DON'T exchange money at the airport
You're better off lighting your money on fire than exchanging it for local currency at an airport. Simply, the further away you get from the currency markets, the worse the exchange rates. And airport banks and bureaus are way down the totem pole. Also, any place that says "NO FEE" simply means it is making its money by giving you an even worse exchange rate!
What to do instead: Never exchange cash unless you absolutely have to, but if it's a necessity, do so at a large bank downtown where you'll get better rates and fewer fees. And to get the best rates, withdraw cash when you arrive using an ATM or credit card.
DON'T bring traveler's checks
That's not even a joke, people still think they should travel with these things. In 2016! For those born in the '90s, traveler's checks are checks issued by banks for a predetermined value that allow the bearer to exchange the check for cash anywhere in the world. In the time before ATMs, they were the best way for travelers to have access to money.
What to do instead: Use an ATM or credit card. Again... it's 2016. Ninety-nine percent of the world has ATMs and accepts credit cards. And the places that don't? Well, they won't have banks to take your traveler's checks anyways! You'll need cash!
DON'T use a bank card with fees
I don’t know about you, but I don't like giving the banks my money. I'd rather spend my cold, hard cash on travel, beer, and food. Get a bank and credit card that has NO foreign transaction fees so you can avoid ATM fees and other surcharges.
What to do instead: Use Charles Schwab for a no-fee ATM card and Capital One for the simplest no-foreign-transaction-fee credit card (though I prefer the Chase Sapphire or Barclays Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard because you can earn points with them). There are a lot of options out there so be sure to check with your local bank.
DON'T skip the local tourist office
I'm always surprised at how few tourists visit the local tourism board. It’s always my first stop on any trip. They have advice on current events, festivals, and off-the-beaten-path information you aren’t going to find in any guidebook. And their job is to literally know everything about the place you are in. Moreover, they often sell city tourism cards that offer free or discounted access to museums, attractions, and public transportation.
What to do instead: When you get to a new city, head to the tourism office and ask for information on what to see and do, and where the deals are. Grab a map or discount card, and if you haven't found a place to stay yet, let them help you book accommodations.
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Matthew Kepnes is a travel writer and author of New York Times bestseller How to Travel the World on $50 a Day and the creative force behind Nomadic Matt, a website that provides detailed information on how to travel cheaper, better, and longer. His advice is often featured in Time, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Lifehacker, BuzzFeed, National Geographic, BBC, and The Guardian, among other publications.