How to exchange currency while traveling: obvious and non-obvious

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We have not once touched on money matters on the pages of our website. So, in the article "Issues of keeping money and documents while traveling, "we have shared the tricks used in order to protect themselves against loss/theft of money. And in the article "traveler's checks and how to use them" we figured, what better to use: cash or traveler's checks.

The turn has come to share with you information about how it's better to change one of the international currencies in national currency in the country where you are staying. Inexperienced travelers will find in this article some helpful and obvious tips on how to lose less on the difference in exchange rates (after all, you have to first change rubles for dollars or euros, for example, and then later on the vacation spot to change them for the national currency), and with experienced travelers, I will share one of my secret and non-obvious way to determine whether favorable exchange rate offered in the exchange point in front of you, not even departing from it.

Obvious advice for beginners:

The bills of larger denominations more favorable rate

In many countries, for unknown reasons, exchange for banknotes of different denominations are different. For example, in Thailand the exchange rate on large dollar bills (50 and 100 dollars) cheaper than small (1, 2, 5, 10, 20 dollars). When exchanging euros for such "injustice" there. Of course, not everywhere, but before you change currency for your holiday, find out what the rules are in the country to which you are going to go.

Looking for exchange no hidden fee

Sometimes you can find exchange offices, which offer a very favorable rate, but once you do, you realize with sadness that he received less of the national currency than they could in an adjacent exchanger, where the rate is even lower. It's all in the fee. Some exchange offices indicate a very favorable rate, and in very small print at the bottom with an asterisk are advised that the exchange will withhold from you a Commission of 1-2%. As a result you get less. So, before to exchange currency at a very favorable rate, and indeed in all cases, find out whether there is hidden fee in the exchange.

Refuse delivery in your local currency

In some countries, to pay for some services, such as hotel accommodation, dinner in the restaurant, etc., are in dollars or euros (this is typical for countries with their weak currency, for example, in Cambodia). The change you can offer to give out either in local currency or in dollars or euros. You should refuse the delivery in your local currency if possible, as almost certainly you will calculate the change at a very disadvantageous exchange rate. Try to insist that you gave change in the same currency in which you paid.

Looking for a place where the rate is higher

The most obvious way is advantageous to change the currency is, of course, to find a place where the best rate. But this is not always easy. Traditionally, the most unfavorable course in airports, stations, tourist areas, shopping centers, exchange offices in hotels. A more favorable rate in specialized exchange offices and in areas where the local inhabitants live.

But not everywhere so clear. For example, in Thailand or Vietnam, the best rates can be found in jewelry stores. In Tunisia, a great bargain can offer in hotels. It is necessary to specify information for each country separately. We have on site in sections of the Thai currency, the currency of Tunisia, the currency of Malaysia and others presented detailed information on where and how best to change currency in these countries.


Not to change Russian rubles directly

In some countries in the tourist areas can be exchanged from rubles into the local currency. I also met such exchangers and done for yourself calculations, horrified detecting any unfavorable rate of exchange offered. The use of one of the world's national currencies (dollar or Euro) as a currency broker yet still profitable.

Make sure that you are not deceived

"Lamiki" and similar rogues exist in the world. Everywhere there is the chance to be cheated when exchanging currency, and there's about any benefit of the question will be. In some countries you can cheat even in large banks. Ways of cheating in the exchange of currency is unlimited and their description is drawn to a separate article, if not in the whole site. Therefore, we very briefly touch on this issue.

Recommendations in order not to be deceived, quite simple, but they should follow very strictly:

  • Very carefully calculate the amount you should give, and it better on your calculator (it sounds fantastic, but in exchange there are "twisted" calculators that consider wrong).
  • After receiving the money very carefully and slowly (check each bill) recalculate them and immediately put them in your pocket or purse (do not return them back and not pass to anyone else).
  • If the exchange did not take place and you have returned your money, carefully count and check every bill.

Not-so-obvious secret for savvy travelers

How to know whether the best course in front of you? Sometimes there are situations when you need to make a decision on the exchange on the proposed course right here and now, and there is no way to obegat several exchange offices at once and to choose more favorable. Here you will be able to help my "secret" method of determining the advantageous and disadvantageous of course. Below this a bit of theory for the curious or incredulous, but in the end the written application of the method in practice. If the theory is not interesting to you, you can go to the reading application of the method in practice.

A bit of theory

Have you ever thought of what you earn exchange points? They earn on the difference between purchase and sale. Currency as a commodity is purchased in the population (ie, us) at a low price, and sold to us at higher. The difference between the selling rate and buying rate sellers and put it in his pocket as profits. The greater the difference, the less beneficial the rate at which we sell or we buy currency.

