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Travel to Europe-questions about money

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Lionne posted 8/12/2013 20:18 PM

It will be my first time. We will be with a group, bus tour in Switzerland, then a river cruise through France, Germany and into Netherlands, on the Rhine. Much is pre-paid, most meals, excursions, etc.

Should we take traveler's checks in Euros? Our normal SOP when traveling is to charge everything and our credit card company doesn't charge a foreign transaction fee, but we do want to take some cash. Switzerland doesn't use the Euro, but most of the other countries in which we will travel do. Do we take traveler's checks in dollars and convert them there?

Any and all suggestions are very welcome...I am a European virgin!

Also, any advice about tipping? I tend to be overly generous.

purplejacket4 posted 8/12/2013 20:41 PM

I just converted some money into Euros at the airport and then just used ATMs when I needed more.

Mommato4 posted 8/12/2013 20:52 PM

My daughter went last year and needed 3 different kinds of money. We ended up ordering about $100 total from our bank here so she had some cash on her just in case. It was free and it took about 4 days to get. She used a Visa travel money card for most purchases through AAA. (she was only 15) We also let the bank know she was going overseas so they didn't freeze the account in case she used her other debit card.

I think a lot of people don't use travelers checks anymore because it can be more of a hassle now with the technology.

I just explained to her foreign transaction fee so she could figure it out before she purchased so she knew if it was worth it. Again she was 15 so she was excited to buy everything, but knew her budget.

[This message edited by Mommato4 at 9:39 PM, August 12th (Monday)]

Dark Inertia posted 8/12/2013 20:58 PM

Also if you are planning on using cards be sure to call your bank or cc company. If transactions suddenly start coming in from Europe and you are usually in Idaho that usually triggers a fraud alert. Another thing is Europe has the microchip cards, so your cards may not work at all in some areas. Oh, and if you are planning on using cards be sure to ask your bank/cc company what their foreign transaction fees are. There are some companies that are trying to get away from foreign transaction fees, but if you use debit I don't think there is any way to avoid them.

[This message edited by Dark Inertia at 9:06 PM, August 12th (Monday)]

FaithFool posted 8/12/2013 21:01 PM

Yes, call your credit card company and let them know where you'll be. That's essential!

Traveller's cheques are difficult to cash and most places charge a fee.

I would take a small amount ($100 is about right) of each currency you'll be needing, and charge the rest.

You can always use the ATM if need be. It's still cheaper than trying to cash the stoopid cheques.

I have one of the first chipped Amex cards and even the little beach bar in Portugal was able to take it and process the chip transaction. We are still catching up here...

[This message edited by FaithFool at 9:02 PM, August 12th (Monday)]

timeforchange posted 8/12/2013 22:10 PM


I live in Germany and just spent last weekend on the Rhine with SO. It is beautiful and very romantic :))))))

Vineyards on the river banks (great white wine), Castle after castle, cute towns.

What time of year are you coming?????

In summer lots of towns have Summer festivals.... Live music,'food and drink stalls. The Germans love to party!!!!!!

September and late August is wine festival time... As the vineyards clear out the cellars for the new harvest!!!

December is Christmas market time!!!!! Hot wine, snow, more music and food and towns looking like film sets!!!!!

I can't offer much advice in terms of how your credit cards will work as we do have chip and pin coded cards here. I have not seen a travelers check in Europe for 20 years!!!! Actually I presumed they did not exist anymore!!!!

As for tipping it is way way cheaper than the USA!!!!!!!

In Germany and France service is included however you Are expected to leave a few coins as well as a good gesture.

I would tip 3 or so Euros on a meal for 2 costing 25-70 Eurs. Maybe 4-5 Euros on a meal between 70-100 Euros.

Maybe 1 Eur on a couple of coffees or drinks.

Please feel free to PM me as I can probably give you some good tips on places to see etc on your trip.

I am guessing you are following the Moselle and then the Rhine?
I live minutes from the Moselle and was there on Sunday with SO on his boat.

The scenery here is breathtaking and the whole region steeped in history.

Have a wonderful time

DeadMumWalking posted 8/13/2013 00:46 AM

Do we take traveler's checks in dollars and convert them there?

I live in Switzerland, and agree with the 'use bank ATM card to get cash, use credit card where you can' philosophy. It is getting harder to find places that exchange TC for even close to the right amount of money (if you can find them at all).

