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Using Australia Dollars in Laos

  • aleaster

    Joined Travelfish
    9th January, 2009
    Posts: 7

    Hi

    I know that this has been touched on already but want to clarify the situation in Laos.

    I am hoping to only take Australian dollars in cash to Laos and change in the larger centres - Vientiane, LP and Pakse. Can anyone see any problems with this? Apart from carrying around a reasonable wad of notes.

    I will have a small amount of US in cash and travellers cheques but with the current exchange rate in Aust for US$, I would prefer to avoid a double conversion and giving more money to Aust banks than I need to.

    Thanks

    #1 Posted: 19/1/2009 - 19:18

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  • markyeo

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    Joined Travelfish
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    Generally, changing your dollars to KIP in Laos isn't a bad idea. The rates are usually better in Laos because the rate of your dollar would be strong. Plus, I don't think many money changers out of Laos would have KIP to change.

    I generally prefer to use KIP in Laos because food and drink is cheap. You don't really need to use US dollars unless you're making big purchases, plus, you get a poor exchange rate if you paid in dollars and received your change in KIP.

    #2 Posted: 19/1/2009 - 19:35

  • aleaster

    Joined Travelfish
    9th January, 2009
    Posts: 7

    Thanks for your response Markyeo but I that it not really what I am asking. I want to take Australian dollars into Laos and exchange them instead of converting Aussie $ to USD before I leave Aust.

    But thanks anyway.

    #3 Posted: 19/1/2009 - 19:47

  • somtam2000

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    "I would prefer to avoid a double conversion and giving more money to Aust banks than I need to."

    My thoughts exactly -- the banks in Oz just bring out the best in people!

    Not a definitive answer to your question, but, I'd say that while you'd find it easier to exchange USD than AUD, in the major centres like the ones you mention, you should be ok.

    #4 Posted: 19/1/2009 - 20:23

  • aleaster

    Joined Travelfish
    9th January, 2009
    Posts: 7

    Many thanks. I will take my chances. I always have my ATM card as a back up which will give the banks their fees anyway. Last resort stuff.

    Ta

    #5 Posted: 19/1/2009 - 20:27

  • somtam2000

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    Watch the fees on the ATM card -- during one trip to Vietnam, I relied solely on the card (normally I just take cash).

    In a three week trip I wracked up over A$200 in charges for overseas withdrawals -- not happy.

    Commonwealth Bank in case you needed to ask!

    #6 Posted: 19/1/2009 - 20:31

  • markyeo

    Click here to learn more about markyeo
    Joined Travelfish
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    Location Singapore
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    Total reviews: 5

    Oops, sorry about that. Just change your Australian dollars in Laos. Australian dollars are one of the major currencies accepted at almost all money changers in Southeast Asia. You wouldn't lose out much on the exchange rate either.

    And yes, withdrawing cash overseas isn't a good idea because the bank charges are quite substantial. Just break up your cash, keep them separately and out of sight.

    #7 Posted: 19/1/2009 - 22:05

  • Rufus

    Joined Travelfish
    22nd April, 2007
    Location Laos
    Posts: 953

    I have often changed Aussie $ but be careful in remote areas. By the way, if you pay in USD and get change in kip you get the normal exchange rate, not a poor one markyeo - unless someone diddled you.

    #8 Posted: 20/1/2009 - 12:42

  • aleaster

    Joined Travelfish
    9th January, 2009
    Posts: 7

    Thanks for the advice folks. Aussie dollars is it with a smattering of US for just in case.

    #9 Posted: 20/1/2009 - 17:28

  • markyeo

    Click here to learn more about markyeo
    Joined Travelfish
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    Location Singapore
    Posts: 9
    Total reviews: 5

    ah man, i must have gotten cheated a little the last time i went there. I made a rather large purchase and thought that paying by US dollars was a better thing to do. i realized later that i actually paid a little more via US dollars rather than KIP, so I was under the impression that KIP was the better way to pay for things in Laos.

    #10 Posted: 23/1/2009 - 07:29

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  • kahrani

    Joined Travelfish
    2nd October, 2008
    Posts: 8

    Hey,

    I was wondering the same thing about New Zealand Dollars, as I'm really not looking forward to changing to USD at the poor exchange rate at present and then changing into Kip as well. The only problem is my route through Laos starts in Hauy Xai and goes up north before getting to Luang Prabang a couple of weeks later. Is it likely I'll be able to change NZD in Huay Xai, or shall I just bite the bullet and change all my money before I go?

