samster's adventures

An adventurous girl cooks, eats and explores in Europe.

Travel Tips- Currency and Credit Cards

As our families and friends start planning visits out, many of their questions have to do with exchanging currency and whether they can use their cards or not. Coming from the US, they will need to exchange currency though likely only once since you can get through most of Europe on the Euro. Other than that, there are some things that don’t immediately come to mind which you should handle with your bank when traveling. If you are going out of your country, these are a few important things you will want to take care of before leaving. This all applies to those relocating as well.


Debit/Credit Cards

-Call your banks and alert them you will be out of the country so that they don’t suspend your card. They will likely not guarantee that it won’t be suspended even if you do report it, but it helps.

-In the case that your card is frozen (or for any other emergency), you may want to set up a PIN on your credit card to allow for cash advances. The interest rates on it are quite high, but you can pay it back once you have access to your other funds. You likely won’t use it, but in an urgent situation I’m sure you would rather have the option.

-Ask your bank if they charge foreign transaction fees. If so, try to stop in and exchange currency before leaving or hit an ATM once and use cash throughout the trip to avoid separate transactions. If you know what the fees are you can plan around them and won’t end up with surprises on your bill.

-You should also check what your cash withdrawal limit per day is. Keep in mind that Friday, Saturday and Sunday will count as one business day, as will any bank holidays following (which may be different in the country you are visiting).

-Most cities I have been to are a mix of card and cash only. Smaller places tend to be cash only while many larger, tourist spots may take cards. Most bars only take or at least much prefer cash, especially when crowded (i.e. if you hold a card out, you will likely be served last). Taxis are largely cash only and may not have change for large bills. And if you plan on taking public transportation, is it almost always exact change needed.


Currency Exchange

-You can exchange currency at the bank before coming or use an ATM at the airport but it is best to avoid the exchange booths or hotel desks as they will charge a premium.

-Try to get an estimate on how much a taxi to your hotel/destination is before leaving. As you are just coming in, this is where you are most likely to be overcharged. You can ask for an estimate before getting into the cab and walk on if it doesn’t sound right to you. Even in places where this is less of a concern, it is helpful to know so you can make sure you have enough cash and smaller bills if needed.

-Make sure you know the exchange rate of the country’s currency into your currency. It is easy to forget how much you are spending when it is in another currency. Make sure you familiarize yourself with conversions so you are always aware of what purchases are really costing you.


Other Money Matters to Know

-Look up what standard tipping is in the country. In Dublin, people do not tip bartenders and for restaurants 10% is a reasonable tip. I’m still tipping heavy from my habits in the US, as 15-20% is standard. Make sure you know what is customary so you are not shorting anyone or tipping huge amounts on mediocre service.

-When doing tours or excursions, ask your hotel or hostel staff if prices are reasonable. They will be able to tell you whether it is a fair price for what you are getting, but furthermore tell you if you need all the services offered. For example, when in Morocco, we were offered a private tour in a 4×4 of the Atlas Mountains for what was a fair rate for the services. However, our hostel recommended another company that provided a tour at about a quarter of the cost for the same tour in a larger group. We ended up taking the latter option since we were interested in meeting some new people anyway. A price may be fair for what they offer but they may be offering more than you want, so always try to look around.


Do you have anything to add on to this list? Share your best tips regarding money and travel below.


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This entry was posted on March 7, 2013 by in Travel, Travel Tips and tagged , , , .

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