Currency Challenges on a Indian Ocean Cruise.

We recently travelled from Dubai to Singapore with Celebrity Cruises and found that this itinerary threw up a number of issues with currency which we thought were worth sharing for others sailing in the area. The itinerary is also running in reverse and I know that there are other cruise lines who are travelling the same route over the winter months so this will be of interest to people on those cruises although obviously some of the ports may vary.

QE2 and the Dubai skyline

I should say at the outset that we don’t usually take much cash with is as we are huge fans of currency cards – you transfer money onto them which can then be spent in whatever local currency you need without any extra currency or transaction charges. On this cruise we wished we had had more US$ with us – read on to find out why..

( For more on using cards overseas see https://portexplore806233846.blog/2020/01/27/would-you-like-to-pay-in-local-currency-or-the-currency-of-your-card/)

A currency card helps avoid transaction charges.

In general the safest and best way to spend money when travelling is by using prepaid cash cards which operate without transaction charges – available in the UK from various companies such as Starling, Post Office Money and Cashplus but our card of choice is from Monzo. We particularly like it because its easy to use – it comes with an App that gives you an instant confirmation and conversion when you spend money on it, it also lets you transfer money between cardholders easily and split bills between friends with cards which is great if you’re travelling in a group because it saves having to have a physical ‘kitty’. We don’t normally take much actual cash with us on a cruise, preferring to use our Monzo cards, as we can swop money between us if either card becomes should be lost or deactivated.

Find out more about Monzo here (https://join.monzo.com/r/jwetqsj )

Monzo pairs with an app for real time, instant currency conversions.

DUBAI, UAE – the local Currency is the UAE Dirham – this is not a closed currency so you are able to purchase it outside the country but we decided that we would use a card or withdraw cash from an ATM as needed. This was because our cruise started with an overnight in port and, as we have visited a few times previously, we were not sure that we actually intended to spend any time ashore. We arrived in Dubai and were ushered straight to our transfer coach, with no time to look for an airport ATM. We checked in at Cruise Terminal 3 and made a mental note of the position of the ATM. Unfortunately during the evening Constellation was moved along the quay to Cruise Terminal 2 – a much smaller and less impressive affair that does NOT have an ATM! Having decided to take a short trip to see the QE2 which is moored not far from the Cruise Terminal (and being too hot/ tired/ lazy to walk!) We spoke to the taxi wrangler who got us a cab that took card payments – preferable to the half mile or so walk back to the other terminal. Luckily the QE2 hotel have an ATM in their lobby because the taxi drivers machine ‘didn’t work’ and he actually needed to be paid in cash!

QE2 Dubai

MUSCAT, Oman -the local currency is the Omani Rial – again this is not a closed currency so you are able to purchase it outside the country and again we had planned to use a card or withdraw cash from an ATM as needed. There are no currency exchange facilities or ATM inside the cruise terminal. The nearest is on the Corniche on the way to the Souk – the first ATM is VISA only but the second takes Mastercard – there are Money change facilities along the front as well but they were not open – we arrived at lunchtime and they did not reopen until about 16.00

Muscat, Oman

MUMBAI, India – the local currency is the Indian Rupee – it is a closed currency not available outside India. There is a Money Exchange in the cruise terminal, immediately after the immigration desks. It is a fairly slow operation and a large queue built up – only cash can be exchanged, they won’t take a debit or travel card. We exchanged pounds and also the few Dirham and Rial that we had – the rates for exchange were not displayed and there was no discussion to be had about the rate you were given but once we worked it out they seemed quite fair. There is NOT an ATM in the Terminal or anywhere else inside the Port. So you definitely need actual cash with you – either to exchange for rupees or to spend as needed. US Dollars seemed acceptable at most of our destinations although you definitely got a better price when you paid in rupees. So I would take US Dollars and either exchange or use them as you need – prices are widely quoted initially in dollars but pounds and euro were obviously also acceptable. There are money exchange and ATM facilities throughout Mumbai but none that were immediately obvious close to the port. Taxi drivers do not take cards.

