advertisement

Frommer's lists exact prices in the local currency. However, rates fluctuate, so before departing consult a currency exchange website such as www.oanda.com/currency/converter to check up-to-the-minute rates. You can also get help with currency conversions, tip calculations, and more from Frommer's convenient Travel Tools app for your mobile device. Go to www.frommers.com/go/mobile and click on the Travel Tools icon.

Probably the only cities more expensive than Honolulu are New York City, London, and Tokyo. Honolulu is expensive -- very expensive. Visitors are always shocked at how much things cost. Think about it: Hawaii is among the most isolated set of islands in the world. It's some 2,500 miles to the nearest continent and nearly everything is shipped in; and if it's not shipped, then it's flown at an even greater cost.

Hotel rooms in Waikiki are second in price to New York City. If you would like to stay on Waikiki Beach, you are looking at rack rates in the $350 and up range (a deal on the Internet can put you in around $250). Hotels off the beach are still expensive; expect to pay $200-plus per day. Then factor in tax (13.93%), plus (very expensive) parking of $18 to $25 a night.

It's always advisable to bring money in a variety of forms on a vacation: a mix of cash, credit cards, and traveler's checks. You should also exchange enough petty cash to cover airport incidentals, tipping, and transportation to your hotel before you leave home, or withdraw money upon arrival at an airport ATM.

The easiest and best way to get cash away from home is from an ATM (automated teller machine), sometimes referred to as a "cash machine," or "cashpoint." The Cirrus (tel. 800/424-7787; www.mastercard.com) and PLUS (tel. 800/843-7587; www.visa.com) networks span Oahu: ATMs are everywhere in Hawaii -- at banks, supermarkets, Longs Drugs, and Honolulu International Airport, and in some resorts and shopping centers. Check your bank's website for exact locations.

Note: Many banks impose a fee every time you use a card at another bank's ATM, and that fee is often higher for international transactions (up to $5 or more) than for domestic ones (where they're rarely more than $2). In addition, the bank from which you withdraw cash may charge its own fee. To compare banks' ATM fees within the U.S., use www.bankrate.com. Visitors from outside the U.S. should also find out whether their bank assesses a 1% to 3% fee on charges incurred abroad.

Credit cards are the most widely used form of payment in the United States and include Visa (Barclaycard in Britain), MasterCard (EuroCard in Europe, Access in Britain, Chargex in Canada), American Express, Diners Club, and Discover. They also provide a convenient record of all your expenses and offer relatively good exchange rates. You can withdraw cash advances from your credit cards at banks or ATMs, but high fees make credit card cash advances a pricey way to get cash.

It's highly recommended that you travel with at least one major credit card. You must have a credit card to rent a car, and hotels and airlines usually require a credit card imprint as a deposit against expenses.

ATM cards with major credit card backing, known as debit cards, are now a commonly acceptable form of payment in most stores and restaurants. Debit cards draw money directly from your checking account. Some stores enable you to receive cash back on your debit-card purchases as well. The same is true at most U.S. post offices.

Beware of hidden credit-card fees while traveling. Check with your credit or debit card issuer to see what fees, if any, will be charged for overseas transactions. Recent reform legislation in the U.S., for example, has curbed some exploitative lending practices. But many banks have responded by increasing fees in other areas, including fees for customers who use credit and debit cards while out of the country -- even if those charges were made in U.S. dollars. Fees can amount to 3% or more of the purchase price. Check with your bank before departing to avoid any surprise charges on your statement.

Though credit cards and debit cards are more often used, traveler's checks are still widely accepted in the U.S. Foreign visitors should make sure that traveler's checks are denominated in U.S. dollars; foreign-currency checks are often difficult to exchange.

You can buy traveler's checks at most banks. Most are offered in denominations of $20, $50, $100, $500, and sometimes $1,000. Generally, you'll pay a service charge ranging from 1% to 4%.

The most popular traveler's checks are offered by American Express (tel. 800/221-7282 for card holders -- this number accepts collect calls, offers service in several foreign languages, and exempts Amex gold and platinum cardholders from the fee).

Be sure to keep a copy of the traveler's checks' serial numbers separate from your checks in the event that they are stolen or lost. You'll get a refund faster if you know the numbers.

Another option is the new prepaid traveler's check cards, reloadable cards that work much like debit cards but aren't linked to your checking account. The American Express Travelers Cheque Card, for example, requires a minimum deposit ($25), sets a maximum balance ($2,500), can be used to withdraw money from an ATM ($1.50 per transaction, not including bank fees), and can be purchased in dollars, euros, or pounds. If you lose the card, your card will be replaced, but they can't mail it out of the country.

Visa also sells a pre-paid "debit" card, locations can be found at http://usa.visa.com/locators/travelmoney-locations.jsp.

Why Oahu Is More Expensive -- No, it's not your imagination -- Oahu is more expensive than the other Hawaiian islands. That's the result of the Hawaii State Legislature passing a bill allowing the City and County of Honolulu (which is the entire island of Oahu) to add an additional .5% tax on to the state general excise tax of 4%. Everything you buy on Oahu will have this tax, and so will your hotel bill. The funds from this additional tax are earmarked for mass transit for Oahu.

What Things Cost in Honolulu US$

Hamburger at Kua Aina 6.00

Movie ticket (adult) 10.75

Movie ticket (child) 7.50

Entry to Bishop Museum (adult) 17.95

Entry to Bishop Museum (child) 14.95

Entry to Hawaiian Water Adventure Park (adult) 42.00

Entry to Hawaiian Water Adventure Park (child) 32.00

Entry to Honolulu Zoo (adult) 12.00

Entry to Honolulu Zoo (child) 3.00

20-ounce soft drink at drug or convenience store 2.50

16-ounce apple juice 3.50

Cup of coffee 3.00

Taxi from Honolulu Airport to Waikiki 35.00

1 gallon of premium gas 4.95

Bus fare (adult) 2.50

Moderate three-course dinner without alcohol 50.00

Moderately priced double-room in Waikiki 125.00-175.00

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.