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MONEY SMART TIPS | Travelling Latin America

3rd April 2023

Everything you need to know before travelling Latin America, with advice on how to manage foreign currency before, during, and after your trip!

Featuring Daniel “Mamba” Odoi!

TRAVEL MONEY GUIDE | Planning a trip to Latin America


So you’re planning a trip to Latin America.

Whether you’re going on a mystical trek to the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu, embracing your inner explorer with a jungle expedition through the Amazon Rainforest, encountering rare wildlife on a Galapagos Islands tour, cruising the idyllic Caribbean islands, or partying at the biggest Carnival in the world (helloooo Rio de Janeiro!)… you’ll be needing some travel money for your trip!

I bet you’re excited.

And maybe a little nervous.

Luckily, we’re here to demystify the foreign currency side of things, (we get it – foreign exchange can be confusing!), so that you can focus your energy on enjoying the historical monuments, vibrant culture, mouth-watering cuisine, and every other wonder that comes with travelling to Latin America.

Sound good? Let’s dive in.



THE BASICS | Where is Latin America?


South America vs Central America vs Latin America – What’s the difference?

Not gonna lie, this one confused me for quite a while as well.
Basically, it comes from a debate as to where North America and South America split.

When it comes to continents, North America and South America are split at the Isthmus of Panama… according to some authorities. However other authorities disagree and say it’s split at the Isthmus of Tehuantepec (in Mexico).

[PS: If you, like me, are wondering “wtf is an isthmus?” -  in simple terms: it’s a narrow strip of land, bordered by sea, connecting two larger areas of land.]


Basically, the debate is: does South America start at the bottom of Mexico or Panama?

So, to make things easier, the countries lying within that range (including the Caribbean Islands and part of Mexico – though most of Mexico is technically North America) became Central America!

Then, to group them all together in a way that made more cultural sense; Mexico, Central America, and South America form Latin America.

THE BASICS | What currency will you need to travel Latin America?

There is a wide range of currencies used, so you'll need to research your specific destination.
Here's a list of the Latin American currencies Travel Money Oz stocks (make sure to pre-order at your local store!), and for most other countries, you'll get the best rate by taking and exchanging United States Dollars (USD) once you arrive in your destination.

THE BASICS | Why do you need foreign currency?


Okay, so you’ve figured out where you’re going.

You’ve booked your flights and accommodation, got your visas and vaccines.

Everything’s good to go, right?


You need some spending money! Those street tacos are not gonna pay for themselves.

So, that’s where we come in.


What is Foreign Currency Exchange?

Currency Exchange is the process of converting one currency into another currency, typically done for international travel.

For example, if you’re an Aussie travelling to Machu Picchu, you’ll be exchanging Australian Dollars into Peruvian Sol and USD for your trip!

Want some more info? Foreign Currency Explained. 


Tips for Foreign Currency Exchange

Do your research!

>> It’s really important to keep in mind the rates, fees, and charges that will be involved in the process -to make sure you get the most bang for your buck.

>> It’s also crucial you research the currency or currencies you’ll need for the destinations you’ll be travelling to.

>> On top of that, making sure you have enough money to last the entirety of your trip, and then some, by creating a travel budget!

TRAVEL BUDGET | How to plan your spending money


Well friend, we’ve made it easy for you.

There are two parts for your travel budget.

>> Firstly, there are things you need to take of before your trip – like flights, accommodation, visas, vaccinations, and all that jazz.

>> Then, there’s the money you’ll be spending while actually abroad – think food, transport, tipping, souvenirs, and experiences.
After all, if you’re travelling all the way to Peru, hiking the Andean Mountain Range, you’d better have enough money to enter Machu Picchu, right?


Our Travel Budget Calculator

To help with the process (and of course, this is just a guide!) we’ve got a pretty nifty Holiday Budget Planner.

This travel budget calculator takes into account your travel type (are you backpacking Latin America on a shoestring or looking for a luxurious Glamazon escape?), your destination, and even how many coffees you plan to drink on holiday – which for Latin America, should be a lot. After all, Colombia and Brazil are the leading producers of Arabica and Robusta beans!

How to use it

Punch in your deets. It’s really that simple!

Our very clever robots combine crowd-sourced Numbeo data from around the world, and combine it with our exchange rates!

It’s the only one of its kind (that we know of), so we’re pretty proud of it.

So let the magic budget planner do the majority of the thinking for you, to create a base of what you’ll be spending overseas. After that, you just have to figure out the more personal stuff – tipping, specific tours, etc.



BEFORE YOUR TRIP | How To Prep Before You Travel


After you’ve created your Travel Budget, you’ll need to grab the foreign currency you need for your holiday!


What travel money do I need for Latin America?

>> Many countries in South America use the United States Dollar (USD) as their official currency, or have a currency that is pegged to the dollar.

