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Finance and money forum

Currencies to take? Budget question...

Posted by smash on 19/7/2009 at 16:27

Just wondering what currencies and in what format (cash/travelers cheques/debit cards) people recommend for the below countries?

* China
* Vietnam
* Cambodia
* Laos
* Thailand

We're NZers so have to deal with a up the crap currency. As a couple we're budgeting NZ$1000 (~US$640) a week for 15 weeks of travel.

In China we have got 3.5 weeks of accommodation and transport covered (on a Tucan tour ( so think our budget is fine in China.

In Vietnam (3.5 weeks) our big ticket expense will be a nicer Halong Bay trip so we'll put money aside for that. We'll need to arrange Sapa and probably a Mekong tour too. There is also suits to be made in Hoi An which we'll save extra money for.

In Cambodia (1.5 weeks) our only major expense will be Angkor pass - we're going with the three-day one.

In Laos (2.5 weeks) we would have pre-paid the Gibbon Experience so no major surprises there.

In Thailand (3.5 weeks) we'll have two weeks accommodation in Phuket sorted and also four nights pre-paid in Koh Phangan. We'll put extra money aside for diving in Koh Tao so it doesn't eat into our budget.

We're then off to Dubai for a week one our way to London.

We will pre-pay all our airfares prior to leaving NZ except for Vietnam which I believe is cheaper to do on the ground once we're there I believe.

How does all this sound?

How do people best carry and securely carry their funds/money (if we have to take cash)?


#1 smash has been a member since 21/6/2009. Posts: 162

Posted by BruceMoon on 21/7/2009 at 19:58


You'll have more than enough. I did 5 weeks between Thailand > Laos > Vietnam and other than airfares & Gibbon (prepaid) I spent US$1500 for the 2 of us in ATM withdrawals and came home to another credit card bill of around US$500.

As for money, I use a combination of credit cards and pre-loaded cards (for cash).

Can you access Australian banking? If so go look at here. I use their credit card for cash purchases, and have another that I pre-load and withdraw from ATM's in each country. For me, it's just so much easier. In Australia, Mastercard & Visa allow banks to add on a (about)3% surcharge for foreign transactions. Wizard don't do it.

I also try and have about US$30-50 in the currency of that country for when I enter overland. When I fly in, there's always an ATM at the airport (though sometimes I pre-buy a small amount just to be sure).

Being a kiwi, the Australian banks might be sucking you dry. I looked at kiwibank, but they suck you dry as well: $6 per cash withdrawal, 1% to mastercard, and 3% to kiwibank - PHEW!!!!

If I couldn't get access to the (above) Wizard, I think I'd be seriously investigating travellers cheques.


#2 BruceMoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

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Posted by smash on 22/7/2009 at 06:47

Thanks Bruce. *Should* be able to access Aussie banking as have AU passport and can use my parent's address. Only problem there is the double exchange hit... However I think it still could be worth it...

Kiwi banks are extortionists. It's disgusting how ripped off we get in New Zealand and Kiwibank didn't have the balls to be groundbreaking. Guess they thought why would we break the mould when we can make a killing following the status quo? *sigh*

#3 smash has been a member since 21/6/2009. Posts: 162

Posted by smash on 22/7/2009 at 06:55

Hmm... actually dont know if i could get a credit card in Aussie without earning money there or having at least a credit history there...

#4 smash has been a member since 21/6/2009. Posts: 162

Posted by smash on 22/7/2009 at 13:16

What are ATMs like to use in China/Vietnam/Cambodia/Laos? I've never had a problem in Thailand so okay there. Are they secure? Reliable?

Don't think I'll be able to get that Wizard card which is leaving me with few options other than (a) sucking up the high transaction fees and using my debit card, (b) pain in the butt travellers cheques in USD, (c) one of those Travelex Cash Passports, and/or (d) carrying a lot of USD around.

What do you think? How easy is changing TCs in these countries? Do you get good rates vs cash? I guess TCs are pretty good as they can be replaced if stolen...

