mana_trini and I had some euros that we needed to change, and like all tourists do, we set about looking for the bureau with the best rate. "Bureau" is a big word for the tiny money booths that clutter the city sidewalks with their loud fluorescent orange and green signs. On Aviendo El So, we split up, J going to one cambio and I to another.
I asked the guy for his rate, and he pretended not to understand the amount I was saying. He wanted to me show him my bills and like a fool I did. Well, Mr Slick took one of them, put his hand UNDER his desk and then put another bill back on the top. At first glance, it looked like a 50 euro bill all right, but I knew I had just been scammed.
My hands started shaking, and I demanded that he give back my bill. He pretended, yet again, that he didn't understand what I was talking about, but luckily Julien came along just then. As a policeman, he's taken lots of classes on how to ID fake money, and he saw right away that the bill was fake. I was too worked up to really look at them. I just wanted my bill back and I wanted it right then.
Well, the guy acted all huffy, but he gave us a real 50. J stayed there to watch him, and I ran off to fetch a police officer. Woe is me, but the first one I found was a young woman, probably not very experienced, who did absolutely nothing.
So, long story short and minus all the rage and frustration, the jerk got to keep his fake bill to pass off on the next unsuspecting tourist. For your information, this is his ugly mug:
When you want to change money, go to an official change bureau or bank. The guys on the street may (only sometimes!) have a better rate, but your chance of getting cheated is much greater.
And, as a side note, today in San Blas, a hip quarter of Cusco, I found a 5 soles coin on the church steps. I was rather tickled and pocketed it. Well, we tried to pay our lunch with it, and it was a fake!
Be aware, be very aware, in Cusco...and just anywhere when money is involved.