    I don't really want to use ATMs too much - Westpac charge me $8 every time I use them overseas :(

    #11 Posted: 24/1/2009 - 12:16

  • wanderingcat

    Joined Travelfish
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    #11: starting in Huay Xai means you're coming over from Thailand? if so, just change Thai baht into kip along your way through Laos. www.bcellaos.com for an idea of THB-LAK rates, but NZD not listed.

    #12 Posted: 24/1/2009 - 13:32

  • brucemoon

    Click here to learn more about brucemoon
    Joined Travelfish
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    Location Australia
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    Hi, all

    I'm wondering about this thread.

    If I go to www.xe.com, I find the rate of exchange between currencies (as on the traders market).

    I know that banks take a big cut when exchanging, but that corner store traders can often do better in bigger cities.

    I also know that banks in Australia have varying rates for withdrawing cash OS via an ATM. The big four are expensive, while the smaller Credit unions/building societies are less - typically a flat A$4 or 5 per transaction for use on a debit card. But, it matters little about the 'fee', the exchange rate is governed by the Visa/Mastercard/Travelex/Amex/Diners/etc rate for the transaction (ie. whichever the bank uses - its on your plastic).

    In my experience, the absolute worst rate is Travelex, and the best used to be Visa (but since the credit meltdown they've been using pretty ordinary exchange rates).

    I've used debit card cash withdrawals in all SE Asian nations, and in the lesser currencies (eg. Kip, Dong) Visa tend to 'exchange' to US$ before to A$.

    So, is it worth buying Kip / Dong in A$ or US$? I'd suggest in US$.

    I picked up some advice re" A$ (above), but I'm of the view that any exchange rate depends on what the buyer is NEEDING. And, more often than not in SE Asia, US$ are needed more than any other currency (and so I tend to get good rates). Because of this, I'd not suggest taking NZ$.

    As an example, in HaNoi, I bought a VN Dong item worth around US$400. I only had US$. So, I negotiated to pay at the www.xe.com rate (to my advantage over the Vietcam Bank rate the seller wanted to use).

    The end result may be that A$ are easier to carry, but the exchange rate is such that it made no difference whether one carried A$ or US$ (and may even favour US$).

    When I buy US$ here in Australia, I look at the www.xe.com rate, and then shop around.

    So, it's not so much about transaction costs, but which 'system' minimises transaction costs overall.

    cheers

    #13 Posted: 24/1/2009 - 13:35

  • kahrani

    Joined Travelfish
    2nd October, 2008
    Posts: 8

    Thanks, very helpful information :) I love the people in the travelfish forum!

    #14 Posted: 25/1/2009 - 10:40

  • amazon_blon-
    de

    Joined Travelfish
    20th December, 2008
    Posts: 116
    Total reviews: 9

    I'm not sure about AUS and NZ dollars, but as a Canadian, we've found that despite the double exchange, using US dollars is the way to go. All the money changers will take Canadian dollars, but the exchange rate is bad. We are better off changing Cdn to USD (at home) or bringing over Thai baht (we just came from Thailand) and changing that to Kip here. The Canadian dollar to Kip exchange rate is quite poor. I know that we overhead some British people talking saying that they also would have been better off changing pounds to Baht in Thailand and then getting Kip once here, rather than changing pounds here. The USD and Baht seem to get the best exchange, at the moment. (I'm sitting in LPB right now...) Cheers.

    #15 Posted: 4/2/2009 - 13:28

  • brucemoon

    Click here to learn more about brucemoon
    Joined Travelfish
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    Location Australia
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    amazon_blonde

    As an aside - if you are in LPB, you may be able to answer a query I posted on Travelfish a while ago.

    The Vietnamese Gov't indicates there is a VN embassy in LPB. I tried emailing them, but got no reply. What I wanted to know was whether there is, in fact, an embassy there. And, if so, whether they issue visa's to enter VN.

    Somtam2000 thinks there is, but now wonders.

    The address listed on their website ( www.vietnamconsulate-luangprabang.org/en/nr070628081214/ ) is:

    No. 427-428, That BoSot village, Luangphrabang town, Luangphrabang province, Laos.


    Are you in a position to be able to confirm (or otherwise).

    cheers

    #16 Posted: 4/2/2009 - 13:57

  • seagypsy

    Joined Travelfish
    5th February, 2009
    Posts: 136

    I'm not amazon-blonde, more like SEA-brown BUT yes, there is a Vietnamese consulate in Luang Prabang and they can and do issue Viet visas (some on an expedited bases). Just make sure you get a full 30 day visa because they have issued only a 15 day visa for an express visa recently. BTW, they might not have answered your email because of the TET holidays.

