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Thinking in the local currency or convert prices to your home currency?

Thinking in the local currency or convert prices to your home currency?

Old Jul 28th, 2009, 10:48 AM
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Thinking in the local currency or convert prices to your home currency?

The thread about a currency converter calculator made me curious about how other people deal with currency conversion when they are travelling. Do you convert the prices of things to your home currency as you go along? For example - you are in a shop and considering buying something that is 25euro, do you do the math and know it is about $35? Or do you just work within the local currency? 25 euros is 25 euros?

When we are planning a trip, we come up with a budget based on where we are going and what we can afford, and then convert that budget to local currency. Once we have arrived someplace, we just work within our budget in the local currency - for example, on an upcoming trip, we have budgetted 100 euros a day for food and drink for the 2 of us. So once we arrive, we will just work within that budget, not converting prices to US$ in our heads as we go along. Same with shopping - we've got a budget to spend and just convert the total to euros and use that total. Maybe it is because I am terrible with math in my head - unless it is something simple like "move the decimal 2 places" or "divide by 2", I have a lot of trouble - so just thinking in the local currency seems easier.

Anyway - I am just curious about how other people's thought processes work and how they think about money when they are away from their local currency.
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Old Jul 28th, 2009, 10:58 AM
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I don't really have a particular budget, so that part doesn't matter. So I do sort of convert euro to my native currency (USD) sometimes, and often if its something I'm debating bout and don't really need. And I do when planning and booking hotels, etc. But on a regular, daily basis, I don't because I just sort of know about how much I tend to spend on dinner, for example, so if I look for a place with prices between 25 and 40 euro, that's all I need to know. There isn't any reason to translate euro into exact dollars, but I just sort of know what is my price range in euro.

I do often convert things more when I'm with a currency I don't know that well and there are a lot of it to USD (like Czech kurona). In reality, even there, I don't convert things because there isn't any reason to for most things, I just tend to go to moderate/cheap places, anyway, and you can tell that by the ambience and by a glance at the menu.
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Old Jul 28th, 2009, 11:04 AM
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I am always doing instant conversions in my head. If it's a minor currency, sometimes I do two conversions in my head. For example, in Argentina I would think of prices in Argentinian pesos, USD, and Canadian dollars. But doing these sorts of calculations is second nature to me, and I don't use a calculator to do them.
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Old Jul 28th, 2009, 11:07 AM
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Hi November -

I normally convert the prices to help me decide if I really want to buy something, but I really like your budget system. I'm terrible at math too, so I think I'll try your system for my next trip. Thanks!
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Old Jul 28th, 2009, 11:08 AM
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Interesting question. I admit I don't think too much about money once I'm on my trip. And when I do, in some cases I think of it in just EUROS, but other cases I convert back to US$.

For food, I think of it in terms of Euros. There is no point of comparing the price of a plate of pasta in Paris vs a the price of the same in US. Food prices vary from restaurant to restaurant, depending on the class.

However, if I'm shopping, I convert the price to US$. Is this something I can get back home for cheaper? Is it worth $X to buy this...

I don't have a trip budget, nor set a specific daily budget - but I'm not someone who would go out of control and suddenly splurge on something that's not necessary. Most of my trip expenses are unavoidable, such as transport pass, museum admission, hotels, train tickets. These things I will go/do no matter how much they are (but I would have already researched beforehand to know how much they cost).
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Old Jul 28th, 2009, 11:13 AM
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Christina has a good point about currencies other than Euros and pounds. I'm used to those 2 so I don't think too much when I see a price tag. However, when I was in Hungary earlier this year, I did find myself doing constant conversions in my head. Since 1USD = around 200 forints, the prices in Hungary are in hundreds and thousands range usually. So, seeing an entree that is 4000HUF will make me pause and do the conversion real quick to see if that's reasonable.
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Old Jul 28th, 2009, 11:17 AM
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I agree with yk's take on converting. Usually after a day or two in a country/city I know what an average price is for food and beverage so there is no need to convert to USD; I'll know if a restaurant is beyond my means. I pay sightseeing prices without thinking about it since that's what I'm traveling for and I won't skimp on the sights.

I do convert if I'm looking at a high-ticket item in a shop.
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Old Jul 28th, 2009, 11:22 AM
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When shopping, I convert. In countries with complicated coversions, I print myself a little paper chart of the equivalent of various standard amounts. That way I don't have to pull out a calculator.
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Old Jul 28th, 2009, 11:22 AM
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In the advance planning, when booking hotels/trains, I try to convert. Once there, I like to pretend the € and $ are equal and that I'm not really paying as much for things as I am.
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Old Jul 28th, 2009, 11:33 AM
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I convert only for shopping, just so I can determine if it is a good deal vs buying it at home or in another destination. For food, transport, etc, I pay what it costs and don't worry about it.

