General Comments |
Ministry Funding |
Personal Funds | Benevolent Funds | Foreign Exchange
Credit Cards/ATMs | Traveler's Checks | Duty Free | Uganda Mission Home
Uganda Shillings | Are Short Term Missions worth the Cost?
Money & Ministry
There are a number of financial issues that an overseas missionary traveler needs to take into consideration. Trip funding, personal funds (gifts, souvenirs, etc.), using travelers checks and credit cards, and understanding exchange rates when changing from one currency to another.
Obviously the first issue is the raising of Ministry Funding to support the trip. In my opinion, self-funding is the least favorable option. People are more prone to seriously pray for a ministry they have invested their money in. Those who travel to Uganda (or elsewhere) on a mission trip need people to be praying for them. From time to time I have personally been the recipient of an extraordinary measure of grace while in Uganda and upon returning to the states have someone tell me they had fervently prayed for our team at that very time or were awakened in the middle of the night with an urgency to pray for our team.
Additionally, if you pay your own way, there might come a tendency to view the opportunity as "my trip" and I can do my on thing. When you are very aware that others have given, and even sacrificed to help you go, you are much more aware that your trip represents the investment of others and should be spent wisely and covered with prayer.
I would also recommend giving some serious thought about how you will handle benevolent ministry while in Uganda. The needs are very real and very great. You cannot help every single person you see, no matter how much your heart wants to. Therefore, you must distinguish between truly helping someone and just handing out money (or other help) which in fact does not really permanently change anything but creates a cycle of dependency where people are taught to beg help from every foreigner they see. Please see the sections that deal with this under Ministry Issues.
I recommend taking nothing smaller than US $20.00 bills, $100s and $50s are best. Exchange services just give a lower rate for smaller bills. (see example chart below) This is true of travelers checks as well. Make sure your US $20s, $50s, and $100s are of the newest series and in crisp new condition. See U.S. currency exchange under the Critical Updates Section.
How Foreign Currency Exchanges Work
If you do not print out the chart mentioned above, I would suggest at least making some notes on a 3x5 card and taking it with you with exchange rates for Uganda as well as your layover city. It is easy to be fooled sometimes into thinking you are getting a good deal when in reality you are not. You should also note that exchange rates change daily (not usually a great deal) but they do change so make sure you know what you are spending.
The exchange chart below is typical and shows you get the best rate for US $100 and/or $50 bills. While this chart is not based on any real chart I have ever seen in Uganda, it reflects the declining value you get for smaller bills. While I have never exchange a Traveler's Check, I am told they too get a lower rate than hundreds and fifties.
Shopping in layover airports There are issues here too you should be aware of. The problem you encounter is if you exchange a US $100 bill and only spend $85 of it, when you take the leftover amount back to the exchange window, you will be subject to the lower exchange rate for smaller bills, they will not give you US $15 back. Therefore, you are either end up effectively paying $100 for what you purchased or take the lower rate of exchange and the effect is still an inflated price on what you purchased. (See below for use of credit cards for shopping)
Please do not see this as a blanket endorsement of credit card use. Slowly by slowly (the Ugandan equivalent of slowly but surely) credit card and ATM use is growing in Uganda. I have used my ATM card to get shillings from a Ugandan ATM and gotten a competitive exchange rate. However my bank does charge a $5.00 fee for "other bank ATM use." I have also used my credit card at Mweya Lodge and Entebbe Airport without any problems at all.
You should also be aware that traveler's check in smaller amounts ($5, $10 or $20) receive a less favorable exchange rate. If you take traveler's checks, you should take $50s and $100s.
All the International Airports I have been through contain shops where you can buy items "Duty Free" that is, without payment of customs fees (taxes). I have purchased a few things in these shops but as a rule the prices are very high. The stores are located in prime real estate -- international airports with thousands of travelers just sitting around waiting with no place to go and nothing to do but shop and eat. At Gatwick I purchased a European style telephone adaptor jack for my laptop computer. It cost me nearly $6.00 US. That same jack is available in "regular" stores for less than $2.00 US.
You should also be aware that while a purchase at a foreign airport is be Duty Free leaving that country, depending on dollar value, might very well be subject to taxes when entering US Customs. I do not know what that amount would be as my purchases have never been more that a couple of hundred dollars. I am sure it would take at least a thousand dollars or more to cross this line. I doubt any mission team traverler would ever find this a problem, but at least you are aware it could be an issue.