Though the age of ATMs makes this less necessary, some people still purchase about $50 worth of local currency for each country that they'll visit even before they leave home. Doing so gets you from the airport or train station to the better exchange rates of a downtown bank. Likewise, this money can tide you over until you get your hands on some more, if you arrive in town late at night or on a bank holiday.
AAA offices in the United States sell ready-to-go packs of several currencies at relatively reasonable rates, although you can get better ones at any bank (call ahead — usually only banks' main downtown branches carry foreign cash). Shop around for the best rate, and ask the teller to give you small bills (close to $10 denominations) because you need the cash primarily to buy inexpensive items like maps, bus tickets, and maybe food.
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