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How Much Money to Take When Traveling?

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How much money/ currency/ cash should I carry with me when traveling?

Hello D,

Yes, I advised a reader on the page, Exchanging Currency How and When, to be sure to carry at least $500 in US Dollars with him when traveling in the Middle East. But his trip was only for three weeks, and he had two other traveling companions with him.

US Dollars

In a similar circumstance, I would give the same advice regardless of any changes in the global economy, as when the economy is bad in the USA it is often worse abroad. So the US dollar often retains its relative value. In fact, during the height of the economic crises, I was able to exchange my USD for a far better rate than I was two years ago. As far as I have been able to determine, the economic crises has not lowered the relative street value of US dollars in many countries.

Though I do highly recommend that, if planning a longer trip, that travelers should carry with them at least $500 to $1000 USD in various places on their person.

It is true that ATMs are available readily in most countries in the world, but many of these money machines cannot be trusted. ATM fraud is now rampant:

A traveler inserts their card into an ATM and the numbers are then used later on by other people. I do not know how often I have been around travelers who have had mysterious “charges” taken out of their debit cards after using ATMs in foreign countries. When this happens — and it could happen to anyone — the traveler usually needs to cancel their card, and, if this is their sole source of obtaining funds,  they then find themselves in a very precarious situation.

My recommendation is to use ATMs as little as possible, only make withdrawals from money machines connected to major, well known banks during business hours, and to take out as much money as you think you will need for an entire month.

I also suggest, in addition to the month supply of local currency, to also always keep $500 to $1000 on you, as this would enable you to stay afloat and to continue traveling as you wait for your bank to send you a new card in the case of a compromise in security or outright theft.

US dollars can also be exchanged anywhere, and having a large supply of them will remove you from being tied into ATMs as your sole source of obtaining funds, and will also limit the pressures on you to use unsecured money machines.

Traveler’s checks are not worth the paper they are printed on.

This is the strategy that I usually use when traveling. I hope this helps.

More information on carrying money and exchanging currency when traveling

Walk Slow,



Original question about how much cash to carry when traveling


I just read your article on currency exchange and where you say that you should carry $500 American on you. With the economy the way it is, is there anything in your article you would change or does it pretty much still hold true today? Thanks a lot, -D

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Filed under: Money, Travel Help

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 68 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3025 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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