404 Money



As an expat, I often forget how hard international travel can be. Since I’m lucky to be able to drive or train to several countries within a few hours, travel is easy. Since I already deal with a foreign language on a regular basis, knowing I will at least speak English at hotels and sites actually means I speak more English when I travel than at home. Since the Euro is the currency of so many countries I travel to, I don’t even have to worry about figuring out the cash situation.

So, when I arrived in London last week with only my German bank card and a few Euro bills, I realized something important. Money is important.

I don’t mean budgeting, which is vital, but actual money.

The best way for me to explain this is to list a series of what I should have done.

What I should have done on our trip to London

  • I should have remembered that my American debit card was expiring a few days before our trip started and ordered a new one as back-up.
  • I should have kept the pounds from previous trips in a secure place, a place that I remembered, so that I would have had some with me.
  • I should have looked up what the exchange rate was just so I would know if, at any point, I was getting a horrible or decent deal when exchanging money.
  • I should have contacted my German bank to see who they partner with, then figured out where those bank’s ATMs were located in relation to the airport, the closest tube station, or my hotel.
  • I should have looked up what the coins look like and what their value was to save myself a lot of time since the smaller coins did not necessarily mean they were of smaller value.
  • I should have researched tipping policy for things like sit-down meals, free-walking tours, paid tours, and other situations.
  • I should have visited the transportation site to have an idea of how much a tube ride would cost so I wouldn’t spend an extra 30 minutes trying to find the correct kiosk since I didn’t believe the tickets could be so expensive.e

And now I know. Just because I deal in foreign everyday, doesn’t mean I understand every type of foreign – even when it has a common language.

I would love to know what other money-related things you might recommend for your travels.

One of my favorite places in the US is San Diego, California. Donna is writing about the A-to-Z’s of this beautiful city as part of the challenge. Check out her site soon!

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  1. Money…so important to traveling! Nice tip on checking exchange rates before you head off. Xe.com is a good site for that. I usually use ATM’s and am sure to debit in the local currency- but if I exchange money I try not to do it in airports or train stations where you tend to get a worse deal.

    On major streets like Damrak in Amsterdam there are many currency exchanges in close proximity. Check rates and ask if they charge a commission too. If you’re exchanging even a 100 euro you could easily save 10 euros on a few minutes of your time! 🙂

    • The only reason I had to think of relying on airports and train stations is that I couldn’t find anything near me to do otherwise! We had such a packed schedule that taking the time to find an ATM would’ve been difficult. But, none of the ATMs at the train station accepted the pin & chip card that I had and I ended up getting money out at a Marks & Spencers.

      So true that checking rates and commissions can save you quitea bit.

  2. So every trip I put out some euros or pounds to bring with me, and then I almost always forget them. Ha. I need to remember for our trip next month!

    • I try to keep it in my travel wallet, but the kids got a hold of it recently and the rest is history. I obviously need a new place.

  3. Ann, This cracked me up. Yep, I’ve been there, well actually worse. I sent my 16 year old daughter there with only a few dollars and a debit card that didn’t work. I know, bad mother!

    • Uh-oh. Definitely worse. I had a million and one back-up plans, but when kids are only 16 they can’t be expected to make it work as well. Gotta remember that.

  4. Really enjoyed reading this post because I can certainly relate to this. Honestly I am a plastic person so everything that I do in terms of transactions is either online or using a credit card in-store. I rarely carry cash around with me unless I have a real need to (e.g. if I know that I need to pay for tolls etc). But….whenever you go to a foreign country it’s essential that you get some local currency, even if it is enough to get you going for the first couple of days.

    • I know it. In Germany we’ve found we have to carry a lot of cash since so many places don’t accept cards. It’s really weird how something as easy as money – and how it’s used (credit cards, cash, types of coins, mobile phones) can vary from country to country.

  5. Great post Ann, I hate standing around digging through my change trying to figure out the denominations to pay for something. It may only be a couple minutes but it always feels like hours pass while I’m trying to sort myself out. Funny how something so necessary like money can be so much work.

    • Thanks Calli. Especially in countries where coins can be worth quite a bit, and since there’s so many options wallets can get heavy fast. It’s really time consuming.

  6. The trickiest European place I’ve found recently was Amsterdam where they seemed very picky about which cards they accepted. Despite an assortment between us, we got stuck in both a supermarket and a local train station. Cash got us through the first, but we didn’t have enough coins for the ticket machine in the second and the office didn’t sell the tickets we wanted! I thought we were the worst in the UK……anyway, always pays to check and not make assumptions.

  7. Sorry you forget all those important thing. We have been in a that situation, crossing into the Czech Republic with only Euros. It’s so easy to forget now that there is one common currency for most of Europe.

  8. Having all your money things in order before your trip definitely eliminates last minute concerns however we’ve all been in these situations before. Unfortunately that’s often times how we learn even when we have done our research, something new presents itself. Knowing how much our daily withdrawal limit at the ATM was very helpful for us before visiting Italy. If the amount is super small have your bank raise it before you go to ensure you could take out more if needed. Great tips you’ve provided!