fauxklore (fauxklore) wrote,

Tonight's Amazing Race and a Lesson in Third World Finances

Just when I was thinking that we'd finally get rid of one annoying couple, we have a non-elimination round. It wasn't really obvious to me why Ken and Tina came in last. It looked like it was just bad luck with taxis, though I thought it was pretty obvious that the laundry task would be faster than getting bills of the right amount to make the necklaces. But, of course, most of the racers don' have my experience with one of the rules of travel in the developing world. Namely, nobody ever has small bills.

Seriously, one tends to get money from banks or cambios and the clerks at those always give you largish denominations, although often enough the largest bill is worth maybe 5 U.S. dollars so you end up with a stack about 3 inches thick. You must immediately try to get much smaller notes (and coins if they exist) because no taxi driver, no restaurant owner, no merchant anywhere has any change. If you are lucky, they will run around trying to get smaller bills to give you change. More often, they will just assume they can get three times the normal price by simply not having change. Supermarkets are good because they are one of the few places that normally has small bills. (They are also often the only place one can get coins.)

By the way, my other essential tip for dealing with money in the developing world is to remember that people in many countries hate to take bills that are in less than pristine conditions (and will, hence, often refuse to). But they have no qualms about giving you grubby, torn bank notes. If you are stuck with small decrepit bills, the best thing to do is to use them for tips in restaurants. Otherwise, you can wait until you are leaving and try to change them (along with the bills in better conditions). If I have a buck or so worth left, I have been known to stick them in one of those airport charity boxes that take any currency. Unfortunately, no country actually makes small denomination bank notes that are a reasonable size to use as toilet paper.

I have a nit to pick with Phil this week for using the word "tuk tuk." Yes, that is the term used in Thailand, but the term in India is "auto rickshaw" or just "auto."
Tags: television, travel

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