Have you ever ran out of money while traveling? Has the thought that you may be stuck without cash to move around in a foreign country? Don’t worry too much if it has not happened to you, but it has certainly happened to us.

Preparation for a trip:

‘Before every trip, I go and work out some numbers on how much everything is going to cost. I want to make sure to have a list.

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.



When traveling we tend to bring back-up cash, an ATM card, and a credit card. It makes life easy knowing that you can pay for things and not have the burden of not having any money left over.

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:
Sarah and I were traveling throughout Central America. We were in our last country of El Salvador. It was coming down to our last days and cash was getting low.

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:
 As we walk back to the hotel, I told Sarah we were down to our last $30, and we some how needed to make sure to save it in case of emergencies. You never know what could happen on the road.

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:
As we tried to grab a ride on a bus, the first Bus driver said it would be $1.50 for each of us and $1.50 for each bag. We argued because it was a little bit some BS! Are you kidding? Being in 3rd World country like El Salvador, I guess he could extort that money from us. The problem was that he wouldn’t even take the $5 I had left. We were screwed.

 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.

Our bus exchange

Lessons Learned:

Make a list:

  1. Budget the amount of money you want to spend per day
  2. Bring back-up cash and stash it away
  3. Have enough money in your bank account for ATM withdrawals
  4. Don’t spend like it is the end of the world.
A list

Other Lessons:

  • 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:

We are not novice travellers either. Sometimes mistakes can be avoidable. Being prepared for the unknown is half to the battle. It will help with your travels.

 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.

Money or take travel

Tell us of your advice:

Let us know if you have any advice. Let us know of some of your crazy travel experiences that did not go all as planned. We have all been there. We would love to hear some of the stories.
“Life is short and the world is wide.” – Simon Raven

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