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Currency question: what to use in Cape Town?

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Currency question: what to use in Cape Town?


We're arriving in Cape Town from the US in early September for our vacation and can not wait. I'm just not sure of what money to bring. Are US $ accepted? Or should we convert a few to ZAR? Also, are travelers checks recomended? Will our credit cards work? I've heard that I need to tell our banks and credit card companies where we'll be traveling so they don't turn off our card access.

Any suggestions are appreciated!

Thank you!

Frankfurt, Germany
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for Garden Route
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1. Re: Currency question: what to use in Cape Town?

Best idea is to use ZAR, using US$ is not common, maybe other than hotels and tourist ventures, and you will surely get a bad rate. Changing money in South Africa is a bit painstaking, since you will need to bring your passport to the bank, otherwise they will not change your US$.

On the plus side, credit cards are very often accepted (except gas stations) and there are many ATMs in South Africa. Why don't you just check with your bank whether you should tell them that you are going to South Africa, and if it is possible to withdraw cash at ATMs. Also ask how much they charge you for every withdrawel. I used my Visa a number of times in SA, no problem. To my mind, in times of insured credit cards, traveller's checks are really outdated, and they are a pain to change in South Africa, especially if they are not quoted in ZAR.

Use your credit card to pay most of the time, and withdraw from ATMs, if possible. To be on the safe side change a small amount of US$ in ZAR at home (10 - 20$) to start with and bring some US$ with you, just in case something is not working with your credit card.

Take it easy, enjoy your holiday!

Tempe, Arizona
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for South Africa, Sabi Sand Game Reserve
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2. Re: Currency question: what to use in Cape Town?

Credit cards for purchases at shops, your hotel bill, etc.

ATM for getting South African rand (yes, they expect you to do business with them in their money).

Changing money is actually simple if you use a Forex in a shopping mall, The fees, time it takes for the transaction, are all quite fair. The major banks have branches in the malls, too, and their rate will be about the same as at the Forex, though you'll have to wait in line, just as you do at banks back home.

You can - if you have the time when you arrive - change dollars at the bank at the Cape Town airport. Most likely, you won't have time for this, however, if you are being picked up to be transferred to a hotel.

If you get SAfrica rand here in the US, you will get a poor exchange rate. And if you change dollars at a hotel in SAfrica you will get a very poor rate.

YES. Inform your credit card companies and your bank that you will be in South Africa, and they should honor the transactions that come in from there. This is absolutely important.

cape town
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3. Re: Currency question: what to use in Cape Town?

You have received some excellent advice. I can only add that it is a good idea as suggested to inform your credit card companies your dates of travel - we should all do this. It means they won't suspect fraud and stop your transaction whilst they try to rwach you and find they can't because youare away!

Also please check your pin number - ours are 4 digits, except Am Ex which is 5. Your bank can advise

Nelson, New Zealand
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4. Re: Currency question: what to use in Cape Town?

Brilliant advice above

The last time I checked - Travellers cheques weren't charged when converting. That said - load your credit cards etc. They are accepted everywhere! Your debit card might work in RSA but I would double check this with your bank first. I know my RSA bank card works in the UK for example! Also do inform your bank that you will be in RSA as we know from experience that they do stop cards if they see unfamiliar transactions going through. It caused major problems for us overseas!

Destination Expert
for Barcelona
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5. Re: Currency question: what to use in Cape Town?

Agree - use your cards for purchases when possible (they're widely accepted) and get cash from ATMs, preferably in busy places during daytime.

Travellers cheques just seem outdated to me. I think it's mostly people from the US and the more traditional Brits who use them now. They take ages to change in most parts of the world and they are not welcomed much. There's been a huge leap forward in technology for financial transactions in the last 20 years and travellers cheques haven't caught up yet. You might keep $100 "for emergencies" I suppose - slightly safer than carrying cash.

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6. Re: Currency question: what to use in Cape Town?

Against all advise we took cash . We took money for the day out of the bulk of our money and left the rest in the hotel receptions safe .I will be doing the same again when we return to Cape Town next year .

Melynda .

Lunenburg, Canada
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for Saint John, Foz do Iguacu, Iguazu National Park
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7. Re: Currency question: what to use in Cape Town?

Hi Happy!

When we went, we did not take with us wads of cash on the plane, nor did we carry any travelers checks. We got our South African cash on arrival at banking machines, which we found everywhere. We did not go into banks to change money.

Call your credit card company to let them know you're traveling in South Africa. There's so much identity theft these days that when your credit card company is suddenly hit with a raft of charges from South Africa, it may refuse them, causing embarrassment to you. (This has actually happened to me and it can make for awkward moments, especially if your supply of cash is also depleted.)

As with most any foreign country, they have their own currency, the Rand. Prices are denominated in Rand and cashiers expect to receive Rand. Merchants will not particularly welcome dollars because someone has to calculate the exchange. Down at the bank, the merchant is going to get dinged for fees and service charges when he deposits the dollars.

The Rand is a freely-convertible hard currency. People have no need to try to get dollars like they do in Communist countries with worthless soft money. I did not find any use for dollars in South Africa.

Happy travels, and let me know if I can help further!



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8. Re: Currency question: what to use in Cape Town?

I always bring a couple of hundred dollars in foreign money with me from the US. After looking for my luggage, trying to navigate a new airport..all while in a daze from jetlag....I don't want to start looking for an ATM machine right away. It just is one less thing for me to think about especially if I am traveling alone.

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9. Re: Currency question: what to use in Cape Town?

I could not agree more on the credit card reporting before leaving home. I lost a credit card a couple of years ago so had to report it missing even though I found it in the house. Now I have received several fraud alerts from Mastercard warning me of suspicious action on my card because I travel so much...this is protect you but if you do not tell them ahead of time of your travels and they cannot reach you back at home you could be out of luck. I always bring more than one card as well...so if one does not work..hopefully the other will. Glad to hear that credit cards are widely accepted.

10. Re: Currency question: what to use in Cape Town?

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