Do I Still Need Hard Currency When Traveling?

bank notes
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on

The world of traveling has changed dramatically since 2020. In the post-pandemic world, traveling is finally on the rebound after more than two years.

One of the biggest questions I’ve seen people ask is: do I need cash to travel abroad?

The answer for the most part is: it depends where you are traveling.

Europe and Australia

Europe has gone predominately cashless. Many friends I’ve spoken with withdrew small amounts of cash have had a difficult time getting rid of it. Vendors expect travelers to pay with their contactless debit or credit cards.

Contactless cards have three wavy symbols on them. When prompted to pay, a person will only need to tap their card on the indicated sensor. Although, it is worth noting that purchases over certain amounts, like $500, may require you to insert your chip into a reader and sign.

Apple Pay, Google Pay, and other mobile wallets are also prevalent.


In Asia, cash is still very much the preferred form of payment. Cards may be used in larger cities and with larger retailers, but for the most part, vendors prefer cash.

Africa and South America

In both Africa and South America, you will find there to be a large mixture. In major cities, using a card is not a problem and is oftentimes preferred. In more remote areas, or with smaller retailers, cash is preferred.

My Thoughts and Recommendations

Regardless of where you are traveling, I would always recommend carrying a small amount of cash with you. For example, I like to leave cash tips for housekeeping when I check out of a hotel.

I would err on the side of taking 1-2 credit cards with you and a debit card to withdraw cash when you arrive at your destination. Using local ATMs will often give you a better currency exchange rate. Ask your hotel or the concierge what forms of payment are preferred as things change all the time.

When using a credit card, pay in local currency and also ensure that you are checking with your bank if you will be charged any foreign transaction fees. One of the worst mistakes I ever made was not realizing my debit card was going to be charged 3% everytime I used it! Talk about a shock.

Don’t be surprised if your card is initially declined the first tie you use it abroad. Oftentimes, your bank will want to confirm you are using your card in a foreign destination and will want you to approve the charge via a text or call.

Hope these tips help you!