I would NOT change money in the US before coming.

FYI, many places in Switzerland will accept Euros, but they give change in Swiss francs (CHF). Even so, I would still get cash at an ATM in CHF before leaving the airport or train station. There will be UBS and/or Credit Suisse machine at airports (the 2 biggest banks), with other banks as well at other locations in cities and towns (Bank Cantonale, Raiffeisen, etc).

It is also convenient that at almost every bank atm location there should be at least 1 machine where you can withdraw Euros, so you will have some when you go on to the next countries.

As for tipping: in all of the countries you listed, tipping after a restaurant meal is not obligatory or expected - there is already a service charge included in the price (maybe not everywhere in Netherlands, but most places). Waiters are paid real money, not below minimum wage as in the US.

You can 'round up' the bill, leaving an effective tip of 5-10%. For example, if your bill is 37.80, you can leave 40. Or at a cafe, if your drink is 2.60, you can leave 3.00. Same for taxi (if you take one). In fact, there are even some taxi drivers in Switzerland who will refuse to accept tips, although most will accept it. Again, think 'round up'.

It was a little hard to get used to this tipping system when I first moved here (12 years ago), because I was used to the American system where big tips are greatly appreciated. Here, many people will think you are vulgar and uneducated rather than appreciate an unusually large tip. They can even feel offended by it. So bear that cultural difference in mind when you start calculating 10 or 20% and dial it back!

In shops, prices are fixed, so you don't need to bargain like you do in Asia.

If you use public transportation, you need to buy your ticket at a machine at the bus/tram stop BEFORE you get on. At least in Switzerland, most buses or trams do not have a way to buy the ticket on them (the driver does not usually sell tickets, sometimes the bus will have a machine inside). If a controller comes on to check your ticket and you don't have one, you can get a CHF 100 fine (to avoid this, you can try to convince the controller that you are a stupid tourist).

Have fun on your trip, be sure to tell us how it goes!

ETA: you should be aware that if your credit card only has a magnetic stripe, rather than chip and pin, it might not be usable in some shops. I have heard of people having some trouble using magnetic stripe only cards, although I'm not sure how widespread the problem is.

[This message edited by DeadMumWalking at 12:49 AM, August 13th (Tuesday)]

click4it posted 8/13/2013 00:54 AM

I have no idea as I've never been, but wow, have lots of fun!!!

I must be tired because I first read this title as "travel to Europe - questions about my monkey"..I was like omg she has a pet monkey??

Geez, carry on.

RidingHealingRd posted 8/13/2013 01:18 AM

My WH travels frequently to Germany. I vacationed there with him and was surprised at how many establishments do not accept credit cards.

I was able to change US currency in the hotel lobby and I found a bank close by where I could get Euros when needed.

Enjoy your trip.

DeadMumWalking posted 8/13/2013 04:24 AM

I was able to change US currency in the hotel lobby

ymmv, but in general I would advise against this as the exchange rate is usually TERRIBLE.

RidingHealingRd posted 8/14/2013 02:30 AM

I stayed in a Hilton and the exchange rate at the front desk was the same as the local bank.

My WH travel extensively and stays at this hotel often...maybe that was a courtesy to him, I do not know.

Lionne posted 8/18/2013 17:38 PM

Wow...Thanks to all who responded. I am getting really excited, checking on the possible excursions, planning my clothes, etc. We will be in Switzerland at the beginning of October, 8 days and then on the Rhine.

One thing I found by calling my credit card companies is that all charge the foreign transaction fee, from 1-2.5% EXCEPT for my local bank, which charges NO fee if I use my debit card as a credit card. That's a no brainer as far as I can see...

Can't wait. And no pet monkey to worry about! lol.

hurtbs posted 8/18/2013 18:40 PM

Travelers checks in europe can be a huge pain. If I'm going for a long while, I usually get a couple hundred for an emergency but then cash them back in the US after the trip.

Personally, I take a couple of hundred in cash that I exchange at the airport and then withdraw at ATMs as I go along.

gahurts posted 8/18/2013 19:10 PM

I used to travel internationally for work. I learned early on - NEVER get money from the money changers. The fees they charge are outrageous. Instead go to the ATM at te airport when you land and get soe cash. Usually the hotel will have cash or there are ATMs on the streets near banks. Charging what you can and using cash for the rest is a good plan. HAVE FUN!!

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