For most casual travelers, planning any foreign trip involves a checklist which more or less covers the following:-
- Air tickets
- Mini lists of things to do/see/eat/drink
- Foreign exchange
- International calling
Once you have your flights and visa figured out, you should map out your finances for the trip. All the other things on the list above can be figured out on the fly. But foreign currency is something that you need to arrange for before you leave the country. We Indians, especially, are at a disadvantage as the rupee is not a reserve currency, and those paper bills are little more than souvenirs to your foreign hosts. I remember having to carry cash in dollars and euros on my short trip to Sri Lanka (read: First Impressions of Sri Lanka) as not even our neighboring country would accept the Indian rupee! You can forget about exchanging rupees in faraway continents such as Europe or the Americas.
For flashpackers and last minute travelers, the burden of arranging for Forex makes spontaneity less exciting. I remember when my friend went on his first international backpacking trip to Canada, and realized a few hours before he was to catch his flight that he had no currency bills except a couple of thousand rupees! He had to exchange his notes at the Mumbai airport at the worst rate possible! (He was later able to arrange for sufficient Canadian dollars with the help of his hosts, but only after a lot of hassle.)
It is for such situations that you need a convenient foreign currency and money exchange solution. When IndusInd Bank told me about their newly launched IndusForex.com, I was curious to know if it would help travelers like me. So, I got on a call with their Retail Banking Head to have my queries answered.
I picked his brains on their multi-currency exchange portal to gauge if it was comprehensive enough to be a one-stop-shop for my Forex needs. The site primarily lets you buy and sell Forex, send money abroad in 16 currencies, and reload your Forex card in 8 currencies. Which brings me to my first tip:-
Tip-1: Get a Forex Card!
It is the simplest and most secure method of carrying money on a foreign trip. I have used Forex cards on each of my 3 trips to Europe so far (read: Lleida – A Reminiscence). There are certain things you must keep in mind with a Forex card:-
- It works as a debit card, so you can withdraw cash in your destination country’s local currency at any ATM.
- You need to remember a PIN (obviously!)
- You lose nothing when you lose the card, because you can easily call up the issuing institution, ask them to block the card you lost, and ask for a replacement / addon card. Without your secret PIN, the Forex card is only a piece of plastic.
- You can shop and pay your restaurant bills without carrying credit cards with you (which levy a significant Forex conversion fee and can be misused if lost as many countries don’t need a PIN / two-factor authentication).
IndusInd Bank’s new Visa Forex card additionally promises some features, most of which I haven’t seen on such cards by other banks / Forex card companies:-
- No currency conversion charges even if you are converting among the 8 available currency-options in the card. This means, if you are just back from USA, and are prepping for your next trip to Singapore, you can convert your balance US dollars into SG dollars at no extra fee!
- No processing fee when you order and load your card for the first time.
- No ATM withdrawal fee. (With other cards, I’ve always lost a couple of Euros with each withdrawal, which has prompted me to take out excess cash just to avoid being charged for frequent ATM visits.)
- Fully paperless application process. The site lets you upload your supporting documents (passport and PAN) online, and dispatches the card via courier (if you don’t wish to collect it physically).
Tip-2: Carry Cash in Multiple Stashes
Despite all the cards you have with you, it helps to have cash for a few reasons:-
- Not all places accept digital money (think: roadside kiosks famous for local street food you just cannot miss)
- You may not have access to an ATM everywhere, especially in sparsely populated hamlets situated away from the cities.
- You will need some emergency cash in the event of your cards getting stolen (even if you have no notional loss).
For all foreign travel, I always split my cash into at least 3 parts.
- One part is hidden somewhere in my check-in luggage.
- The second part is usually tucked away in my carry-on bag.
- The third stash is always on my person (in a waist-pouch or money-belt). Any thief will literally have to get into a deadly combat with me to get to the 3rd part.
When you keep money in multiple locations, you always have some even if one part is stolen or lost. Also, if one of your bags is lost/delayed in transit, it doesn’t spoil all of your vacation.
I’ve given you 2 of my biggest money-tips for your next trip abroad! Do you have some more of your own that you’d like to share? Let my readers (and me) know through your comments below! 🙂
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