Travelling cash




Packing for your big RTW trip…? Lay out all your clothes and your money on the bed then, as the saying goes, take half the clothes and double the money. But then you have to look after your hard-earned road money – here are a few pointers that could save you having to come home early.


  1. Don’t get ripped off on the exchange rate before you’ve even properly set foot in your destination. Know the exchange rate before you arrive - is best and the XE app is a great one to travel with.
  2. You rarely need travellers’ cheques these days since there are few places in the world where you can’t find an ATM. An online database of worldwide machine locations will reassure you that there are ATMs in all the countries you’re visiting.
  3. Try to get some local currency before you arrive at your destination. You don’t want to find yourself late at night in an airport without cash machines and no way to get to your hotel.
  4. After that first withdrawal from the ATM find a quiet corner – a restroom perhaps – to familiarise yourself with the bills as soon as you can. (Over-paying a taxi-driver with a bill for 1000 rather than 100 on that first ride from the airport is a classic slip-up.) Read this on your first 40 minutes in a country
  5. Carry at least two credit-cards, working from separate accounts, and keep the cards hidden separately. If your bank blocks the account for security reasons or if a card gets ‘eaten’ by the machine you’ll always have a fallback.
  6. Carry a secret wedge of cash. Euros can work best in some regions but, in general, dollars are still the most reliable form of cash worldwide. Make sure the bank gives you US dollars that are not older than 2006. Have at least a few smaller denominations: US$50 bills are sometimes not accepted – and in remote third-world villages can be rendered virtually worthless by the complete absence of change.
  7. Traditional nylon or cotton money-belts under the shirt are known to all hustlers and bandits but folds of cash in a belt with a zip works well. (A condom provides good water-proofing). Another secret pocket can easily be devised by safety-pinning a simple cloth purse in the leg of your trousers.
  8. As long as you’re going to be wearing your boots/shoes most of the time (rather than carrying them in your pack) then secret stashes, folded into paper and sealed with duct-tape, can be hidden under your in-soles. (Works best in SE Asia where your size-10s are not going to appeal to the average thief).
  9. If you have several secret stashes hidden in various places keep a note of how much money you have hidden so that you don’t have to keep checking the belt/insoles/secret pocket.
  10. In places where armed robbery (on buses for example) is a possibility carry a ‘decoy’ wallet – with an expired credit card and a few small local notes either side of a stack of old rupees or whatever from past trips. (Mine also has a 100 million dollar note from Zimbabwe…worth just a few cents but guaranteed to get the heart-rate of any thief cruelly hammering).

Check out the my post on the ‘deadliest sins’ - ten of the world's most imaginative travel scams here