I’m now well into my first international trip of year. Travelling internationally reminds me of few nuggets of wisdom.
ATM Cards and Foreign Currency
Whenever I go travelling I always have my Charles Schwab Debit Card in my wallet. I opened up an investor checking account with them over a year ago and I’m very happy I did. Charles Schwab is an brokerage firm but they also do some internet banking. The main reason I love my Charles Schwab account is that they refund any ATM fee you might incur and don’t charge any Foreign Exchange fees when you withdraw money in another currency. My regular bank (Suntrust) charges both fees, so I usually don’t travel with my suntrust ATM card. Getting Local Currency from an ATM machine is almost always the best way to change money and you will get a better rate than using a currency exchange. The Charles Schwab debit card also comes in handy when I travel around the U.S., as I can use any ATM, knowing access fees will get refunded to me at the end of the month. There is no minimum balance, so I think this is an account that makes sense for most everyone.
Having done a fair amount of travelling I am usually wary of TAXIs especially when taxi drivers are a little to eager to offer you a ride and are not part of an official looking TAXI stand. There are some cardinal rules with TAXIs as you are really putting your life and possession in the drivers hands. Some taxi drivers clearly take advantage of tourist and non-native speakers and that’s what happened to me this week in Shanghai. I think my guard was down as I had just come off a 14 hours flight and was really looking forward to climbing into a hotel bed. I had previously been to China in 2008 and had used many Taxis in both Shanghai and Beijing without any problem, and actually felt that all the driver I encountered were ethical and professional. My luck ran out this time as I left the Shanghai Maglev station and jumped into a taxi. I saw the meter was running, but I should have asked how much the ride would be. When I got to my hotel the meter had a clearly over-inflated amount. I haggled with the driver for a while but in the end he had my luggage in a locked trunk, so I paid 4 times a normal price for the taxi ride. It does take something like this however to remind me to be extra careful when jumping into a TAXI in a foreign country. I guess the TIP is confirm with the Driver approx how much the fare will be. Also keep an eagle eye on the meter. Also, in retrospect I should have taken a picture of the license info in the cab. At a minimum it would have been leverage to get the Taxi driver to treat me fairly.