In the western world we're rather used to being able to pay for nearly everything we want with that little plastic card. When I say nearly everything, I'm referring to those times at your local English corner shop or pub when they don't accept card for anything less than £5 even if you have no cash with you and the total is £4.99 which is so close you can almost taste the extra 1p but they still won't even budge (rant over).
However, there are a lot of countries who really don't deal in plastic or digital money at all in day to day life (shock). In these places you always need to ensure you have a pocket full of cash to help you on your way. Not to worry though, in my experience countries who don't deal in cards are often countries where you get a lot for your buck. Generally, hotels will accept card but you may find taxis, tuktuks, street shopping, some day tours/trips companies and a large number of restaurants don't. Find out what I do below!
A big worry on my mind whenever carrying cash is it being stolen. Pick pocketing and mugging is a major problem all over the world in any tourist destination, places from India to Milan are full of pickpockets waiting for the ultimate opportunity - you.
When using a handbag, try to have one that has a zip across. This prevents anyone from quickly putting their hand in your bag and grabbing that cash filled purse of yours before you even realise. I also will make sure that the zip side is to my front, and if the bag hangs low have it across my body with my hand resting over the zip. This is a sure way to not get anything nicked - I've been to pickpocket hot spots all over the world now and have never had a problem (touch wood that it never happens!) Bum bags are great, but I agree can be a little of a style killer, and can make you look a little tubby when hidden under clothes. You can get some really cool ones but make sure you always tuck the straps beneath your clothes too as it's easy for people to clip the strap and pull it off and run before you have a chance to stop then.
Use the hotel safe and leave things you don't need in there when going out. Having an emptier bag will make you less of a target, and if anything does happen not everything is lost. When using the safe just double check it locks as some of them have a little knack to getting them shut tight, and don't use a generic code like 1234 to lock it - you're just being too obvious.
Don't take out too much cash at once. It's the typical faux pas to take out all your cash at once. You're not only going to spend it too fast but if anyone sees you taking that much out of the ATM you may draw some unwanted attention to yourself. Generally, if you’re in a country that doesn’t deal much in digital money, it means everything’s cheap anyway so you don’t need a lot of cash constantly.
Keep it on you. I don't care if you want to swim when at the beach or the pool. If there's no-one you trust to look after it don't leave it on the side. The moment you turn around it'll be gone like the wind. Luckily, you can get waterproof pouches big enough for money, key, phone and passport - you can even take pictures with your phone in them. Just test it before you go!
Finally - if anything like this happens make sure you get a police report to go alongside it. This can be a little bit of a pain but does mean you can claim it all back on your travel insurance and removes all the stress in the long run.
Using a cash point is the easiest way to get your money while abroad. Even countries that don’t generally deal in ‘plastic money’ will have a cash point for you to get some tuppence out. Doing this though can cause quite a few charges if using your average debit card, so this is where you need to have done a little forward thinking! Cash cards are the modern day (and much better) equivalent of travellers cheques. With these you have a range of options which you can read up on them here!
You can take cash with you, however if travelling for a long time you really don’t want to be taking thousands of pounds worth in case. For one, if something does happen and it all is gone you’re very much stuck! Your travel insurance generally only covers X amount in cash so anything above that mark you can’t even claim back.
Finally, you can exchange old notes while abroad. This can be after crossing borders into a different country, if you have some spare currency and you’re not heading back in the direction you came from, it’s fairly easy to head to an exchange point and switch it over.
Always have some cash on you. There are times when you arrive in a town or small village where there really isn’t an opportunity for you to get some money out and that is probably the time you wish you had some for an awesome souvenir or just one more pint! Just have some in reserves and you’ll always have an amazing time.
You may have heard of a saying called dirty money. If cash is the main way of paying, it means everyone does it and those dollar notes can end up in some creepy weird places that you don’t even want to think about. I don’t know what you want to do with that money, but keep in mind you have no idea where it’s been and that the saying ‘dirty money’ started for a reason…. Grim. Just take it, put in wallet and then pay for the next thing you need.
If you’re travelling with someone, share the cash between you. That way if something happens you should still have some money to keep you going until you sort it out. You don’t want to run out of money as it kinda helps you get from A - B in a lot of situations.