Monday, January 18, 2010

1 Mailbag Monday: January 18, 2010

After reading about all your adventures I’m sure this is an impossible question but I’ll ask anyways-- what was your favorite place on your trip?
Sandra N., Brisbane, Australia

It certainly is a pretty impossible question, but it’s one we get a lot. Thinking about it in terms of where we’d want to return soonest, the finalists would have to be Argentina and New Zealand. Argentina had such a great combo of natural beauty in Iguazu Falls, vibrant city life in Buenos Aires, rural charm in Mendoza, and amazing food throughout. New Zealand’s landscape alone left us wanting more.

The biggest surprises for us were Cambodia and South Africa. Cambodia has a lot more to offer than just Angkor Wat—Siem Reap itself is actually a cute town, Phnom Penh is fascinating, and the countryside in between looked like something we’d like to explore. South Africa has such an intriguingly diverse landscape and of course the opportunity for safari scores it major points! We could stare at elephants in the wild all day long.

We would be remiss to neglect our favorite stops in Europe: Paris, Cinque Terre, and Krakow. It’s hard to believe that places as authentically charming as Cinque Terre and Krakow still exist, and as for Paris—it’s Paris!

Would you recommend changing money before visiting a country or traveling with travelers checks?
Derek C., Tulsa, OK

Neither, actually. Money exchange bureaus—whether at home or in destination countries—are notorious for charging exorbitant service fees. Even when they advertise “no fee”, it’s hidden somewhere, often not realized until you get back far less than you expected and the exchange is non-refundable. Your home bank may offer relatively more favorable rates but may be limited in the currencies they provide. As for travelers checks, to be honest with you I’m not entirely sure how they work as I’ve never seen anyone using them.

The best way to get cash is to use your ATM card once you are in your destination country. This is where you will invariably find the most favorable exchange rate and ATMs are everywhere—beginning with just outside customs at most international airports. It’s a good idea to withdraw cash in non-round numbers, ie 1900 instead of 2000, because getting change in some countries is often difficult and getting stuck with two 1000 bills is never fun.

There is often a standard withdrawal fee equivalent to using another bank’s ATM in the States (about $2-4USD) but even that isn’t always the case. Just make sure to check that your bank allows international withdrawals without extra charges on top of that. It’s a good idea to check in with them anyway so they don’t freeze your account when they see pesos being withdrawn in Mexico.

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1 comment:

  1. Great tip about ATMs - we lost probably $100 when we changed a TON of dollars to yen in the Seattle airport before moving. Ridiculous! Welcome back to the States and thank you for writing.


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