Landing in RioI arrived in Rio on the evening of Saturday January 8th 2011 – my first stop on the journey I’d been thinking about and planning for over a year. I’d arrived. The long journey and lack of sleep didn’t dull my excitement on finally having  made it to South America, but I was instantly confronted with my first problem… cash.

Before leaving the UK I’d decided against traveller’s cheques and had been assured that ATM’s in South America would accept my Visa Debit card. As an extra safety net I’m also travelling with 2 credit cards and a Travelex MasterCard which operates like a plastic travellers cheque basically – allowing you to withdraw money you’ve pre-paid onto the card. So I had plenty of options (but no hard cash). The stupidity of not having at least a little bit of local currency in my wallet hit me after my 4th card had been refused by the 6th ATM at the airport – I was stuck. For an unknown reason none of my cards would work. The taxi driver who’d been after my fare didn’t seem to bothered and told me ‘many ATM’s in Copacabana’ so we set off…

Predictably the same problem kept happening at every cash point we stopped at, none of my cards would work. The taxi driver was suddenly much more concerned at my inability to draw cash and it was getting dark. All the stories I’d heard about the dangers of Rio and violent crime started creeping into my subconscious. I was shitting myself basically. Then just as I was trying to remember some moves from my beginners kick boxing classes he suggested trying Banco do Brasil and it miraculously worked. Problem solved, but it was a sign of things to come in the relationship between me and Brazilian ATM’s. Temperamental to say the least.

Eventually the taxi driver, buoyed by his newly flush passenger got me to my hostel and duly added 50% to the fare for all the messing around at cash points. The language barrier and sense of relief at just making it to the hostel stopped me arguing but in hindsight it was a massive rip off.

So the moral of this story is when arriving in a new continent, buy just a little bit of the local currency first… just in case.