Getting your money in a foreign country used to be fraught with challenges. It often involved going to a branch of your bank and getting the money exchanged or visiting the money exchange kiosks in the airport (the terror 😱).
Nowadays, it's as simple as finding an ATM that is compatible with your debit card and retrieving money that way. My initial arrival ritual is as follows: get my bags, to though customs, withdraw anywhere from $40-60 USD equivalent in the local currency and get a transit card (if applicable).
Most credit unions refund the fee that the ATM charges to withdraw money. For instance, San Francisco Fire Credit Union, refunds up to 10 ATM withdrawal fees every month. Keep in mind that this is the fee that the ATM charges you, not the bank fee. That's a savings up to $30+. Saving that cash can usually enable you to stay a bit longer in most countries with low living costs.
Besides San Francisco Credit Union, of which I am a member, I have heard great things about the Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking Account. It's great for ATM usage as they do not charge fees for overseas transactions.
It's always a good choice to check in with your local credit union to see what their fees are. I have had some bad luck with some (Avoid Keypoint Credit Union based in the Bay Area) but others have been impressive. Your mileage may vary!
Until the next one, happy trails!