Foreign Currency – Exchanging Money For Your European Trip

With the introduction of the Euro, handling your money in Europe is a lot simpler. However, there are still some important guidelines for dealing with currency issues while abroad.

Exchange some money before you leave

Although you can typically exchange money in the airport when you arrive in Europe, it is best to have some Euros before you leave. What if your flight is delayed and you arrive after the airport bank is closed? Or, what if you are starving as soon as you get off the plane and want to pick up a quick snack before dealing with money exchange?  Most local banks can easily exchange dollars for Euros. Having 50-100 Euros in your pocket upon arrival will start your trip off stress free (see the next section for the reason not to exchange all of your money ahead of time).

Use your ATM and credit cards

Travelers checks are a thing of the past! The easiest way to exchange money in most European countries is to simply use your Visa or Mastercard. You will almost always get the best exchange rate when you take money out of an ATM or pay directly with a credit card when you are in Europe. The reason is that banks usually give the best exchange rates to each other, so the this automatic transaction will typically cost you less than going to a money exchange kiosk. Make sure to call your bank ahead of time to ensure that your ATM pin will work in the countries where you are traveling – it us typically best to have a standard 4-digit pin. Current guide books should alert you to any concerns with using cards in specific countries.

Study up

Picture it: Paris, 2001. I had just gotten off an overnight train from Madrid to Paris and…well…I really had to use the restroom! I ran over to the toilette, only to be stopped by a surly french woman telling me that I had to fork over some money to use the facilities. Furiously searching through my purse, I kept pulling out random coins while the woman shook her head. I had no idea which of these foreign coins would comprise the cost of using the bathroom. Although life is a little easier now that many European countries use the same currency, it is still worth taking a few minutes to review the coins and bills ahead of time

Alert your financial institutions

The last thing you want to deal with on your trip is a declined credit card. Make sure to call your bank and credit cards ahead of time to give them a list of countries where you will be traveling. That way, if the company starts seeing many large transactions in a foreign country, they won’t be tempted to deactivate your card for security purposes.

Know the conversion rates

While you’re on your trip to Europe, you’ll want to have a good idea of how much you’re really spending. This is hard to do if you don’t understand the currency conversion between Euros (or whatever currency is used in the countries you are visiting) and your own country’s currency. A good plan is to review the basics before you leave.  Let’s assume that you are from the U.S. and you will be using the Euro on your trip. First, visit a currency conversion site, such as  http://finance.yahoo.com/currency, and determine what one Euro is worth in dollars. At the time of this writing, 1 Euro = 1.34 U.S. Dollars. So, for every Euro you spend, it will actually be about 30{5ee11404e957289b2d225099b4f7d52b5549ec41b8e6ad1d623dc3506be9751a} more in dollars. Then get a few more Euro denominations, such as 10, 20, 50 and 100, and note their dollar equivalents. Write them on a small piece of paper and carry it your wallet. That way, when you’re thinking about buying the Italian leather shoes that cost 100 Euro, you can quickly check and remind yourself that you’re actually spending $134.

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