    #17 Posted: 5/2/2009 - 12:06

  • amazon_blon-
    de

    Joined Travelfish
    20th December, 2008
    Posts: 116
    Total reviews: 9

    Brucemoon, sorry for the delay, but I've left LPB and was in transit to Vang Vieng ... only to find that internet is much more expensive here! Good luck getting the visa in LPB.

    #18 Posted: 6/2/2009 - 11:19

  • austral31

    Joined Travelfish
    10th January, 2009
    Posts: 20
    Total reviews: 3

    This doesn't help for anyone wanting to avoid double conversion but will avoid to some extent those large bank fees.

    In Australia, the ANZ bank has brought out a thing called a travel card. Basically you pay them a $10 application fee, provide 100 points of ID and a certain amount of AUS $ and they give you a visa card with that amount preloaded onto it in USD, EUR, GBP or THB i think. So you can use it as a credit card wherever VISA is accepted without a international currency conversion fee (like most credit cards) or you can take it to any ATM that accepts visa and withdraw cash for US $2.50 per transaction. When you run out of money on the CARD you can reload it using BPAY for a 1% commission and when you decide you no longer want the card, u can take it to ANZ and they will refund the balance. The card is pin-protected and you get two cards (one as a primary card, one as a backup) both with different pins and credit card numbers.

    All up if you are travelling where there are visa machines and ATMs, it is a good way to carry your money.

    #19 Posted: 6/2/2009 - 15:08

  • brucemoon

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    Austral31

    If only!

    Sadly, Australian banks don't do anything for zilch.

    The card you are referring to is one of two products: a travelex product or a visa product. Why, because these are the two majors that exchange foreign currency on behalf of banks for Australian bank customers.

    If it's a Travelex based product, there is an exchange rate 'fee' and the rate is about 4.5%. If its Visa, it's around 3% (they say 2 1/2, but compared with money market rates, the exchange works out at about 3%).

    If ANZ let you deposit your money in without a cost, they'd be only one in Australia. Most charge you around 1% to deposit your money onto the card.

    A 'cash card' can be a great solution for some - especially when travelling backwards and forwards past borders. But, they aren't the 'be all and end all'.

    cheers

    #20 Posted: 8/2/2009 - 14:20

  • austral31

    Joined Travelfish
    10th January, 2009
    Posts: 20
    Total reviews: 3

    Brucemoon,

    Thankyou for confirming what I said in my post that the ANZ charges 1% to load money onto the card.

    I am unclear as to whether you have used one of these, I have made many transactions in Australia, Thailand and Laos and not once has a exchange rate fee appeared on my statement as do ATM fees and is also the standard policy with the Commonwealth Bank at least.

    I agree that they are not a complete solution however.

    Cheers

    #21 Posted: 9/2/2009 - 11:24

  • craigl

    Joined Travelfish
    3rd March, 2009
    Posts: 5

    The ultimate travel card? Wizard clear advantage Mastercard.

    This is one card that lives up to the hype and is not too good to be true. Used in Thailand and Cambodia extensively and did not pay a cent in transaction, conversion or cash advance fees yet got the full wholesale bank rate. (Siam Bank in Thailand charges a 20B ATM withdrawal fee but all the others don't). Will try it in Laos later this year.

    If you are going through Thailand, change Australian dollars to baht there at any bank to change baht for kip in Laos. Most don't charge commission (except Siam bank once again) and the difference between the buy and sell rate is about 1B to the dollar - ultra competitive compared to Australia. If you are only in transit, I have found the bank change counters at the airports to offer the same rates as their main street banks.

    #22 Posted: 3/3/2009 - 23:03

  • brucemoon

    Click here to learn more about brucemoon
    Joined Travelfish
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    Location Australia
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    Total reviews: 6

    craigl

    As an Aussie, you're spot on.

    I 'discovered' this fact via a chance encounter with the Choice website a while ago.

    I posted that info onto another Travelfish link: "How to manage your money while travelling in Asia"

    For Australians reading and interested in the different amounts Choice says you'll be slugged if you don't use a Wizard Clear Advantage, goto:

    http://www.choice.com.au/viewArticle.aspx?id=105657&catId=100210&tid=100008

    #23 Posted: 4/3/2009 - 06:06

  • Intrepid82

    Joined Travelfish
    21st April, 2009
    Posts: 33

    It appears that following the GFC Wizard has been sold off and it seems that the Wizard clear advantage Mastercard is no longer available to new customers.

    Such a shame!

