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Student Travel Survival Guides: Foreign Currency

Posted by Michael Johnson on Wed, Jan 29, 2014 @ 02:00 PM


2014 is flying by and this year’s class trips are well under way. We’re excited to see you all on the road!

Somewhere amidst the anticipation of your upcoming adventure, there’s surely a little bit of anxiety too. It’s perfectly normal to be nervous before a class trip, especially if it’s your first time.

Lucky for you, we’ve been at this for over thirty years and counting, so hopefully our Survival Guides will help you tackle those nagging questions and master the art of preparing for your student trip with relative ease.

You’ve already read our amazing winter packing guide; this week’s guide is all about foreign currency.

First thing's first: no matter where you're travelling it's always wise to invest in something to help secure your personal belongings, like a money belt. It's an effective and inexpensive means to avoiding any nasty surprises on the road.

If your class trip is headed to a foreign country, it’s worth going out of your way to find an exchange rate that gets you the best bang for your buck. The challenge is that exchange rates aren’t consistent everywhere you go, and in the event of surcharges and commissions you could end up getting way less than you bargained for.

It’s wise to start by doing a little research. Websites like Oanda provide the latest exchange rates and free online conversion tools for every major currency. This will give you an idea of what is and isn’t a reasonable rate. Having this insight will help you make a more informed decision when it comes to selecting your exchange provider; plus, you can act fast if you see that the latest rate works to your advantage.

Typically, our student travel programs are set up so that you will enjoy a few hours of free time each day for activities like lunch, shopping and group exploring. We recommend budgeting about $20 per person per day. A four-day trip to Québec City, for example, might require anywhere from $60 to $80 in spending money: three or four lunches (depending on your itinerary) and a little extra for souvenirs. For this kind of budget, we recommend exchanging your foreign currency before departure. Your bank typically offers the fairest rate but it's always worth doing a little shopping. Think of it this way: arriving in New York City with your lunch and shopping money ready to spend is WAY better than arriving in New York City and spending all your free time in line at the nearest exchange bureau.

A note about ATMs and credit cards: consult your provider about international fees. Having all your spending money on one or two cards is very convenient, but it’s important to remember that most banks and credit card companies charge you extra for transactions made in foreign currencies. It might only be a few dollars per transaction, but even just a dozen of those could see you $30-50 out of pocket on your next bank statement.

Stay tuned for our next guide, Cell Phones and Travelling: How to stay connected on the road without your phone bill having the last LOL.

Topics: Student travel, Travel tips