Where to change money for a trip | Pre-Departure Advice


One of the least fun things about traveling for me is changing money before departure. Let me explain: I do not like the organizational aspects, I like to dream of travel, not to deal with the more practical issues!

Romantic, of course, but the truth is that everything else is there too. So, once the destination of the trip has been decided, in addition to hotels and means of transport, often, one must also think about changing money . Otherwise we won’t leave! 😉

Among other things, changing money is not only necessary for distant destinations. In fact, there are many nearby – and beautiful – destinations where, however, the euro is not in force. And you need to remember this in case you can’t or don’t want to use credit cards.

Hence the idea of ​​this article, for the use and consumption of those who are about to leave for a trip to a non-euro country!

Changing money: where it is convenient and how to do it

Since there are so many cases and things to know, this is a mini guide . Just click on the titles that interest you to go to the dedicated paragraph.

  1. Where to exchange money for a non-Euro foreign country
    • Currency exchange in the bank
    • Exchange money online
    • Monteta change with credit card
    • Exchange money with the ATM
    • Change currencies on site
    • Travel Check
  2. How to manage the withdrawal of foreign currency on the go
  3. Exchange foreign currency upon return to Italy
  4. European countries where you need to change currency
  5. Other practical tips for a trip outside Europe

Where can I change my currency to go to a foreign country?

Once you understand that the countries that do not accept euros in Europe are different where is it better to change money?

There are actually many options, some simpler and some less so. Among these solutions, some are more expensive and others more low-cost.

Before starting, however, I would like to make a premise. Normally when we choose a destination we prefer the accommodations where you can pay by credit card , on the spot or by prepayment. It is not always possible and sometimes involves a small extra expense but when we use the booking portals we pay attention to this too.

The reason? Well the simplicity – and the peace of mind – of not having to go around with a lot of cash but only with a magnetic card. So pay attention to it because it is usually specified in the property sheet, even when it comes to an apartment!

Ok, having said that, however, it is not always possible to pay by card, especially in certain countries where it is not widespread. So some money has to be changed anyway . Therefore?

BOOK HOTELS THAT ACCEPT CREDIT CARDS : we use Booking which is now a widespread circuit practically everywhere. At the time of booking it is possible to check if the structure allows payment by credit card or even if the entire amount is paid online. A tip: always print the booking receipt also in the local language, it will avoid problems. If you are not sure how to use Booking and filters, follow the link that leads to the complete article.

The most traditional option – changing money in the bank

Exchanging money at the bank before leaving for a foreign country is usually the more classic option . But be careful because if the currency is among those listed it is possible to change it in Italy, otherwise it is necessary to do it in a bank in the destination country.

Usually the exchange in Italy is among the most convenient ones but you have to take into account the time to physically go to the bank to do the operation, perhaps by booking the currency in advance. Personally, I don’t like changing money at the bank because I never have time to go there.

Another alternative is to go directly to a bank in the country you are visiting , which I have only ever done once. It was a country whose language I didn’t know at all and it was an experience: first in line for hours with the locals and trying to make yourself understood with the counter clerk. To be honest, however, we also had a good laugh and everyone was very friendly to us, so I could consider it as an experience part of the holiday! 🙂

Change money online: currency exchange on the web

The online currency exchange service is a way to change currency from home and then choose the most convenient exchange agency from which to make the withdrawal. So in fact it is the booking that is made online, but then you have to physically go to the agency.

Some providers offer this online currency exchange service. The advantage is that in this way you save on commissions, it is not necessary to wait several days as often happens with changing money in the bank and the exchange rates are very competitive.

It depends on the provider you choose but often you don’t have to pay anything at the time of booking .

ATTENTION : Obviously with this online exchange system there remains the problem of having a lot of cash to carry around throughout the journey. However, normally you will have the opportunity to convert the foreign currency into euros upon returning from the trip at one of the exchange agencies present in the area at the same exchange rate.

Exchanging foreign currency with your credit card: pay attention to the circuits used!

Generally all credit cards are enabled to withdraw money but be careful because you must have the card PIN .

This code usually has four digits and is requested at the bank. With this you can withdraw at any ATM abroad, but evaluate the fees and the exchange rate applied.

This is an option that we often use, also because normally where possible we choose a credit card also for the payments of the structures where we stay. So we avoid having too much cash especially during traveling trips.

ATTENTION: first check if the VISA or MASTERCARD circuit (i.e. the standard circuits) works in the destination country . In China it happened to us that these circuits were not widespread (the UNION PAY circuit was instead widespread) and therefore our credit cards were practically useless.

Change foreign currency with an ATM: see if it works!

An alternative to withdrawing money abroad with a credit card is to use the ATM to withdraw foreign currency directly in the country where you are . Again, check the fees and currency exchange rate first.

ATTENTION: not all ATMs can be used abroad. Those that work are those that have stamped the word “Maestro” on the magnetic card. In any case, check that the ATM Poin you have chosen belongs to that circuit, otherwise the withdrawal will not be possible.

Money changers: change money at the airport or in the city

Currency changers are usually the least convenient for the exchange rate, but on the other hand they have the convenience of being in the most strategic places, such as airports or the city center or the most popular destinations for tourists.

So is it worth changing money at the airport? It depends, if you need to have currency immediately available (perhaps to pay for a taxi or bus ticket), stop at the ones at the airport, they are usually also the most controlled ones (although, no, they are not usually the exchange rates anymore convenient).

