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Northern and Central Asia Topics specific to Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Mongolia, China, Japan and Korea
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I haven't been everywhere...
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  #1  
Old 3 Jun 2015
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ATM and credit cards

In a month or so I'll be leaving Europe and heading through Georgia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Mongolia and Russia to Magadan.

Naturally I'll carry an emergency stash, but in which of these countries will I find Visa/MasterCard ATM's, and/or be able to use cards (e.g. at a large hotel)?

The info probably is here somewhere, but I did read somewhere about Visa(?) I possibly limiting services in Russia recently, though I think this info was questioned.
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  #2  
Old 4 Jun 2015
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In 2013 and 2014 we've been in every of these countries except Mongolia. ATMs are scarce, but in larger cities you should be able to find one, usually near the banks.

Bigger shops and hotels can have a Visa or Diners or Mastercard sticker, but it does not necessarily mean that they accept those cards.

Cash rules. USD primarily, Euros are ok, but GBP is not easily accepted.

I would strongly reccomend that you carry as much cash (USD or EUR in smaller bills) as possible and to have your cards just as a back up in the (very unlikely) case something unusual or unlucky happens.

Consider your "emergency stash" your normal everyday travel money, and your cards as something that might come handy if really needed. We used an ATM once or twice, just to see if our Visa and Mastercard were accepted, but the banking fees make it very expensive to get to the money that way. You can change the cash at a much better rate.

On the other hand, this might just be my opinion. I am an old fashioned guy that travels without GPS. With paper maps only.

And paper money ;-)
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  #3  
Old 4 Jun 2015
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Thanks, I thought that might be the case, though I was under the impression euros were favourite there now (someone's got to like 'em!).

Just don't like the idea of carrying TOO much cash, but guess I'll need to. And it wasn't until quite recently that I realised the bank's give pretty bad rates on foreign ATM's anyway, especially with fees.
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  #4  
Old 5 Jun 2015
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Cash is so much easier than cards and all the associated scams anyway.

USUALLY safe to use card INSIDE a bank....
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  #5  
Old 5 Jun 2015
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I travelled through all those countries with the exception of Georgia last year. I never carried anything more as back up than my $300 stash which I didn't touch. This included withdrawing enough cash to buy a new bike in Kazakhstan after mine was nicked in Ukraine.

Their big cities are just as developed as western European cities. Atms are available throughout but tend to be indoors.

True your card costs can add up (some more than others, preloading credit cards is an idea to save advance fees). But personally I wouldn't like to be relieved of a huge sum of cash in one go by a swift fingered thief. I met an overlander that had lost around 600euro to a group distraction in UB.

Personally I never use card to pay. I withdraw cash in local currency and use that.

The choice is yours, you'll find all kinds of opinions on this one. I certainly did when doing my research. A quick google maps search will show you the proliferation of atms (banco mat)
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  #6  
Old 5 Jun 2015
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You shouldn't have a hard time finding ATMs in any Russian city or even large town. The Russian word for ATM is "bankomat".
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  #7  
Old 5 Jun 2015
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fahrer1 View Post
In 2013 and 2014 we've been in every of these countries except Mongolia. ATMs are scarce, but in larger cities you should be able to find one, usually near the banks. ;-)
When I travelled through those countries in 2008 I had the opposite experience - ATMs are EVERYWHERE.

In addition, credit cards can be used everywhere too.
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  #8  
Old 5 Jun 2015
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Actually, despite the first reply, sounds like I should do as I've done before, and just carry a decent stash for those times I can't withdraw cash. I wouldn't dream of keeping enough cash to sustain me for months in my 4-wheeler in the UK, so the idea of doing so on a bike, where that cash is 'worth' even more is a bit daft!

I only had a problem finding ATM's in Algeria when traveling the length of Africa a few years ago. Actually, in Nigeria I would have LOST with cash - to the police who searched my gear! I overheard the boss mumbling 'He MUST have cash'. He was getting very frustrated they couldn't find any....
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  #9  
Old 5 Jun 2015
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Ian:

Before I retired (last year), I used to ferry aircraft through all sorts of out of the way countries, delivering these planes from the factory to the customer.

I've been through Anadyr, Magadan, Khabarovsk, Vladivostok, too many times to count, and always been able to find ATMs everywhere, literally everywhere no matter how small and ratty the town, much same as you would find in Western Europe. Never had any difficulty sucking money out of them. I don't have much experience in countries ending in '-stan', but I suspect they will also have ATMs everywhere.

Some points for you to consider:

1) There are worldwide networks of ATMs, operating under brands such as Cirrus, Maestro, etc. Be sure that the ATM card you get from your home bank is affiliated with one of these major networks. Just look for the logos on the back of the ATM card.

