Patrick's Travel Tips: Currency Exchanges
Hi, my name is Patrick. I’m the “P” in “CP Travels.”
While you may know me as a world traveler extraordinaire (I kid, I kid), I still make a ton of mistakes when it comes to traveling and planning. From forgetting to pack essential items (toothpaste, deodorant, underwear, etc.), to losing my bags, or just straight up getting lost, each of my adventures has just a little dash of unnecessary chaos added to spice it up a little. On the up side, however, is that for every mistake that I make, there’s a lesson to be learned and a tip to be shared. With that being said, I present to you, Patrick’s Travel Tips- a real-time, real-ass guide to learning from my mistakes.
So there you are, already on your way to the airport, only a few hours from departing and it hits you. “You idiot, you forgot to convert your money. Shit!” Now you’re at the airport with a wallet full of bills which will be irrelevant in a matter or hours. (Unless you’re carrying a bunch of crisp $20s and small face $100s. That shit is king damn near anywhere. One time I was able to get a literal fuckton of oil paintings at a Vietnamese shop because I offered to pay in USD, but I digress.) So WTF do you do now?
Well, since your dumb ass didn’t have the foresight to make the time to go to the bank and switch that over then you’re basically screwed, right? Well yes...but also no....this is kinda one of those “kinda” kinda situations where it sucks but there’s a solution, but the solution still kinda sucks.
When you’re at the airport you can still exchange money, but prepare to get totally screwed over with a weak ass exchange rate, and a wild ass teller commission.
What happens is airports tend to take advantage of the fact that you’re basically trapped by inconvenience and NEED the money. It’s like when you go to any sporting event, or the movies, or pretty much any damn where where there are vendors selling shit. They hella overcharge and we pay because we want/need it. Some may charge more, others less, but in the end it’s still too much to be paying for the basic level bullshit that we’re getting. Airports are the same way. They know when you’re leaving you either don’t want all that random currency you’ve collected from their home country, so they offer to buy it back for a slightly jacked up exchange rate and a convenience fee, or they know that you need money to go abroad because those bland ass green, same sized dollar bills are so passé. You go through with it because you want to be able to buy hot dogs, or whatever it is you get when you get of of the plane, and literally no one else in the world wants those Vietnamese Dong, or Moroccan Dirhams, or Hong Kong dollars (actually HKD are awesome. Keep those.) you still have, except maybe your local bar to stick up on the wall.
So what can you do to not get your ass handed to you when you wanna exchange money? Well, you could’ve gone to the damn bank like you know you should have and got a fair deal. But we aren’t dealing in hypothetical situations right now so you gotta be smart about where you exchange your money once you get into the airport.
First thing you wanna do is exchange that shit fast, but not too fast.
If there’s a currency exchange somewhere between the entrance and the security check, go there. This is that magical in between spot where you can still say, fuck this airport shit, I’m going home and, as unrealistic as that is, they know that. The first place tries to catch you with its convenience. It knows someone is gonna walk in and say, “Well I suck for not going to the bank, so let me get this out the way now.” So they go to the first place they see and get it done. But remember what that song said, “you better shop around.” Take yo ass into the terminal and get checked in first. Then if you have a couple minutes find one a little further in. If there isn’t one then go back to that first one you saw. At least you can say you tried.
What you don’t want to do is take your happy ass through that checkpoint with a wallet full of old bills thinking you’re about to hit a lick. Once you enter that weird ass, “international but still in a country area (read that here when it’s available)” all bets are off. That commission rate you saw outside has gone up and that weird ass board with the red numbers that you barely understood outside looks a lot more confusing but you know for damn sure them numbers went up ever so slightly.
The second worst thing that you can do is go all the way to your other country with old country money and try and change it at the airport. Are you serious? What are you thinking? They don’t want that damn shit! What they supposed to do with a bank reserve full of this blue money, that they can’t spend? This burple bill bountry! #GangGangWholeLottaGangShit
This is when you’ll really get hit with some shit that’ll hurt your feelings more than your wallet, ESPECIALLY, if they don’t even accept the currency you want to exchange over.
For context, I live in Taiwan and I know for a fact that if I travel anywhere outside of Asia they’ll look at these brown $15 (500ntd) bills like I done lost my damn mind.
Avoid getting your feelings hurt and just do it in a country where it can be spent.
Now, the absolute worst thing you can do is exchange that money on the street in the country you’re visiting.
Love yourself more.
Now, you might need to do it if you’re in a bind, in which case, I feel you big dawg, but damn. You gotta try and find a bank or something because you about to get touched in not a good way. Curbside currency exchanges are straight up criminal agencies and idc if you have anything to say otherwise, you’re a liar and you bite KitKats in the middle. In short, you’re just like them and just can’t be trusted.
I’m sure you’re probably asking why it’s a good idea to exchange money at a bank, it’s basically the same thing as the currency exchange at the airport but...a bank, right? While you’re right, you’re wrong. Banks want money that can be spent. They want your money, your local currency. They can’t collect interest on Euros or Won or Yuan or Kuna, (I don’t even think the Kuna collects interest on itself. Shoutout to all the Croatians though. I fuck with y’all heavy with how y’all screwed Bosnia out of a coast line. Y’all some cold blooded MFers *read that article here once it exists*) so their biggest incentive is to get rid of whatever else they have to get those greenbacks back. To do this they offer it up at a fair exchange rate and damn near zero commission (they already getting paid).
So now you know what to do in case you’re in a dumb ass situation like my dumb ass who, even with all of this knowledge and experience, forgot to do what I needed to do and exchanged money after I walked through security.
TBH though, you could always use your cards. Almost everyone accepts plastic now and with the right card you can get miles or cash back deals and can often choose the currency that you pay in. (Read about how to choose the right card here)