You’re travelling in a foreign country and need cash. You find an ATM. But it doesn’t work. Or you get a feeling that someone’s watching you take the cash. Yes. These are common situations you might face when travelling in another country. So here are top 8 tips of things not to do when travelling abroad.
Also read: Top 8 things to avoid when travelling abroad.
1. Don't assume you can use your card everywhere abroad
More and more countries are going digital. So its natural to assume that you can use your debit card, credit card, Apple pay and so on even in other countries, like you possibly do at home.
But these digital payments are still conveniently available in many countries largely for domestic users and therefore, foreigners can have to rely on a combination of cash and card. Take the following factors into account:
Type of holiday and things you’ll do: If you’re only going to be at upmarket hotels, resorts, fancy restaurants, foreign cards are likely to be accepted. If you’re going to be doing budget stuff like staying in hostels, eating street-side food, doing local shopping, buying groceries from local shops, you’ll likely need some cash.
Location inside a foreign country: Establishments in big cities in foreign countries are more likely to accept card. The more you go to small towns and villages, cash is more likely to be accepted.
Way in which you book tours and adventures: If you’re booking tours in a foreign country via online platforms, you’ll typically be able to use cards. You could even use cards at many reputed local agencies within the foreign country if you book it on the spot. But tours operated by smaller agencies and locals are more likely to accept cash.
Minimum spending limits: Merchants in many foreign countries may have a minimum spending limit for you to be able to swipe your card. For e.g. Some restaurants and supermarkets in Europe require minimum spend of €10-20 to swipe card.
There are many other situations in which you could need local cash. To be better prepared, do your research, ask your hotels and hostels in advance on the general acceptability in the country you are visiting.
2. Don't rely on withdrawing cash in small towns abroad
Among the top things not to do when travelling abroad, is to wait to get to a beautiful remote island and then think of getting some cash at an ATM. ATMs in many foreign countries, especially in small towns, are known to:
- Run out of cash quickly.
- Can have lower withdrawal limits
- May also only find 1 or 2 ATMs and not always have choices of fee-free ATMs or low-fee ATMs
So if you’re going to travel to small towns in a foreign country, you’re better off withdrawing cash in advance from a bigger city, where you can find a wider choice of ATMs and also have higher chance of ATMs having enough cash as you may need.
You can use ATM Fee Saver mobile app to help you find fee-free and low-fee ATMs abroad.
3. Don't use ATMs in unsafe areas or ATMs with suspicious people around
It isn’t always possible to find an ATM that has a security guard. And even though most ATMs abroad will have cameras, it won’t help in an immediate situation of danger or security. So try to find and use ATMs abroad which are located:
- In and around an actual bank office
- Inside a decent looking corporate building with possibly a security guard or cameras
- Where you see many other people using the ATM
- Where there is a generally acceptable crowd (trust your gut in these situations)
- ATMs on relatively busy streets
- Bank branded ATMs inside supermarkets or pharmacies
Furthermore, it isn’t a surprise that ATMs are a common target for muggers and thieves to steal the your cash soon as you come out of the ATM. So whether you use an ATM on a busy or an empty street, look around and be alert. If you see people consciously looking at you while you’re entering or using the ATM – Stop. Move away. Find another ATM close by.
4. Use ATMs in bank branches and in banking hours when possible
Using ATMs abroad that are inside bank foyers, or attached to bank branches and during banking hours is the safest way to withdraw cash abroad because:
- There is more security
- You can get faster resolutions if your card is stuck inside the ATM machine or if you’ve forgotten your card and the next person using the ATM can give it to a bank representative
Carry at least a digital copy of your passport or ID as this will be asked to confirm your identity with the name on the card in such cases.
5. Don't be a victim of ATM skimming
Skimming is a process when once you enter the card details and withdraw your cash, a fraudster can access your details after and misuse your card and money. Look for signs like a camera placed near the ATM’s keypad, attachments around the card insert of the machine or bad online reviews of an ATM.
6. Don’t walk to an ATM abroad alone after dark on an empty street
This is almost always a recipe for disaster. Using an ATM after hours and on an empty street, especially alone, makes you a big target for a theft, mugging and other safety concerns. One might think that this is more common in developing countries, but is true for some of the most developed countries and biggest touristic cities in the world. Try and use an ATM where there is enough light on the street, enough people, preferably during the day.
8. Don’t expect to withdraw dollars or euros in ATMs in all foreign countries
In most countries abroad, ATMs will dispense cash only in the local currency. For some reason, if you need to withdraw US dollars or euros or pounds while travelling in countries that don’t accept multi-currencies in day-to-day transactions, relying on ATMs for this purpose is not the best choice. Read more here: Can I withdraw dollars or euros from an ATM abroad?