Cash is King but Keep it Safe
Since the introduction of the Euro as the dominant currency for EU member states from 1999 to 2002, many of us now breathe a sigh of relief when travelling abroad as the days of queuing at the bureau de change to get your Pesetas or Drachma are now a thing of the past.
Since Ireland joined the Euro in 2002, the barriers of converting foreign exchange into our own local currency and working out how many Lira make a pound when paying for dinner in Italy are long gone making paying for things whilst abroad much easier.
However, with recent unrest in top holiday hot spots such as Greece, and the cost of our cheap package holiday being more like a months mortgage repayment, many of us are looking to non Euro countries for a cheaper alternative to the European summer holiday, or if you are lucky enough to be heading further away, you will pick up a few US Dollars instead!
We have a look at some popular holiday destinations and how best to plan your finances whilst there.
Using your cards abroad
Turkey has become more of a destination hot spot for Irish tourists due to it not being in the Eurozone and offering great value for money. Technically Turkey sits at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, and has always been a firm favourite for sun seekers.
Turkey has not joined the Eurozone and still operates with their existing currency of Turkish Lira, making prices highly competitive for Irish tourists, if you can work out how many Turkish Lira there are to the Euro!
There are an abundance of cash machines in most European destinations, all of which accept Visa or Mastercard as standard. If you have a Visa debit account or a credit card by one of these, it will be worth having that with you as your primary source of access to money. Your bank Laser card probably won't be accepted in foreign ATM's so before you go, make sure you have sufficient funds available in the accounts which you will be able to use.
Some of the more modern cash machines in places like Turkey issue Lira, Euro's and Dollars but it is always best to have done a quick calculation in your head before you approach the cash machine on how much you need to take out in Lira or Dollars. Generally with Euro's you know how much you are spending.
In Turkey, legally you can use Euro's, but this may only be acceptable in bazars or small retailers. Larger outlets or restaurants usually require local currency as payment. If you wish to pay in Euro in some places, you may experience resistance or difficulties with the exchange rate and potentially end up costing you more.
Travellers cheques are becoming relatively void now for most holiday makers, due to the amount of ATM's available. If you do still use traveller's cheques, it is advised to research where you can cash these in ahead of your trip as not all banks and bureau de changes will.
Popping over to the UK for a quick trip is pretty much standard nowadays, especially with cheap low cost airline and flight times of less than an hour. However, you may be surprised to learn that not all shops will accept your Laser card! The UK version of our Laser card is a Switch Mastero card; however, many of these cards have now been replaced with a roll out of Visa Debit cards to replace existing Switch cards, and the same will soon be happening in Ireland with the replacement of Laser cards.
Although a Laser card and a Switch card are essentially the same thing, often in some UK retailers, when attempting to pay with a Laser card, it is declined. However, accessing money from a cash machine never seems to be a problem. Similarly, by paying with your Laser card in the UK, you may not always be able to get cash back, so we suggest take out the cash you need from an ATM and budget for the trip.
Remember every time you make a withdrawal from a foreign cash machine, you incur additional charges from your bank for using it abroad, (much like mobile phone roaming), so taking out all the cash you need in one go will save you additional charges instead of taking out the odd tenner here and there which will cost you more. Just remember to keep all the cash safe and don't walk round with wads of it on you!
Keep your cash safe
It goes without saying that any large sums of cash should be kept secure in a locked safe in your hotel. Most hotels will offer this service at a charge payable locally. Only carry the amount of cash on you each day that you require and exercise the same cautions you would do in Ireland when using your bank card. Always shield your pin, and don't let a waiter/shop keeper take your card away to process a payment, insist the POS machine is brought to you or you go with them to the till.
If you only carry the required amount of money with you on a daily basis, you can then leave your wallet/cash cards in the safe at the hotel, so if you were to lose anything, it would only be that day's worth of cash. If you are planning on returning to the hotel after a day at the beach before you head out for your evening meal, then it's worth leaving evening money in the safe as well, thus reducing even further the amount of cash you are carrying.
When you are abroad, if you lost or had your cards stolen, you potentially wouldn't have a clue what the number on them was or the 24 hour help line to your bank. Before you leave, it pays to write down the number of your cards, and the helpline number for your bank. Keep this document safe in a folder with all your other travel documentation such as travel insurance and lock it in the safe of your hotel.
Protect your personal belongings at all times and never compromise safety for a few hundred notes of cash. As a tourist, you are increasing your risks of being a target for petty thieves. Don't leave valuables in your bag on the beach unattended and be vigilant at all times. Whilst we want you to relax and enjoy your holiday, you are more likely to be the victim of theft in a foreign country than at home.
One final note to remember… check your pockets before you go diving into the pool or sea! You would be surprised at the amount of people who do that with cash in their pockets!