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Burma forum

Traveling with lot's of US Dollars Safely and keeping them crisp.

Posted by artyguy on 14/10/2014 at 11:24

So I understand that I need to bring crisp US $100. And that there are still plenty of ATM's to exchange for the local money.

What denominations is recommended to bring to Myanmar besides $100? I also understand that certain entrance fees are require US dollars... But they won't take $100?

And how to keep them safe and crisp while traveling? Not all hotels have room safes and how safe is it to give the front desk $1000 US dollars? Keeping the money in my money belt will certainly crumple the dollars and be useless when converting.

Anyone have common sense experience with this?

#1 artyguy has been a member since 16/8/2014. Posts: 17

Posted by elleradams on 14/10/2014 at 12:15

start with crisp, unfolded, unmarked the cash in a ziplock bag, and cut it down to just a bit larger than the bills...they will still get a bit wrinkled in the moneybelt, but they'll stay dry (and hence way less wrinkled)...i've never had a problem exchanging bills that were carried this way...

#2 elleradams has been a member since 14/10/2014. Posts: 1

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Posted by artyguy on 14/10/2014 at 12:23

Thanks for your reply. Can you advise what denominations to bring? I understand there are places that only accept US dollars. Like the Circle Train for $1. So I can't pay for the train with $100. And I'm sure there are many other places that want smaller bills. Would help if I know how much to bring to cover these extra fees? And how to keep them safe if my hotel doesn't have a in room safe box. What did people do with all the cash on hand?

#3 artyguy has been a member since 16/8/2014. Posts: 17

Posted by antoniamitchell on 14/10/2014 at 17:33

Things are loosening up - you can now pay for trains and government-owned tourist attractions with local currency, rather than US $. But most hotels still like US dollars.

Bring a mix of bills. With regards to your US cash, 50s and 100s get the same exchange rate, so bring either to exchange for local currency. 10s and 20s get a worse exchange rate, but are very useful for paying hotel bills, so I'd bring a stack of them. It's useful to be able to pay your hotel bill in exact change, because they do often try and give you wrinkled notes in change. If you have an idea of how much walking around cash you want in local currencies (to pay for meals, sightseeing, taxis), bring sufficient 50s or 100s to convert into that much local currency, and bring the rest in small and medium bills (mostly 10s and 20s, plus a few 5s and 1s) to pay for hotels.

You do need to keep your medium and large bills pristine (the money changers and hotels check them very carefully) but you don't need to keep small US bills (1s and 5s) pristine, so you can keep any small bills you get in change in your wallet. To keep your larger US bills pristine, some people carry them in the pages of a book. I bought a metal child's pencil case (pencil box) which fit the bills perfectly. I put the bills inside a ziplock bag (as I was travelling in monsoon season) and put the bag in the pencil case, which I just carried about with me. Never had any problems.

I was initially a bit nervous about walking around with about $1000 US in cash on me all the time, but you quickly realise that crime against tourists is very low, and it's not something you really need to worry too much about.

Have fun!

#4 antoniamitchell has been a member since 13/5/2012. Posts: 546
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Posted by artyguy on 14/10/2014 at 17:41

Thanks for the quick reply. So you never left the money in your hotel room? Which means if you went out at night you always carried a knapsack or something to carry the money around? I would be so afraid of leaving the backpack or whatever I was carrying around. So I guess the last question, has anyone left the money in their room, maybe a locked backpack? Or at the front desk?

Thanks again!

#5 artyguy has been a member since 16/8/2014. Posts: 17

Posted by antoniamitchell on 14/10/2014 at 18:25

Hi Artyguy,

I don't think I ever stayed anywhere with an in-room safe, so I never left the money in the room. I just carried the pencil case with me in the bottom of my satchel (I like to use a satchel instead of a handbag or day pack as it can be worn across the front of the body, leaves your hands free so you don't need to take it off or put it down very often, but looks smarter than most day packs do).

Yes, I did initially have a few "what if someone snatches my bag?" thoughts.... but if I'd left it locked in my luggage in my room, I'd be having "what if someone breaks into my room?" and "what if the maid is light-fingered and has a way to open my luggage" thoughts. There's no 100% safe way to carry money anywhere, but the odds of your getting robbed are very low as long as you practice common sense.

To be honest, you'll probably not be out very late at night most of the time, as the nightlife in Burma is almost non-existent (as I discovered one of my first nights in Yangon, when I tried to find a restaurant that was open at 9:15 at night - everywhere near my guesthouse was either already closed, or closing).

#6 antoniamitchell has been a member since 13/5/2012. Posts: 546
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Posted by artyguy on 15/10/2014 at 00:24

Great info, thanks. What kind of satchel did you wear? Was it a money belt? Trying to imagine how you got a pencil case into the satchel and how the bills could lie flat in the pencil case. I like to know cause I may copy exactly what you did. Cause most money belts are flimsy but cardboard would stiffen the money belt for sure.

#7 artyguy has been a member since 16/8/2014. Posts: 17

Posted by antoniamitchell on 15/10/2014 at 05:08

I didn't use a money belt because I figured the bills would get really crumpled that way. I thought about trying to stiffen it, but thought cardboard would get creased as well (eventually) and anything really rigid (like a sheet of solid plastic) would probably make the money belt uncomfortable to wear.

What I used was a solid pencil case (a pencil box) that the bills could lie flat in - here's a image if you're not certain what I mean (photos for illustration purposes only):

By satchel I mean a standard across-the-body bag, like bike couriers wear. Not massive but large enough to fit my camera gear, kindle and a bottle of water. A bit like this (only cheaper looking because I bought a cheap, canvas one):

If you're thinking of getting one, I'd suggest you try and find one with a very wide shoulder strap - it will be more comfortable when you're carrying around a bunch of stuff (so the bag is getting heavy) and also is safer as the strap is less likely to break. Make sure the strap is also well-adjustable, so it's not too short or long for your frame, as that gets annoying real fast.

#8 antoniamitchell has been a member since 13/5/2012. Posts: 546
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Posted by artyguy on 15/10/2014 at 10:10

Now I understand. Huge thank you for this! Makes perfect sense now! lol

#9 artyguy has been a member since 16/8/2014. Posts: 17

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