Preparation for a trip:
1. We have cash to take with us for exchange.
– You never know if you may need to exchange cash on the border or if you need to pay in USD.
2. We make sure there is money in the bank account in order to withdraw through the ATM.
– I use the Schwab Investor Checking account that gives free ATM fees all over the world. Want an account and get $100 free, here is a link. (No referral fee, I am just trying to help people out.)
3. Make sure to have a credit card that I can use.
– It never hurts to ask if a place takes credit card.
– Also make sure to ask if their is fee for using it. You don't want to lose money.
Certain countries have a total cash based economy or they just rarely have places that accept credit cards. It can be a bit daunting to always carry excess of cash, but if you travel you will need to be able to have some stashed away.
How we ran out of cash:
Down in El Tunco, we were staying at a hotel that accepted credit card so we had everything ready. We had enough money to get back to San Salvador to stay with our friend. We had enough for lunch, the room, and any other treat. I was still cautious on how to spend the money.
After spending some time at the beach, we went off to lunch. We ran into a guy we had met at Lake Atitlan and had some pizza together. As I was thinking to myself, I wandered what would happen if we had no more cash. I tried to pay for our meal with credit card, but the machine was not working that day.
We were down to our last $30:
There was no longer any money in our account to take out from the ATM, so $30 would have to last us.
As I approached the owner of the hotel, I informed him that we would like to pay. I said can we pay we card. He said we could. Very excitedly, I offered my card.
Then the worst thing happened. The machine was broken. The cost was $25 in cash. We paid, and had enough for a $3 ride back to San Salvador.
Our Bus Exchange:
Luckily enough, we got on a bus that just charged us the $1.50 each. We were set.
We were down to $2 as we left San Salvador. As luck may have it, in Security I found four more dollars in my pocket.
I tell this story not as a story of how we survived, but as a warning in preparation. If you travel be prepared with the amount of money you will need.
Make a list:
- Budget the amount of money you want to spend per day
- Bring back-up cash and stash it away
- Have enough money in your bank account for ATM withdrawals
- Don’t spend like it is the end of the world.
- We did learn that sometimes exchange rates on the border were not as accurate.
- Sometimes you cannot use your credit card.
- Always keep back-up cash.
Other Pieces of Advice:
Make sure to bring enough money. You don’t want to be like us, scared half to the death that we ran out of money. Trips can be ruined that way. We could have been stuck in El Salvador. At least El Salvador has papulsas to eat.
The thought of running out of money never crossed my mind until it actually happened. Through this experience I learned a lesson in money/travel management. It is all about being prepared and budgeting.