How much money should I take to France?

Old Jan 18th, 1998, 03:55 PM
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How much money should I take to France?

I will be spending about 5 weeks in France (May 28 through about June 30) and would like advice on about how much money I should take. I do have credit cards and an ATM card, but I have heard that these often carry a very unfavorable exchange rate and a high tax added. Any advice will be helpful in this matter.
Old Jan 18th, 1998, 04:34 PM
Ismael Libanio
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A few weeks ago we have been in France.
We took our credit cards and a bank card with which we could have French francs direct from our bank account. It was very easy and convenient.
The rates that we had were the best ones.
I suggest that you also take traveller's checks and 200 francs at least for the first expenses.
Have a good trip.
Old Jan 18th, 1998, 11:23 PM
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Not sure how you are traveling, what kind of rooms you are staying in, hostels, pensions, etc. Are you using the trains, buses, renting a car? Generally I have read and gone by this rule of thumb, after the room is paid for plan on $100 a day per adult. It can be done on less-that's up to you. I took all my money on me, in a money belt. Didn't have any problems.
Old Jan 20th, 1998, 11:14 AM
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You have received very poor advice if someone
told you that credit cards and ATM cards have
poor exchange rates -- it's exactly the opposite,
they have the best. I don't know what you
mean by "taxes" on credit cards/ATM cards? -- sure,
you pay a value-added tax (VAT) when you buy
something, but you pay VAT regardless of what
form of money/CC you use to buy something. If you
are making a lot of very expensive purchases in
one store, you can go to the trouble of filling out
the forms to get the VAT back, but you have to
spend a lot of money in one place to be eligible
for this, I think -- I know I've never been in
that situation, but I don't spend a lot on buying
Old Jan 21st, 1998, 07:04 AM
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We spent 3 weeks in France last summer. How much money and in what form you need to bring it depends on your plans. Guidebooks give info whether an establishment takes Visa cards; even if you don't go to those places, you will get a sense of whether the kind of trip you plan can be credit card vs. cash. We bought AmEx travelers' checks in French francs at a local AAA office before we left the US and exchanged them for cash (no fees) in local AmEx office as we needed them - we had a home base in Aix, where there was an office within 15 minute walk. We found that we didn't need as much cash as we thought; the Visa card was widely-accepted. All depends what your plans are and whether you're in cities and towns or remote villages! We used Visa for gas, tolls, most lodging, many restaurants, etc. Consistently, the best exchange rate you can get is by paying with the Visa/Mastercard. As for tax, READ all about the VAT (everyone pays, no matter by what method) in any good guidebook - lots of details and instructions on how to get a VAT refund, if applicable. I did make a major purchase in one store and my VAT refund procedure went very smoothly. Have fun.
Old Jan 21st, 1998, 05:52 PM
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I am reasonably sure that by "high tax" Jason actually meant a high finance charge on cash advances made on a Visa card. I think we are all agreed, with the exception of Tricia who seems to think taking all her cash in a money belt is the way to go, a very questionable approach I would say, that an ATM card for cash advances and a Visa card for hotel and most meals is by far the safest, most economical and most convenient way to go. You can find an ATM machine at any hour of the day or night on most any street corner of any major city without having to walk half an hour trying to find an AmEx office, as many of our fellow tour members were once doing in England. Check the fine print at the very bottom of your Visa agreement for their charges for cash advances. The usual fee nowadays seems to be 2%25 of the advance with a minimum charge of $10. Way too high. Use your ATM for cash advances. Unless your bank is one of the greedier ones, you will be charged a flat $1.00 per withdrawal. We usually withdraw the equivalent of about U.S. $200 at a time so we don't have too much cash on us at any one time. While I didn't know any better on our first visit to France, I took $9,000 in travelers' checks. What an idiot! I came home with almost all of it, but at the time I didn't know how easy it would be to use ATMs and Visa. Now we generally take U.S. $200 in cash with us, if that much, and rely on ATMs and Visa for everything possible. Your ATM withdrawals and Visa CHARGES will be billed to you at the commercial rate, the same rate banks receive for multimillion dollar transactions. Otherwise, when you are exchanging travelers checks, even AmEx, you are paying them something for their profit, whether it be in commission or more disadvantageous exchange rates. After all, they are not in the money exchange business just to build favorable international relations.
Old Jan 21st, 1998, 06:02 PM
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We just returned from Paris yesterday. ATM and credit cards do give you the best exchange rate. We ordered 200 francs from the bank that owns the travel agency in which I work and got a terrible exchange rate. I think you would be better off to exchange US dollars at the airport for just the money you'll need for bus, train, cab..however you're getting to the city and tipping. Then rely on your ATM and credit cards. Have fun!
Old Jan 21st, 1998, 09:35 PM
Joel Dobson
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I go to France normally 3-4 times per year on business. You've gotten some pretty good advice in the other replies. I definitely use French ATMs and have seen no problem with the exchange rate. However, there is very little need for cash in the first place. Every establishment takes plastic: restaurants, brasseries, taxis, etc. Still, I keep about 500-1000 FF on me even though I usually bring most of it back to the states with me for my next trip. Oh, and the tip on VAT is good, also. If you buy anything you'll pay a hefty charge. When I was living there it was about 19%25, but I know it's gone up since then. Anyway, if you spend enough that you'd like to get about a quarter of your money back, when you get to the airport ask for the detax office, go there, produce the receipts, (you should have the goods with you as well if possible) and the rest is a matter of filling out forms.
Old Jan 22nd, 1998, 08:05 PM
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Referring to Judy's suggestion that you use an ATM card other than exchanging travelers checks at the airport for immediate needs, you will find ATM machines at the airport as well as not only major cities, but every little village throughout France. Be sure you know your pin number. Has to be four numerical digits.

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