I'm going to be in Paris in Sept and part of October and haven't been in a long, long time, so am rusty! I have seen advice that I can get the best exchange and fee rates by waiting until I arrive at CDG airport, but I'm nervous going with no money at all. Would it be wiser for me to get a hundred or so Euros from my bank before I leave?
Based on an experience we had some years ago, I say get a hundred euros from your bank. The poorer exchange rate will be a trivial price for peace of mind. Here's what happened to us. Usually, I keep about 100 euros for the next trip; but this particular time I somehow hadn't. When we got to CDG, I discovered that all the machines in our terminal were from the same bank and were down. I didn't want to try to travel around the airport (more complicated than some might imagine, especially at that time); and I knew we would need money for transportation at our destination. I was able to exchange $100 of our emergency stash at an AMEX kiosk, but I'm sure the rate was worse than a U.S. bank would have been.
I always get some euros from my bank before I go, too afraid there'll be a glitch in an ATM when I am desperate, etc and also like to arrive prepared. You can make yourself crazy worrying about exchange rates and all that, but as a solo traveller prepared works for me. I'm going to Hungary this trip so will have no choice but to use an ATM there to get forints, but for Austria I'll have about $500 euros with me when I leave.
Thanks so much, Rosalyn. I can cross one more "anxiety" off my list!!!! I know I'll feel better on arrival with a few even expensively acquired Euros in my pocket.
While I know many seasoned travelers here don't get Euro ahead of time, I am with Rosalyn and Christa. I travel solo and feel better as a novice International traveler having enough Euro to pay for my transportation and meals the first day without having to deal with getting money while slightly punchy from jet lag. It doesn't bother others and it might not bother me so much if I were traveling with others. I know the exchange rate is not good when I get money from my local bank, but if it makes me feel more capable then I am willing to pay for that convenience.
I fully agree with all of you: I would rather lose a few dollars/Euros here in the US if it helps me avoid any more anxiety than I'm already feeling about my upcoming trip. Although I've traveled internationally fairly recently, I had help from people who met me at my destinations. This time, I'll be traveling alone, without anyone to meet me at my destination, so I want to avoid as many possible pitfalls as possible, especially on my day of arrival. Thanks so much, all of you, for reassuring me that I'm doing the right thing (for me) in this matter. Now I just have to figure out how to negotiate the CDG airport and get to the train station and then to my rented apartment in Paris . . .
@Dottie - are you referring to the RER train station at CDG? when we flew into CDG 2 years ago, we had trouble finding the station and asked at an info desk. You may have to change from the RER to the Metro on the way to where you're staying, but the Metro is a joy to use. Very easy, well marked passages, and trains run very frequently.
I also like arriving with some local currency. I don't have to look for an ATM right away and have a day or two to learn my neighborhood and find ATMs attached to banks (these are the only kind I use, in case the ATM eats my card and I have to find an employee to get it out).
I'd recommend taking about €100 with you to use for incidentals during travel, until you can get settled at your hotel in Paris. I find that useful to pay for minor items like a meal, train fare or whatever.
If you're planning to use the RER "B" to travel from CDG into Paris, having some cash will also be useful to buy a ticket, as the Kiosks at the airport will ONLY accept "Chip & PIN" credit cards. As I recall, coins can also be used in the Kiosks and there should be a change machine for bills. You might find it helpful to have a look at the excellent Paris By Train website, which also has good directions on how to find the RER station at the airport.
I am seasoned enough.. and I always arrive with some local currency in my pocket.. either left over from previous visit.. or I just go to bank and get 100 euros / gbps/American dollars, , whatever..
Its not like its going to break the budget.. and I don't want to look or wait in line for an ATM after a 20 hour travel day.
FWIT, personally I'm glad to see that, apparently, the "standard consensus answer" given to this common question has evolved over time. In the past, the standard answer or advice on this question seemed to be something like: OMG, the exchange rate you'll pay here for a hundred euros will be just terrible, so don't get any euros here, just show up in a foreign country with no cash, don't worry, it will be fine, your ATM card will work at the airport ATM machines.
