How to Change Money on the Black Market

by The Runaway Guide on March 16, 2012

thailand currency exchange rate boardWhen a countries currency is overvalued, it leads to a much lower exchange rate for the foreign buyer. For example, if the world market price of 1$ equals 5 Sudanese pounds but the government sets the official exchange at 2.7 pounds, you are effectively robbed of 2.3 pounds. That’s nearly 50%! And national banks and cash machines, if available, are the robbers.

However, not to worry my fellow backpackers and runaways, there is a way to beat the system. And it lies within the black market currency exchange. Although it is technically illegal, in my opinion, it is no more illegal than those government’s detrimental currency policies. So, in order to maximize the value of your Dollar/Euro/Pound or other currency, and sustain your budget, the black market currency exchange is the way to go.

Finding A Black Market Bank:

Black Market banks are illegal, and as such you won’t find them in the phone book or with a sign out front. Despite this, they aren’t as hard to find as you might think. Often, just a few miles after a border crossing, black market bankers will appear at your sides. They are usually just teenage boys, but can be devious, so make sure you know the exchange rate.

If you are within a city, finding a BMB may prove a little trickier. Since they are usually disguised in the form of small markets or restaurants, you will need to ask around to find them. The best way to begin is by simply asking your hotel or hostel reception. However, since many reception workers have prearranged commission agreements with black market bankers or just take a cut for themselves, you may not always get the best price. If you think you’re getting cheated, just walk away. Don’t be swayed into an unfair deal just out of politeness. The best way to find a good banker is to ask other tourists. If none are around, try locals and shop owners.

Black Market Etiquette:

Once you find your local black market branch, you must try and be discreet. Counting your Benjamin’s in plain view won’t make your teller too happy. Trying to negotiate a rate while the store is full of people won’t help your cause either. Thus it’s best to wait until the store is empty to start your transaction.

Getting The Best Rate:

stack of benjamins, one hundred dollar billsTo get the best rate possible, you need to know what the current rate is. This can sometimes be found on the internet, but due the illegal nature of the black market, rates can change drastically in just a few days. A police crack down could make the market more risky and thus drive the price up. To find out the current rate, it is best to ask other tourists.

Another factor to consider in trying negotiating the best rate is your bill size. Since bankers generally deal in larger transactions, ones, fives, and tens, will get the worst rates. So be sure to make your exchanges in Benjamin’s. The difference in return can sometimes be as much as 20%.


Although the black market is, as its name suggests, illegal, it is a relatively safe way to exchange your currency. This is mainly because local police are often corrupt and in cahoots with black market bankers. However, since it is the black market, and your’re dealing with precious travel funds, be sure to find a banker you trust, know the rate before hand, and as always, trust your instincts.



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