Currency, Cash, Budgets, & More

Local Currency

When preparing to go abroad it is always smart to have some local currency on hand when you first get off the plane. We recommend getting $100 to $150 in your host country’s currency from your local bank before leaving. This will allow you to become familiar with the look and feel of the currency, and you will have one less thing to think about upon arrival at the airport. Please remember however that most U.S. travelers are able to obtain local currency from ATMs in the airports abroad without problems.

Be sure to check your specific program location pre-departure sections for information on the local currency in your host country.



Currency Converter

Check currency conversion websites such as for daily currency conversion rates. They even have an app you can download on your phone for quick and easy access.

By calculating local currency equivalents for $1, $5, $10, and $20 (and writing them down if you easily forget), you should adjust quickly after the first few days of travel.



Be sure to let your bank and credit card companies know about your travel plans. Otherwise, foreign transactions could be flagged and your accounts could be frozen.


Before you go abroad it is important to note that banks generally offer the best exchange rates but also charge a commission. Many independent, non-bank exchange offices do not charge commission, but offer poor rates of exchange.


You may be able to withdraw money from your bank account at home by using your ATM card if your bank card has either Cirrus or PLUS symbol. These symbols can typically be found on the back side of your card. The PLUS network is typically associated with Visa cards and the Cirrus network with Mastercards. Simply find a machine with the same symbols and you will be able to access funds from your CHECKING account.

Please consult with your bank before going abroad in order to find out what additional fees will apply.

Discover and American Express cards are rarely accepted in many foreign countries so be sure you have either a Visa or MasterCard for your time abroad.

For additional information on banking abroad check out the following articles:

Credit Cards & Cash Advances

Credit cards are a great way to pay for things while abroad, especially if you have a credit card with no foreign transaction fees. However, it is important to note that not all cultures are as accepting of certain types of credit cards (i.e. Discover or American Express) or even credit cards as a whole. Therefore, it is smart to have a back up plan for getting cash while abroad. The best way to do this is with a debit card, so be sure you have one in your wallet before you leave the country.

Some credit cards may also let you obtain a cash advance from your credit card account at an ATM machine serving your network if you have a PIN number (different from your ATM PIN; Get your PIN number before you leave home). If you don’t have a PIN number, you can usually get a cash advance at an exchange office or at a bank. Please be aware that high interest rates are usually imposed on cash advances though so it would be wise to bring along a debit card for these instances.

Emergency Funds

We recommend that you have a major credit card (either a Visa or MasterCard) for emergency purposes.

If necessary, it is possible to have your parents wire money to you directly. This procedure takes about one hour on their part (more for you to retrieve it) and should be restricted to emergency use only since there is a fee for both the service and transportation to the agency where you can obtain your wired funds. Please remember that the rate of exchange will be the official exchange rate on the day the transaction takes place.

An organization that provides wire transfer services is Western Union. You may want to call them before you leave to find out details and to see if this is even an option in the country or countries that you are planning to visit.

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