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  • Writer's pictureHelen Avaient

What I did when I ran out of cash overseas

One of the things that travellers fear happened to me in Singapore. The ATM was not recognising my pin number when I attempted to get cash out. Swiping my credit card was still possible, so I could purchase food etc. The problem was, most market stalls in Singapore only accept cash and I had my heart set on buying a special gift for a loved one that was only available at the market.

I could forgo the purchase and buy them something from a store with my credit card, or I could think outside the box. One of my purchased vouchers in town was for a Singapore Sling at a hotel, valued at around $42. Hmmm, if I could swap this voucher for say, $25 cash. It would be a win/win situation. However, as a solo traveler, I didn't have anyone to swap it with. This was a dilemma.

The Singapore Sling was created by Ngiam Tong Boon, in 1915, at the Long Bar in Raffles, Singapore. Women were forbidden from drinking alcohol in colonial days. Rumour has it that the women asked for a drink that looked like fruit juice, but with spirits included. The drink consists of fruit juices, liqueurs, cherry brandy and gin with a cherry and pineapple as garnishes.

Asking total strangers for this two way favour seemed like a possible option. However, it would take some bravado. So, I thought that I would approach it like a social experiment. If it didn't pan out, I had a plan B - the alternative shop.

There is almost always a line of people outside the famous bar. I approached the first couple, who thought it was a good idea, but they only had a credit card themselves. The second couple were going to order beers, so that wouldn't work either. Two no's had me feeling a bit rejected and I was considering giving up, especially when the waitress started asking me why I wasn't coming into the bar. This was getting to feel awkward.

I thought I would give it another brave go, and luckily hit jackpot. A lovely couple from Queensland, Australia were up for it. They even invited me to sit with them and another couple they knew. They were all stopping over for a few days in Singapore after a trip to Japan. The five of us had a delightful conversation about travels and life experiences.

After the drinks were consumed, I used my voucher to pay for the Singapore Sling and received the promised $25 in cash. I was grateful to my new friends, as they were to me, and much thanks was said by all. The added bonus is that now they have an interesting travel story to tell their friends and family. Plus, I can share this tale with others too.

There are some people who would not even consider asking strangers for a favour. I will disclose that I did feel nervous and apprehensive doing so, quite outside my comfort zone. Yet, the benefits gained by both parties in this transaction were profitable to each side. We did all laugh nervously at the beginning, but parted amicably.

My best advice if you find yourself in a situation like this:

  1. Be honest and open, even if telling the truth sits uncomfortably for a bit

  2. Ensure that each side of the agreement receives an advantage

  3. Be grateful and friendly to those who refuse

I have a quote that I love - "Smooth seas do not make for good sailors". By putting ourselves through a challenge, especially if it is uncomfortable, we become stronger.

I would love to hear your comments on a situation like this, please comment below if you wish. Would you have done something like I did? Have you done something similar?

PS. To my grandchild - yes, the gift was for you, that is why I pushed myself, you are special to me. xx

Happy Travels!

122 views4 comments


Jan 23, 2023

WOW, love your ingenuity. I can't imagine not having access to cash while overseas.


Jan 02, 2023

I definitely admire your creative thinking & courage to approach total strangers Helen.

I think I could do it but can only hope I never have to find out if I would. 🙂


Walter J Van Praag
Walter J Van Praag
Sep 15, 2022

I remember hitch-hiking in the 1980s, when I met a guy who said he always went to Paris to get cash. Would just make a sign saying J'ai Femme, I'm hungry, and sit in the metro for 3 days looking at his shoes as his bowl filled up with enough travel cash for the next month.... what an ass! But it worked.


Judy Rovno
Sep 11, 2022

Even thou you already told me the story hearing it written out .. it really hit home… meant even more to be you really do have a gift …👍🥰

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