Travel Hacks: Travel money done right

Monday, July 25, 2016

If I've learnt anything about pre-travel stress its that travel money or currency related questions are causing you sleepless nights. You've planned everything and you've saved a whole load of money for your tip so travel money, at this point, and throughout your trip is absolutely one of the biggest factors of your adventure. Here are the top travel money hacks out there for stress free travel and backpacking.


Before we did our Latin America trip we did a lot of research on travel money and exchange rates, the idea of losing out on valuable currency due to greedy bank charges and dodgy exchange rates stressed us out no end. We were visiting a lot of different countries with a lot of different currencies and we just couldn't get our head around how this could work travel money wise. I can't imagine anyone in the same position is feeling any different to how we did.

Rest assured though, I'm going to share with you some of the best travel money wisdom and hacks I know. Some have been passed down to me, some I've learnt along the way. But here are some of the best currency travel hacks out there and my own personal review of the Thomas Cook Cash Passport travel money and currency cards.


Scroll down for my independent review of the Thomas Cook Cash Passport for Backpackers


Travel money done right

Hide your money, whenever and wherever you can

Currency is a big deal, no matter what currency/currencies you're going to need you're probably gonna need a lot of it. I personally can't think of anything worse than having a lot of that cash on me at once. I know from experience how quickly things can go from good to dire when you have your belongings stolen. I had my laptop bag stolen from a van in an a car park in Peschiera del Garda a few years back at the very beginning of my 3rd season in Italy. Laptop gone, phone gone, bank cards gone, passport gone. Luckily I was in Europe and not somewhere further afield. My nearest embassy was in Milan a few hours away so it wasn't as big of a problem as it could've been.

Too much cash on you at once makes you a target, be aware of your surroundings especially when leaving an ATM or a bureau de change

I've always been cautious and I guess I learnt a monumental lesson from that experience. My first biggest tip and the most obvious travel hack is something I learnt from my Italian nightmare.;

When it comes to travel money and valuables, hide them! My laptop bag wouldn't have been stolen if it was out of sight. Hide your cards, your currency and definitely hide your passport and not in the same place. 


Money belts are your friend

Call me over cautious but I've heard the stories, I've heard from friends and I've listened to dorm room whispers. People do get robbed in the streets, in bars and in restaurants. 

At night time, but also in broad daylight and it isn't always for a substantial amount of money. The greatest advice I was given was to always wear a money belt. A dirty, probably sweaty, money belt or money wallet.

Think of your money belt as an extra secret pocket underneath your clothes completely invisible to everyone else. 

They've been around since the beginning of backpacking and they aren't going anywhere. Everyone you meet on the road knows this travel hack. Get a money belt, they are widely available online or in travel stores and most supermarkets even stock a range now.

This is a great travel money hack for female travellers and solo female travellers. Bras can become very useful whilst travelling. Especially after a trip to the ATM.,

The last thing you want to do in a public ATM area is open up your money belt and put a load of your fresh new currency in it. There's often always prying eyes and you don't know how safe the area is, especially if you have just arrived in a city.

Once in a private place transfer your money back to your money belt without being noticed. 

It's sad to say this but as a backpacker you stick out like a sore thumb and yeah, that does make you an easy target. It never hurts to be overly protective of your currency especially in bus and train stations, losing it could end your trip. A bra travel money hack isn't really a big deal in the grand scheme of travel and can be a great life hack for solo female travellers who frequent ATMs on their own.

Be prepared to be politely robbed

If you've never travelled before this is going to sound so mental to you right now, but don't ignore this advice.

Always be prepared to be politely robbed!

Whether this involves a taxi driver ripping you off or a being charged at a free border crossing. Always hold a small denomination of cash and be willing to hand that over to avoid situations escalating. Travel money hacks don't come more real than this one. 


Always have a small amount of disposable money at the ready just in case

A $10 or $5 dollar bill could be the difference between a much more violent situation.. Most people these days know that the average looking backpacker is too wise to carry substantial amounts of cash but professional criminals and opportunist robbers know that as a traveller you probably have your next bus fare in your back pocket.

Hustlers and thieves know this too and often and especially in Latin America will politely take your currency from you. Prepare to give up that smaller change in your pocket and know the rest of your travel money is safe in your money belt or hidden in your hostel.. It's an absurd concept, I know, but surely you'd rather give up $5 than get into a conflict.

Travel currency collection


Sometimes cash is best

I'm going to slightly contradict myself here but do your destination research, there will be times when you do need a lot of currency on you. 

We arrived in Playa El Tunco, El Salvador with no cash. We were 20 minutes from the closest cash point which was only filled with currency every couple of weeks. For a period of 3-4 days we had no money and had taken 2 trips to the temperamental cash point which was in an unsafe area of El Salvador. Sometimes you're in the jungle, sometimes you're on an island and sometimes you're up a volcano and there will be no ATMs. In this case always have a secret $100 note somewhere (in a book is best usually). Most countries recognise the US dollar and it could save you the heartache of an unsavory trip to an unsafe town for an ATM.

Most countries you visit around the globe will recognise the US Dollar - If you don't have the local currency its the next best thing. 


A personal review of Thomas Cook Cash Passport

Before a big 6 month Latin America trip we chose to take out a Thomas Cook Cash Passport currency card.

It's a travel money card that's free to use when paying on card - great for paying for meals or hostels and has a set £2.50 withdrawal rate that never fluctuates. You are given decent exchange rates on it, similar to what is available in store.

With the Cash Passport card you set up an online account and load cash from your normal bank account onto this un-skimmable travel money card. Without an account number and sort code it is very difficult for the card to be skimmed in modified ATMs. 

We avoided using our own debit cards as much as possible so this was an absolute lifeline for us. Its available in Mastercard or Visa form, but once again do your research because some banks favour Visa and others favour Mastercard, especially in Latin America. The Thomas Cook Cash Passport is available in single or multi currency option where you can load up to ten different currencies. Ideal for long term travellers. 


travel money, travel hacks, blogger, travel blog, currency, travelsandmore, www.travelsandmore.co.uk


The US dollar card worked best for us, the exchange rate was extremely high and we were able to withdraw in US dollar or local currency in most countries. 

I couldn't recommend the Thomas Cook Cash Passport more for a trip to Latin America. It saves you using your own personal card and you save money paying for food and hostels on this card as it is free of charge to make purchases. 

With the Cash Passport travel money card all your transactions and charges can be viewed in online statements and providing the WiFi is good where you are you can top up whenever. The Cash Passport is free and became a serious lifeline for us during a 6 month trip. A highly recommended asset to all budget long term travellers. 


I am not associated with Thomas Cook Cash Passport or a re-seller of this product. This is a personal review and I earn no commission or have received no incentive for posting this. 

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6 comments

  1. Love these hacks! I had no idea about the cash passport, thank you. And oh man it is so true to always be prepared to be politely robbed. In Bali even the cops rob you by bribing ._. that $5 in cash could save ya butt!

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    1. I didn't know that about Bali but Mexico can be very similar with the police. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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  2. Great tips. The book idea with the 100 is a great idea. I've had a car broken into, but nothing like this. It can't hurt to be too careful!

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    1. Yes! Always wise to have a hidden money source just Incase. You can never be too cautious :)

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  3. Great tips! I'd never even heard of a Thomas Cook Cash Passport currency card before this article! Thanks for enlightening me :)

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    1. Check it out, it really saved us a lot of money. Being able to pay for hostels and busses on our card without charges was great!

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