  Pam

A wonderful experience

It was a wonderful experience visiting Cambodia and Vietnam and gave me a better understanding of these countries. I had a great time with new friends, we had a good bunch and Leonie was the perfect host. Eric

Value for money

Value for money and outstanding co-operation from your staff and tour operators. Joan

Safe and secure and totally looked after

An awesome adventure for my first time overseas alone.  Leonie was excellent and both guides were also fantastic.  At all times I felt safe and secure and totally looked after.  Melinda

Well done Two’s a Crowd.

Leonie was an excellent host, the ideal person. I never felt any pressure to  be involved in every activity so I could explore alone during free time. Having 2 or 3 nights in most places was great – you could rest up or party. Well done Two’s a Crowd. Jenny

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