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Posts tagged Travel

Changing US$ dollars into Korean Won (and Japanese Yen)

change us dollars into korean won south best rate airport atm how to

10,000 Korean Won Bill

One of the most popular posts on this blog is the one dealing with getting the best rate when you change dollars into Japanese Yen. Here is a 2013 update based on my actual experience, and my exchange rate and fees for converting my dollars into Korean Won.

First, the yen…
My 2009 experience held true in 2013. I was planning to get money out of an ATM in the Narita airport while transferring planes to Fukuoka. However, once I went through customs and security in Narita, there were no ATMs so I couldn’t get yen out of an ATM there. You can obtain yen in the Narita airport if you are departing from there, and perhaps you can near customs, but I didn’t think to look until after I went through security for domestic transfers as I was more concerned with finding my gate than obtaining yen. In Fukuoka I didn’t look for an ATM in the airport (as I had brought enough yen with me to get to my ryokan). The next morning I walked into the first 7-Eleven I saw, inserted my (Wells Fargo issued) ATM card (which has Plus, Star, Instant Cash, and Interlink logos on the back), and without any troubles withdrew my maximum allowed on the US side (which I had raised via a phone call before leaving). The yen came out at the market rate and Wells Fargo charged me a $5 fee (which means my total exchange fee was 1/3 of 1%). Rates for changing cash in the US airport were more than 5% and in Japan the rates were about 2 or 3% so the ATM card is still the way to go (if you need to change more than a couple hundred dollars).

Next, the won…
The English instructions at the first ATM I went to in the Korean airport were pretty confusing, and I couldn’t get any won out using my ATM card. I asked someone for help, and they assisted me even though they couldn’t speak English. We went through three ATM machines before we found one that gave me won. Also, the ATM machine in Korea spit out only 10,000 won bills. In the USA I’m used to getting $20 bills out of ATM machines. In Japan you get (mostly) 10,000 yen bills (about $100). A 10,000 won bill is worth less than $9 so that means if you are pulling out the equivalent of, say, $1,500 in US$ you will receive about 160 bills! Try fitting that into your wallet! The rate charged was the market rate, and Wells Fargo charged me $5 so, again, the ATM was the way to go for getting the best rate (if you are pulling out large sums of money). The number of ATMs that work in Korea don’t seem to be as high as those in Japan (I’ve never had an ATM in Japan–whether that be an airport, convenience store, bank, or post office–not work), but don’t give up. Just try another machine until you find one that will give you Korean Won with your foreign bank card.

How to avoid airline flight change fees

korean air

I booked an airline ticket through Kayak. I wanted to change the date of a flight, but I didn’t purchase their flight insurance so I figured I’d get hit with some sort of fee or penalty for changing the date. I contacted Kayak, and they told me to contact Travelocity as my flight wasn’t really booked through Kayak; Kayak basically booked my flight through Travelocity for me. I looked at Kayak’s website, and they made it sound like the cost would be at least $240 in change fees to change my date. I then contacted Travelocity, but I didn’t hear anything back for a couple days. While I waited I also contacted Korean Air since they were the actual airline. Travelocity got back to me saying the cost would be at least $81 if I changed my flight through Travelocity. Korean Air then got back to me and said there would be no charge. That’s right, by dealing directly with the airline I saved at least $81 and maybe more. I don’t know if this works with every airline, or if Korean Air is a fluke, but being able to change the date on a plane reservation for free was nice.

Aquarium of the Bay

Aquarium of the Bay san francisco bay aquarium tuna

Aquarium of the Bay – Pier 39 – San Francisco

Today’s photo comes from our trip to San Francisco this past November.

Speaking of trips… I booked my flights to Japan and Korea this morning for this summer. Strangely, it was cheaper to layover several days in Japan each way than to just book a round-trip ticket to Korea. Also, staying in Japan each way will break up what would have been two, 34+ hour one-way trips into something more realistic. I was trying various airports and days and found that if I flew to Fukuoka (through Tokyo) it was about $1,000 cheaper than just flying to Tokyo. This makes no sense, but I guess airline ticket pricing doesn’t make much sense. The super cheap fare to Fukuoka was only available for one day. I thought, oh well, I’ll just get off in Tokyo even though I also have a ticket to Fukuoka. But I’ve never been to Fukuoka so I’ll go to Kyushu for a change. On my way back from Korea I’ll get to spend a day or more in Tokyo.

So, for those of you who have been to Fukuoka, what should I see and do between Fukuoka and Osaka? I’ll have about four days. I have been to Himeji, but other than Himeji this part of Japan is all new to me.

Travel Essentials 2012 Travel Photo Contest

It’s that time of year again. Travel Essentials is doing their annual photo contest, and I need to choose my entries. I have entered and made the cut each of the past four years but have yet to make it into the top two. I need your help. What two photos should I submit this year? A few of my favorites are below, but maybe you have seen one on this blog you like more. If so, let me know which one(s). In any event, rank the ones below by leaving a comment so I can get an idea which two will be the best to submit.

#1 Michael Bourn robs Jayson Nix

#2 laguna beach california

#3 night photography nyhavn denmark copenhagen after dark

#4 peanuts fenway park grandstand boston

#5 dumbo stormy sunset brooklyn new york merry go round east river

#6 heritage hunter tour 2012 opeth at the fox theatre oakland california

Travel Essentials Photo Contest Winners 2011

denmark roskilde festival 2011

Danish concert goers at Roskilde 2011

For the fourth year in a row I entered the annual Travel Essentials Photo Contest. In 2008 I came in 18th place, 2009 was 7th place, and 2010 landed me in the money with 3rd place. I didn’t place as high this year, but, for the first time, both of my entries made the cut.

For the 2011 winning photos click here.

Summer plans

My plans for traveling this summer are firming up. Mondays through Wednesdays I’ll be in Copenhagen, Denmark, but I am planning several excursions on my four-day weekends including Norway, Sweden, Amsterdam, Germany, and Switzerland. I was hoping to go to Finland, Estonia, and Iceland too, but it doesn’t look like I will have time.

Death Angel has been kind enough to secure me a photo press pass for their performance at the Getaway Rock Festival in Gavle, Sweden. Shooting photos at a concert from in front of the the front row without a crowd constantly bumping into me will be a nice change.

I purchased a Eurail Pass for Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Germany, and Switzerland. Now the question is, what towns (with rail access) should I not miss in these countries? The Bergen Railway Line in Norway is a given, but what else? If you have experience in these places and can lead me in the right direction(s) I’d appreciate it.