While there are undoubtedly travelers who get off the plane "broke" and head for the airport ATM machine and hope for the best, and have never had a problem with that approach--well, that advice really doesn't do much to allay the concern of someone who might be slightly concerned about walking off the plane in a foreign country, tired and jet lagged, with no cash.
You're spending thousands on your trip anyway, if spending a few more dollars to buy the first day or two amount of cash, a small amount, will give you peace of mind, then it's worth it. Then you can get larger amounts of cash from ATM's. Have at least 2 different ATM cards to different accounts.
I didn't read this ENTIRE thread to see if anyone mentioned this but, if your a AAA member, they sell Euros and other foreign currencies for a very nominal fee. I always buy some from them before I leave. You can just go to your local office. They don't have some of the more offbeat currencies like Swiss francs but they carry all of the major currencies.
I'm really surprised it's the same for everyone, but it seems to be. I also like to arrive with enough Euro to get me through my first day. It's one less thing to be worried about. I do this when I travel solo, and when I travel with someone. I just get it from my bank if I don't have enough left from previous trips, and usually I don't. I usually feel comfortable with around 50 Euro per person.
Or plan on your ATM card(s) working at CDG, but carry USDs to exchange at a CDG kiosk if you have difficult getting your ATM card to work.
I try to bring back 100€ or equivalent each trip with the hope of returning soon.
Kent, you are so right... the standard answer here used to be exactly what you said, do not get euros here - wait until you get there and use the airport ATM. Well, I took that advice in 2008, arrived at the the Naples airport with no euros and guess what? The ATM would not give me any money. I was beyond upset. Luckily, we had hired the same private car company we used on a previous trip, and the owner, who remembered us, insisted we not worry about paying him until days later - after we straightened things out with BofA. We arrived Saturday late afternoon and had to wait until Monday to call BofA. The owner even offered to lend us money to tide us over! If I hadn't hired that company to pick us up I do not know what we would have done.
You can also check to see whether your departure airport has a bank with currency exchange (I got French francs at the B of A inside SFO a number of years ago when I didn't plan ahead.)
If AAA was my only local option, I would buy euro at my departure airport instead. AAA has terrible rates which do not fluctuate over time (they don't get a different rate until they have sold all of their current packs).
Dottie, I hope you remember that you don't need to get ALL your euros at the same time -- there are ATM's everywhere and you don't want to be carrying your whole trip's cash at one time. Enjoy!!
I keep around 100€ from a prior trip to avoid this issue. However, we don't always start a trip in a "euro" country. We've never had a problem gaining foreign currency through bank associated ATMs at international airports (Europe and elsewhere). Worst case scenario is to exchange a small amount of US currency at an airport exchange bureau if there is no functioning bank associated ATM.
Americans are fortune in that our $USD is the world's primary reserve currency. Rather than fuss about acquiring a hundred EUR or so here in their States, carry two or three hundred USD as back up currency in the event of ATM difficulty and pay the airport currency exchange markup if you have cash machine problems.
Exchanging currency other than USD and EUR is more of a problem. I could not convert Check Koruna to Norwegian Krone directly at AMS. The currency exchange kiosk would only exchange the CZK to USD or EUR, then to NOK for a twice exchange hit. I converted the excess CZK back to USD and waited to use an Oslo ATM ,for. NOK. Its good to be an American using USD.
we always take 500 or so Euros home to seed the next arrival; I would feel more comfortable getting a 100 or so to have walking around money. I would then just withdraw money from ATMs as needed.
The airport is very well signed with huge 'trains to Paris' signs everywhere so finding the RER station should not be an issue. The machines do not take US cards or bills, so unless you have coins you will have to purchase from the office which may have an enormous line. We waited over an hour to charge our Navigo Decouvertes at the office a year ago (and would have had to wait in that same line to buy tickets into town)