The exchange of foreign currency is a lucrative business and one that most international travelers deal with when they go outside their home country. You usually have several options, including exchanging the currency at home, through a bank or through an online service, or waiting until you gets to the country where you traveling and exchanging it there. There are advantages and disadvantages to each method.
When time is not of the essence, you can probably exchange foreign currency most easily at your neighborhood bank. You may need to order the currency some time in advance, in order to give his bank time to have it available, although large banks in big cities may be able to exchange currency in the most common denominations for walk-in customers. These banks will probably have Euros, Australian dollars and Russian rubles, for instance, although it is always a good idea to call first and find out. The main advantage of this is that a person will usually get the best exchange rate and, if an account holder, will rarely be charged a service or delivery fee. The disadvantage is that the process does take time, so advance planning is necessary.
To exchange foreign currency online, all you have to do is run a search. The service is usually quick, but the site will likely charge a delivery and/or service fee for the exchange, which may wipe out a good exchange rate. Still, most online services are reliable and honest, although it's still best to use a brand name service with a good reputation.
You can also exchange currency in the country where you are traveling. In this case, most travelers can get money at a kiosk in the airport, at an ATM, or at a local bank. Many veteran travelers recommend using an ATM because it will always be stocked with cash and, frequently, it will offer the best exchange rates. A small service charge will usually be assessed, but most people are accustomed to paying this when using an out-of-network ATM anyway. Plus, the ATM is usually easier to find, except in remote countries, and most airports have them readily available.
Airport currency exchange kiosks may also be handy, especially in smaller airports where an ATM may not be available. The exchange rates may not be as good, but they are safe to use. Banks are also a good place to exchange foreign currency. Most towns have a small bank and, in general, the exchange fees are fair, even if they do levy a service charge.
One option you should never exercise is to exchange foreign currency from an “independent” dealer. This can be very dangerous. These dealers usually offer the worst possible exchange rate, may use counterfeit cash, or even attempt to mug an unwary traveler. This is why it is a good idea not to show off cash in foreign countries, since it marks you as a profitable target. Banks, ATMs and airport kiosks are by far the best places to make an exchange when at the destination.