MORE TIP: In many countries we have encountered “improvised money changers” , ie people who offer tourists to change dollars or euros into local currency. Normally, even if the exchange rates they offer seem favorable, there is always some “trick” behind it but… it depends on how urgent you are in having the money you need. In these cases, the advice is to change small amounts and then wait for an official change.

Are there still Travel Checks?

A few years ago they were used a lot: Travel Checks are travel checks that are normally purchased and used outside the European Union, convenient because they allow the traveler to have the necessary money with him without fear of being robbed or losing money because they are fully refundable.

They can be purchased at the bank but must be booked (usually at least 15 days in advance), they are nominative and are signed upon purchase and at the time of currency exchange. They are usually only accepted in large hotel or commercial establishments or can be exchanged in local banks.

ATTENTION : Travel Checks are not accepted in all countries and some countries do not even issue them anymore, considering them an “outdated” method.

How is it convenient to manage the withdrawal and exchange of foreign currency?

Is it better to withdraw a lot of money abroad all at once or to make many smaller withdrawals?

Here, this is a question from… bankers! In general, it seems that it is more convenient to make a single withdrawal rather than withdraw small sums several times . The problem, however, at least as I see it, is that if you are facing a traveling trip, perhaps by public transport, you have to move with a lot of cash practically always with you.

If this is the only possible option in my opinion in this case the best thing is to buy a money belt . They are easily found at the airport or can be purchased via the web.

TO TRAVEL SERENE : to be more relaxed when you have to carry a lot of money with you, we use a very light and comfortable money carrier (follow the link to see how it’s done). In this way we try to reduce the risk of theft since the suitcase is never a good place to stow money (on vehicles it can be stolen or opened, even the one with a padlock). An additional tip: if you choose this hypothesis, put the money inside a small plastic bag and then put it in your belt, so as to avoid problems in case of storms, sweat or … Indian monsoons!

(Re) exchange foreign currency upon return from a trip

Since it is not easy to estimate the costs of a trip in advance, it happens that part of the money changed  is not spent . In this case, the option that many, including me, use if money is low is to make the  last purchases at the airport .

If it happens to me I usually buy drinks or snacks for the return trip but be careful with liquids because you will have to buy them after the check.

If, on the other hand, the sum of money in foreign currency is significant, check where the  exchange rates are cheaper, whether abroad before returning to Italy or in Italy.

REMEMBER : if you have exchanged money with online currency exchange services, remember that some allow you to convert back into euros at the same exchange rate when you return from your trip.

European countries where it is not possible to pay in euros and it is necessary to change currencies

When it comes to changing money, many think of distant destinations like the United States, where, of course, you will have to change euros into dollars. However, there are destinations in Europe where currency exchange is necessary . In England, for example, you will have to change euros into pounds, in Poland the Zloty is in force, in Hungary the guilder, in Croatia the Kuna and also our beloved Albania is a European destination that requires the exchange of money.

There are therefore several other countries where there is no euro close to Italy and where you will necessarily have to change currency for a holiday . Here are some European destinations where you cannot pay in euros with the currencies in use:

  • Coin Bulgaria: Lev
  • Polish currency: Zloty
  • Hungarian currency: Florin
  • Coin Denmark: Crown
  • Romanian currency: Leu
  • Currency Czech Republic: Crown
  • Hungarian currency: Forint
  • Currency Sweden: Crown
  • Currency Albania: Lek

In these countries you will necessarily have to change euros into local currency. Remember that! 😉

Other things to know for a trip abroad besides currency exchange

After the useful information for changing money abroad, here are a couple of useful tips for traveling abroad in general.

Beware of using your credit card

One of the things I want you to pay attention to (from personal experience) beyond currency exchange is the use of credit cards . There are two issues to watch out for: the spending ceiling and the card blocking. Here they are in detail:

  • Credit card spending limit: Keep in mind that your loved one has a limit but for a trip outside Europe to a non-low-cost country you may need to consider raising it. This is not only to manage ordinary expenses (especially if you plan to pay a lot by card) but also because you may be required to make deposits such as for car rental that “blow the roof”. The request to increase the ceilings must be made directly to the bank and normally takes a few days, so be prepared in time.
  • Card Blocking: One thing that happened to us several times in the US was card blocking. This was motivated by the bank for “checks for anomalous payments”. They were probably making a different use of the card from our usual one and with particular times connected to the time zone. So a protection block which however created some problems for us. In this case, it is always better to have a back-up card to use in an emergency (perhaps a prepaid one)

Never forget travel insurance

There is another aspect to consider before leaving for a trip abroad: insurance . In fact, outside the EU, the issue of medical insurance becomes delicate. Or rather, it becomes that of health care, because in some countries needing a doctor, even for a triviality, could be expensive. The same thing applies to the cancellation of the trip . So it’s worth thinking about first, just like for currency exchange.

In general, there are many travel insurances on the market, but before stipulating one it is advisable to check some parameters such as the duration of the trip, the country of destination, the people covered, the deductible and the type of holiday . If you think you need it, you can follow the link and read the post dedicated to travel insurance , where we try to make an analysis of the factors to keep in mind before buying insurance for a trip abroad.

TRAVEL INSURANCE : if you do not have travel insurance, we recommend the one we use. You can make the quote directly online in order to evaluate the costs without obligation (you will receive it by email after entering the data). For the readers of the site there is also a 10% discount. Click on the link to find out more.

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