Courses buying and selling are always circulating around a certain average rate, forming the so-called "fork":


The wider the fork, the disadvantage, respectively, the rate, and Vice versa. Sometimes the plug may shift slightly to the left or right relative to the center (average rate), but only slightly, and never beyond the middle of the course. Using this, you can calculate the "width" of the plug in a percentage. At the same time, what will the final percentage, the more favorable rate, and Vice versa.

Ideally, the width of the forks should be calculated relative to the average rate, but because it is unknown to us and difficult to be calculated, we simply use one of the known courses, such as the rate of purchase.

Thus we have obtained the formula, which is very easy to calculate on the calculator:

Формула для расчета

The result expresses fork size in percent relative to the rate of purchase.

Now the question arises: what is the result, i.e., the size of the plugs in percent, should be considered beneficial? To do this, the time has come to move on to the application of the method in practice.

Method in practice

So, to determine whether the best before you the rate of purchase/sale of foreign currency, use the following formula, which is very easy to calculate on the calculator:

Формула для расчета

As a result, you will receive a percentage that will show the "advantage" of the proposed exchange. What is considered profitable and what is not? In practice (mainly in South-East Asia), I derived the following indicators:

  • <A 1.5% - a great exchange rate
  • <2,5% - a satisfactory exchange rate
  • >=2.5% - unfavorable exchange rate
  • >4% - most likely, you are in a Russian airport :-)

By the way, I met and 40%. It was in Pattaya (Thailand) in the exchange of Russian rubles to Thai baht directly.

And now an example:

You just landed in the Bangkok airport and you are faced with a dilemma: whether to contact the currency exchange at the airport or exchange money at a minimum and the principal amount of your destination? The task is complicated by the fact that you are going straight from the airport in maturationthe a place where maybe not so easy to exchange currency, especially at night when you will arrive, and the course where we, of course, do not know.

In the exchange paragraph airport we see the rate for exchange* small bills (1-5 dollars) sale/purchase of 30.21/31,59 Thai baht (currency of Thailand); and for large bills ($50-100) – of 30.99/31,64 Thai baht. Do the math on your calculator:

  • For banknotes 1-5 dollars (31,59 - 30,21)/ 30,21*100 = 4,65%
  • For banknotes 50-100 dollars (31,64 - 30,99)/ 30,99*100 = 2,09%

The result for banknotes 50-100 dollars falls within a satisfactory exchange rate, so feel free to change a few hundred dollars in big bills, and go to rest.

By the way, Thailand, one of the few countries where the courses at the airport quite favorable and do not differ much from the rates in tourist areas (not in the example of the Russian capital airport, where the courses are set just extortionate).

In General, simply print the formula below as a checklist (presented in the form of a picture), attach it to the calculator and use as a guide to action:


A good and best travels!

*given the exchange rate at the airport of Bangkok, Suvarnabhumi on 20.05.2012. the Current average exchange rate of Thai currency can see here.

Comments / recent posts on the topic on the forum
admin 26 July, 2013

Without problems can buy cheques in almost any country and any foreign currency in banks. Russia is no exception: any citizen can buy checks. Just in case I will remind that now the savings Bank stopped selling the cheques they need to buy only from other banks. ...
9 September, 2013
from 1st August 2013. sale of traveller's cheques of American Express in Russia terminated....alas... ...
admin 9 September, 2013

I already know the problem :( :( :( :( . What kind of country we have, 19th century :roll:. The reason for the termination of sales is low demand. And how can he be high if they are just impossible to buy. Used to somehow the BEAC can be beneficial to buy, however I had to order them in advance, and large checks did not exist. And as the savings stopped sales of the like have no place at all was at a reasonable price to purchase. ...
Adaund 17 October, 2013

what does it mean? What are the implications of that are so "bad"? Explain, please, very interesting ...
admin October 17, 2013

As well, what is the consequence? Now they are not even in Russia to buy. ...
Kira777 30 August, 2017
Don'T know about others, but I have most of the money on the card. Beach valuables and money do not take. For all the negativity was not. ...
nausla 31 August, 2017

About the beach a little weird, not everywhere there are lockers.
I take Himachal from the smartphone on the neck where I put my money.
Also, try to leave at least one guard from the things. ...
kamneedoff 21 April, 2018
If going to the beach not one, not see a problem. If one, in the package (if you swim)...)) If just to sunbathe, then the problem of preservation, too, disappears... ...
Eric December 3, 2018
tell me please I have inherited travellers cheques American Express 200€ where I can change and what documents are needed if there is one signature ...
admin 3 December, 2018

Well, in Russia most likely anywhere else because we have more checks the entrance for many years. Therefore try to cash them abroad. If they can't, give to relatives/acquaintances who go, maybe they'll try it. Theoretically, nothing but a passport to exchange them is not necessary, but about the signature of course the question may arise that in the passport and on the receipt signatures are different. Try your best formal question to American Express to write There is also a contact form and email. ...

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