#5 smash has been a member since 21/6/2009. Posts: 162

Posted by whiteelephant on 22/7/2009 at 17:34

Get travellers cheques

#6 whiteelephant has been a member since 22/7/2009. Posts: 15

Posted by BruceMoon on 30/7/2009 at 13:20


Sorry, I was sidetracked by some vego-nazi's, hehehe.

ATM's are useable everywhere. Currently, BCEL ATM's in Laos appear to be having probs. In Vietnam, many rural areas tend to focus on Visa cards only. Never had a problem with the ANZ ATM's in VN or Cambodia (other than use fee, but at least their daily limit is higher than most). In southern China, ATM's are largely only in bigger cities.

I'd suggest TC's are possibly your best bet. Get them in US$.

I note the Pom traveller can get Thomas Cook TC's without pre-loading commission. It's possible that pre-loading commission is a function of banks, and someone in kiwiland can get for you without any/much pre-load commission.

TC's in US$ are readily cashable everywhere.

The exchange rates are sort of OK. Just use to work out the applicable mid-market exchange rate for the day/week and be forearmed.

Most banks will take a cut, some money changers in some places will give you a better deal. So, know your mid-market exchange rate first and just check out the various options.


#7 BruceMoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

Posted by nzlup on 4/2/2010 at 12:30

An update for the NZ$ in Vietnam -

I wondered about the use of NZ$ cash so only one "exchange" into foreign exchange.

In Saigon banks no problem - they took NZD cash at published (official x - rates) rates. Same with a Hoi An money changer in the old quarter.

Nga Trang, Hue, Cantho, Qui Nhon - No chance.

I had some Australian cash as well but didn't specifically test that. It SEEMED that Australian Dollar cash was pretty well accepted though - (could someone update on this) ?

#8 nzlup has been a member since 1/2/2010. Posts: 22

Posted by smash on 4/2/2010 at 12:40

thanks for the update.

i think i might just take a wad of USD...

did you try using ATMs?

#9 smash has been a member since 21/6/2009. Posts: 162

Posted by nzlup on 4/2/2010 at 15:08

geez ... your original post was so long ago I assumed u had gone by now mate !

Yeah, I took over a wad of US$ as well (Only $1000 though). Also US$ T/Cs & A$ from previous trips and cards.

Presume u know the old bills issue

Consequently, I didn't use any ATMs.

My partner tried to use the ATM with her NZ cards (National bank I think) & the ATM didn't recognise it. She was able to use her English debit card though which charged 2 quid for the transaction. Not sure whether a different banks ATM would have accepted her NZ card though. Also the ATM was in Cantho so I don't know whether Saigon would've been different.

In Thailand the bank of Ayudhya (yellow colours) do not charge transaction charges aparrently.

I'm pretty security conscious so I would balance the peace of mind aspect about carrying round the US$10k that u are talking about for the 15 wks...

#10 nzlup has been a member since 1/2/2010. Posts: 22

Posted by smash on 4/2/2010 at 15:17

haha yeah we're off in a couple of weeks.
definitely not going to take wads of cash.
we've got 2x visa debit cards (1 ASB and 1 Kiwibank) so should be able to use those to take cash out at any ATM which accepts Visa.
Figure I'll stash about NZ$1000 worth of USD for the couple of weeks we're in Vietnam/Cambodia just to make life easy.
China we'll use ATMS, Thailand the same.

Can't wait!!

#11 smash has been a member since 21/6/2009. Posts: 162

Posted by nzlup on 4/2/2010 at 18:29

I've always been wary of the transaction charges that banks charge.

It looks like ASB are chargeing 2.1% Overseas service margin + NZ$5 per overseas tran ATM charge.

Withdrawing NZ$1000 at a time means an effective cost of 2.6% which over your budgeted NZ$15000 spend means NZ$390 of transaction fees...

I would still take some T/cs just to tide over in an emergency.

#12 nzlup has been a member since 1/2/2010. Posts: 22

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