Euros before arriving?

Old Mar 11th, 2023, 05:58 AM
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Euros before arriving?

HI there - we're heading to Italy (Rome & Amalfi) for the week before Easter. Super basic question but would you recommend we exchange USD for euros before we arrive? Or are the exchange rates better once we arrive? There will be four of us - do you think ~$250 will be enough or would you recommend more? I'm assuming most places will take cards. Thanks
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Old Mar 11th, 2023, 06:32 AM
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Generally speaking, you are better off by simply using you debit card to withdraw local currency when you arrive at the airport. You get a poor rate of exchange whether you are using an exchange office or your bank before you leave. ATM rates tend to be as good as you are going to get.
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Old Mar 11th, 2023, 06:44 AM
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. . . AND when you do use local ATMs -- be sure to read the screen carefully and pick the correct option. You want the withdrawal calculated in (local currency) NOT in $
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Old Mar 11th, 2023, 06:44 AM
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It’s good to have a few euros in cash upon arrival for tips etc, just in case you can’t get to an ATM right away. I keep a small stash of euros at home, left over from previous trips to the eurozone. Exchange rates are the same internationally, but service charges differ. I use my credit card, which has no foreign transaction fees almost exclusively, not least because I get cash back on every transaction. No fees plus 1.5% cash back puts me ahead of any other forex rate and I seldom need cash.

if you need only a small amount of euros, say €50, it might actually save you time and gas money to buy them at an airport exchange bureau. I’ve had howls of outrage when I’ve written this before, but do your math and the extra charge is only a few dollars, a small price for convenience.

Last edited by Heimdall; Mar 11th, 2023 at 06:52 AM.
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Old Mar 11th, 2023, 07:12 AM
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Perfect - thank you, thank you!
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Old Mar 11th, 2023, 07:22 AM
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I like having a small amount of euros when I land (enough for the first day) as I fly from the US West Coast and am pretty wiped out by the time I arrive. I prefer to use ATMs attached to banks that are open as my card was once "eaten" by an ATM and I had to wait until the next day to be able to retrieve it.
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Old Mar 11th, 2023, 07:30 AM
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"It’s good to have a few euros in cash upon arrival for tips etc"

"oh no", let's not start a thread on tips
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Old Mar 11th, 2023, 07:37 AM
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Originally Posted by timetogoitaly
HI there - we're heading to Italy (Rome & Amalfi) for the week before Easter. Super basic question but would you recommend we exchange USD for euros before we arrive? Or are the exchange rates better once we arrive? There will be four of us - do you think ~$250 will be enough or would you recommend more? I'm assuming most places will take cards. Thanks
I live in Italy. Both of my daughters came to visit me (from the US) last summer. Both of them used their cards almost exclusively, and one of them never used cash at all. (Of course, Mom treated fairly often.)

Acceptance of cards in Italy has increased enormously in recent years, partly because the government now obliges almost all businesses to accept them, and has a limit on cash transactions.

Just a few years ago, I used to count on spending about €300 in cash each month. Now I barely spend €100 in cash.

One of my daughters arrived in Rome. She bought her train tickets to my home with her credit card at the airport. She bought lunch at the train station with her card, and bought snacks and water for the train ride with her card. Taxis are now required to accept cards.

Credit or debit cards get you the best exchange rate, and you should use them as much as possible.

The same works with travel to other countries. I used to get some dollars from my bank before traveling to the US. On my most recent trip, I didn't bother, and I realized when I was heading home that I had never touched a dollar.

Some countries are less accepting of cards. I read that this is the case in Germany. However, in the Netherlands a few years ago, cards were universally used even for small purchases. We had trouble even finding an ATM on the one occasion when we needed cash.

One difference from the US is that you won't have the "cash back" option in supermarkets or other shops. If you need cash, you'll need to go to an ATM. When you insert an American card, some ATMs will automatically switch to English, and others will give you an option for English.

Last edited by bvlenci; Mar 11th, 2023 at 07:42 AM.
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Old Mar 11th, 2023, 08:26 AM
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Originally Posted by bilboburgler
"It’s good to have a few euros in cash upon arrival for tips etc"

"oh no", let's not start a thread on tips
I agree! I should have written “incidentals”. Another bit of advice: have more than one card and keep them separately, not all in your wallet.
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Old Mar 11th, 2023, 09:00 AM
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I always have some, but I would have enough that you could pay for a taxi if you had to, in cash.

No currency is ever cheaper in a foreign country than the country where it is the currency.

I get Heimdall's point, buying euros from some foreign service online or from your bank or credit union will probably cost you about 7-10 pct fee. The airport may be 15-20 or something, I bet, but for 100 euro, it's a very minor cost not worth worrying about in your travel budget, maybe $10-ish or something?

this is the American company AAA and many banks/credit unions use

https://www.ceifx.com/

If you live in a big city, there is probably a location where you can pick it up for free rather than mail and right now they are charging 15 pct markup. If you do have one near you and it's not a big trip or where you'd be doing errands anyway, the airport won't be cheaper if you'd like to have it on you for security. I could see that myself.
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Old Mar 11th, 2023, 09:39 AM
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Please just let me caution on what not to do when using an ATM. I now stay away from using airport ATMs as mine got hacked at the domestic terminal at Edinburgh airport. Do your best to always ensure there isn't a skimming device or little camera near the pin keypad. Covering your hand when entering your pin helps but it can still be hacked. They can still use it like a credit card but if tgey get the pin, they can get cash.

