CURRENCY TIPS & TIPPING FOR TRAVEL

You might think that nowadays, you could travel with a credit card, a debit card and you’re set. But cash is always king and it’s a good idea to have real money for spending, especially at the airport and for taxis. Jet lag fogs the brain so know what the currency is worth before you arrive.

I usually handle the money when we travel because I have more experience. One time I gave my husband a 10 pound note to order two half-pints of lager at a pub in London. He returned a while later with two glasses and no change. Twenty-five dollars for beer? I knew London was pricey, but still… He had left the rest of the money, all coins and worth about $15.00, as a tip.

If need be, let one person handle major purchases. When travelling with friends, I sometimes create a kitty for taxis and group transport.

Back-up systems are second nature to flight crews. Always bring an additional credit card that’s different than your primary card. In other words, if you carry Visa, back it up with MasterCard.

Tipping: Americans seem to tip everyone everywhere, but that’s not always necessary. In some places, handing someone a tip could be insulting or even get them fired. The culture of tipping is so diverse, you’d be smart to check out local customs before you travel. Here are a few basic guidelines.

Look at restaurant and bar bills to see if service is already included. This practice is common in Europe and is often stated on the menu. If in doubt, ask.

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Hotel porters and housekeepers are usually tipped; rules for concierges can vary, though extra service is worth rewarding.

Tour guides and drivers are tipped, either a flat rate or a percentage of the trip cost. I’ve found that many are not shy about reminding you.

Taxi drivers can be tipped a percentage of the fare, by rounding up or with any leftover change. In India, when we hired a driver for the day, we bought him lunch as well.

Australia and New Zealand are still mostly tip-free destinations as is Japan. And though many all-inclusive resorts state that gratuities are included, some guests have started to tip, which puts the rest of us in an awkward spot. At busy times, how do you get the bartenders attention?

All-inclusive tips: We find our favourite bar early in the week and tip the bartender by smiling and saying thank you while offering a discreet cash-in-handshake. Then, if we receive the service we expect, we repeat the process a few days later. We always tip the housekeeper, not only because they work so hard, but because it ensures a steady flow of clean towels and amenities.

American dollars are accepted in most places but local currency is usually better. Paper money is the standard as foreign coins, regardless of their value, are very rarely accepted or exchanged. While we riding in a New Delhi cab, a female beggar rapped on our window, trying to swap an English pound coin for rupees. She knew the correct exchange rate as well.

FA TIP: If cash is good, clean cash is better. Some countries will not accept foreign currency that is torn, worn or dirty. Small bills are best as many countries seem to have a shortage; otherwise, you’ll have to wait for change from cabbies or street vendors.

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