OK so for the most part this a cash only society. Complicated by a lack of 5.00 bills and inadequate supply of 1$ coins. The main currency is the $1.00 coin, either Sacagawea or the president series. Most other coins see little usage. They all exist but if, for instance, your taxi ride is $1.25 and you pay with 2 $1.00 coins you are not likely to have any change returned unless you ask for it. That’s ok by me because I think the taxi rates are criminally low, and that’s my main transportation. At last count there are over 3600 taxis in this town. 60 Lb Gas cylinders delivered and hooked up cost $2.00, the lowest in the world, subsidized by the government.
When you have to pay cash for everything it gives you a completely different perspective on just about everything. You are suddenly counting pennies and really looking at what things cost. Using cards tends to shield you from reality. My only source of money down here is the ATM card from my home bank. It kinda freaks you out to continually go to the ATM to cover costs. No paying bills by credit card. With that said, however, I still pay for groceries at the big markets by debit card. Last night I was informed by the fraud division of my bank that someone had tried to use my debit card to purchase airline tickets in Singapore. They declined it but then had to shut down the debit acct to prevent further misuses. Now I don’t have a way to get funds until they send me a new one which will be interesting as I never get any mail to this address. Minor emergency.
You leave the house with a hundred dollars and often times come home with nothing which really makes you think about just how you are spending the real money. I keep an elaborate spreadsheet so I can figure out just what I’ll have to do to be able to live on a fixed income.
Money has to come from the US and so there is a shortage of most bills. Trying to get change for a $20.00 bill is difficult and anything larger is virtually impossible. You are expected to have change to the lowest dollar amount. Paying for a $3.00 item with a $10.00 bill will get you a pained look and often times rejection. To get change you have to wait in a bank line for a good half hour. Many times your paper bills are rejected if they are not pristine. Thats because even the banks wont take them since they have to send them back to the US for replacement, if they even will. Things are further complicated because the ATMs mostly give money out in 20.00 bills. All of this just leads to some minor adjustments. If you are coming down here be forewarned and bring as many 5’s and 1s as you can.
If you’ve never tried to live on cash only it can be an eye opening experience.. Try it 🙂