I never thought my card would have been hack inside an air terminal before leaving the secure area but it happened. So just be extra vigilant even at home when you need to use one.
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Old Mar 12th, 2023, 01:14 AM
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Originally Posted by sassy27
Please just let me caution on what not to do when using an ATM. I now stay away from using airport ATMs as mine got hacked at the domestic terminal at Edinburgh airport. Do your best to always ensure there isn't a skimming device or little camera near the pin keypad. Covering your hand when entering your pin helps but it can still be hacked. They can still use it like a credit card but if tgey get the pin, they can get cash.
I agree. I don't use ATMs at airports or in shops. Shops in heavily touristed areas now often have proprietary ATMs, which charge a fee, and try to get you to accept their conversion rate instead of your bank's rate. As said above, you always want to withdraw as euros, not your national currency, but some ATMs ask the question in a confusing manner, or hide the question and make conversion the default.

Use an ATM connected to a bank, during the bank's business hours. Withdraw euros, and decline conversion.

The last time I checked, the conversion rate offered by an ATM was off by 5% from what my bank offered. That's not going to ruin your holiday, but it's an unnecessary fee.

Use your card as much as possible. If a merchant tells you their POS system is down, tell them you'll have to go elsewhere in that case. You may witness a miraculous cure.

I would also avoid apartments that want to be paid in cash. Carrying large amounts of cash puts you at risk. The advantage is all theirs, as they can avoid taxes on that income. Some merchants claim that a POS machine costs too much, but try there are apps they could use.
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Old Mar 12th, 2023, 03:08 AM
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Back to carrying small change: Even here in Switzerland there are places that still accept cash only. These are often small businesses that offer local products, etc. All business must pay a fee to the credit card company so some just don't want to get on board. Also, there is the issue of tips. Europe is not a tipless society and a few Euros or cents (or whatever the local currency is) are always appreciated, especially when ordering in restaurants or using guides, etc. We tend to round up here to show our appreciation to those in the service industry.

I believe each country has their own "cashless" app as well. Switzerland uses Twint almost religiously now but I'm not sure how that works with tourists.


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Old Mar 12th, 2023, 01:54 PM
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Originally Posted by bvlenci
Some countries are less accepting of cards. I read that this is the case in Germany
Germany was definitely slow to warm up to credit cards, but Covid changed that. With Covid there were signs at check-outs everywhere stating clearly that people should use cards for payment whenever possible - - though you still often encounter situations where only "EC" cards (Euro-Cheque debit cards from European banks) are accepted, not credit cards, or US debit cards. Still, credit cards are becoming the norm most places. Busses are unlikely to accept credit cards in Germany, but it's often possible to get the app for local bus companies and pay online (and credit cards are now accepted in the Netherlands for busses and other public transportation).
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Old Mar 12th, 2023, 02:20 PM
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We just came back from Germany and Belgium in January with an overnight in S. Korea on the way there. We used card almost everywhere except in taxis - drivers really want cash, and that was in both Brussels and Wiesbaden. And no, they're not part of the black economy - both the drivers in Brussels were recording their trips on a clipboard. So be mindful to have enough cash if you catch a taxi. But everywhere else, card was just fine.

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Old Mar 12th, 2023, 04:12 PM
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We've rented 74 gites through Gites de France. Almost all gite proprietors want a caution/security deposit upon arrival. So far - not a single proprietor has been able to handle a credit/debit card. They all wanted cash.

But this is in France - not Italy.

Stu Dudley

Last edited by StuDudley; Mar 12th, 2023 at 04:14 PM.
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Old Mar 12th, 2023, 11:16 PM
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Originally Posted by StuDudley
We've rented 74 gites through Gites de France. Almost all gite proprietors want a caution/security deposit upon arrival. So far - not a single proprietor has been able to handle a credit/debit card. They all wanted cash.

But this is in France - not Italy.
In Italy, all proprietors of short-term rentals have to accept credit/debit cards. Very small businesses that don't have a business tax number (partita IVA), can use a mobile app to accept payment. Also people whose business is itinerant can use these apps.

Of course, there are always people who evade the law.
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Old Mar 12th, 2023, 11:27 PM
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Originally Posted by lavandula
We used card almost everywhere except in taxis - drivers really want cash, and that was in both Brussels and Wiesbaden. And no, they're not part of the black economy - both the drivers in Brussels were recording their trips on a clipboard. So be mindful to have enough cash if you catch a taxi. But everywhere else, card was just fine.
In the States if you pay in a restaurant or in a cab by card there is a line printed out before you sign where you enter in the tip. Not so in Germany. In fact in Germany you typically don't have to sign anything when using a credit card (I use my US card and check-out people think I'm from the stone age when the machine prompts them to get my signature). If you pay by card, it is often over and done with without giving a tip. This gets awkward if you DO want to tip, and I'm sure it is awkward for the taxi drivers too, which is a good reason for them to prefer cash.
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Old Mar 13th, 2023, 07:26 AM
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In France today, paid for lunch in a shack, paid with debit card, just "touched" the reader with RDF end if card after verbally agreeing to round up €48 to €50.

Without starting a tip thread, that is culturally what you do.

Once in a blue moon I use my pin number, haven't used cash in France, UK, Switzerland or Netherlands since September for a hair cut
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Old Mar 13th, 2023, 08:25 AM
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Originally Posted by bilboburgler
Without starting a tip thread, that is culturally what you do.
A tip of the hat to you, Bilboburgler.
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