There are quite a few options; the simplest is to decide how much you are going to spend and go to your bank and take out that amount already converted into the currency of the country you are visiting. Of course, the big drawback with this idea is that it is very unsafe for lots of reasons.
Take small amounts of the local currency
Whether you are in a luxury travel Switzerland or budget friendly travel, It is often a good idea to have some local cash when you arrive in another country. You can get a relatively small amount from your bank and take that with you. With a small amount of local currency in your pocket, you will be able to pay for services such as a taxi to your hotel and you will not be stuck because of problems using ATMs at your destination.
Your own regular credit card is probably the most convenient option for ready cash. You can take out local currency in countries across the world. However, keep in mind that although ATMs are available in just about all countries, they may not be nearly as common as they are in Europe. In addition, if you get away from main tourist and city areas, they may not be available at all.
Check which network your credit or debit card is part of before you leave so that you know what to look for on ATMs are close to your hotel and the airport in case you need to withdraw any money from your account.
The other drawback of using credit cards abroad is the cost – banks add what they call “foreign usage loading” on transactions outside of the country of issue. This can amount to 2.75% per card payment transaction, and then on top of that around 2% for ATM cash withdrawals. They also charge 2% for foreign currency withdrawal or a minimum of around £3.
The safest form of cash is still the traveller’s cheque. They are available in all the world’s major currencies, and are exchangeable at banks, other financial institutions and bureau de change offices. “Bureau de change” is an international phrase regardless of the county’s language – useful if you are looking for exchange and you do not speak the local language.
Traveller’s cheques are expensive, but they come in various denominations, some in quite large amounts so you can avoid carrying a bulk of paper with you. Make a copy of the cheques or at least the cheque numbers.
Another option is a pre-paid card. The advantage is that unlike traveller’s cheques, you only pay commission on loading the card; you do not pay again to withdraw cash. With traveller’s cheques, you are charged commission at both ends. However, there usually are some ATM withdrawal fees.
Carrying as much cash as you feel comfortable with can save fees. For added safety, use traveller’s cheques or pre-paid cards; for more convenience, use your credit card. You also should remember that there are some services, such as car hire, that require a credit card as deposit.
Several UK financial institutions do not charge any additional fees for credit card use in Europe: Abbey, Thomas Cook, Post Office, and Saga to name a few. If you bank with Nationwide, you can take advantage of using your debit card abroad without any withdrawal fees.
When going out at night take only the cash you need, and make use of a money belt to carry cash under your clothes. Do not let people see your open wallet; many thieves specifically target tourists. Split the cash with your travelling companions – this reduces the risk of losing all your money and make use of hotel safety deposit boxes whenever practical.
Inform your bank that you are travelling
It is a good idea to inform your bank or credit card company that you will be withdrawing funds from abroad. Many travellers have been stranded abroad without money due to the bank suspending their account due to suspicious withdrawals.
Make a note of the bank or credit card company contact telephone and fax machine number, plus any email addresses in case you need to contact them abroad.