Commenter Randy Meyer writes:
I found your website excellent and to the point. How about an article on traveling with currency. My biggest fear traveling aboard is ensuring I have enough currency to enjoy the trip with but also minimizing the risk of being robbed. My own experience is that the majority of the world’s prime traveling spots unless you count major cities world doesn’t exactly have ATMs on every corner and credit card acceptance. How do you do it?
After reading our guide to finding cheap flights, Randy finds himself curious about the best way to take money abroad safely without being robbed. That’s an excellent question, and one that reminds me of a long, almost-forgotten story.
A few years ago I was traveling Vietnam and met a cool German guy on the way. Walking next to him, he looked as if he was my bodyguard or something. He was BUFFED. The definitions of his deltoids and arms were so sculptured you might have easily thought he was a professional athlete. The guy was almost two times the size of an average Vietnamese, I’m not kidding.
He was a great dude and very fun to hang out with, and we quickly became friends. In fact, he even gave me his warm jacket when my old minimalist travel gear wasn’t enough for the shivering-cold climate of December in north Vietnam.
One evening we went out for a red-snapper and oysters dinner and went to a club later. I was way too tired to stay there and try to pick up emotionally-broken European chicks, so we high-fived goodbye and I went back to our hotel.
But guess what.
When I woke up in the morning, he was confused and started telling me how he got robbed when we left each other last night. AND THEY DIDN’T EVEN HAVE GUNS. He told me two Vietnamese guys approached him in a corner… drums please.. with FUCKIN’ STICKS.
Welcome to Vietnam, enjoy your stay.
Now, I lost a lot of muscle in Asia and was much smaller than my peak size (see my skinny to muscular transformation). So why did the Vietnamese guys choose him as a target instead of me?
I’ll tell you exactly why: BODY LANGUAGE.
The human brain has a fine-tuned algorithm for translating psychosocial cues (body language, vocal tone, etc) to help judge each other and determine social status, worth and potential rewards and risks. Unlike other more physically-oriented mammals – humans ‘alphaness’ is primarily a function of psychosocial dominance.
And the biggest difference between me and that buffed German guy was the way we carried ourselves. He was very friendly, smiley, agreeable, shy and somewhat introverted. Like most western European males, he was a reflection of a continent under siege by a few dozen years of hardcore feminization.
On the other hand, I grew up in the rougher reality and traditional lifestyle of the Middle East. I bet those two Vietnamese guys saw his body language and knew he was an easier target to rob. He wasn’t mentally ready for action, regardless of his physical strength and vigour.
And that’s all that matters.
So my advice to you, precious readers voyaging the world: Improve your body language.
Either indirectly: Engage in activities that boost your confidence levels – Brazilian Jiu Jitsu? Breakdance? Motorbiking? Whatever it is – if it makes you feel better (aka manlier) with yourself – it will also reflect in your body language and while pulling and attracting good friends towards you, it’ll also push away criminals. They’ll prefer to mess with easier targets.
Or directly: Make a conscious effort to walk with more ‘swag’. Walk tall with your chest and heads up, and your crotch leading the way. Ever watched a silverback gorilla in the wild? Their body language is open to the world, showing no fear to external threats. They’re moving slowly and confidently, like they own the place.
Or emulate human equivalents like Brad Pitt in Fight Club. Over time it will become second nature to you, increase your testosterone levels and change your whole self-outlook and behaviour. This practice is called power-posing and its applications are far beyond carrying money abroad.
Yes, I know you’re looking for an actual, practical best way to take money overseas – but improving your body language is a good first step towards not only keeping your cash secure when you travel – but also becoming a better, more successful person overall.
But power-posing doesn’t give as much edge to women. If you’re a girl – I recommend not traveling by yourself outside the western world, and sticking to groups is a good idea. You don’t wanna be this girl.
Safest and Best Way of Taking Money Abroad
So what is the best way to travel with money abroad?
With all the stuff I said about body language being so important and significantly decreasing your chances of being robbed, I do have my own favourite little tricks and travel money tips to help you enjoy what I believe to be the best way to carry cash overseas.
Say hello to my beloved internal-pocket:
I got this pocket built-in on the first travel pants that I used. They wore out long, long ago and before I gave them away I unstitched this pocket so that I can stitch it on every new travel pants or jeans that I use. It’s PRICELESS.
What I usually do is use my credit card to get a large sum from the ATM in a big reliable city (usually about $500), and put all the cash, credit card and usually my driving license inside this nice pocket which I stitch INSIDE the pants, usually right above my crotch. It’s impossible to snatch away (a very common practice in many poor areas of the world) and is very accessible when needed.
Get creative and find a way to incorporate a similar internal pocket into your travel pants. It’s really the best way to carry money overseas in questionable areas. Forget about those ridiculous ‘travel money belts’. Forget about those tedious and outdated travel cheques. All you really need is a reliable credit card and an internal pocket.
Stash enough cash if you’re going to remote areas and you’re golden.
Withdrawing large sums of cash at once from the ATMs also has the benefit of reducing your ATM transaction fees, which can get quite substantial for budget travellers. I mainly like the idea of saving time and using the ATM as little as possible , which also reduces the statistical risk of the card being ‘eaten’ by the machine – which may suck BADLY if its your only card.
I have traveled the world for many years, in many different countries – and never lost a penny with this method. By the way, I always take some money out of the internal pocket and put it in a ‘real’ side pocket of my travel pants in the beginning of each day. This serves two main purposes:
- Limit your daily budget. Ever heard of Parkinson’s Law? Applying it to budget, it means you’ll tend to spend exactly the amount of money available to you. If you’re an impulsive budget-traveler, tricking your mind and giving yourself a limited money-pool to spend each day will help you stay on track. Or just go make money online and increase your budget.
- Trick robbers and thieves. If somebody does try to rob you and your Israeli Krav Maga skills are limited, just hand him whatever’s in your ‘real’ pockets and he’s likely to believe it’s all you got. I used to also put an inactive credit card in one of the real pockets, just to trick potential robbers and avoid being searched for a card.
This is the best way to carry money when travelling, at least in my experience. If you have other methods and ideas on how to take money abroad – you’re welcome to share your wisdom.
Enjoy your travels and stay safe. And always use common sense, don’t act like a donkey.