That Kinda Day

Have you ever had that kind of day that has a traumatic start, but ends up not that tragic after all, but throws you so far off your game that you can’t quite recover?

That was my day today….

It started out well enough.  Booked a tour for the Opera House, booked my airport shuttle, ate breakfast, and was out of the door by 9:30 am.  I knew that I needed an ATM machine, but decided that it could wait until after the tour since I had paid for my ticket the day before.  After the tour I had planned to walk about 1.7km to my next location to see the neighborhoods and stop by an ATM along the way.

So after the tour, I start walking.  I see an ATM and enter my card and PIN number.  But I get a message saying that my card does not work with that machine.  Ok–I chalk it up to being a no-name local bank.  Then I go to HSBC.   I’ve seen this bank, literally,  all around the world.  Same message.  By this time I am starting to loose my cool.  I call my bank and they tell me that there is nothing wrong with my card.  She also tells me they have no affiliations in Argentina and does not know what I should do, except that I could go to an “emergency cash center” and that my bank could have money wired to me.  That process could take the rest of the day.  UHM, are you freaking kidding me?  Wrong answer.

This has been the MOST frazzled I have been in all my years of traveling. Buenos Aires is a modern city.  Visa and MasterCard are accepted almost everywhere.  There are ATMs on almost every corner.  I always travel with multiple cards:  usually one debit card, one credit card, and cash.  Most often than not, this is sufficient.  I did not see this coming.

Initially, I thought “if I had travelers checks, I would not be in this dilemma.”  But let’s be real–if you are traveling in a third world country it can be hard to find a place to cash the travelers checks and in modern cities, you don’t need them.

So I walked a lot more–because I did not have enough cash for a cab and went to a Starbucks to collect myself.  I used my debit card at Starbucks and it definitely worked.  And then I remembered that I had seen a Citibank the day before on my bus tour.  And I was *hoping* that I was close enough to walk.  I asked the Starbucks cashier where the closest Citibank was and thank goodness it was only 5 blocks away.  I walked and poof! My card worked!

So what was my lesson in all of this?  Well, I can tell you that despite this, it won’t be to order travelers checks.  Hahaha!  But I may need an account at a bank that is known to have branches (not just affiliates) all over the world.  I am also now an even bigger advocate of ordering foreign currency ahead of time.