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is it better to carry all your money with you while traveling in italy?

i am planning a trip mostly in italy with a little time in prague and vienna. i plan on backpacking with my brother and we are very concerned about having to carry all our money on us for the duration of the trip. we have looked into several different types of money concealing devices, but we plan on having around 8000-10000 euros for our time in europe. i have been to italy before and am aware that cash is the easiest and widely used form of currency, which is why i would prefer to use visa for emergencies. i am a big rick steves fan so i am aware that getting a local debit card is probably the best way to go. i was wondering how easy it is to set up a bank account in italy? as well as once it is set up, how common are banks throughout italy? i am also wondering if it is better to just leave my money in my local bank and just use my current debit card to make periodic large withdraws as i need it? i am a little concerned that doing it that way with leave me with large withdraw and exchange fees. any tips on handling my money in the safest and preferably cheapest manner would be very much appreciated.

Thank you.

Posted by
6882 posts

How long are you traveling for?

You shouldn't carry large amounts of cash anywhere - it's too risky and there are better alternatives. There are ATMs all over the place (except maybe in rural areas) that can link to your local bank account. If your bank account has huge withdrawal fees, find a bank that doesn't and put your money in that bank so you can draw against it. My credit union charges 1% for each withdrawal and there is no limit on the number of withdrawals...I can live with that.

Posted by
3493 posts

Don't carry anywhere near that amount of cash with you! You will face possible intense questioning at border checks with lots of wondering why anyone would carry that much who is not into illegal activities.

Get a bank account where you live that has an ATM Debit card that does not charge fees. In the US there are multiple options including Capital One 360 Online (my choice since they have no fees of any kind and no minimum balance requirements on the account and they allow free transfers in and out to any other bank account at any bank). You should also be able to get a credit card that does not charge foreign usage fees (Bank of America has a Travel card you can sign up for online that charges no fees of any kind so you pay exactly the Google exchange rate for whatever purchases you make). Make sure the accounts you have are accessible online for easy maintenance while in Europe.

While it is true that cash is still preferred for most transactions in Europe, things are changing where credit cards are not so unusual any more. Most merchants have minimum card purchase amount requirements (25 Euro or so) so you do still need cash for lots of things, but you can put your larger purchases on your no-fee card if you want.

Forget even trying to open a bank account in Europe unless you are a resident. Most countries there have laws restricting who can open an account.

Posted by
21874 posts

Lets take this a step at a time. Are you a US citizen? What is the length of your proposed trip?

Second, you need to do some better research. You would be CRAZY to carry 8,000 to 10,000 Euro with you at any time. Besides where would you obtain that amount of Euro without paying any fees. Without a local address and a appropriate/proper visa it would be impossible to open a bank account in Italy. Even if you could there would be fees associated with transferring that money from from the US. Not practically in anyway. You cannot totally avoid paying some fees for converting currency.

Banks are as wide spread in Italy and Europe as in the United States. You are never more than a few blocks away from an ATM. The cheapest and most convenient way to obtain local currency is from a bank owned ATM with a debit card. Find a bank/credit union, etc., that doesn't charge an currency conversion fees. They are common.

Posted by
2487 posts

Italy it's more a cash society than I'm used to here in the Netherlands, but they haven't missed modern life.
On trips I only do larger transactions, like the hotel bill, by credit card. The rest, from train tickets to restaurants, I pay cash, using an ATM (»bancomat«) to fill up with some EUR 200 or 300.

Posted by
18390 posts

It will almost certainly cost you more to convert dollars to euro over here than to use ATMs in Italy. The cheapest source of euro I know of in this country is Wells Fargo, and they take 5% for foreign exchange. Even big US banks, like Wells Fargo or Chase, only take 4% (3% exchange plus $5, which is 1% on a $500 withdrawal). Most credit unions charge less than 2%, and it is possible to find institutions with no charges.

Just make sure you tell your bank you will be going to Italy. If they see unexpected charges from Europe they might freeze your account. And try to use ATMs attached to banks.

I personally don't have a problem with carrying a "large" sum of cash with me, although I never have much more than a thousand euro. Think about it. You probably carry your cash the same place as your ATM cards, hopefully someplace secure like a money belt. If you loose the money, you will just be without the money, but without cards you won't be able to get more, and that would be worse.

I once talked with banks about setting up an account in Germany, where I travel frequently, and decided it wouldn't be worth the hassle and fees (German banks didn't have free accounts).

Posted by
11613 posts

As stated, it is not easy to set up a bank account in a country that is not your residence. Even then, there is lots of paperwork.

I used to travel with large amounts of money (30 years ago), but now I take my local (hometown) ATM bankcard and use it for withdrawals of 250 euro per transaction. I pay hotel bills with credit cards, so 250 euro lasts at least several days.

In the US, you cannot convert more than $10,000, so you would not be taking 10,000 euro with you.

You don't mention your citizenship, but if you are from the US, you have a 90-day limit on time you can spend in Europe's Schengen-zone countries. The countries you mention (Czech Republic, Austria and Italy) all belong to the Schengen body.

Posted by
28145 posts

I see from your other posts that you don't respond to questions about your questions - I will then just reinforce that you are looking for trouble at borders. You have to declare more than 10,000 equivelents:- $10,000, or €10,000 when crossing borders. The officials are likely to tie you and your brother together - you say you are traveling with him, and you will then have between you €16,000 to €20,000.

By the way - that's some pretty high falutin' backpacking in 90 days or less. When I backpacked I spent nowhere near that much money.

Are you backpacking in five star hotels?

Posted by
7205 posts

It seems that you aren't very well versed in European travel by looking at your question and proposed handling of money. I think you really need to do more investigating before you go "backpacking" through Europe with 10k Euro stuffed into your backpack!

PS - Prague uses Koruna or Czech Crowns, not Euros. Yep - do some research.

Posted by
2776 posts

How could one have a moment's peace with that kind of money around? No sleeping, no showering, no nothing.

Posted by
21874 posts

Given the lack of response to our questions and the other questions posted, I don't think this is a realistic trip. I don't much think armschicchi has much, if any, travel experience since he doesn't understand the issue of changing an airline tickets. (Asked in another question). Hopefully the brother is more experienced.

Posted by
11292 posts

Here is Rick's page of excellent money tips. Read all the links and you'll be an expert:

The condensed version: Bring only about €100 (or the equivalent in the currency of your first country, if it's not on the euro). For the rest of your cash, use your US bank debit card at bank ATM's. For larger purchases/expenses, put them on your credit card. If you have time, you can investigate cards and banks with lower fees. But even "high fee" cards are still cheaper than other methods.

No, you don't want to open an account at a European bank. No, you don't want to carry €8,000 or more with you. And no, if you're backpacking, you won't be spending anything like €8,000 on the ground (remember your airline ticket will already be paid for).

Posted by
18390 posts

I think when he said "local debit card", he meant local to where he lives, not where he will be traveling.