Traveling with Money
I remember traveling in Europe pre-euro. (It’s only been around 10 years, I’m not that old. Ok, maybe I am but still it’s not that long ago.) In that day and age every border meant a new currency with a new name and exchange rate and bills and coins. Post Euro in Europe is easier, but still there are tons of travel destinations with their own money. It gets overwhelming in a few different ways.
Linguistic Overload – Thingies
Every currency has a name, right? Most are easy enough. Dollar is popular and I have seen various Lira, Peso and Francs. Between different languages pronouncing them differently and words I can’t even say or just plain forgetting, I get fed up sometimes and just start calling them “Thingies“. This has been a great amusement to my wife, when I ask how many Thingies does something cost where she is on her trip.
I get used to the local name after a few weeks, but I still can’t seem to pronounce them all correctly. Take even the standard Euro. Every language has a slightly different way of saying it. Ay-u-rro in Spanish. Oy-ro in German. It’s not even written with the same letters in Greek. Add the rolling Rs and odd vowels in other languages I can’t make, Thingies is just easier. And really if I am traveling for a few weeks through different countries, there are sometimes too many to keep track of. I’m lucky if I pull the right one out of my wallet.
Math Overload – Learning Approximation
If you ever travel outside of your home currency you know about exchange rates. They are quite often a bane to travelers in that they are never round numbers and shift daily (through Murphy’s Law always against you). Most of us still think of how expensive something is in the currency that we have our savings and earnings (US Thingies for many and European Thingies for me), so the conversion back to your home currency is important.
Based on use in daily life, the most awesome thing I ever learned in High School Physics (thanks Mr Green) was approximations. We did complex calculations for months without a calculator and the point was to get close not exact. It was then an aspect of sanity checking sciency numbers, but helps for currency too.
I try to reduce things to round numbers. 32.56 Thingies to the Dollar, then use 33.33. Wait, this isn’t a round number is it? Sure it kind of is, it lets you divide things by 3 and multiply by 100. So that 100 Thingies is about 3 dollars. The point is to get to simple math. 7.5 Thingies to the dollar? Do both 5 and 10 and guess the halfway point. Most of us (hopefully) remember the basic multiplication tables, so the point is reducing the big fancy ever shifting numbers to simple 1st grade math.
Currency Overload – All the Pretty Coins
So once you know that the ATM that just spit out 80million local Thingies equates to about 20 Dollars back home, how do you deal with pile of bills in your hand. First I like to look at the big wad of bills and think of myself as a millionaire (it helps soften the blow of checking the bank statement after weeks of travel.) I do however try to restrain the villain laughter, especially while still at the bank. When I have recovered from that fit, I look at what kind of bills I have and try to memorize the denominations and shapes/colors/portraits of people I don’t know. This helps to reduce the embarrassment of just handing a shop keeper a wad of cash hoping to get the proper change back.
This is not as easy as it sounds in some respects. Even after 4 years of living with the Euros, I still find myself turning over the coins to read numbers at the super market. I love coins despite the weight and enjoy currencies with lots of them. I do however like to see coins that are all different. British Pounds for example have a great diversity of coins that are fun to play with. New Zealand was good too. The one dollar coin there has a kiwi bird on it and the smaller denominations various Maori art.
In the end, the trick seems to be memorization and reading of the coins and bills. I will “get” the Euro coins eventually. Thankfully except for the US Dollar, most bill systems that I have seen are colorful and easy to recognize. The Euros are even sorted by size with the 5Euro note being much smaller than the 10Euro which is smaller than the 20Euro and so on.
Too Much Money
To much money is almost never a problem for travelers. Though for me to many money’s can be. This may be another nail in the coffin of me becoming an eternal nomad. Moving around so much I would just get lost in the different monies. Staying for a few weeks or months in a place gives me a change to learn the local Thingies and all those pictures of people I don’t know.
Post supported by Travelex currency services. Remember to buy foreign currency before you leave. With Travelex you can order your money online and pick up in-store before you set off.
This is a supported post, but the words, pictures and sentiments are my own.
January 25, 2012 @ 8:20 pm
Why to buy money? I have credit cards 🙂 and… dollars
January 26, 2012 @ 8:16 pm
Because there are so many places where neither of those gets you anything.
January 21, 2012 @ 11:29 am
I wonder how you’ll feel if the Euro fails, haha – more currency to deal with!
January 21, 2012 @ 11:42 am
Yes, because more currencies will be my biggest problem is the Euro goes belly up. 😉 I don’t honestly know, and trying not to worry so much as there is little to nothing I can do about it.
Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista
January 20, 2012 @ 1:03 am
I too remember pre-Euro Europe! I think I liked it better but it is definitely easier now. I usually figure a rate that will get me close and call it a day. Europe is pretty easy. Last year we went to Mexico and I had a little more trouble calculating all those pesos.
January 20, 2012 @ 9:29 pm
Thanks. There was, as Sabrina mentioned, a more travel-y feel to having different currencies in Europe. Going somewhere, even next door countries, was “travel” as it meant other money. Certain numbers don’t lend too well to easy math, so you end up having to guess. “A little bit more than X” or a “little less than Y”.
January 19, 2012 @ 10:38 pm
Fun post on money. I like your ways of making the conversions simple. I actually hate having cash – I rarely ever have it on me when I am at home but do use it when traveling. I hate coins even more so in Europe those big coins get on my nerves. Can’t just throw 1 or 2 euro coins in a bucket and forget about it.
I guess I haven’t deal with currency issues too much because I haven’t had to go anywhere with astronomical exchange rates. Good tips on thingies though! 🙂
January 20, 2012 @ 9:26 pm
I was totally a card person in the US too. Though having cash does help with saving sometimes as it makes you realize how fast you are spending money. Coins can be heavy admittedly. Though it is nice to see a pile of change and realize you can still go for a night drinking with it.
I love the “thingies” part the best of this post. I’m glad you liked it.
January 19, 2012 @ 5:35 pm
I used to love paying with different money when travelling in Europe as a kid with my parents. So much more fun. Not practical, but it made the whole vacation somehow more “foreign and exciting” 🙂
By the waw, I just downloaded a new app to help with all the conversions when travelling called XE converter or something. Haven’t tried it yet, but seems really easy to use.
January 20, 2012 @ 9:24 pm
There is something fun about playing with the money. Especially when the numbers are really big. Italian Lira made me feel so wealthy, even though an ice cream cost 500L. Oh agreed, strange money definitely adds to the foreign feeling. Not the same any more to just look for the other pictures on the coins nowadays.
I’m not so much into apps, but I think Ali has that one.
January 20, 2012 @ 11:28 pm
Me too!! When we went on skiing trips to Italy my dad would give each of us 10,000 Italian Lira to buy our own lunch every day and it was awesome. We felt so rich and fancy. No matter that it was about 10 Deutsche Mark = 5 Euros 🙂
January 21, 2012 @ 12:17 pm
I remember the first time in Italy at the ATM getting out 200,000 Lira.