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What is a Closed Currency?

A closed currency is a one that is not available for purchase in countries other than its country of origin. We take a look at what that means for a traveller visiting a country with a closed currency.

Travellers visiting countries with a closed currency will (usually) only be able to get your currency on arrival and not in advance, due to the import restrictions.

Closed currency export restrictions also apply, so when leaving the country you should try to spend all your remaining currency, or convert it back to your home currency. It’s illegal to take home closed currency and you may be spot checked at the airport.

When you do manage to buy a closed currency abroad, make sure you try to spend all of the currency before departure.

Countries that have a closed currency generally have a history of economic policy of protectionism or perhaps a previous currency crisis.

The biggest example of a closed currency is currently the Indian rupee.

What are my options for accessing closed currency cash?

You will only be able to purchase closed currencies at authorised vendors such as bureaux de changes, banks or hotels, once you arrive in the country. Generally, this is easily done at the destination airport. If you have a pre-paid travel card/ debit or credit card, you should also be able to withdraw the local currency from an ATM.  Check your travel card or debit/credit card for ATM withdrawal fees.

Travel cards that do not charge ATM fees, such as Travelex Money Card Platinum, can be really handy in these situations. Have it ready loaded up with up to ten currencies and you can convert from one of these via the ATM but stay aware of the exchange rates.

You can also carry travellers cheques or cash for exchanging once you arrive. Be aware that old, damaged notes and also brand new notes/denominations that are not yet widely known, may not be accepted.

Closed Currency travel tips

Use a travel card, debit or credit card, if possible, one that does not charge exorbitant fees for ATM use, foreign transaction fees, and consistently has a good exchange rate.

Keep your money exchange receipts close so that you are able to provide evidence that you obtained your cash through official channels.

Avoid carrying large amounts of cash in foreign currency, especially Euros, USD, or GPB as these are highly desirable.

Be aware that using other currencies (e.g USD, GBP, Euros) for your transactions may be illegal in some countries, so check before you leave.

Try to only change what you need so that you minimise the chance of ending up with excess closed currency that you will be forced to spend at the airport or convert back.

Often in closed currency countries, a black market for exchanging the weaker local currency emerges. Avoid being tempted by the offer of better exchange rates as using these are illegal and if caught, you will have to face the authorities. Needless to say, never a good thing when abroad.

Closed Currencies List

Note this list is a dynamic list, so please double check the currency that you are after.

Albania, Armenia, Bahamas, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cuba, Ethiopa, Georgia, Ghana, India, Iran, Laos, Libya, Morocco, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, North Korea, Samoa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tunisia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Zimbabwe.

Countries with Closed Currencies
Albania Armenia Bahamas
Cambodia Cameroon Cuba
Ethiopia Georgia Ghana
India Iran Laos
Libya Morocco Myanmar
Nepal Nigeria North Korea
Samoa Sri Lanka Sudan
Tunisia Ukraine Uzbekistan
Venezuela Zimbabwe
Please note that the opinions of our authors are their own and do not reflect the opinion of Best Exchange Rates and should not be taken as a reference to buy or sell any financial product.