Currency Exchange 101 – Here we provide some tips and info based on our experiences in Europe, though several of these tips and tricks are applicable to other countries.
Will I need cash?
While you may be able to survive off plastic most of the places in the US, when traveling in Europe, you will need cash money. Lots of public transportation and quick snack/coffee shops do not take cards or, more commonly, begrudge you for using one. While you could bring cash with you to exchange, we do not recommend it, as traveling with large amounts of cash would be unsafe. Some cash, though, may be helpful (thinking of getting off the plane super hungry!). We also don’t recommend exchanging before you go, because the rates would not be great! You may see that some vendors will accept US dollars, particularly in the airports and touristy places. We recommend paying in local currency, as the cost is higher when paid for in US dollars (vendors include a conversion rate in the price that they charge you – plus some).
How much do I need in each place?
We stopped at an ATM at the airport right off the plane and just got out a few days worth of cash. Through a little research, we knew approximately how much train and bus fares were going to be, and knew we would only have a few days to spend before needing to exchange for the next country’s currency. Draw as much as you need per city (or group of cities that use the same currency), rather than planning to exchange from one currency to another. Each withdrawal has an ATM fee and each conversion has a change fee.
Travel tip: Be sure to withdraw in the local currency, it will save you from additional conversion fees.
What about exchanging money?
There is always an exchange fee and it should be posted at the stand or shop. Currency exchange venues at public, touristy places will have higher fees. If at all possible, stick with exchange counters at airports or even banks. At the vast majority of places, you can only exchange paper money and most vendors and shops give you change in coins, so try to spend those down. If trying to choose specific countries to stay in, the easiest thing is to stay in countries that all use the Euro, but we exchanged currencies several times in multiple countries without problem.
Planning tip: Check your debit card bank policies, to check as there will be local ATM fees as well as bank conversion fees (for the foreign withdrawal). Some travel cards have 0% conversion fees these can be used for larger purchases, as well as some restaurants and stores.
We have presented information here that compiles tidbits from several different sites and from our own experience. Our hope is that our work will save others countless hours of searching to find the answers they need. Please remember that we cannot make any guarantees or promises regarding the accuracy, reliability or completeness of the information. This website is for informational purposes only, and not a substitute for professional advice. Travel safely!
If you liked this post, please share!