Best/safest/most efficient way to send money from England to Peru, Ecuador and Mexico?
September 25, 2010 10:55 AM   Subscribe

What is the best/safest/most efficient way to send money from England to Peru, Ecuador and Mexico? What's the best international bank in Peru/Ecuador? What are the best travelers checks?

My niece is backpack traveling from England to Mexico/Peru and Ecuador for an extended period of time, maybe a year. Her mother suggests her daughter open a bank account in Peru and then her mother will send money from England to Peru on a weekly basis, traveling initially with travelers checks. Is there a best kind of travelers check to use in Peru/Ecuador?

Any suggestions most welcome.
posted by nickyskye to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total)
Best answer: Is there a reason your niece won't be able to access her UK bank account from those countries? That's what most backpackers do these days, especially if they have someone back home they trust to deposit money* and otherwise oversee things.

I was in Peru a few months ago and had no problems getting money from my American bank account through Peruvian ATM's. I stayed in youth hostels with plenty of Brits who were doing the same thing.

The question of access to money while traveling should really be kept as simple as humanly possible.

I would avoid traveler's checks entirely - they're more trouble than they're worth these days.

*Personally, I think weekly is a bit much. If your niece is old enough to spend a year abroad on a continent that isn't exactly Disneyland, she's old enough to learn to budget her money beyond the next couple days.
posted by Sara C. at 12:38 PM on September 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: What about using a pre-paid debit card, like UPside card or something? (I don't know what similar is offered in the UK -- that is an example only.)

They're easily filled using ACH money transfers direct from a banking account (process takes about 3 business days) or they can be filled by purchasing a MoneyPak with cash and then emailing or texting the MoneyPak number to the person, who then logs in to their account and types in the number and PRESTO!

It certainly would keep the whole "lost in the mail" thing from happening....
posted by hippybear at 1:40 PM on September 25, 2010

Also, considering that you've now asked two questions on behalf of your niece re this trip, I would strongly suggest that you advise her to pick up a travel guidebook or two and maybe have her look into reading or participating on one of the many traveler/backpacker forums that are out there.

The questions you've asked are pretty standard travel questions which don't require one to ask one's aunt to find out on a site like AskMe. At this point I'm a little concerned about whether this girl has the skills necessary to navigate South America on her own for any length of time. I've heard of grown adults with decades of international travel experience being kidnapped at gunpoint in the regions near the Peru/Ecuador border. And this girl doesn't even know how to do a little travel research on her own?
posted by Sara C. at 2:21 PM on September 25, 2010

Best answer: This is not a good plan for many reasons - she may not be able to open an account since she'll have no address, bills or proof of address; if she can get an account it may not come with a card she can withdraw cash with; a Peruvian account will be about as useful as a chocolate teapot in Mexico; nobody uses or takes traveller's checks any more. It's all a little 1960.

The efficient way to do this is as follows:

1/ Kid departs for trips with a Cirrus/Plus ATM card, credit card and $150 in local currency for each country. Mom can always deposit more money to ATM account over the course of the year.

2/ Kid withdraws cash as needed, in local currency. Because there is a $5 fee for doing this internationally, generally you take out your whole budget for a week or 10 days to minimise withdrawals.

3/ Kid uses credit card for emergencies where possible, which honestly isn't going to be a lot of places. In a real "stranded in nowhere, lost bag, no money, no ID" situation you can use Moneygram to get cash to her in under an hour. It works well.

This is more or less the suggested approach for Peru. Look up their suggestion for other countries but it will be broadly the same.

Tips: Make sure the card will not expire while she is away. Make sure it's not so new she's never tested the PIN. Make sure the bank knows she's going abroad so the ATM card isn't frozen.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:37 PM on September 25, 2010

Best answer: and $150 in local currency for each country

I wouldn't even bother with this. Airports have ATM's nowadays. Even in Latin America.

If she will be traveling overland between Peru and Ecuador or other countries, I would consider getting a day's worth of the local currency for the new country in the day or so running up to that travel day. Just so she can check into a hostel and eat without needing to find an ATM.

To add to DarlingBri's awesome advice:

* Have her split up cash, ATM/debit, and credit in different parts of her luggage and NEVER carry it all around during the day. Literally the only time she should have all her different sources of funds on her person is when she is moving between destinations (and in that situation a money belt worn under the clothes is ideal). She should be sure to lock up her things in hostels and only travel long distance on reliable bus companies.

* In many parts of Latin America, US dollars are a good backup currency to carry. I kept $100 USD in a special secret place where nobody would think to look. In Peru that would have been several days worth of emergency cash. Many tourism-oriented places will accept dollars, if she gets into a bind. Some Latin American ATMs will even dispense dollars, which I find weird, but there must be some local reason for it.
posted by Sara C. at 2:59 PM on September 25, 2010

Best answer: I agree with the others above. The best bet is for the mother to open up a bank account in the UK and give the daughter a debit card / credit card to withdraw from or use to pay for items.

In Peru, almost all the ATMs dispense in US dollars and the local currency, the sol. The US dollar is accepted in many places but it's best to use soles when paying for small items.

In Ecuador, the local currency is the US dollars.

Don't bother with travelers checks. I travel frequently to South America and never use them - it takes forever and a day to get them cashed in the larger cities and if you are missing 1 signature or a piece of ID, forget it - you've just wasted an hour (and that's assuming your niece is fluent in Spanish).
posted by HeyAllie at 5:40 PM on September 25, 2010

Response by poster: My niece has done research about this trip on her own.

Because I've traveled extensively, my niece asked me for advice but I'm not knowledgeable about the technological developments that would be useful to her, so I turned to those here I knew were wiser, more experienced and smarter in this area than I.

Thanks for the practical tips.
posted by nickyskye at 8:35 PM on September 25, 2010

« Older Help me make financial sense of my health care...   |   What questions would you ask your two-year-old... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.