Friday, June 20, 2008

Currency Exchange

Carriacou, uses the East Caribbean Dollar ("XCD" or "EC") as their official currency, as does the rest of Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. The XCD is presently on a fixed exchange rate with the United States Dollar ("USD"), where one USD = 2.7 XCD. However, the actual trading rate on any given day seems to float slightly above or below that value.

Major credit cards companies will automatically convert the currency for you, which is very convenient. However, on Carriacou, there is a limited number of merchants who have the capability to accept credit cards (including many of the restaurants). Therefore, we must be prepared with sufficient cash.

Visitors can use USD at many locations, however the exchange rate is usually worse, more along the lines of one USD = 2.50 to 2.60 XCD. The use of XCD is obviously more economical.

We believe it is wise to limit the total amount of cash we hold at any given time when traveling abroad. A great way to manage this is to use the convenience of the Automated Teller Machine ("ATM"). There are ATMs located in Hillsborough that accept major credit and debit cards, dispensing XCD currency at the prevailing exchange rate.

Just as is often the case in the United States, Carriacou's ATMs are sometimes out of order or inaccesible, so we like to have some XCD cash on-hand when we first get to the island. to pay for our taxi fare, driver's permit, lunch, provisions, etc. The difficulty that we have had is locating a currency exchange in the United States that will transact XCD for USD. In our experience, we have had less than a 50 percent success rate in finding XCD available at airport currency exchanges (for an immediate transaction). Because of this, we make the effort to exchange a limited amount of funds well in advance of our trip, instead of waiting for the day of departure.

Some local banks in the United States will accept an order for the currency exchange for a small fee and with several business days notice. Since I travel quite a bit for business, I just stop at various airport currency exchanges to check on XCD availability. Airport currency exchange rates and fees are never in the customer's favor (they have to make money somehow). However, when transacting a couple of hundred USD, the fee is a very small percentage and the convenience of completing the transaction immediately has certain benefits.

It is very important to make certain that you retain enough cash to pay the Grenada Departure Tax. It is presently $50 XCD per person ages 12 and older, and $25 XCD for children ages 5 to 11. Children under 5 years old are exempt from the tax. This tax is payable when you leave the island.