getting your head around different currencies
Updated: Aug 18
No matter how long you're travelling for or where you're travelling to, you're going to need to get to grips with different currencies. Some are pretty easy to handle and remember the conversion rate, whereas others are simply ridiculous and confuse me every time.
This post is mainly for South East Asian countries since that's where the currencies vary the most in my opinion! So far in SE Asia I've travelled to: India, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, so the tips below are centred around that.
DON'T EXCHANGE MONEY BEFORE LEAVING
I rarely ever exchange money before I leave! Whilst exchanging it in your home country does often mean the best rates, it does also mean you'll have to carry large amounts of money on you as you travel, meaning that a: if the worst happens and you get robbed, ALL of your money is gone, and b: it's harder to keep track of spending.
When you arrive at your first country/destination, there'll be an abundance of exchange counters or ATM machines to withdraw money! You'll likely pay a fee at every ATM but I still think this is a better option than travelling with large amounts of money.
USE ENCLOSED ATM'S
In my experience, the ATM's in Asia are pretty safe and scam free. I've never had a single bother with an ATM in Asia yet, but one tip is to use the ATM's that are enclosed in glass shelters. These ATM's usually belong to and are located near a bank, which more often than not have security officers.
I used plenty of street ATM's, but the enclosed ones are my preference. Not only are they air conditioned (heaven!), but they're harder to be stolen from due to security and CCTV footage.
AVOIDING ATM FEES
Spoiler alert, there is no truly avoiding them. Thailand was the worst culprit for withdrawal fees, costing around a fiver (!!!) each time I withdrew. One way to combat this is to withdraw larger amounts of money each time so that you pay the fee less often.
I know I just said not to carry large amounts of cash, so I'd limit it at £100 each time you withdraw, and then you can split the money into smaller amounts that you feel more comfortable carrying and leave the rest locked away.
KEEP YOUR MONEY IN NUMERICAL ORDER
This might just be a tip because I like being organised and think everyone could do with a little more organisation, but one thing that really helped me a) understand the values of different notes, and b) keep track of spending, was to keep my money in numerical order. Have the largest value notes at the back and keep them in descending order with the smallest value at the front.
This saved me in so many situations! It's super handy for bargaining and for when you're in markets as it means you know where your small notes are and don't have to get all of your money out to find the right note!
DOWNLOAD A CONVERTER APP
I'm terrible for keeping track of conversion rates and how much something is equivalent to in pounds so I downloaded a free currency app that allows you to quickly convert offline. It really helps get to grips with the value of different currencies!
REMEMBER A BASIC FIGURE
Unless you're really good at remembering numbers and good with maths (AKA, not me), I would always pick a rough figure/conversion rate to remember. For example, £1.00 is 92.76 INR (Indian Rupees). It's much easier to remember that £1.00 is roughly 100 rupees. This way you can know that 400 rupees is roughly four quid etc. and it becomes easier to recognise prices.