Last week one of our new elective students got in touch to ask us to put forward a question to the houses.
“I’m going with yourselves to Arusha at the end of May and was wondering what is the best mode of money to take with me? US dollars? travellers cheques? bank card? english money? I’m a bit unsure of what to do and which is the safest way! please help!!”
We give lots of suggestions to each student in the downloadable trip pack on My Trip, but there is nothing like getting answers firsthand from students to put your mind at ease, so we extended this out to all of our houses and let the students tell us what solution they felt was best for the destination they were in.
As the question was about Arusha, we started with Freddy's gang. From the responses, it sounds like a mixture of cards and cash works. Felicity said "I brought 800 USD plus a VISA credit card. It was easy to change the USD into Tanzanian shillings and I have had no problems so far taking money out from ATM’s” and Daniel agreed. “I took a mixture of dollars and pounds and changed it all on the first day of orientation as the group taken to Bureau doe Change. It’s wise to take a Nationwide Credit card to get out any further money you need after that. But you will get a safe box in your room (Bring a pad lock) so you can store any excess money in there rather than carrying it about with you”.
In the past people always used travellers cheques, but these days it seems as if cards or dollars are easier. Simon thinks that "travellers cheques are not very useful in Tanzania generally” and Sarah agreed. “I brought cash only, no travellers cheques as I have had hassle before changing. Dollars are easy to change into Tanzania money and so I brought them to pay for big things like Safari, Mt Meru climb etc - a lot of tours prefer payment in dollars - and Sterling which I changed on orientation day into shillings. I have had no problems- the safe deposit box in room makes having lots of cash feel safe". It's also wise to check to see if your bank are going to charge you to use your card. "Nationwide don’t and there is a (reasonably) reliable Barclays ATM near to the house allowing you to withdraw Tanzania shillings 300,000 (223USD) or Tanzania shillings 400,000 (296USD) a day”
If you do take dollars, several of the students and Freddy recommended that " it must be notes that US issued after 2000 because the notes that were issued before 2000 are now not accepted in Tanzania. You will also get a better rate for USD 100 notes."
In Nepal students also choose to carry dollars or a card. Maja said that "banks do charge a certain amount (£3 ish) on every withdrawal but you just take out a lump sum instead of taking out smaller amounts various times." The students also agreed that when it came to paying for bigger things like safari at Chitwan, flights, paragliding, rafting, trekking etc, it made more sense to pay in dollars or a credit card. Sunil agreed "I reckon, cards are safer and convenient but sometimes some cards for some weird reason don't work or the ATM is out of order. It's best to bring in some dollors / GBPs or traveller's cheque and card of course."
In Ghana Joe told us that "major foreign currencies can be exchanged without stress, or used in transactions. English Pounds, American dollars and the Euro are best. Even if the banks are closed there are lots of money men who will change it for you in the commercial centres". Again travellers cheques are not really recommended. "They can be used but to ensure that cheques have not been stolen, the banks insist on you producing the purchasing agreement form( receipt) from your home country to confirm ownership. Most of the students do not bring this along with them and so it can prove to be a problem. If you do bring travellers cheques, bring the reciept too!"
In the big cities like Dar it is usually easy to change money, with lots of banks and hotels etc. It can often mean that rates vary widely depending where and how you choose to change money. Majenda asked the students their preferences and he told us that "most of the students said that travelers cheques are not particularly useful as the big hotels where it is best to change them are often far from the house. Also, even if they are accepted they always have a low rate of change. Laura , Charlotte, Jennifer , Catherine and Lindsay said that they have been doing well with dollars/pounds as you can easily change them in any bureau de change. Also Master, Visa cards are accepted and used in many ATM machines around the country. So mostly its good to carry cash not a lot of it , have your cards and just a little about of traveler cheques just in case you need to use them"
Rutherford has also found that USD and cards work best. "US Dollars are widely accepted in Tanzania. You can use it to pay for various activities including safari without having to exchange it into Tanzanian shillings. I know that "travellers cheque are thought a safe way to carry money, but not every exchange shops accept them. Even if they do, the rate is usually awful"
Next week.... the question comes from our Overseas Operations Director Faye. Her team speak to every student before they leave and give them as much advice as possible. She is keen to find out "what guidebook do you think is the best for the area you are in? ". Check out the answers here next Monday!