Money: What to take
- A mixture of cash, credit card and traveler’s cheques is advisable for visiting the Middle East. It can be useful to take some local currency for each country, for use on arrival, but United States dollars are universally accepted.
- How much should you take? That is very much related to personal spending habits. Prices in the Middle East are generally less than in Western countries, with the exception of Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Group pilgrimages may not include lunches. You may also want to buy incidental food items, bottled water, or drinks at dinner. Then there are holy items and souvenirs, camera memory cards or batteries. And there will always be a demand for tips; keeping a supply of US$ 1 notes handy is useful for tips, bottled water and other small purchases.
- Using a credit card reduces the need to carry large amounts of cash, or find somewhere to cash traveler’s cheques. You simply load the card with cash before you leave home, then make cash withdrawals from ATMs as you need more money. It is wise to take more than one card and keep them in separate places. Your cards should have a PIN code and they should be valid for at least 30 days after your travel ends.
- Changing currency and traveler’s cheques is usually cheaper at official exchange offices (which charge on commission) than at banks.
- For credit card use, it is important to check with your bank if you can use it abroad and also notify them beforehand where you intend to use it. Some banks tend to cancel creditcards used abroad if not notified that they were to be used accordingly.