So you have decided you do not want to use your credit or debit card abroad when you travel, thus avoiding high bank commissions and the risk of losing your card or having it stolen. The alternative to travelling with a credit card is changing your money to get foreign currency before departure. Even when this currency exchange also implies the payment of fees, carrying cash accepted at your destination seems like a very good idea, as it will make small daily purchases easier and come in handy in the case of an unforeseen event.
Train stations and airports worldwide feature this kind of businesses, known as Bureau de Change offices, Currency Exchange outlets or simply Foreign Money Exchange counters. The larger the hub and the more international destinations it has, the greater number of offices you will find. Major airports like London Heathrow, Tokyo-Narita, Beijing Capital, Frankfurt, Mumbai, Hong Kong and John F. Kennedy in New York have bureau de change desks specialising in an extensive range of international currencies, which are operated by some of the most reliable companies in the industry.
What are the different methods available to exchange money at the airport?
-Changing local money to foreign currency directly at the airport office
This transaction is quick and what it actually means is that you buy foreign currency with the money you already have for your trip. The staff at the bureau de change will offer you the best daily exchange rate, which must be on display to guarantee the legality of the operation. Sometimes, commissions may apply. Money Exchange businesses will only sell you banknotes and, should you wish to change the cash that was not spend abroad upon return, bear in mind that they rarely accept coins.
-Ordering foreign currency online
Most currency exchange companies with a website include a section in it where you can order foreign money to use at your destination. The offered rate will be shown after you input the amount you want to change, and if you agree, all you have to do next is choose the outlet at the airport where you will collect your currency. Ideally, you should select an office located in the terminal you will be departing from.
-Prepaid travel money cards
Some providers have foreign currency cards for travellers. They work just like a regular debit card, but they are not linked to any bank account and no fees whatsoever will be charged when withdrawing cash from ATMs in other countries. Besides, they are widely accepted by hospitality and dining businesses worldwide (although you are advised to confirm it beforehand). You can purchase one online, load it with the currency of your choice and pick it up at the airport.
Foreign currency exchange in London Heathrow
When travelling to or from LHR, the three operations explained above are available for passengers at Travelex outlets, which stay open as long as flights depart and land in each one of its terminals. Travelex offices in Heathrow Airport have the following locations:
Terminal 2 (The Queen’s Terminal): the bureau de change is in the check-in area before security.
Terminal 3: go up to the first floor and find a Travelex office right next to the security filter.
Terminals 4 and 5: both money exchange counters are situated in the departures area before security.
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Buying foreign currency at Zurich airport in Switzerland
If you are either flying out of ZRH or departing from it, know that there are also several Travelex offices to exchange money inside its facilities. Find them at:
The Airside Centre
Boarding Gates zone E
All Travelex stores at Zürich International airport stay open between 6:00 and 22:30 every day. Click on the following link if you need to book a hotel in Zurich.
Changing currency at Madrid International airport
The companies with bureau the change offices in Adolfo Suárez – Madrid Barajas airport in Spain are Exact Change and Global Change. The former works with over eighty international currencies and prepaid cards, while the latter specialises in foreign currency accepted in tourist destinations of South America, the Caribbean and Africa. Note that most foreign money exchange offices in Madrid airport are located in the baggage claim areas and next to boarding gates.
Exact Change counters in MAD: T1 baggage claim hall 1 (24 hours), T1 baggage claim hall 2 (6:30-00:00), T1 boarding areas B&C, T3 boarding area D (4:00-22:45).
Global Exchange offices in Madrid airport: T4 boarding area upper level (24 hours), T4 check-in hall (24 hours), T4 baggage claim (6:30-00:00), T4satellite (two locations – 24 hours – 7:00-00:00).
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