carrying us currency

How much U.S. currency is reasonable to carry while traveling in Europe. Will be using debit and credit for euros. Haven't found any real help. It seems to vary from some to hundreds. Is there a basic amount that would be a good idea.. Thanks
Linda

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7828 posts

Linda you need zero American dollars in Europe.. why would you take any except for some money to get a taxi home from airport or a snack if on a stop over in America? I have been to Europe dozens and dozens of times, I take about 40 canadian dollars which I stash away until I am back in Canada,, for snacks on stop overs. some people say they take "emergency" american cash but I think its useless , try finding a bank to exchange that money in an emergency,, like you are out of gas and somewhere in Italy??? Like really. Wear a money belt, you carry one cc card and hubby carries other , etc.

Posted by Ron
southwest, Missouri, U.S.A.
1361 posts

Hello Linda. Different people have different opinions about this. Some people, traveling from the U.S.A. to Europe, carry an amount of cash (in U.S. Dollars, or in the currency of the country that they will be in) for paying for travel from an airport in Europe to a hotel there. Some people carry $2000. in U.S. Dollars. (They will be in Europe, a total of 14 days). In some of my trips to Europe, when I returned to the U.S.A. I flew to an airport that is located more than 200 miles from my home. I carried, in Europe, an amount of U.S. currency, for when I returned to the U.S.A., that was sufficient for me to spend cash for paying for one night at a hotel, and transportation expense for going from that city to my home, and one or two meals.

Posted by Monte
Genesee, ID
1376 posts

We take a hundred dollars or so between us with the intention of using it in American airports. There's always some left over. You never know when a flight might be altered and you need a good meal and a souvenir.

Posted by Ann
Sunnyvale
49 posts

We usually carry about $200 or so for the same reasons as posted above. We haven't needed to break into the US money yet traveling abroad, but I like to have it as a safety net, just in case.

Posted by James
Frisco
1804 posts

Occasionally I am amazed that someone would believe that there is a right or wrong answer to a question like this. Ignore those people. You are on vacation for goodness sakes. Take as much or as little as is required to maximize your comfort level. I travel to Europe 2 to 3 times a year and have for a dozen years now. I still carry emergency cash. I've never used it but it fits my comfort level. My definition of emergency doesn't include running out of gas in Italy but even then I bet I could change dollars at a less than optimum rate; well, with the Italians; who knows. I spend most of my time in Central Europe and I trust those people to be generally well intentioned, caring and good (one of the reasons I like the region). Back to the question. Carry what works for your comfort level. I would suggest you have at least two forms of plastic cash on you and keep them in such a way that you can lose one but not both. ATMs cards and Credit Cards are pretty universally accepted from London to Sofia and beyond. Generally speaking unless you know you can get a good deal don't change money in the US prior to the trip as the rates are beyond miserable. If you need taxi cash at the airport when you land in Europe only change enough there to pay the taxi as the airport change counters are almost as bad as those in the US. And when calculating any cash changing remember that you probably paid your hotels in advance and you already paid for the transatlantic flight and you may have prepaid some other aspects of the trip. When coming from the US that can amount to more than half the cost of the trip. Now if on the other half you pay 5% more than someone thinks you should have when changing money the impact on the trip is only 2.5% so it's not worth the worry. What is important is to enjoy the trip.

Posted by Agnes
Alexandria, VA, USA
616 posts

US dollars are not used in Europe, so I carry almost $0 (and I dump out all the change out of my wallet so I don't have European coins mixed in with US coins later). That's "reasonable" for me since I only need a subway pass to get to my airport, not taxi money. Once at the airport, you can charge everything. You have to ask yourself how much money you'll need in transit to the US airport and back home after your trip.

Posted by Leigh
Missouri
193 posts

I agree with the post that there is no right or wrong answer, so do what makes you feel comfortable. I carry around $100 in my money belt just in case my plastic options would all suddenly stop working and I would at the same time be out of euros. That has never happened, and would very likely never happen, but it makes me feel better, so that is what I do. I am also with the group that gets around 100 Euro before I leave home just to get me started. Is any of this necessary? Probably not. But it makes me feel better.

Posted by Linda
Pinehurst, Idaho, USA
4 posts

Thank all of you for you responses. I will take what will make me feel comfortable.

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
6840 posts

I carry about $200USD in case of an emergency (it has happened a few times). If such an emergency does occur it is very easy to convert that stash into the local currency, especially in the cities.

Posted by Jim
Bern, Switzerland
341 posts

Just to point out the obvious, if you loose your cash it's gone, where as cards can be stopped and replaced.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2702 posts

Hi, I take $100-200 in cash over there plus Euro for when I land. It's a good idea. Chances are that I will not need the US cash but vendors always take US cash when it is favourable to them. Even that is remote since presunably you can pay with an US credit card.