2) Sit down with your bank manager and explain your travel plans. Make sure the bank manager notes that you will be going to all these weird places, and if necessary, have the bank manager increase the daily deposit and withdrawal limits (these are two separate limits) sufficient to meet your needs.

3) Make sure your ATM card is linked not only to your primary bank account (probably a chequing or 'current' account), but also to any other accounts that you may have.

4) Carry a credit card (e.g. Mastercard) that is also set up for use at an ATM, this in case you damage or lose the ATM card. It costs a fortune to suck money out of a Mastercard (it is treated as a cash advance, with usurious interest), but the ability to do so can be a lifesaver if for some reason you can't find an ATM that works with your ATM card, or if your ATM card becomes damaged & therefore won't operate.

Periodically the USA gets pissed off an another country and puts them on some kind of embargo or sanction list. When this happens, it totally disrupts normal credit card and ATM usage in the target country due to the imposition of financial sanctions. Up until recently, the only countries that I knew for sure were sanctioned (so far as ATMs go) were Sudan and North Korea. But, who knows what might happen with American sanctions on other countries, for example Russia and/or Ukraine. So, stay up to date on that kind of news.

Michael
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  #10  
Old 5 Jun 2015
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much as above really, use ATMs but carry a stash of a few hundred just in case. carry several cards in case one gets stopped. prepay cards seem a good idea. avoid paying for good with cards, withdraw cash, then pay. the more you use cards the higher the chance of cloning, and there's a lot of it about in Eastern Europe (had it happen to me). On that note, I always check an ATM before I use it to make sure it hasn't been tampered with. Equally, if you use cards to pay for everything the fees can get very expensive compared to just withdrawing a wad.
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  #11  
Old 6 Jun 2015
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ATMs will be everywhere. Cash is King everywhere.


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  #12  
Old 7 Jun 2015
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PanEuropean View Post
Ian:

Before I retired (last year), I used to ferry aircraft through all sorts of out of the way countries, delivering these planes from the factory to the customer.

I've been through Anadyr, Magadan, Khabarovsk, Vladivostok, too many times to count, and always been able to find ATMs everywhere, literally everywhere no matter how small and ratty the town, much same as you would find in Western Europe. Never had any difficulty sucking money out of them. I don't have much experience in countries ending in '-stan', but I suspect they will also have ATMs everywhere.

Some points for you to consider:

1) There are worldwide networks of ATMs, operating under brands such as Cirrus, Maestro, etc. Be sure that the ATM card you get from your home bank is affiliated with one of these major networks. Just look for the logos on the back of the ATM card.

2) Sit down with your bank manager and explain your travel plans. Make sure the bank manager notes that you will be going to all these weird places, and if necessary, have the bank manager increase the daily deposit and withdrawal limits (these are two separate limits) sufficient to meet your needs.

3) Make sure your ATM card is linked not only to your primary bank account (probably a chequing or 'current' account), but also to any other accounts that you may have.

4) Carry a credit card (e.g. Mastercard) that is also set up for use at an ATM, this in case you damage or lose the ATM card. It costs a fortune to suck money out of a Mastercard (it is treated as a cash advance, with usurious interest), but the ability to do so can be a lifesaver if for some reason you can't find an ATM that works with your ATM card, or if your ATM card becomes damaged & therefore won't operate.

Periodically the USA gets pissed off an another country and puts them on some kind of embargo or sanction list. When this happens, it totally disrupts normal credit card and ATM usage in the target country due to the imposition of financial sanctions. Up until recently, the only countries that I knew for sure were sanctioned (so far as ATMs go) were Sudan and North Korea. But, who knows what might happen with American sanctions on other countries, for example Russia and/or Ukraine. So, stay up to date on that kind of news.

Michael
I use ATMs as well and have rarely had any trouble getting cash every 3 or 4 days.

I did the opposite of your number 3, though. I made sure that my ATM card only accessed my checking account and no other. I didn't want anyone who got ahold of my card to be able to access all my bank accounts. Instead, I would transfer more money into my checking account by doing internal bank transfers over the internet.

..................shu
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  #13  
Old 8 Jun 2015
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My wife and I did nearly the same trip last year with no problems with ATMs at all apart from Mongolia with their local banks rejecting Visa cards, I didn't try in Ulan Bhator but by then had changed US dollars. I like the way that as soon as you put your card in it says do you want this transaction in English even in a little shop along the Road of Bones.


Boycie
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  #14  
Old 9 Jun 2015
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Came here to Malaysia where without a pin number for your cards you are not going to get anything out of the machine or bank. Need to get the right internationaly accepted cards,ours are a recent issue.
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  #15  
Old 9 Jun 2015
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Funny.

In Mongolia 2 years ago I got money from local banks with visa card.
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