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I've just returned from several unusual countries in Asia, and annoyingly despite being told I'd have no problem, I'm unable to find anyone in London to change back to pounds.

I've tried Travelex in Heathrow, a currency exchange place, and the post office.

The currencies include cash from: Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

Most of the responses when shown the money is to the tone of "What the hell currency is this?" which doesn't fill me with confidence.

Any suggestions welcomed for places that may change this. Otherwise I may need to go back next year ;)

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Great question! I had the same problem with Armenian Dram, Bulgarian Lev, and Georgian Lari in Munich last year. I was able to change my Turkish Lira though (-: –  hippietrail Aug 18 '11 at 7:52
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A tip is when you are in exotic countries travelling overland is to change any excess money from a country you are leaving for the last time at the border crossing into the next country. Even neighbouring countries often don't have place to change each others country in their cities but always do at the border crossings. I always jot down all the relevant official conversions on a bit of paper from the internet the night or morning before a border crossing since the money changers at borders can be the dodgiest. This worked for me in Central America a few years ago. –  hippietrail Aug 18 '11 at 8:03

6 Answers 6

up vote 17 down vote accepted

Thomas Exchange will change almost any currency into Sterling - including the Mongolian, Kazakhestan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, Armenian and Georgian currencies, and many other obscure currencies and even pre-Euro currencies such as French Francs, Italian Lira, etc.

We do not charge any additional fees and our rates are always better than the Post Office, M & S, etc.

If you wish to exchange the currencies, you can visit our Oxford Circus branch at #5 Market Place, 2 minutes walk from Oxford Circus tube Station.

Alternatively, if you are based outside London, you can post the currencies to us, and we can pay you by Cheque or deposit funds directly into your bank account (note: please call us on 0207 493 1300 before you post). We usually recommend that you post the currency to us by Royal Mail Special Delivery.

Our address is:

Thomas Exchange UK
5 Market Place
London
W1W 8AE

Our website is: http://www.thomasexchange.co.uk (but not all our currency rates are displayed on here).

If you require any further info, contact Paul Nelson on 0207 493 1300.

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Hah, I actually walked past your West End branch today but did not have the currency with me. Hopefully tomorrow or on the weekend. Will report back - thanks! –  Mark Mayo Aug 18 '11 at 15:35
    
Thomas Exchange is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 6pm and closed at the weekends. If you have any other unusual currencies, feel free to bring them in! –  user649 Aug 19 '11 at 8:36
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"Send us cash by post and we promise to send you a cheque"? Man, I totally need to start a business like this one. No offence! :D –  Ankur Banerjee Aug 19 '11 at 9:42
    
^ Just joking there –  Ankur Banerjee Aug 19 '11 at 11:33
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I can vouch for this business. I was turned away from a dozen money changers (including the Post Office) with my Faroese bank note. As of the time of the comment, the "funny" currencies are bought from the Market Place branch, not the Maddox Street branch. I walked in with my weird money and had it sold within minutes for a fair price. –  Douglas Held yesterday

Did you try your bank? HSBC, for example, will convert any currency to your local currency if you are an account holder. The rates are quite good and they don't charge a fee. The downside is that they have minimum amounts for each currency type (usually around $50 here in the US) and they don't usually convert coins.

Edit:

Also, if one branch of a bank says they can't do it, it doesn't mean that all branches of that bank can't do it. A friend of mine recently had to exchange some Hungarian Forints and Czech Koruna here in the States. He went to his bank, PNC, and they told him that they could only convert from eight major currencies. He then went to a different branch of PNC (in a more upscale area of town) and they said that they could convert any type of currency. They have some "currency specialists" to whom they send the money who verify that the notes are legit. Once they are confirmed legitimate, they do the conversion. The process can take up to 6 weeks (I'm not sure how long it actually took for my friend).

As an aside, my friend noted how bad the bank tellers were at geography: The first bank teller insisted that "Hungaria" is not a country, and the second said, "Does the Czech Republic still exist? I thought it's part of Russia now..."

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That explains the need for "currency specialists". –  Michael Hampton yesterday

Use a website where travellers meet, perhaps Couchsurfing or Lonely Planet Thorn Tree. Advertise that you have some unusual currency you wish to change at the current official rate with no overhead or fee, just direct traveler to traveler to somebody about to go to the destinations you just returned from. Arrange a time and place to meet (not in the forum where everybody can see just in case).

You'll probably have lots more to chat about when you meet up to exchange money and unless you've got ten grand worth of Tenge or something you shouldn't have to worry about the Central Asian mob turning up to shake you down (-;

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I've used Thomas Exchange Global when I was looking for good rates to sell currencies in London. On their web site they list Kazakhstan Tenge, but not the other three. However, they say to call them for exchange rates of currencies not listed, so you may be able to exchange your other currencies. They have locations on the Strand, Liverpool Street, Victoria and Hammersmith.

There is also Thomas Exchange. They do not have any of your currencies listed on their web site, but have confirmed that they will exchange all of them (via Paul Nelson's answer here). They have locations near Oxford Circus and Liverpool Street.

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It looks like you've tried all the likely suspects

The Post Office website has a section on selling back currency which lists all the currencies they'll buy from you. As you've discovered, none of your four are on that list... Bigger branches of Marks and Spencers are normally worth checking for foreign exchange, as they often do a good rate. Alas their list lacks your currencies too.

As you're in London, I'd suggest you try to find a restaurant or shop run by people of each nationality, and see if they'd be interested. That'd likely depend on how much you have, and how often the staff there return to see family, but there's a fair chance they could be interested at the right exchange rate (FSVO right = right for them!). This option also has the bonus that you'll be able to pick up some food in the style you've just been enjoying!

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Talk to embassies of those countries. They might know where to buy/sell the currency. Is there a big offical central bank you can go to? They might do everything? (Or they might only change your pound notes to pound coins :P )

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