    #24 Posted: 23/4/2009 - 09:58

  • brucemoon

    Click here to learn more about brucemoon
    Joined Travelfish
    27th December, 2008
    Location Australia
    Posts: 1941
    Total reviews: 6

    Intrepid82

    Yes, but NO!!

    Upon my return from SEA, I rang Wizard to learn that...

    Yes, the Home Loan business has been sold to Aussie, but ..

    No, the credit card business has not been sold (it's operated by GE Money).

    So, the website for Wizard Clear Advantage has changed to:

    http://www.wizardclearadvantage.com.au/

    - - - - -

    As noted, I've just come back from a month in SEA (Thailand - across Laos - to VN.

    I had two Wizard Clear Advantage mastercards.

    One I'd pre-loaded so that I could use at ATM's.

    The other, I used for credit purchases.

    On neither were there any % 'fee' as per Visa. Just a straight conversion.

    On the credit card used for cash withdrawal, there was no 'fee' either. However, when in Dien Bien Phu (Vietnam), the available ATM's would only accept Visa (all one brand). I had a back up pre-loaded Visa with Heritage Building Society. I got slugged A$5 to withdraw the money, and then Visa slugged me 3% to convert from VN dong to A$.

    Cheers

    #25 Posted: 27/4/2009 - 11:39

  • monkindy

    Joined Travelfish
    30th May, 2010
    Posts: 15

    So can anyone confirm for me the best card/money option for a NZ traveler going Thailand -> Laos -> Vietnam -> Cambodia? I currently have a Westpac debit plus card. This has quite high ATM withdraw charges ($8 if not using a sister bank = no sister banks located in any county I am visiting) and a foreign exchange rate is added onto every transaction (2.5%).
    I have looked at travel cards from other banks, Travelex etc. However these all have charges as well. I will be away for three months any would love to know what my best option is!

    #26 Posted: 21/9/2010 - 15:44

  • craigl

    Joined Travelfish
    3rd March, 2009
    Posts: 5

    In the absence of a Wizard / GE Money Clear Advantage Master Card being available to you, here are some tips based on my experience.

    Thailand:
    Thailand banks now charge a 150B withdrawal fee when using a foreign ATM card in their machines. This is on top of what your bank charges for the transanction. The only way to avoid this is to use non-Thai banks, like the Singapore owned Aeon bank that does not charge any fees.

    If you cannot find an Aeon bank ATM or similar, get cash advances over the counter to avoid the 150B fee (I think there is a small commission).

    Thai banks give an excellent exchange rate when changing cash (even at the airport change counters). Typically you lose about 1% in the exchange with no commission (except for Siam Bank). For this reason I NEVER buy baht in Australia before I leave (otherwise I'd lose about 10%). Changing back to NZ$ will only cost you about the same 1% (only major centres will keep NZ$ though).

    Take as much cash NZ$ as you feel comfortable carrying if you want to minimize costs changing money in Thailand.

    Laos:
    Stock up on Thai Baht before you head to Laos.

    Since the GFC and the subsequent depreciation of the US$, I have found that countries neighbouring Thailand are starting to favour the Baht. The only time you really want US$ is for the Visa at the border (otherwise you pay more in Baht - a scam more than anything, get the US$30 at a Thai bank before you go).

    The best place to change Baht in Laos is the national banks. Exchange rate for Baht and $US is good. Other currencies just OK. Outside the major banks, forget about your NZ$. The rate they give you get will be appalling, far exceeding the costs of any double conversion to Baht then Kip.

    I found that accommodation etc. paid for in Kip was better value than paying in US$. Paying in Baht was better value than paying in US$.

    I did use ATM's a couple of times for cash advances with no dramas. Changing Baht at the bank is still the best deal though.

    Cambodia:
    My dad travelled around the Siem Reap area late last year and found that there was no real preference between changing Baht and $US. In hindsight he felt buying US$ in advance was a bit unnecessary. Though he didn't try, apparently the ATMs dispense both US$ as well as the local Riel anyway.

    Siem Reap is quite close to Thailand, so the influence of the Baht if strong. Not sure about it's acceptance further east though; perhaps another poster could confirm.

    Vietnam:
    I spent 5 weeks travelling around Vietnam a couple of years ago and can't remember needing US$ once (though I wasn't staying in 5 star hotels). Anything quoted in US$ I was able to pay for in VDong. In fact, I often got a slightly better deal by using the local currency.

    If you need US$ for any reason, I was able to get a fair rate by shopping around the budget hotels. Staff were often happy to offload their US$ for the local currency at the bank rate without commission. This is handy if you have VD left over when you go to leave since it cannot officially be converted back to hard currency.

