The Hidden Cost of Traveling

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Have you ever traveled outside of the country or do you plan to in the future? If so, it’s important to keep in mind how and where you will exchange your American dollars for the local currency. Many people, including myself, are often blindsided by the fees that tag along with currency exchange, and often don’t take the necessary measures to get the most out of their dollar.

For example, last summer, I studied in Barcelona, Spain for six weeks. Prior to my departure, I exchanged a couple hundred dollars for euros. While abroad, there were times when I ran out of euros and had to withdraw money from the Spanish ATMs. I was aware of the convergence fees that the ATMs would charge me, but I was unaware of how quickly they’d add up. I ended up paying roughly $50 in ATM fees while abroad. I was unaware of the steps I needed to take to ensure my financial well-being while travelling. I soon learned the significance of taking out large quantities of money to help avoid continuous ATM fees. Therefore, on my next adventure out of the country, I made sure to take cautionary measures with converting my money by researching the best methods -something I highly recommend everyone does before they travel to another country.

My next adventure and financial lesson was my service trip to Guatemala where I served an extremely impoverished community. I knew that I would not need nearly as much money as I did in Europe, but I did want to be able to purchase souvenirs, some local food, and also contribute financially to my host family. After researching the exchange rate: 1:00 USD (Dollar) = 7.7 GTQ (Quetzal), I discovered that the rates were lower if I exchanged in Guatemala, and so I did – and the exchange rate was indeed 7.5 GTQ per USD. I also discovered that most foreign countries value the US dollar, and are willing to let you purchase items with it (often resulting in a bargain for you).

In essence, one of the most important things I learned from my travels is how to be cost effective with currency exchange. My best advice is to avoid change bureaus in airports and train stations.

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