Handling travel money is an important part of any successful journey.
I'm sure you've heard the adage, "Take half the luggage and twice the travel money."
Money is a great travel asset, but make sure it doesn't get lost or stolen.
Here are a few safety tips I follow to avoid being pick-pocketed or scammed:
I leave everything of value, such as jewelry, at home. I don't bring anything along that I don't want to lose. I mean it.
I travel with luggage and things that are less expensive. I advertise the fact I probably don't have anything that's worth stealing.
I keep all valuables in a money belt, including passport, plane tickets, credit cards, travel money, rail passes, and travelers' checks.
I leave most of the contents of my wallet at home and use it to hold a few days' spending money.
I carry my wallet in the front pocket, with a rubber band around it. This makes it more difficult for a pickpocket to slip it out of my pocket. If he's sees me use it, he'll go try someone easier to pick pocket.
Female travelers I met also wear a travel money belt for all essential papers, credit cards and the bulk of their money. They avoid purses and keep non-essential things separate in a small, easy to guard day pack or better yet a local plastic shopping bag. Day travel money is kept in a separate small wallet or pouch hung around the neck on the inside of their clothes.
The best way to travel with money is in the form of ATM cards, credit cards, local currency, dollars, traveler's checks and Western Union, in this order of importance. I carry ALL types of travel money except for the last. Thank goodness, I have never needed a travel money boost from Western Union, but it's there just in case.
ATM cards: Bank cards are the best way to obtain cash in most countries using the thousands and thousands of ATM machines located worldwide. This is the fastest, easiest and least expensive way to get travel money abroad.
You get the best exchange rates without paying commissions. And the best thing is that many ATMs are available at four o'clock in the morning, when you need the money the most.
Make sure your pin number is exactly four (4) numbers long. This pin-number standard works worldwide. Be sure to tell the bank that you are going abroad. There should be no surprises for them or for you when the bank puts a hold on your card for ATM withdrawals in Brazil.
Be sure to guard your ATM card and your pin number well. Shield the ATM keyboard with your hands when entering a pin number. Also check that there are no ATM skimming devises on the ATM itself.
Credit cards: Credit cards are also very useful for covering many of your travel expenses. They're necessary for renting a car and reserving many hotel rooms.
In emergencies you can also get a cash advance, but they are more expensive than using an ATM card. Again, make sure your pin number is exactly four (4) numbers long and that your pin number actually works.
Also obtain a credit card that doesn't charge you a special fee for using a credit card outside the United States.
This includes Capital One Credit cards and Schwab Credit Cards. Schwab actually pays you the cost of using most ATMs since they don't have ATMs of their own. It's a great deal and I have a Schwab card.
Local currency: Sometimes I get local cash ahead of time, say $100 worth, before I go on a trip.
It's a little more expensive than getting cash from an ATM there. But it's well worth it to have local cash on the first day for taxis, fast food, and other quick expenses.
At the end of a trip, I hold on to any left over foreign currency, especially Euros, since I know I'll be using them on a later trip.
Dollars: I always travel with extra American dollars for emergencies, especially in third-world countries. I always use twenty dollar bills that are new and crisp. Bills that are old and torn are not usually accepted.
Traveler's checks: I always travel with my left over traveler's checks. I don't cash them in at the end of my trip. I just keep them for emergencies.
Western Union: if I lose everything including all my cash and credit cards, I can always call a friend or family member and have them wire me money via Western Union, anywhere in the world.
Just look for the distinctive yellow and black sign. After your friend has sent the money, get the special code from him and go to Western Union along with your passport, and you'll be back in business in no time.
Here are some quick money-saving tips:
Go off-season to save Travel Money.
Try a package tour.
Buy a rail pass.
Check out deals for bus, museum or city passes for the region you are going to.
Stay outside of expensive cities in the cheaper, surrounding villages (20 minutes by train) and ride the train in the morning.
Find alternatives to hotel rooms. There are a lot of them and many accommodations are quite excellent.
Never call from a hotel or use anything in the mini bar.
Always ask for discounts from the people at the front desk at any hotel you stay at.
Do your own laundry every day.
Eat your main meal at lunch time. Order the daily special.
Go to the local delis, bakeries, and grocery stores and buy food and drink for a picnic.
Stay at family owned lodgings. See if breakfast is included.
Check out the pub grub in taverns around the world. Places like Britain and Spain are famous for great meals or snacks at little or no cost.
Check to see if the tip is included in your bill. It should say so on the menu, such as "Service compris" on French Menus.
Take a walk instead of a tour. It's free and many times, a lot more fun.
Buy no souvenirs. Carry any you buy in your pack. You'll learn to live without them.
Time is money. Don't skimp on a taxi ride if it saves time.
Also be sure to invest in a good set of shoes, well broken in, and a good travel pack.
And remember, you are on vacation. Learn to splurge every once in a while.
Here are some important road skills:
Go to page on Safety First
What to do about Lost Travelers
Motion Sickness and Sea Sickness
Diarrhea and Its Cures
Travel Tips for Europe
Useful Travel Tools
Electronic Travel Applications
Audio Tours for museums and cities