You just landed in a new country and are excited to start your adventure. Before you jump head first, make sure you have everything you need for a successful visit, BEFORE leaving the safety of the airport.
1 | Exchange money from your previous country
If you are flying from one country to next, exchange the cash that you have not spent before going onward. A fee will be applied but at least you’ll have usable currency in your next country. Spend all your coins before leaving a county because these are non-exchangeable (some countries coins are worth multiple dollars).
2 | Withdraw local currency from an ATM
There is no need to withdraw a ton of cash before leaving the States, this will land you with a conversion fee once you arrive. We instead prefer to withdraw the local currency from an ATM upon arrival. Also, make sure you notify your bank of your travel itinerary and always have a back up plan in case the airport’s ATM is down. We recommend having $100USD per person stowed away for emergencies.
3 | Purchase a SIM card
We recommend traveling with a SIM card. These cards make it easy to book reservations/tours, and having access to maps is handy. Purchase a SIM card in the arrivals hall before exiting the airport. Read more in our post on buying a SIM card internationally.
What happens when someone doesn’t follow our tips?
One of our stories: when we landed in Cambodia all of the ATMs in the airport were down and we needed to pay for Visas on arrival IN CASH and could not enter the country until we did so. We didn’t have any backup cash, so trying not to panic we quickly came up with a few solutions:
Borrow money from someone else?
Everyone else had already exited while we were struggling with the ATM.
Call someone for help?
No working phone yet, sim cards are not available for purchase until you get through the exit.
Give up and make the Cambodian airport our new home forever?
I asked the security guard if I could leave my passport with him while I went to the next room to try to find a solution. They hesitantly agreed and I went on. I found a money exchange place and asked if I could have them charge my credit card and give me the cash (and accept a fee). Since I didn’t have my passport (typically required) I left my drivers license with them and they gave me the mula! I then came back, retrieved my passport, bought the visas, exited, retrieved my license, and boom – hello Cambodia! Close one!