Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Money Matters

So far the most difficult adjustment to my new life in Guinea has been learning to deal with the money. In the States I used my credit card for everything. It was easy and convenient and earned me frequent flyer miles. It also makes it really easy to track my spending. I remember in high school being embarrassed to put something $5 or less on a card, but I got over that a long time ago. Cash was just more trouble than it was worth.

In Guinea cash is the only game in town. There are a few places in Conakry where you can use a card, but doing so effectively gives your waiter or hotel desk clerk carte blanche to use your card too. Checks are worthless, except at banks. I get paid via direct deposit and then write checks to cash at the embassy bank. On Friday I forgot to do a bank run so I was broke all weekend. Oops.

So you have to have cash, and a lot of it. The Guinean franc is currently running at about 6,700 to the dollar at the official exchange rate (the black market rate is higher). While Guinea is a very poor country, doing things that expats do - eating out, shopping at grocery stores, buying gas - is not cheap. I have concluded that normal running-around money is probably about a half million francs, more if planning a grocery run.

Guinea's largest bill is the 10,000-franc note, which means that the aforementioned normal running-around money is at minimum 50 pieces of paper. I'm glad I never got around to buying a new wallet before I left DC because it would have been a total waste. I'm considering getting a pencil case or something to carry my bricks of bills around in. A larger denomination note might help with the cartage, but if ever a country needed mobile banking, it's Guinea.

5 comments:

  1. I missed ALL your updates because we were on vacation, but was happy to read them now. I love hearing all about it so keep writing!!

    ~Kellie

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  2. I just spent twenty minutes looking for a horribly embarrassing pencil case for you on Amazon. Sadly, Lisa Frank appears to have gone out of style.

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  3. Maybe you were looking in the wrong place:
    http://cgi.ebay.com/Lisa-Frank-Poochie-Accessory-Purse-Pencil-Case-/180519268613?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item2a07c97105

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  4. wow, I haven't visited in a while and now you're in Guinea! this is so interesting. what an exchange rate. hope it is going well for you.

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  5. LOL! on the Lisa frank pencil case...
    MOM

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