The Gateway to India and The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel

Goa, India -the local currency is the Indian Rupee – it is a closed currency not available outside India. We did not dock at the port in Vasco da Gama as some cruise sites suggest, but at a new cruise facility which is further west on the peninsula at Mormugao – quite a long steep walk from the nearest town. There was absolutely no currency exchange or ATM in or around the port so it is best to bring Rupees with you from the previous port. There were Tuk-Tuk and a small hotel outside the the port area but no other shops or facilities. There is a busy and efficient taxi rank where prices for various trips are quoted in US dollars – there did not appear to be much room for negotiation. Taxi drivers do not take cards. The airport is nearby and probably a good source for an ATM or exchange if you can’t find one closer. Restaurants and bars were all happy to be paid in US Dollars, GBP or € as well as in Rupees – cards did not seem to be widely accepted.

A colourful sign on an otherwise deserted harbour wall.

Cochin, India -the local currency is the Indian Rupee – it is a closed currency not available outside India. There was a mobile Money Exchange just inside the gate, again only to exchange cash – no cards accepted. There was no ATM anywhere in the port area. There are taxis at the gate which accept Rupees, US Dollars, GBP or € but no other facilities. Taxi drivers do not take cards If you are walking to the Wellington Island pier to get a ferry across to the Old Town you will pass money exchanges and ATM. Cash is preferred in most places but some tourist shops take cards. The currency exchange remains open into the afternoon so that departing passengers can convert their Indian rupees back to US Dollars, GBP or €. You cannot exchange Indian Rupee for Sri Lankan Rupee.

The Chinese fishing nets, Cochin

Colombo, Sri Lanka – the local currency is the Sri Lanka Rupee – it is a closed currency but you may be able to find a small amount in the UK – the rate will be poor. There are absolutely no facilities at the port – no currency exchange or ATM.  The nearest banks and ATM are on Bank of Ceylon Road, close to the Old Dutch Hospital – about twenty minutes walk.  There are TukTuk and Taxis at the port gate – cards are definitely not accepted, all the drivers were quoting prices in US dollars, a very few seemed happy to accept pounds or Euro. To be honest I think you’re better to take US dollars rather than walking twenty minutes to get local currency. Cards seemed to be accepted in shops and bars but oddly not at The National Museum which was cash only ( they also omitted to mention that there was an ATM right by their car park entrance – not exactly what you’d call welcoming!)

The National Museum, Sri Lanka – no cards accepted!

Phuket, Thailand -the local currency is the Thai Baht – this is not a closed currency so you are able to purchase it outside the country. It is a Tender Port so you arrive straight onto Patong Beach and main shopping street. There are ATM and Currency Exchanges that will happy give cash for a card transaction both on the road close to the sea and the less tourist orientated street that runs parallel inland where you might get a better rate. There are plenty of taxis available – cards not accepted, cash only. Prices for boat and taxi tours quoted in Baht and US dollars.

Phuket beach from the Tender pontoon

Singapore -the local Currency is the Singapore Dollar. We docked at the Marina Bay Cruise Centre which has Money exchange and ATMs available. Smaller ships dock at The Singapore Cruise Centre which is attached to a large shopping centre and to the Metro system. There are plenty of ATM & money exchange facilities nearby. the Metro stations take cash and cards. Some cabs in Singapore take cards – you can also use an Uber app to book a cab. Shops and restaurants take cards and cash – prices are in Singapore Dollars. If someone does accept US dollars or another currency it will be for a very poor exchange rate.

Raffles Hotel, Singapore

Hope that’s all helpful – its a wonderful itinerary – have a great trip!!

Find out more about Monzo here (https://join.monzo.com/r/jwetqsj )

Published by Cathy Rogers

Organised, bossy, untidy, inquisitive Gemini - lover of cruising and all things cruise. Author of 'The Confident portExplorer' and 'The Cruise Planner' sharing my passion for cruise organisation and onshore adventures.

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