A closed currency is a currency that is not freely available outside its country of origin. You must exchange your foreign currency upon arrival as there are import restrictions.
You should also consider spending your remaining cash before leaving, as the restrictions on a closed currency extend to exports too. In the event that you are caught breaching these restrictions, you could find yourself dealing with the authorities.
This is something we all want to avoid at any part of our holiday so we’ve compiled this closed currency guide to help you plan your holiday.
The ultimate closed currency guide
Access to Cash
Generally when you travel to a closed currency country, you can only buy the local currency on arrival from the local bureau de change, banks or hotels.
For the unprepared traveller, this is an inconvenience, if not a costly approach.
You could carry travellers cheques, cash or a widely recognised debit or credit card. The choice is yours but we would not recommend carrying large amounts of cash.
There are a few debit cards available with the international traveller in mind. As such, they’re charges for foreign currency transactions are less punitive than the standard card providers.
Even with a debit card, you probably will still need to exchange some cash for the smaller transactions and definitely for remote fuel stops.
Often, in these closed currency countries the restrictions can lead to the creation of black markets to exchange the weaker local currency for stronger currencies such as the Euro, UK £ and US $.
We use a debit card with zero charges and in 2 years, we’ve not had a single banking charge for accessing our cash abroad or on our transactions. Do not overlook this. There are sharks out there waiting to take your holiday fund!
Essential reading: how to avoid bank fees while travelling
The Black Market
Black market currency exchange will create a situation where the unofficial exchange rate for the foreign currency, is much higher than the rate set by the banks. It is not uncommon for black market currency exchange sellers to offer you really great rates.
This might be an attractive way to make your money go further. However, be careful if you choose to exchange money with a street vendor or currency black marketeer. If you’re caught, you will find yourself dealing with the authorities.
We have met travellers that were caught trying to take out large sums of local currency and found themselves spending a night or two in jail, bribing officials, paying heavy fines, having their vehicles impounded and in one case, even being deported.
Prepare well: Have you packed all these essential travel documents?
Words of Wisdom
Keep you money exchange receipts close to prove you exchanged through an official channel.
Where possible, avoid carrying large sums of foreign currency like Euros, $’s and £’s.
Use a debit or credit card; preferably one with no punitive foreign transaction fees.
Using your US $, UK £ or euros for transactions may also be illegal in some countries. So be cautious if you choose to pay this way.
Change only the amounts of local currency that you need. You don’t want to end up with an excess of a closed currency at the end of your visit.
List of Closed Currency
For your convenience, here is a list of all closed currencies as at May 2017. Situations are changeable so please check before your travel.
You can usually obtain fairly up-to-date information on currently closed currencies here. It’d be great if you could let us know of anything we’ve missed too so we can keep this closed currency guide accurate.
|Nigeria||North Korea||Samoa||Sri Lanka|
Have you been to any of these places and used a closed currency? Is there anything we’ve missed from our guide? We’d appreciate your feedback so we can keep this guide to closed currency up-to-date.
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Thursday 13th of April 2023
I believe Mozambique and Namibia are also closed currencies. x
Friday 27th of January 2023
I understand that according to Google, Iraq is a closed currency country.
Saturday 17th of September 2022
The North Macedonian Denar is also a closed currancy.
Friday 1st of July 2022
India is an open economy. Please update that too.
Angela and Graham
Friday 1st of July 2022
Thanks for your comment Abir. As far as I can see, the rupee remains a closed currency. Foreign travelers are not permitted to take the currency out of India.
Friday 9th of November 2018
The African Franc or CFA seems to be a closed currency, I can’t exchange them in the UK