Posted by James
Frisco
1804 posts

Based on no particular formula my wife and I each carry a few hundred in euro (mainly because we have it and want to get rid of it), few hundred in US, about 20,000 HUF, a US ATM card, a Hungarian ATM card and two US credit cards. We generally come home with as much as we left with which reason tells me I should leave with little or no cash in any currency and just travel on the cards. But that's not my comfort place. In 30 trips to Europe I have had to cancel one credit card and I have lost one ATM card.

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
10888 posts

I continued to be amazed at how the simplest question can evoke some of the silliest answers. I fall into the $200 group - 10 -$20s, split between the two of us in money belts. I recognize that changing US dollars in an emergency could be a problem but at least I have something to work with - as opposed to nothing. In nearly a year travel in Europe we have never had a need to dip into the emergency cash - close a couple of times. And I could probably live with a hundred US. The thought is that if I lost the $200 it is not going to cause a huge problem but $500 or $1000 certainly would. Again, there is no definite answer. Just do whatever is comfortable for you. We have never had a problem depending on ATMs.

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
2394 posts

Many people like to bring a few hundred dollars worth of local currency with them for peace of mind that the ATM might not work for some reason. A good idea with that approach is to keep that cash aside until the end of your trip. Get new cash from an ATM right away and keep the extra in reserve. I've had cases where I've dug into the reserve because I unexpectedly ran out of cash, can't find an ATM right away or something unexpected happens and I need more cash than I have handy (impulse purchase). Spend the reserve in your last day or two. With this approach, you have reserve cash without needing to exchange it (an unlikely possibility in a true emergency). I'd only bring enough US dollars to use coming and going.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7828 posts

"vendors always take US cash when it is favorable to them ". When would it ever be in their favour to accept a foreign currency, and a weaker one then theirs at that ? We are talking europe here, not some third world place. I have been to Europe many many times over last 30 years as an adult and 15 years before that as a child, and I have never had a vendor accept anything but their local currency ( pre euro, it was lira, dracmas and francs, etc ) ,, but never dollars. The only one who will deal with them is the currency exchange booths and they basically will rip you off! Why not carry an emergency fund in EUROS , its going to be hidden away exactly where you are thinking of hiding a stash of American cash so no more likely to be stolen.. and infinately going to make like easier then trying to convince someone to take your dollars. Why is it safer to take an emergency fund in foreign cash ,, I am not sure I understand the reasoning.. perhaps someone could explain it to me. I think taking/stashing emerg cash is a good idea, just can't understand how complicating its use by bringing a foreign one is better?

Posted by George
Canada
836 posts

I only leave home with euros (no Canadian cash) - I take €500 with me, that I get from my bank (they always have euros) and replenish as need be from ATMs - I'm ready to roll when I touch down, and I never wear a money belt.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7978 posts

Why is it safer to take an emergency fund in foreign cash ,, I am not sure I understand the reasoning.. perhaps someone could explain it to me. There's a difference between an emergency fund and an inconvenience fund. Sometimes places come completely unglued. When they do, you're down to either gold or green to clean up the mess. Metal is better, but it's hard to lug around. Probably some lurkers contemplate travel to places other than tame Europe.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7828 posts

Well no doubt gold is best in cases of complete economic breakdown or civil unrest, but yes, that would be heavy! I am sticking to the topic though in which OP asks about Europe.

Posted by Maryam
Washington, DC
562 posts

Agree that this is a matter of preference, so no point in trying to discredit others' preferences or justify yours. Read what all do, and then pick what works best for you. I take about $200 with me. Not for any reason other than I know it's there just in case all other options have failed me. I have always come back with all of it, and will continue to take it with me because I look at it as a kind of insurance.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2702 posts

During the Kossovo crisis with the massive influx of Albanian refugees, those lucky enough to escape with a bit of cash on hand had the two most valued currencies (in their opinion)... D-Mark and US dollars.

Posted by Deb
Sioux Falls, SD
98 posts

Because I have to fly through connecting airports to get to my flight to Europe (e.g. Sioux Falls to Minneapolis, Minneapolis to Detroit, Detroit to Rome--whew), I usually have a fair amount of layover time at US airports. So I usually have around $100 on me for purchases of food or whatever in the US airports. Also, on flights overseas connecting to U.S. cities, they will accept dollars to buy alcohol, headphones, or whatever in-flight; so you may want a little cash for that too. (Most airlines will take cards in-flight, but it is sometimes faster if you can just hand over cash.) Basically, just take what you think you will need to buy food, drinks, or whatever at the US airports and on the flight. That should be the only time you need US dollars.

Posted by Nicole
CA, USA
78 posts

Beating a dead horse, but why not just use an ATM or credit card? The weaker US Dollar would be essentially be worthless.

