The best advice we can give the would-be traveller or holidayer is to imagine that there is no rate of exchange.
Imagine that the country you're visiting uses the same currency as home. £1 for €1/$1.
The reason we suggest this is so that when you get home and you look at your receipts, you'll have a nice surprise when you realise you actually spent less than you thought.
On the flip side you can drive yourself potty trying to find the most competitive place or mechanisms to shave fractions of a cent off the rate of exchange when in fact you'd be better off not buying that ice cream at the beach...the saving would be about the same.
Now, let's put cynicism to one side for a second - in this series of posts we will look at the common mistakes of the seasoned traveller and suggest some useful hints, tips and pointers that should save you time, money and angst.
1| EXCHANGING ON THE HIGH STREET
First off - if you have left it too late to get some cash 'readies', do not go to a bureau de change (for instance the Post Office) in the UK on the high street.
No brand is inherently worse than the other and yes you will see differences in rates of exchange between the like of M&S and your bank, but the reason to avoid rushing off to something familiar is because you're paying more than you would were you to visit a similar independent business in the country you're travelling to.
The smaller the money change business the more likely it is that the person sat behind the register has a modecum of control over the mark up on the rate of exchange.
Remember, the mark up placed on the rate of exchange is the charge applied by the business selling it to you. In a world
where everyone claims to provide foreign currency 'without commission', the mark up is that commission embedded in the calculation used for the exchange of your money.
So, we take the view that although they may not have bright shiny hoardings or be conveniently located in the depatures terminal, smaller independent bureau de change located in the country you're travelling to (or in the UK in fact) should give you a marginally better rate.
Going to a bureau de change at an airport or train station is like buying sweets at the cinema.
Sure, it is convenient and yes you may think it is your last chance to get cash out for the taxi from the airport when you're in a foreign land, but, even if you plan ahead and get your currency before arriving at the terminal, you're doing better than buying from one of these last-minute vendors before you fly.
Do your research. There may be a forum or guide book that tells you of a local or trusted provider of currencies. Steer clear of the big brands like AMEX, Moneycorp, ICE or your bank. These institutions are capitalising on the convenience of their location to charge you more.
Having said all of the above, the amount of money you're exchanging probably depends on how long you are going away?
It may only be literally a fractional difference in the rate of exchange between the sort of independents we're talking about and the bigger brands.
The difference between a rate of 1.08 and 1.10.
On the exchange of £100 that equates to €2 difference.
When we travel we simply stick to the rule that buying our currency at an airport is not an option.
Therefore we're not fussed about what the rate is at the airport because we have a self imposed rule that says we won't be buying from there anyway. Plus, closing our eyes and imagining that one euro and one pound are the same thing we always find we come in under budget :)