Saturday, September 1, 2012

Another Dinero Dilemma

I'm losing money while I learn the details about world travel.

Before I left for Cuba, I exchanged some American dollars for Canadian dollars.  Most of my fellow travelers had decided to just change American money for Cuban "CUCs" once we arrived in Havana, but all my research about my destination had cluttered my mind about what was best.  Some sources there was an extra penalty for exchanging American dollars due to that great ongoing relationship my government has with the Castros, so I lost about $12 in exchange fees in order to have Canadian money that might get a better exchange rate once in Cuba.

News flash: it didn't.  The rate to exchange Canadian dollars was worse, at least while I was there.  So I lost around $7 in the exchange of Canadian to CUCs.  Running total: $19 lost.

Yesterday I started the learning curve all over again when I went back to my Phoenix bank excited to exchange the Canadian dollars to South African rand.  My goal was to save a step - and thus, more fees - by changing directly to African money rather than to dollars and then to rand.  (Okay so my real goal was just to say something as cool as "Canadian to South African"...and to confess to the oh-so-helpful foreign money expert at the bank that my professed trip to Canada last month was just an attempt to keep him from holding onto his Canadian money if he learned I was really going to Cuba.)  I did succeed in sounding like a traveler, and met interesting people who joined me in the foreign money line in downtown Phoenix.  I did not get to make my confession (there were two people exchanging money so I didn't get to talk to the helpful Canada fan I had last time) and I did not get rand because only one branch of Wells Fargo in Phoenix carries that kind of money.

If the teller had suggested that I go to the branch that had South African money I would have, thus saving the additional $12 in fees I lost changing Canadian money back to American dollars (running total: $31 lost).  But I can't be too frustrated with her lack of helpful information simply because she made my day by saying I was looking for "money for an exotic location" that wasn't carried at her branch.  "Exotic" is one of those magic words that makes this traveler-in-the-making forget frustration.

So I've lost $31 and here's what I've learned: Cuba loves American dollars so foreign currency is unnecessary there...if you want to exchange exotic money go to the main downtown branch of Wells Fargo...there are indeed people in Phoenix who like to travel so I might just start hanging out in the foreign exchange line at the bank inviting people to join me for coffee when they have their currency. 

And most of all, I've learned that $31 is a small price to pay for experiences that let me fill a blog with thoughts and photographs, and fill a mind with memories and people that will forever alter my worldview.

In case you're wondering, no I did not take this photograph.

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