I’m heading off overseas to Vietnam shortly for a 2 week vacation and a few days at Conference. Fabulous, I know!

I’ve done quite a bit of travelling in my past and I’ve had some incidents with wallets and money being stolen. When it comes to currency and money, a lot has changed since the mid 90s in the way you can access your funds, but what hasn’t changed is that there are still people out there who will steal your stuff.

Here are my thoughts for savvy travelling with money.

Foreign Exchange

Stock up on a little foreign currency of the country you’re travelling to before you head off from Australia, particularly for more exotic locations (if possible). This ensures that as soon as you land you can buy refreshments or pay for a taxi from the airport. Banks generally offer the best rates with the lowest fees, but shop around as other Forex providers can be more competitive.

Having said that, when we landed in Madagascar in Dec 2010, we went to the foreign exchange bureau at the airport and purchased Malagasy currency by exchanging travellers cheques in US dollars. Reasonable rates as well as an easy and quick process. But this isn’t always the case, often airport exchanges are the most expensive!

Pre-paid travel cards

These are great if you want to lock in exchange rates today if you need that kind of comfort. They work just like a debit card, but in the foreign currency. Beware the upfront fees, ATM costs and hidden charges – it can end up costing you a lot more than you expected. Also, the range of currencies available is limited.

Travellers Cheques

Who uses these nowadays? I still recommend this option, particularly if you’re going to out of the way places (like Madagascar) as you can purchase in a foreign currency such as US Dollars (still considered THE global currency) and have the security they provide in the event of loss.

Credit/Debit cards

If you have Visa/Mastercard these can travel with you most anywhere and you can shop just like you do at home. You’ll be charged exorbitant fees for cash advances (not recommended), but for payment on purchases there is usually just a reasonable exchange rate conversion fee. It depends on your institution, so read the fine print!

You can now obtain a credit/debit card specific for overseas travelling and these generally remove those horrible overseas fees.

For me, it’s not a case of either/or. Having a combination of options is always best – it provides you with certainty, security and flexibility. So while that pickpocket is taking your wallet, you’ve still got those traveller’s cheques stashed elsewhere as you ring the police and your financial institution back home to cancel and reissue cards!