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Money - Cash/Credit in St. Lucia

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My wife and I are going to Ladera in St. Lucia in 2.5 weeks. I was wondering how much cash we should take. Also, should I exchange any of my US dollars in to local currency? If I need more cash while I'm there, are there large ATM fees for getting cash out? I'm a Bank of America customer. Is it more economical to use cash or credit at restaurants? Thank you in advance for your time.

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    US Dollars are taken everywhere that we went (including taxis from airport); so that's not an issue. Although most frquently they gave change back in local currency. We stayed in Rodney Bay area and had no problem finding ATM machines. We generally used credit card for restaurants. On beaches you get a lot of local vendors trying to sell their wares; most everything they try to sell you can be found in Castries market area at a fraction of what they are asking on beach.

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    i'd take cash. you could phone BofA to ask them what their foreign exchange rate/fees will cost you when/if you use your credit/atm card.

    found the following on tripadvisor (but is a yr old so fees may have been changed!)
    from TA user Carib-H
    "Feb 02, 2010, 11:49 AM
    I've used my debit and credit cards all the time while being in St. Lucia. I will just copy-paste one my previous posts regarding the ATM and transaction fees.

    "I'm looking at my bank statement, and I see that for example Bank of America charges you 3% service fee for every transaction. I used my debit card almost everywhere- in grocery stores, hotels, restaurants and had absolutely no problems. In case you need to withdraw money, there are quite a lot of ATM's in Castries and in Rodney Bay area. I also withdrew $500 and the bank charged me $10 for that. From my bank statement I can see that there is a $5 service fee for withdrawing money and then you pay an additional 1% of the total amount.""

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    Ladera is pretty isolated, so the closest ATMs are probably in Soufriere. BOA will charge you a fee (I think it's $5) to take out money as well as a 3% foreign transaction fee. There's probably a First Caribbean and Scotia Bank branch in Soufriere, and I've never had trouble with any of their ATMs.

    So take the cash you think you'll need (but not too much) and use credit cards for as much as possible. You still probably will pay a 3% foreign transaction fee, but it's a safer way of paying, and that's really not such a bad deal (you often lose much more changing money).

    If you buy anything at a local market in Soufriere, you may get a few EC$ in change and won't get the best exchange rate, but you probably won't be buying anything expensive anyway. All the attractions take credit cards or dollars, as do almost all restaurants. And you'll likely arrange most of your activities through Ladera, which will take credit cards. You'll need some dollars for tips, so do take about $20 or so in dollar bills. And if you do need some local currency (if you decide to go to a local fish fry or take a local bus), just change a few dollars at the hotel desk. No need to worry about going to a bank since you will not want or need to change much currency.

    Happily, the departure tax is now included in your airline ticket, so you don't need to save cash for that, which was always a pain.

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    I wouldn't worry about Exchange Rates - St. Lucia uses the Eastern Caribbean Dollar which has a fixed rate of exchange. Officially it's $1US=$2.6882EC however most vendors use $EC2.70 to $1US for ease of conversion. You'll find some vendors on the island might use anywhere between $2.65EC and $2.70EC to $1US. Regardless, unless you are making an exceptionally large purchase you won't find any appreciable difference whether you pay in $EC or $US currency. So, bottom line, no need to change $US to $EC. Use your $US. As noted in an earlier response you may get change in $EC. If you do simply use the $EC in future transactions.

    As for how much cash to bring, that's difficult to answer without knowing YOUR spending habits. The amount is different for everybody. Personally I never carry much cash so if I were you I'd take only a small amount $100 to $200 in small bills then either use a credit card or debit card to make purchases whenever and use an ATM to withdraw additional cash on an as needed basis.

    Too bad you don't have a Capital One Credit Card as they do not charge the 3% Foreign Transaction fee. Normally, I'd recommend you apply for a Capital One CC before you leave but since you are leaving in 2 weeks you may not actually receive your new card before you leave. You might want to call Capital One and apply by phone (most "good credit" customers can get same day approval) and ask if they can "overnight" a new card to you. You might have to pay the delivery charge but you'll probably save more than that by not having to pay Foreign Transaction Fees on anything you charge.

    If you don't have a Capital One CC or are unable to get one before you leave you will incur a 3% Foreign Transaction Fee on all your Bank of America credit card purchases and you will probably be assessed a small fee by Bank of America if you use their debit card. You could try calling and asking them to waive the fee but it's very doubtful they would grant your request (unless you are one of their very best "private banking customers") but it doesn't hurt to ask. If B of A declines your request, chalk it up to experience and apply for a Capital one Card so you'll have it for your next International trip. In the meantime budget for paying the Foreign Transaction Fee - it's a small price to pay rather than assume the risks that come with carrying large amounts of cash.

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