This is entirely up to you, but we think it is critical for you to bring along at least $200 USD in cash for emergencies. This is what GEEO’s Executive Director Jesse does in regards to money while traveling:
“I do not exchange any money before traveling to a country but instead bring somewhere between $200-$300 USD in cash. I go to a bank before I leave the U.S. and take out the cash there rather than an ATM. I make sure each bill is in great condition with no rips or tears. I like to have mostly 20’s, but in some countries you are better off with 50’s and 100’s. In some countries, it is also good to have about 20 singles for when you have no small bills in local currency. I divide this money between a money belt, my main backpack, and my daypack.
I also bring an ATM card and a credit card. Before I leave the country I call the bank and credit card companies to let them know I am traveling abroad so they don’t think the foreign transactions are fraudulent and cancel my cards when I am most reliant on them. Having a second bank account and bank card is pretty handy so that, just in case one card doesn’t work at an ATM or is lost, you always have a backup account. It’s also important to check with your credit card to see if there is an international transaction fee. Some cards charge up to 4% extra for any transactions made out of the U.S. My Capital One Visa card doesn’t have any international transaction fee. I just use this card for traveling so if it gets stolen and I have to cancel it I won’t have to worry about recurring automated payments. I like to split up my cards between my money belt, wallet, and one emergency one hidden in my main bag.
When I arrive at the airport I make sure to go to an ATM before leaving the airport and typically take out the equivalent of $150 USD in the local currency. I find that ATMs give the best exchange rate so throughout the trip I will use the ATM card to draw out my spending cash. I will ask our tour leader for an estimate on how much I will need if I am close to leaving a country so this way I do not draw out too much money.
I try not to use the U.S. cash I brought with me so that I can use it in an emergency. Typically I will come back to the U.S. with most of that U.S. cash unspent. On a recent trip, I lost my ATM card and was able to get cash by paying for our group dinners with my credit card and having people pay me their share in local currency. I NEVER take cash advances on my credit card as they charge you an arm and a leg.”