>> Have the local currency (either by getting it from us or exchanging USD at official currency exchanges when you’re in destination) for gratuities for porters, guides, servers, etc.

>> Always pay in the local currency to get the best price.

>> Make sure to do your research to know which currency you need, and you can always ask our friendly experts for advice!


Do you need cash or card for Latin America?

We recommend taking both cash and card to travel, wherever you’re headed!

After all, you don’t want to keep all your eggs in one basket.

A good rule of thumb is to have some cash for small purchases (like coffee, local markets, and tipping), a prepaid travel card (like our Currency Pass) for everyday spending, and keep your personal credit cards handy for security deposits (for hotels and car rentals etc. but remember they incur additional surcharges and fees for all international purchases!). 

Cash is king in Latin American countries, so you will likely be using cash for most of your purchases (bar maybe some hotels and tours - like the Intrepid tour Daniel Mamba Odoi took to Peru and Bolivia).

BEFORE YOUR TRIP | Why exchange before you leave?


So… why should you exchange money before you go travelling?


>> SAFETY & PEACE OF MIND – the main reason is for safety and peace of mind. In many places around the world, counterfeit cash is a big problem that can get you into a lot of trouble. By exchanging your money beforehand you can rest assured that your cash is 100% legitimate!

>> HAVE SPENDING MONEY AS SOON AS YOU LAND – it also means you’ve got some money as soon as you arrive. Which, let’s face it, travel can be exhausting and you often arrive excited, but tired and hungry. If you’ve got money on you then you can immediately grab a bite to eat and a taxi to where you’re going!

>> AVOID HEFTY AIRPORT EXCHANGE FEES – having foreign currency before you go means you can avoid hefty airport exchange rates, fees, surcharges and commission. 

>> KNOW EXACTLY HOW MUCH YOU’RE GOING TO SPEND – if you’ve exchanged your money to AUD beforehand with us, you’ll know just how much you have to spend and can work within that budget. Also, our friendly experts can give some great advice, so don’t be afraid to ask!




>> LOCK IN YOUR EXCHANGE RATE – when you get a Travel Money Oz Currency Pass https://www.travelmoneyoz.com/travel-money-card you can lock in your exchange rate, so you don’t have to worry about market fluctuations, and will know exactly what you’re spending.

>>  RELOAD VIA THE APP – if you do end up underestimating what you’ll be spending and need a top up, you can reload your card via the app with ease! You can use the app to manage your card online, reload, and transfer between currencies, so it could prove the most convenient way to keep your balance topped up during your trip.

>> LOAD UP TO 10x CURRENCIES – this comes in handy if you’re bouncing around different countries! For example, for most of Latin America you’ll be loading United States Dollars (USD), but for certain countries (like Cuba) you might load Euros (EUR) instead, while other places (like South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands) Pound Sterling (GBP) would be preferred!

Also, if you try to make a payment in a currency in which you don’t have enough funds, your card will automatically convert some money you have stored on the card in a different currency.

>> 24hr Emergency Assist – if you run into any trouble, you can lock your card so nothing gets lost, and you have access to emergency assistance including cashouts etc. Read our Currency Pass FAQs for more details!

BEFORE YOUR TRIP | Why exchange with Travel Money Oz for your Latin American adventure?


That’s a good question! It’s always important to research the businesses you’re engaging with.

Here are some of our key pointers:

>> TRANSPARENCY – No Commission, no fees, no hidden nasties
We wouldn’t want them either. So, what you see is what you get.

>> BEST PRICE GUARANTEE – We will beat any local written quote by at least $1*
We know having the best rate possible means you get the most spending money overseas. That’s why we offer our Best Price Guarantee! Find the T&Cs here, but the gist is that if you give us a written quote, we’ll beat it by $1.

>> RATE MOVE GUARANTEE – Protection against rate fluctuations.
The rates can change quicker than Aussie weather. It can be stressful trying to guesstimate the right time to exchange money. Which is why we’ve built in protection! If you see the exchange rate gets better within 14 days of exchanging with us, we’ll refund you the difference.* Learn more.

>> CASH COMMITMENT – Always have top currencies in stock.
We’re not here to waste your time. There’s nothing more annoying than taking time out of your day to buy something and they don’t have stock. But we will ALWAYS have our top currencies in stock!
• United States Dollar (USD)
• Euro (EUR)
• Great British Pound (GBP)
• New Zealand Dollar (NZD)
• Japanese Yen (JPY)
• Thai Baht (THB)
• Singapore Dollar (SGD).
And if we don’t have the currency available in store? Well, we’ll give you up to $100*. 


>> 60+ CURRENCIES – Pre-order rare currencies!

We also know that maybe you want to travel off the beaten path. Well, we stock over 60+ currencies! Head to your local Travel Money Oz store and ask a friendly expert what’s the best option for you. If it’s a rare currency that we stock, we should be able to get it in for you, or it might even be the case that it’s a currency you can only get in-destination, and another currency might get you better rates when you’re there (for example, Bolivian Boliviano – it’s better to take United States Dollars and trade once you’re in Bolivia!).

