Suitcase and World: Money, Money, Money

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Money, Money, Money

Photo by Robert Thomson

As we plan this trip, the one concern that keeps popping up is money.

 Let's start with what the currencies are for each country.  I decided to put together a table so I could familiarize myself with the names and the ISO codes. It's definitely going to be a challenge considering some the names are pretty similar and in the case of Kazahk and Turkmen currencies, the word "tenge" means different things.

CountryCurrency Currency SubdivisionISO 4217 
Kazakhstantenge100 tiinKZT
Kyrgyzstan   som100 tyiynKGS
Tajikistansomoni100 diramTJS
Turkmenistan    manat100 tengeTMT
Uzbekistansom100 tiyinUZS

I was curious what the bills look like so I did a bit of research on each - at least recognizing what the "1" denomination bill looks like.  I suspect that for several of the countries, a 1 denomination bill will be way too small for us to carry around but who knows, we might end up getting us as small change.

The Kazakhstani Tenge (issued 1993)

Obverse face is a portrait of Abu Nasr Al-Farabi (870-950), a scholar in many areas, including philosophy, linguistics, logic, and music. He also wrote about the nature of science and argued for the existence of the vacuum (empty space).

The reverse face shows geometrical constructions and formulations of Al-Farabi.

The Kyrgyzstani Som (issued 1994)

Obverse face is a portrait of Abdylas Maldybaev, a Kyrgyz composer, actor, and operatic tenor singer. Maldybaev was one of the composers of the state anthem of the Kyrgyzstan and is still renowned for his operatic composition.

The reverse face shows musical instruments.

The Tajikistani Somoni (issued 1999)

Obverse face is a portrait of Mirzo Tursunzoda,  an important poet and a prominent politic figure in Tajikistan. He is considered to be a national hero of Tajikistan.

The reverse face shows the National Bank of Tajikistan.

The Turkmenistani Manat (issued 2009)

Obverse face is a portrait ofTughril (full name: Rukn al-Dunya wa al-Din Abu Talib Muhammad Toghrul-Beg ibn Mikailan.....that won't fit on any modern day form).  Tughril was  was the founder of the Seljuk Empire, ruling from 1037 to 1063. Tughril united the Turkmen warriors of the Great Eurasian Steppes into a confederacy of tribes, who traced their ancestry to a single ancestor named Seljuq, and led them in conquest of eastern Iran. He would later establish the Seljuq Sultanate after conquering Persia and retaking the Abbasid capital of Baghdad from the Buyid dynasty in 1055.

The reverse face shows the National Cultural Centre of Great Saparmurat Turkmenbashi in Ashgabat.

The Uzbekistani Som (issued 2001)

This is the 1000 som bill.  Given the current exchange rate (see table below), I cannot envision that we'll be carrying the 1 som bill or even the 10 som bill.  The obverse face of the 1000 som bill shows the coat of arms of  Uzbekistan.

The obverse face show the Amir Timur Museum in Tashkent

Next, came finding out what the exchange rates are for each currency.  I don't expect they will change all that much between now and the time we leave.  So, here are the rates (from as of today.  We're going to have to carry around a cheat sheet to keep track of the rates.  Uzbekistan will present another challenge - we'll be carrying around a stack of bills to just pay for the smallest of items and we'll have to be dividing everything by 2500 to figure out what it is on USD!

CountryExchange Rate per $1USD
Turkmenistan    3.50

We have lots of questions about currency starting with how we're going to get money in each country?  Usually, I use my debit card and withdraw from the ATM but we've read that ATM's are far and few between outside the major cities.  It's looking more and more like we'll have to bring along US dollars and exchange it as we go along.  Pat read that the exchange rate that you get at the banks and money changers is much lower than on the *black market* i.e., exchanging at the hotel or in a shop.  Exchanging at the hotel is definitely convenient but we need to do more research in to this.

So, that leads to the next question which is how much USD should we bring with us and how much do we need in each country? This is a question I plan to ask Yuriy.  I hope he will have some guidelines for us based on what previous travelers have done.

I also have a concern about exchanging currencies between the Central Asian countries.  Our trip has us  traveling back and forth between several of the countries with Uzbekistan as the hub e.g., Uzbekistan to Tajikstan back to Uzbekistan and then to Turkmenistan.  So,  if we have Tajik somoni left when we return to Uzbekistan, where do we exchange it for Uzbek som and at what rate?  Same about exchanging Uzbek soms for Turkmen manats. I have a feeling that dealing with exchange rates is going to be a constant task for us....and a challenge at times. I think we will have to rely on our guide for advice.

This should be interesting!