    I remember the exchange rate at change counters being pretty poor for AU$ and NZ$. I withdrew money from the ATM's using Visa and MC. The only issue was the AU$180 (equivalent) daily withdrawal limit at the time. By the time I paid the $5-6 fee my bank charged + conversion fees + local ATM withdrawal fee, I was effectively being gouged $11 or more for each transaction! With the benefit of hindsight, it would've been better to get a cash advance over the counter at a bank for larger sums to make it more cost effective.

    ANZ bank has a pretty big presence in major centres in Vietnam. I was able to use my ANZ atm card to access my savings account just like home. However, the fees charged by ANZ exceeded that of getting cash advances on my Westpac MC.

    In nearly all circumstances the most expensive part of changing money in SE Asia is the fees levied by Australian banks. Researching the type of Card to take can make a big difference.
    In the absence of a Wizard / GE Money Clear Advantage Master Card being available to you, here are some tips based on my experience.

    Thailand:
    Thailand banks now charge a 150B withdrawal fee when using a foreign ATM card in their machines. This is on top of what your bank charges for the transanction. The only way to avoid this is to use non-Thai banks, like the Singapore owned Aeon bank that does not charge any fees.

    If you cannot find an Aeon bank ATM or similar, get cash advances over the counter to avoid the 150B fee (I think there is a small commission).

    Thai banks give an excellent exchange rate when changing cash (even at the airport change counters). Typically you lose about 1% in the exchange with no commission (except for Siam Bank). For this reason I NEVER buy baht in Australia before I leave (otherwise I'd lose about 10%). Changing back to NZ$ will only cost you about the same 1% (only major centres will keep NZ$ though).

    Take as much cash NZ$ as you feel comfortable carrying if you want to minimize costs changing money in Thailand.

    Laos:
    Stock up on Thai Baht before you head to Laos.

    Since the GFC and the subsequent depreciation of the US$, I have found that countries neighbouring Thailand are starting to favour the Baht. The only time you really want US$ is for the Visa at the border (otherwise you pay more in Baht - a scam more than anything, get the US$30 at a Thai bank before you go).

    The best place to change Baht in Laos is the national banks. Exchange rate for Baht and $US is good. Other currencies just OK. Outside the major banks, forget about your NZ$. The rate they give you get will be appalling, far exceeding the costs of any double conversion to Baht then Kip.

    I found that accommodation etc. paid for in Kip was better value than paying in US$. Paying in Baht was better value than paying in US$.

    I did use ATM's a couple of times for cash advances with no dramas. Changing Baht at the bank is still the best deal though.

    Cambodia:
    My dad travelled around the Siem Reap area late last year and found that there was no real preference between changing Baht and $US. In hindsight he felt buying US$ in advance was a bit unnecessary. Though he didn't try, apparently the ATMs dispense both US$ as well as the local Riel anyway.

    Siem Reap is quite close to Thailand, so the influence of the Baht if strong. Not sure about it's acceptance further east though; perhaps another poster could confirm.

    Vietnam:
    I spent 5 weeks travelling around Vietnam a couple of years ago and can't remember needing US$ once (though I wasn't staying in 5 star hotels). Anything quoted in US$ I was able to pay for in VDong. In fact, I often got a slightly better deal by using the local currency.

    If you need US$ for any reason, I was able to get a fair rate by shopping around the budget hotels. Staff were often happy to offload their US$ for the local currency at the bank rate without commission. This is handy if you have VD left over when you go to leave since it cannot officially be converted back to hard currency.

    I remember the exchange rate at change counters being pretty poor for AU$ and NZ$. I withdrew money from the ATM's using Visa and MC. The only issue was the AU$180 (equivalent) daily withdrawal limit at the time. By the time I paid the $5-6 fee my bank charged + conversion fees + local ATM withdrawal fee, I was effectively being gouged $11 or more for each transaction! With the benefit of hindsight, it would've been better to get a cash advance over the counter at a bank for larger sums to make it more cost effective.

    ANZ bank has a pretty big presence in major centres in Vietnam. I was able to use my ANZ atm card to access my savings account just like home. However, the fees charged by ANZ exceeded that of getting cash advances on my Westpac MC.

    In nearly all circumstances the most expensive part of changing money in SE Asia is the fees levied by Australian banks. Researching the type of Card to take can make a big difference.

    #27 Posted: 21/9/2010 - 20:52

  • craigl

    Joined Travelfish
    3rd March, 2009
    Posts: 5

    Sorry for the post coming up twice/

    #28 Posted: 21/9/2010 - 20:58

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