So how does one carry cash? Carefully! I use a waist wallet, available where travel accessories are sold. Since I mostly travel with my husband, we split up the cash. Once we get to our hotel, we put the cash, our passports and travel documents into a wall safe or the hotel safe. Most of the time that has been safe. But we did stay at a nice hotel in Ecuador where an employee was pilfering through guest’s money and siphoning off $100 bills.
“Geez I thought I had more money than that left,” I thought. I did. He had it.
To avoid someone messing with my bucks, I now carry several large envelopes and wrapping tape. When I put something in a hotel safe, I first place it in the envelope, write my name on it and then tape it shut. After I access it, I put everything back into a new envelope and seal it with the tape. It may seem paranoid, but it works.
Money changers who work independently from banks give the best rate, but you need to compare. Never, I mean never, change money on the street no matter how good the rate is. First of all, you are not in a safe environment and secondly, you may get mugged.
When you decide to change, put the money in your pocket while you’re in your hotel room and pull it out at the changer. Never, I mean never, pull out a big wad of cash at a bank or exchanger. You may be followed and relieved of your burden.
Be aware that money changers can be tricky little devils. Recently in Singapore, changed over $100 US. The changer counted out Singapore dollars placing them in a stack on the counter. I folded the stack, stashed it and went back to the hotel.
Several hours later, my husband asked me for money. I unfolded the stack and shockingly was a Singapore $50 bill short. I couldn’t believe my eyes and kept recounting. I was supposed to have two fifties, but there was only one. Then it dawned on me, I was duped. I didn’t recount the money at the exchanger, because I made the faulty judgment that all Singaporean business people were honest.
I stomped out of the room and walked five blocks back to the exchanger. He was not visible, but a younger man was in his booth. When I asked about the elderly man who had made the exchange, he popped up from behind a stack of goods. He was totally shocked to see me and I didn’t have to say a word. He said, “Oh you left money on the counter. I gave it all to you, but you left it.” (Right!) He then handed me the fifty he shorted me. Lucky me as I’m sure not many people get their money back.
My husband didn’t when we were in Mexico. He went to a bank to make an exchange when the fellow in front of him in line, who was exchanging pesos for dollars, asked him if he wanted to exchange his US for his pesos at a better rate. Why not, my husband thought. Again the guy counted out the money and they made the exchange. It wasn’t until my husband was back at the hotel that he found he had been shortchanged.
Moral of the stories, always, I mean always, count your money before you leave a bank or a money exchanger. Getting swindled can happen to the best of us, and it’s a really difficult lesson to stomach.
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