There’s clearly something very compelling about Bitcoins. What once seemed like little more than a very smart person’s pet project has turned into a worldwide phenomenon, with investment banks and even national governments taking notice of the currency. While it was once fairly difficult, getting started with the currency has become quite easy today, and opportunities for buying and selling Bitcoins continue to proliferate.

One of the most straightforward ways to get involved is a surprisingly low-tech one. One thing that has long attracted many boosters of the currency is the opportunity it offers to engage in relatively anonymous transactions. These privacy-focused advocates realized early on, however, that engaging in too much Bitcoin commerce over the Internet could allow governments and other entities to narrow down on their identities, potentially breaching their anonymity.

One of the solutions they came up with was in-person, real-world Bitcoin exchanges. A number of forums and other venues on the Internet allow interested parties local to one another to arrange meetings wherein Bitcoin will be exchanged for fiat currencies or other things of value. The advantage of these to those focusing on privacy is that these meetings remove one side of each such transaction from the view of the nodes on the distributed network. The advantage for those who simply want to acquire some Bitcoins of their own is that these meetings are typically a very simple, easy way to do so.

Of course, there are also plenty of ways to engage in buying Bitcoins on the Internet as well. Owing to some legal uncertainties regarding their status as potentially bank-like institutions, a number of the Internet exchanges which offer the currency for sale have traditionally been based in particularly lax jurisdictions. Exchanges and brokers of this sort have served plenty of people well over the years since the currency was released, and they remain attractive options for those who simply want to acquire some Bitcoins with a minimum of hassle.

Others may prefer the greater feeling of security engendered by dealing with institutions based in their home countries. These alternatives register their services with the relevant regulatory institutions, committing to abide by the many laws governing businesses which handle money for customers.

Because they do everything by the books, getting started with one of these brokers can involve a little more work. So-called “know your customer” laws, for example, require them to establish the real identities of those opening new accounts in order to prevent money laundering. That typically means being require to send in pictures or scans of passports, driver’s licenses, or other documents, although this process is generally completed quite quickly.