Friday, August 18, 2017

Tales of Currency Conversion.

Enjoying my dinner at a restaurant in Rocky Point, Mexico.
Each travel teaches us something new. When I live long enough in a country, I get used to the environment and life style, and start to feel the pattern. A travel to a foreign country makes us question our own assumptions. Till last year, I was not aware that currency conversion can be complicated. Interestingly, I learned that during my trip back to my home country. When I queried how much would they give me for 1 Euro, the guy at the reception of Prasanna Money Exchange in Wellawatte mentioned 157 Rupees. I said, "ok, I have 400 Euro". He said that is fine. When I showed him 20, 20 Euro notes, he changed his word "No, I can only give 155 Rupees". I could not understand. He said, 157 Euro for 100 and 50 Euro notes. For the notes below (such as 20 and 10 Euro notes), he can only give 155 Rupees per 1 Euro". I did not understand. He did not like my questioning, and stopped serving me. So I decided to go to the nearest money exchange, "Royal Money Exchangers". 

They also said, "157 Rupees for 1 Euro". I asked, "Is it the same for 20 Euro notes?" The cashier mentioned, "No, it would be a bit lesser". I asked how much that would be. He checked and told me "156.50 Rupees". I accepted that offer. So I recommend, Royal Money Exchangers. They give more value, and more polite, compared to Prasanna.

Another interesting observation. While I was waiting in the queue, a western couple jumped the queue, with their local host. I told to my mom (in English), "When westerners come to our country, they also learn to jump the queues". Embarrassed to hear what I said, the gentleman from the western country looked back and said "oops, sorry. I did not notice you were here", and he moved backwards to follow the queue. We, humans, are the best adaptive systems in the world.

When I told my Serbian friend how I was charged more at Mexico when paid in USD, she reminded me, "You should just have paid using your bank card. Usually the card machines charge in the local currency". It just did not come to my mind. All I was thinking - it was unnecessary to convert some USD to Mexican Peso.

Update on 18/08/2017:
 After ending up with around 300 Romanian Lei after my visit to Romania, I have this essential question. How effectively convert money to the local currency, and how to spend them all! Using debit/credit card may not work for multiple reasons. First, the bank does not give you the best coversion rate. It is more economic to convert in local converters. Second, not all the places accept the card. So you still need the cash. I used to convert the remaining currency back to Euro at the airport. However, I ended up losing more money as buying and selling rates are different, and airports and Travelex give the worst of the coversion rate. For example, we got 4.45 RON for a Euro in Romania (Timisoara city center), where Travelex gave only around 3.9 RON for a Euro, even after we booked online! They all claim 0 commission, despite this joke of a conversion. I keep the remaining change with me in the hope of returning to the country in a latter day. It worked for countries that I visit frequently, such as USA and Sweden. But not sure whether it will work for Romania, as it is not a country that I am going to visit multiple times. Let's see. We do not know what might bring me back to Romania.

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