Experiences of an American woman who was married to a Serb.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Change My "Dirty" Dollars Into Serbian Dinars, Please!

It's been too long -- I've really been missing Sombor. So, when I found out this past Friday that Air France was having a discount sale on Boston-to-Belgrade flights, less than 24 hours later I was on the plane.

Which gave me no time to change money. (Try asking for Serbian Dinars in practically any US bank and they'll tell you it's a week's wait.) This morning, I knew I would die without Diet Coke or Pepsi, because I am such an Amerikanka. But there was no cash to buy soda with. Luckily my husband had a $100 bill in his pocket that he'd snagged for travel expenses. We set off for the money-changer in downtown Sombor to get some dinars.

She took one look at the bill and shook her head. No way. No Dinars for us. The other money changers we visited all said no as well. Why? Well, something was scribbled in ink in the corner of the bill, so obviously this was not a bill that could be changed. Only dollars that are fresh, clean and PERFECT can be changed in Serbia. No folded corners, no worn edges, certainly no rips or tears, and absolutely no writing!

Well, actually a couple of years ago we did manage to get some slightly worn dollars changed in a Sombor bank, but we had to pay an extra 15% fee on top of the normal exchange fee to cover the extraordinary trouble they were taking.

To me, this is just so weird that it defies comprehension. A dollar is a dollar is a dollar, no matter what condition it is in. My husband's theory is that dollars are easier to fake than Euros, something about fewer glowing bits showing up under the blue security light. Therefore exchange offices have to be much more careful. Why, I'm still not sure. Wouldn't it be sensible that fake dollars would be crispier and more perfect-looking than those that had clearly been through a few hands?


Anonymous said...

Same deal with "older" and "used" bills in Russia (and some other East European countries). In fact, you wouldn't be able to change money at all if your bills were older than a certain year. For US dollars (in Russia) it was 1996 and then 2003, if memory serves me right.

Anonymous said...

This is not only an epedemic to Serbia, they do this in all kinds of European countries. We tried to exchange Euros to Hungarian forints, and the euro was slightly worn and they said no. Like WTF right?

Christina said...

Hope you eventually used an ATM to get dinars and got your Diet Coke! Of course, there is the opposite problem of trying to exchange dinars outside Serbia. I forgot to exchange the cash I had before catching a train to Zagreb, certain I would be able to either exchange it - or find someone, anyone, from the same train who might travel back and forth. I even asked people waiting for the Belgrade bus in Split. Luckily, in the end I was able to purchase the catalog at the Serbian Pavilion at the Biennale with most of the cash, leaving me with 240 in notes and a single coin for 2 dinars. Yes, I still keep them in my wallet. The 2002 coin is marked "SR Jugoslavija". I don't remember if 240 dinars is enough to buy a Diet Coke.

Tom C said...

Rosemary, do you use a specific travel site when booking your flights to Belgrade. I find it cheaper to fly into Budapest myself but if I can fly into Belgrade all the better.

Rosemary Bailey Brown said...

I used Orbitz for these tickets, but usually I use Danny Travel of New York (famous top choice of all former Yugoslavs in the US) http://www.dannytravel.com for all Balkan tickets because they have the best prices and the tickets include the ability to change dates. Often when I'm in the Balkans I wind up having to change my return date because time is, well, different there.