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advice money

Money Advice

Money makes the world go round, and it also helped us go round the world! This section provides a few tips on money for the overland trail. We were budget travellers, and on average we spent between $10-$15 per day. We didn't skimp and we didn't buy luxuries too often. We met some French guys who were on $3 per day - staying with families and bargaining with everything - they proved it was possible.

In general, we used ATMs to withdraw local currency, and saved our US dollars for emergencies and paying for visas.

Have a look at the progress charts one and two for a detailed day to day log of our route.

Local cash can be obtained from ATMs, banks or moneychangers. Often it's a good idea to be prepared and have a little local currency before you enter a new country - just in case you can't find a cash machine on the first day.

US Dollars
US Dollars are useful everywhere. It's best to get your dollars at home, otherwise you pay commission twice by withdrawing local currency and changing it into dollars. Make sure you get nice new series notes (large round pictures on the note). You can often get a better exchange rate if you change $100 notes rather than smaller denominations.

ATMs accepting international cards are becoming pretty common all along the overland route nowadays. Of all the countries on the trip, only Iran doesn't have ATMs for foreign cards. In Iran you could use Mastercard (but not Visa and definitely not American Express) to get cash advances in certain banks. If possible, take VISA, Mastercard and Cirrus/Maestro - this will cover you for most countries on the trip.

Most banks won't charge you for withdrawing cash from their machine, but the cash machines in Kathmandu do - an extra 200 rupees.

Travellers Cheques
A safe and convenient method of carrying your dollars. Could be cashed in most places except Iran (American Express!). In some countries, travellers cheques actually get a marginally better rate than hard currency.

Exchange rates
It's a good idea to have a rough idea of the exchange rate before you enter the country, so that:
1. You know how much money to get out from an ATM (Adrian withdrew the equivalent of £4 from a Romanian ATM!)
2. You don't get conned by border moneychangers (we all did crossing into Pakistan)
There are plenty of world currency websites (e.g. www.xe.com/ucc) and any local English-language newspaper will have the up-to-date foreign exchange rates.

Country Specifics

Central Europe
As far as Austria, obtaining money isn't too much of a problem. ATMs can be found in most towns, though be careful, since certain countries (e.g. Belgium) don't use plastic as often as we do in the UK and ATMs are fewer and only in major towns.

Eastern Europe
ATMs were available in the larger towns.

ATMs accepting international cards were available in all major towns - including the border towns of Edirne and Dogubeyazit. The Turkish economy is a wobbly one - the lira/£ rate varied by at least 10% when we were there - watch out for the huge queues at ATMs when something wobbly is going on!

Here things get tricky. Because of the US trade embargo there are no ATMs for international cards and only European Mastercards can be used for cash advances. Ironically US dollars are the easiest way to get cash.
We were told not to change money at the banks, but things have changed and the banks now offer pretty good rates. It's far safer than the black market - you know you're not going to get ripped off. However only certain banks change money and only in the larger towns.

Before entering Iran from Turkey, it is best to change any leftover Turkish currency in Dogubeyazit or at the border itself (Iranian side), however we found better rates at Dogubeyazit.

Limited experience, but ATMs in the larger towns. We got ripped off considerably on the Pakistani side changing money at the Iran/Pakistan border. Be aware and know the rate before you cross.

Increasing numbers of ATMs in the larger towns, but had to change dollars when we headed into the lower Himalaya around Dharamsala.

Any leftover Pakistani rupees can be changed at the Pakistani side of the Pakistan/India border at Wagah by the customs guys - and they actually offer a fair rate.

We only used ATMs in Kathmandu but there may be some in Pokhara. The Nepali rupee is fixed to the Indian rupee (1 IR = 1.6 NR) so money changing elsewhere isn't too much of a problem. Note that the ATMs in Kathmandu cheekily charge an extra 200+ rupees on each withdrawal.