FWIW, though, I still use USD as my base currency when doing shopping comparisons, even though I have lived outside of the US for nearly 3 years now.

One other thing I have noticed is that in countries where the currency "looks" like USD, I find myself noting the cost more than in other places. On other words, when in Switzerland, where the franc is something like CHF 1.08/USD, the cost of things stings a lot more than in Denmark, where it is DKK 5.25/USD. Completely irrational of course, but it is what it is. In places like Korea, where the base unit is worth very little, I basically assume it is all funny money and spend at will.
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Old Jul 28th, 2009, 11:57 AM
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I tend to convert it most of the time.

I miss the days when the euro was about the same value as the US$. Not only was it a heck of a lot cheaper to visit Europe, but I liked the absence of math.
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Old Jul 28th, 2009, 11:58 AM
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Nope, I don't convert in my head for each transaction. I do pay attention in advance of the trip like for booking a hotel room, I'd certainly know the exchange rate for a major expense and figure that one out.

But once I arrive I get the currency (euro, swiss franc, whatever) and don't look back. I see the price in the local amount and pay it. Easy.
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Old Jul 28th, 2009, 12:16 PM
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I do the same as kybourbon...I just think of the amount as dollars and don't worry about it. I am only in Europe 3 times a year, so it's not so bad. Traveling is my ONLY vice. Well, maybe shopping.
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Old Jul 28th, 2009, 12:37 PM
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I think about the conversions before I go, work out a budget with wiggle room. I can't help myself but to do the math in my head as I'm purchasing whatever but if I'm in the country the price doesn't stop me from going into the museum.

It doesn't dampen my joy when I know what the dollar compares to the Euro, I just like to know what things cost.

If it's really costly, I like to bless all the times when the exchange rate has been in my favor.
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Old Jul 28th, 2009, 12:49 PM
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Since flight and hotel are usually paid (or at least costed), it is strictly food and entertainment that have a cost. I will have in my mind a real rough conversion rate ...say 1.5 to one, or 2 to one, for example. Since most (90% or more) of individual items I will buy is under $100, I don't worry too much. I scout out a restaurant by seeing if the average price is high, but once in, I will no longer worry about prices. I don;t tend to order expensive wines, so that will also be filtered out. But wether a meal is 25 euro or 50 euro, don't much care if it's something I want. I splurge on holidays, a bit, so I allow myself some extras. If I'm buying a nicer gift for someone, or myself, then I may be a bit more aware. Otherwise, I don't, and never have, used a calculator.

When I was in Africa, everything was so cheap that did not look at prices, except to haggle on artists work (as is custom). A favorite picture I have is of stacks and stacks of bills, over 1,000,000 cedis, that we paid for a couple of days stay at a Ghanaian resort. Of course, that was ~$150.
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Old Jul 28th, 2009, 03:23 PM
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I miss Italian lire. I felt rich spending thousands of lire.
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Old Jul 28th, 2009, 03:29 PM
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Ky, by any chance were you in Turkey about 10 years ago? If you like spending big bucks that was the time and place to go. The first time I was there was in 2000 when there were around 500,000 Turkish lire to the US$. It was weird to be a millionaire for less than $5 and it was really very confusing. But it's kind of cool to tell your friends you spent a few million on lunch while on vacation.

When I was there last year there were only 1.5 lire to the $, as they have re-vamped it. It doesn't sound so extravagant, but it's a lot easier to manage.
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Old Jul 28th, 2009, 03:42 PM
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I've never been to Turkey, but I remember one trip where we changed countries (and currencies) five times. By the end of the trip, we were on an overnight ferry from Italy to Greece. We went to the casino on board and I asked my friend how much we were losing. She said she didn't know and asked if we were having fun. We didn't worry about it after that. No clue how much we lost.
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Old Jul 28th, 2009, 04:53 PM
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Well the major costs (air, hotels, car rentals) are fixed in advance. But for major costs on the spot (restaurants or tickets to a special event) I always convert to dollars in my head - since I earn $ and not euros. For smaller amounts - museum or sight entrances or a drink in a cafe or casuale lunch, I just don;t bother since the amount isn't worth thinking about - and isn't really optional anyway. (The museum costs what it does and you're not going to avoid it because it costs $17 versus $15.)
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Old Jul 28th, 2009, 08:49 PM
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Without even trying to convert, I found that I was very rusty at doing even simple math in my head on a trip to Myanmar. Among all of the other problems, they were having a problem with drug traffickers, so they would regularly demonetize the currency and print new bills. When I was there, they had just come out with banknotes for 45, 75 and 90 kyat (to replace the demonetized 50 and 100). When I would have to pay an amount like 523, it would take a few moments to get my head around which mixture of banknotes to give.
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