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Paying for hostels on a card

Travel Forums Central/South America & The Caribbean Paying for hostels on a card

1. Posted by Simon1983 (Budding Member 50 posts) 6y

Hello all,

Sorry I keep asking boring questions....

Is it possible to pay for the majority of hostels in SA on a card instead of cash?

When I have travelled the US and Europe this hasnt been a problem but thought I best check.

My plan is a credit card for accommodation costs and then cash for everything else.

Thanks in advance,


2. Posted by KoalaGirl (Travel Guru 307 posts) 6y

I guess it really depends on your itinerary and where you plan on travelling... certainly in the major cities I have had no trouble using a credit card to pay for hostels, but in smaller towns that are a bit more off the tourist trail you will likely encounter difficulties. Most of the small towns that I went through were lucky to even have 1 atm... I also found that in the regional towns and smaller hostels, prices aren't always 'fixed' and you can negotiate a much better rate if you have cash.

3. Posted by Sam I Am (Admin 5588 posts) 6y

My experiences are very much the same as Koalagirl's. Cities you should be fine; most other places cash is still very much king. I remember in Costa Rica a few years ago pretty much everyone in the group actually running out of money because we'd been to a few too many small towns without an ATM (or one which took our type of card) in a row.

4. Posted by mmk974 (Budding Member 4 posts) 6y

If your travels take you to Bolivia make sure you have cash. In some areas cash machines are limited (or only work for local cards) so you will need to go to the bank with ID to withdraw cash. As a rule this is a simple process, however if you are there during public holidays or a strike as we were you may need to sit tight with one kind hostel owner who will let you pay the bill once the banks are open again. -snip-

[ Edit: Sorry, no promos please. ]

5. Posted by Simon1983 (Budding Member 50 posts) 6y

Thanks for the replies guys! Very helpful information. Would you advise me to withdraw a bulk of cash before heading anywhere too remote? Obviously I'll be really rubbish if I lost the money but I'd just have to be careful.


6. Posted by KoalaGirl (Travel Guru 307 posts) 6y

It's always a problem carrying a large amount of cash, but if you are heading to a remote area then it may be the only option.... just use the normal common sense rules about carrying cash whilst travelling:

  • Split up the cash so it's all over the place (many different pockets/bags/in your socks/even in your jocks!)
  • try to lock up excess cash using your own locks on a safe or locker before heading out for the day (still split up in different bags and hidey holes)
  • never let anyone know how much cash you are carrying
  • keep your receipts from ATMs and Money Changers so if cash is stolen you can possible claim a little of it back on your travel insurance

It might sound a bit disgusting, but I always found that hiding some excess cash inside a rolled up pair of socks in my dirty laundry bag was a good place that people rarely check....

Post 7 was removed by a moderator
8. Posted by tiktak (Budding Member 5 posts) 6y

hey Sam,

from my experience, unlike in europe and north america, in latin america most of the hostels didn't take credit card payments. it was possible to make a booking online and pay a deposit on a credit card (I think now you can just book without making a deposit even), but the remainder always had to be paid in cash in local currency. and that was actually in big cities (buenos aires, sao paulo, rio, montevideo etc.). a few of those were a part of a larger chain, like hostelling international. I'm not sure if that has changed recently, but what I recommend is relying on your debit card rather than credit card. it's very easy to take out money from any bank's atm using your debit card. credit cards usually tend to charge higher interest fees (I'm guessing), plus unless it's a chip card, if somebody steals it, you're screwed. also, just a tip, when buying things in general (including bus tickets and similar) with a credit card in latin america, it's impossible to return those, and it's more difficult to exchange them as well (they say that's because the money doesn't go directly to them but through a bank).

9. Posted by jonniej (Budding Member 12 posts) 6y


Yeah for Ecuador you need to pay in cash.. You can make a deposit on hostelworld with a credit card but most places don't take cards unless your talking a big hotel.. Let me know if you need any other info..


[ Edit: Sorry, no promos please. ]

10. Posted by mohn (Respected Member 42 posts) 6y

I'd second the suggestion to use cash where possible. In general, you have to pay a foreign transaction fee to use your credit card overseas to pay for goods/services, which is usually about 3%, and in some countries in South America (e.g. Ecuador) the merchant will also stick on their own commission. Cash withdrawals using an ATM card tend to cost less. Obviously don't use your credit card for cash withdrawals unless you're in a real emergency.

Carrying cash needn't cause you too much worry. As the other posters have suggested, split it up amongst your luggage and hide it in the least likely places - dirty laundry, in your shoe, in an empty shampoo bottle, etc.

If you already have an idea what your itinerary is going to be, then people on the forum might be able to let you know what ATM availability is like in those places.