Moving to a different country is a huge thing to do. The planning and preparation involved can seem endless. Stress levels can go through the roof. There's a million things to remember and to do, and only a finite amount of time, in most cases, to do it all.
I've emigrated to new new countries twice now (and moved house approximately 15 times during these various periods all around the UK, in Australia and in Finland where I now live), selling up the contents of my apartment and life on eBay both times, buying a one-way ticket, packing a bag, and not looking back. It never really gets any easier. But with each move you learn new things and find out ways to make certain aspects of your move that bit easier.
One tip I give to people who are going travelling or emigrating is, if possible, to have a bank account sorted out at the other end for your arrival. This is easier in some countries than others, but there are now so many ways of managing your money when going abroad (even just for holidays) that this part shouldn't cause you too many problems.
My experiences have varied. In Australia it was dead simple. I contacted the UK office of WestPac, sent them copies of my ID and documentation, they opened the account and gave me the account number etc before I left the UK, and when I got there all I had to do was show up with my passport and they handed over a new debit card and my account was ready to go. In Finland it wasn't quite so simple. KYR (Know Your Customer) rules here are bit more stringent and I could only apply for an account in person. And to get any form of online banking (which also ties in to accessing any other online authentication for government sites, payments etc) you have to have an official piece of Finish ID.
In both instances I've had money in a UK account and have had to decide what to do with it - this also goes for myself and others when going on holiday - what’s the best option when it comes to changing your cash in to another currency…….. Luckily, these days, we have a myriad of choices from different companies.
When I moved to Australia I used HiFX They’re a UK-based currency broker, so they hunt about and get the best rate for you. If you already have an account set up at the other end I would suggest speaking to a few brokers such as HiFX and get them to do the hard work of finding the best exchange rate. Again, I just had to produce some copies of my ID, they set up the HiFX account and the money went in to my Australian account and was there waiting for me when I arrived. Having an account with the broker meant I could also transfer other sums of money at any point - I just added it to my account and they did the transfers etc at the best rate around. Of course you pay a small fee, but it’s worth it when it’s so easy an convenient.
If you’re just holidaying or want to take a certain sum of cash with you, you also have lots of options. Most UK banks offer currency exchange services, including commission free for their own customers a lot of the time. You can even order your currency online and have it waiting for you at a branch or delivered straight to your front door these days! There’s also the Post Office and old school travel agents that offer currency exchange, but I've always found that their rates aren't quite as competitive - especially when comparing them to my own bank.
A good tip is to look at exchange rates and any commission you might be charged and then compare this to actually using your debit card abroad. Fees and charges have reduced dramatically over the last few years, so it’s no longer the massive expense that it used to be. Most banks will charge a 1% transaction fee and then a minimal ‘conversion fee’ (if your account is not in the same currency as you’re paying in). If you’re just using your card once or twice a day to draw out cash, this way is safer than carrying a wad of cash around during your trip (or leaving it in the hotel) and also more convenient. I actually had to do this for nearly two months when I moved to Finland as it took me so long to get registered everywhere and to get an account set up. I found that the charges I incurred were fairly minimal overall and didn't really bother me.
Then there are also businesses that specialise in currency exchange, such as the likes of Travelex. You’ll see their 'Bureau De Change' outlets in pretty much every international airport in the world. While you may not get the best rates in the world at these outlets (as it’s your last chance before as you pass through the airport en route to your destination), you can shop about on their website. They currently offer an online price promise as well as the usual delivery/collection options and a buy-back option of any unused foreign currency should you be silly enough to actually return to the UK (or your home country). They also do transfers (similar to HiFX but with a set rate) and the pre-paid travel cards if you’re just going away for a short time. I used a pre-paid Amex card in New York years ago - it was convenient as I didn't have to carry cash about, but I found that not everywhere accepted it and I’d have to draw cash from an ATM anyway and get stung with a large fee from the ATM itself. Most of these cards are now run though Visa or MasterCard so should be accepted in most places around the world, so another good option if you want a cashless trip (and don’t want to overspend).
I would always suggest one of the above options when going abroad and would never try to convert money once in the destination - this is where you’ll be stung massively with poor exchange rates and additional fees.
Do you have any tips or recommendations for managing your money when going or moving abroad? If so, comment below and let me know your thoughts.