Money makes the world go round, and it also helped
us go round the world! This section provides a few tips
on money for the overland trail. We were budget travellers,
and on average we spent between $10-$15 per day. We
didn't skimp and we didn't buy luxuries too often. We
met some French guys who were on $3 per day - staying
with families and bargaining with everything - they
proved it was possible.
In general, we used ATMs to withdraw local currency,
and saved our US dollars for emergencies and paying
Have a look at the progress charts one
for a detailed day to day log of our route.
Local cash can be obtained from ATMs, banks or moneychangers.
Often it's a good idea to be prepared and have a little
local currency before you enter a new country - just
in case you can't find a cash machine on the first day.
US Dollars are useful everywhere. It's best to get your
dollars at home, otherwise you pay commission twice
by withdrawing local currency and changing it into dollars.
Make sure you get nice new series notes (large round
pictures on the note). You can often get a better exchange
rate if you change $100 notes rather than smaller denominations.
ATMs accepting international cards are becoming pretty
common all along the overland route nowadays. Of all
the countries on the trip, only Iran doesn't have ATMs
for foreign cards. In Iran you could use Mastercard
(but not Visa and definitely not American Express) to
get cash advances in certain banks. If possible, take
VISA, Mastercard and Cirrus/Maestro - this will cover
you for most countries on the trip.
Most banks won't charge you for withdrawing cash from
their machine, but the cash machines in Kathmandu do
- an extra 200 rupees.
A safe and convenient method of carrying your dollars.
Could be cashed in most places except Iran (American
Express!). In some countries, travellers cheques actually
get a marginally better rate than hard currency.
It's a good idea to have a rough idea of the exchange
rate before you enter the country, so that:
1. You know how much money to get out from an ATM (Adrian
withdrew the equivalent of £4 from a Romanian
2. You don't get conned by border moneychangers (we
all did crossing into Pakistan)
There are plenty of world currency websites (e.g. www.xe.com/ucc)
and any local English-language newspaper will have the
up-to-date foreign exchange rates.
As far as Austria, obtaining money isn't too much
of a problem. ATMs can be found in most towns,
though be careful, since certain countries (e.g.
Belgium) don't use plastic as often as we do in
the UK and ATMs are fewer and only in major towns.
ATMs were available in the larger towns.
ATMs accepting international cards were available
in all major towns - including the border towns
of Edirne and Dogubeyazit. The Turkish economy
is a wobbly one - the lira/£ rate varied
by at least 10% when we were there - watch out
for the huge queues at ATMs when something wobbly
is going on!
Here things get tricky. Because of the US trade
embargo there are no ATMs for international cards
and only European Mastercards can be used for
cash advances. Ironically US dollars are the easiest
way to get cash.
We were told not to change money at the banks,
but things have changed and the banks now offer
pretty good rates. It's far safer than the black
market - you know you're not going to get ripped
off. However only certain banks change money and
only in the larger towns.
Before entering Iran from Turkey, it is best
to change any leftover Turkish currency in Dogubeyazit
or at the border itself (Iranian side), however
we found better rates at Dogubeyazit.
Limited experience, but ATMs in the larger towns.
We got ripped off considerably on the Pakistani
side changing money at the Iran/Pakistan border.
Be aware and know the rate before you cross.
Increasing numbers of ATMs in the larger towns,
but had to change dollars when we headed into
the lower Himalaya around Dharamsala.
Any leftover Pakistani rupees can be changed
at the Pakistani side of the Pakistan/India border
at Wagah by the customs guys - and they actually
offer a fair rate.
We only used ATMs in Kathmandu but there may be
some in Pokhara. The Nepali rupee is fixed to
the Indian rupee (1 IR = 1.6 NR) so money changing
elsewhere isn't too much of a problem. Note that
the ATMs in Kathmandu cheekily charge an extra
200+ rupees on each withdrawal.