>> FRIENDLY WORLD EXPERTS – By travellers, for travellers!

Last but definitely not least, we’re experts in all things travel and money, and are travellers ourselves so we can give the best advice!
We’re in the business of travel money because we know and love travel, so we’re here to help make it all easier for you – especially first timers experiencing large sums of cash for the first time!
Come and have a chat with us in-store for your upcoming trip, we’d love to help out.
We also have these helpful blogs and World Currency Guides if you’re a bit more introverted and would rather learn online (don’t worry, we get it).

>> BUT DON’T JUST TAKE OUR WORD FOR IT – Read our reviews!

If you watched the Flight Centre YouTube video at the top of the page, Daniel also left this glowing Google review for our Travel Money Oz Myer Centre store

Daniel Odoi

As I’m traveling to South America (Peru and Bolivia) for the first time and haven’t experienced having to exchange AUD for cash-heavy countries, Rebbecca from the Travel Money Oz Myer Centre left me feeling infinitely more confident in my understanding of their currencies, how the exchange process works and how to best approach my money situation while aboard. Her expertise, passion and thoughtfulness is world-class and she truly went above and beyond in answering all of my questions. I could not recommend her more highly and am so grateful to have her on my side as a fellow traveller that loves sharing her passion with others.

Pumped for my trip! @danielmambaodoi

Check out all our reviews on Google though, we’re really proud to have so much fantastic feedback from our amazing travellers!

DURING YOUR TRIP | Using cash and card in Latin America



>> Petty theft is common, so don’t keep all your cash in one place. Keep your cash in separate bags and wallets – even socks! – throughout your travels for better safety.

>> Always go to official currency exchanges, and if you’re travelling with a local tour guide, friends or family, ask for their recommendations for which have the most competitive rates!

>> ATMs can be a bit hit and miss. Aim to use ATMs inside banks are usually the safest option.

>> Make sure your US bills are crisp (not wrinkled or torn) – especially in Peru and Bolivia. If you’re given a note that isn’t up to scratch, make sure you ask for another.

>> Double-check bills and coins when exchanging money as counterfeit notes and fraud is not uncommon. You don’t want to be caught out with fake money!



>> Have smaller denominations for street vendors, markets etc.

>> Avoid exchanging at airports, hotels, and restaurants as these can often have hidden fees and charges.

>> Always select the LOCAL  currency when paying by card or withdrawing from an ATM!
Merchants and retailers might offer you to pay in your own currency, but this might include hidden charges, fees, and a not-so-competitive exchange rate which can cost you more. If you choose the local currency, you’ll be exchanging for the best exchange rate Travel Money Oz can provide at the time. Read about it in our blog - Top Tips On Avoiding International Bank Fees

>> Use the local currency for gratuities for porters, guides, servers, etc. (and if you use local currency for purchases, you will usually get a better price for goods and services too!).

AFTER YOUR TRIP | What to do when you return from Latin America


If you have anything left over after your great Latin American adventure, you can sell it back to Travel Money Oz!

>> You can either trade it back for Aussie Dollars in cash, or nominate your bank for a transfer!

If you have funds left over on your card you can either:
>> Cash out for flat fee of $10AUD straight into your bank account.
>> Use the money as you would in Australia (by transferring to AUD), and run the balance down to zero (on groceries etc)!

>> Any leftover coins, these are not legal tender in Australia, so if you haven’t spent it overseas and don’t want to keep them as souvenirs, you can donate them to UNICEF in our Travel Money Oz stores!

We have special donation boxes in store to collect and redistribute these foreign coins back to where they're needed most - and small change really does make a big difference!

So far, our travellers have donated over 300k since 201, which has gone to help children all around the world.
You can read about it here

THERE YOU HAVE IT! Your Travel Money for Latin America sorted.


That wraps up all the most important info (that we can think of at least!) that you’ll need to manage your money in Central America and South America.

All that’s left to do us come and see us!

¡buen viaje!

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Chat with our experts in-store for tailored advice, or if you prefer, check out our online currency guides  and  inspirational blogs.

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Published April 3, 2023. This blog is provided for information only and does not take into consideration your objectives, financial situation or needs.  You should consider whether the information and suggestions contained in any blog entry are appropriate for you, having regard to your own objectives, financial situation and needs.  While we take reasonable care in providing the blog, we give no warranties or representations that it is complete or accurate, or is appropriate for you.  We are not liable for any loss caused, whether due to negligence or otherwise, arising from use of, or reliance on, the information and/or suggestions contained in this blog.
Terms and conditions apply to Best Price Guarantee, Rate Guard and Cash Commitment. See travelmoneyoz.com for more details.