Hi, I was hoping for some advice on money.
I'm gonna be in Africa for 2 months from next week. Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia and South Africa are all on the agenda. I plan to take about a third of my money in traveller's cheques, a third in cash and also bring a direct debt card for the last third. Any thoughts on this? I'd prefer to bring the whole lot on the debit card but don't know how much access I'll have to compatible ATMs.
Any advice or experience would be appreciated.
Traveler's cheques are very hard to cash and have a terrible exchange rate. For instance, right now in Tanzania the exchange is 1USD: 1,410 TSH for cashing a $100 note. For travelers cheques it is currently 1USD:1,000 TSH and many places wont even change them at any rate. More towns in TZ are having ATM machines but there is a limit of 400,000TSH/day. In TZ. if your itinerary includes Dar es Salaam, Moshi or Arusha, you will find several ATM options. If you are going on safari near Karatu, there is at least one ATM there but if that is not working, I am not sure how many other options there are currently n that vicinity. Also it is strongly recommended that you double and triple check with your bank to ensure that they will not freeze your account when the see charges coming from strange locations that are out of the norm. USD are by far the easiest to cash. You will get the best rate for $100 notes but make sure that they are recent issue notes. Smaller denominations get a lesser rate. Older notes often are rejected by banks. In some instances, such as on safaris and for entry visas, payment may be requested in USD. This sounds like a wonderful adventure that you have planned, I hope that it is all that you have dreamed. Safari njema.
I agree on forgetting all about traveller's cheques- they're useless, expensive and very hard to change in Africa. All big cities have ATM"s, but they are sometimes broken/out of cash; I wouldn't leave it until my last penny to get more out. USDs are great, but make sure they are not ripped/torn or even slightly bent when you go to exchange them- appearances are very important with the notes! I did exchange some pounds as well, but dollars are much better. Like mentioned, a large note often gets a better exchange rate than a smaller one. Visa fees for Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia are all payable in USD's. In Mozambique, you'll get away with rands very often. I also paid with rands a few times in Gaborone, but that wasn't so common.
Some ATM's especially in Zambia and Malawi run out of cash during the weekends when there's no one to stock it up. Also some ATM's have a limitation as to the maximum amount you can withdraw, and as your bank charges per withdrawal, have a look at how much you can take out in one go first.
Credit cards almost always incur extra charges if you use them for payment; check before paying.
I definitely agree with the responses on Traveler's cheques..not a good idea. I can't speak for all the countries but I recently got back from a trip to Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana and South Africa.
I took out a good sum of US dollars and Rand and I also brought a VISA with me. I don't trust debit travelling internationally because if your PIN gets compromised that is all bad.
Also there were a couple travelling with a debit card that had the newer chip technology and even though their bank said they would be fine they had nothing but issues when they were using it.
My recommendation would be to take out a good sum of cash and bring a VISA with you as well. I would check with the bank so you know what they will charge you when you withdrawl money against it. I just put money on my VISA before I left and used it like a bank card, I was never charged if I paid for something with VISA only when I used it to withdrawl money at an ATM. I also brought an emergency credit card as well, just in case the VISA got stolen or lost.
Hope this helps!