In the marketplaces of Cambodia, for instance, Cambodian Riel is the currency of choice. There are no credit card machines and using US dollars will only drive your prices up.
Jumping over to Beijing, credit cards are preferred. If you want to use Yen for transactions, plan ahead. Money exchange counters in the airport, even though the exchange rate carries steep add-on charges, are easy to use and do not involve the *very intimidating* process of exchanging funds at a bank later in your trip.
We ran out of Yen mid-week and decided to exchange some US cash at a bank. I do not recommend this unless you like to wait in a waiting room with two-way mirrors while you are *examined*, or should I say watched, very carefully before being called forth to complete a long exchange form. A little too Big Brother for me. Read more about China’s move to cash-less & catch my other post on the entire cash-less move of industry.
Do some research before you leave. If your bank has no foreign transaction fees and you will be in a major city with ATMs, consider traveling with plastic only. I would recommend at least 2 different cards, with a small stash of cash – just in case. In many countries, you receive the best exchange rate by going to an ATM and withdrawing local currency.
When foreign currency is a must and the arrival at the airport is late night, consider ordering the foreign money through your bank or through a reputable online exchange service.
If you are coordinating a group, it is important that you discuss methods of payments prior to arriving. Depending on the mode of transportation, the driver, the translator, and other local accommodations, currency might be the only method of payment, and foreign currency might not be accepted.
Use this to see what today’s exchange rates are at your destination:
XE Interactive Currency Table