Sunday, July 22, 2012

Funny Money



I know next to nothing about the rules that govern foreign currency, but as we’ve trekked farther south I’ve noticed something odd. The denominations keep increasing. In the U.S., a bottle of water costs about $1.50. In Mexico, it’s maybe 15 pesos. In Honduras, the price of a bottle of water increases to around 50 lempira, and in what is technically Colombia we are paying 1,500 pesos. I’m estimating here on the price of water, but you get what I’m saying. 
It’s somewhat disconcerting to take out 300,000 of anything in a single ATM run, and at this point I’m lost in this currency jungle, a problem excacerbated by the fact that “mil” is the Spanish word for “thousand.” It sounds like the cashier at the grocery store is asking for 50 million pesos for our weekly stock up, and my heart almost stops until I remember that mil is in fact a thousand and 50,000 pesos is the equivalent of about $30.
I would like to know how this happens exactly. Is it just inflation? Did someone at the central bank think the money would have more panache with a couple of extra zeros attached? And can’t they just lop off a few because the system becomes kind of cumbersome? To make matters even more interesting, Panama uses the U.S. dollar for all its transactions, but the change they give you is a mixture of American and Panamanian coinage. I'm never going to figure this out.

11 comments:

  1. It's probably just inflation. There's a good article on it here about Zimbabwe and their $10,000,000,000,000,000,000 bill (no fooling!): http://articles.latimes.com/2008/dec/20/world/fg-money20

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  2. "Are you sure you'd like to withdraw 300,000?"

    My God.

    But at least there is this... You are moving from lower numbers to higher so you are cautious. Could you imagine being a Columbian at a US Bank and they ask if you want to wire the 300k and you're like, "Oh no biggie," only to realize moments later what you'd done?

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  3. There is a technical explanation for it all, but much too mundane for a blog about adventure.

    Just keep track of how much you are exchanging and never ever ask for the exchange in single pesos. You'd need a treasure chest to carry around all those coins!

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  4. Yeah, its partially inflation, and I think partially what the their currency is based on originally.

    By the way...Just starting reading your blog last week, caught up, and love it. Live in Katy, and just got my ASA101 last weekend from Bay Area Sailing out of Kemah, hoping some day to be doing the same thing as you.

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    1. Zed- we are in Katy most of the time until next spring.Who knew the Katy prairie was rife with sailors? Small world.

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    2. :) You guys are on my blog list too, I know your niece Madeleine. Was a surprise to see her face when I was reading through your blog. Small world!

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    3. Small world indeed! Madeleine is a bad ass.

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  5. Tate's got it spot on. Exchanging currencies always makes me certain that I am somehow screwing up and being short changed.

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  6. I traveled to Colombia with the military and it was always a nice trip. I thought it was odd too my first couple trips at the ATM and the machine asks if I want to withdraw $300,000 or $500,000 and still realize it's only a few hundred bucks, at the most. I might still have some 10s and 20s laying around the house somewhere. Maybe I can go to Colombia again to use them up. :)

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