So what’s a closed currency?
A currency is ‘closed’ if it’s not legally available outside its country of origin.
This means you’ll need to exchange your foreign currency when you arrive, and switch back before you leave.
Getting hold of a closed currency
The first and easiest place to acquire a closed currency is at the airport when you land. This is pretty handy when you need money straight away and the airport bureau de change will likely accept a wider range of foreign currency than others.
Once out of the airport, you can still change at the usual bureau’s, banks, and hotels. Personally I prefer to exchange at hotels: the rates are usually better and it means you’re not carrying a lot of cash from day one. They don’t always have ATM’s though so you’ll usually exchange in cash.
- Your notes might not be accepted if they’re old and damaged, or too new to be recognised.
- Wherever you exchange, make sure to keep your receipts to prove you acquired the money legally. Without them you might not be able to convert back.
- Airports will exchange most currencies but away from the main cities and towns you might struggle to change less common notes like Scottish or Australian. I usually carry Euro’s because they’re widely recognised and easily exchanged.
- Don’t try and exchange money before you arrive, you’ll get really bad rates and have a lot of explaining to do if you get stopped at customs.
Left over money
It’s illegal to take a closed currency out of the country so you’ll either have to spend or exchange it before you leave. You should always do this (unless you want to keep some for nostalgia), once you leave the country it’ll be pretty much worthless.
You might also be limited to exchanging the amount of money on your initial exchange receipts.
- Change most of your money back before you go through airport security. Surprisingly the departure lounge might not accept the countries own currency, or the stores that accept it might be severely limited.
Countries with closed currencies
Less than 30 countries actually have closed currencies, and they’re pretty rare in the West. So if you only travel in Europe or North America, you probably won’t come across one.
Countries with closed currencies (as of June 2019) are:
- North Korea
- Sri Lanka