Posted by Nancy
London, UK
159 posts

We needed US dollars when trying to get into Turkey. You pay for your visa to Turkey at the airport and you need to pay in the currency you carry a passport for. I am an American living in London - we didn't have any US dollars but they do take your credit card!

Posted by George
Canada
836 posts

Nancy, "...you need to pay in the currency you carry a passport for..." AH NO, you pay in US$ or Euros - absolutely nothing to do with the passport issuing country.

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
3314 posts

The idea of carrying US Cash comes from the cold war era. In those days if you were daring you could get great conversion rates in the east. Of course, it was all totally illegal. Today, I like to have US cash available for my return trip. I'm still not used to flying directly home, but am used to transfers and I like having back up cash for when I get stuck; Like after 9/11 when I flew home the next week and everything was disrupted. Again it all depends on your personal preference. I travel in the US with about $300 for taxi's and other needs. Others travel with zero $$$. That's not my style. Figure out your own. ; ) Pam

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7828 posts

To those who elect to carry some emergency American money,, just wondering, do you also carry some emergency currency of whatever country you are in?

Posted by Leigh
Missouri
193 posts

In answer to Pat, sort of... I get some euros or whatever currency I will need before leaving home, and try to get more before running out, so I do try to have some to spare. I guess you could call that emergency money. That is until the end of the trip, when I try to use up most of what I have. The difference would be I might get down to under 100 Euro before getting more cash, and near the end, I might have only 30 Euro or even less. My emergency money is money that I really don't intend on spending, so it is better to have it in US currency so I can use it once I return home.

Posted by Swan
Napa, CA
2858 posts

I usually take about $100 in bills. This is to pay cash for the airporter, local bus, and miscellaneous expenses at the airport. I try to spend coins at the airport.

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
3314 posts

Pat, yep, I start a trip with some Pounds or Euros depending on where I am going. I have been caught with no cash and been reliant on strangers and don't want that to happen again. I figure I used up that luck the first time! It's enough to get me to my hotel. If I have any local currency left over at the end of the trip in goes into a special wallet for my next trip. I am consistent. : ) Pam

Posted by Daniel
Ocean Shores, Wa, USA
71 posts

So....there is no right or wrong answer here...it all depends on your comfort level! That being said...IF you do carry American Dollars in significant amounts, it is advisable to NOT take any $100 dollar bills, or the older all green $50 dollar bills...instead take the newer pinkish/red marked $50's. Banks have never refused to exchange my newer 50's, and they are reluctant to do so with the all-green currency that is reported to be easy to counterfeit. DW and I have taken up to $1500 each in the newer pinkish 50's the last 3 times to Europe, and 30 new crips fifty dollar bills take up very little room in your money belt (properly worn under your clothing) or passport wallet(in a neck pouch properly worn under your shirt/blouse). The (-)3% difference in exchange rate compared to plastic is a minor expense compared to the over all cost of the trip.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7978 posts

Currency exchange has a lot more than a three percent differential. Hundred dollar bills work just fine.

Posted by Allen
Lafayette, LA
194 posts

I carried perhaps 20 dollars on my last few trips. And leftover coins from the previous trip, usually less than 10 euro. I don't like carrying hundreds of US dollars never to be used even if it's hidden in a moneybelt. With my memory, I may forget it's there!

Posted by Daniel
Ocean Shores, Wa, USA
71 posts

I need to clarify: In our experience, currency exchange averaging 3% differential was at major banks after careful scrutiny of their rates. At Kiosk type exchange booths, such as at airports, they do rip you off! And, $100 dollar bills MAY work...why bother with them when there is a viable alternative? Dan

Posted by George
Canada
836 posts

Daniel, I know everyone has their own MO, but I'm curious why you'd take $1,500 US with you, and not do the ATM thing?

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7828 posts

Daniel you mean you carry 1500 cash to convert for use while there? Have you tried this in Paris, most banks will not even deal with you at all unless you have an account,, so they won't exchange your money, therefore you are stuck with those exchange bureaus. I tend to always arrive with 100 euros ( usually left over from previous trips) .. and I never let my cash balance get below 200 euros while travelling( I do not use my cc excpept for hotels and train tickets and $$$ dinners) so I totally see the point of carrying some euros with you , I really am trying to understand the other view point of carrying money from home ( more then what is needed for airport /transit at home stuff) .. in an emergency I want cash, and I want it to be cash that the locals with readily accept, their own currency!

Posted by Bruce
Whitefish, Montana
611 posts

OK, so here's my theory...I carry some US while traveling in the US as there are no direct flights to Europe and if delayed I can pay for cab rides and modest purchases with cash. Also, cash is part of my back-up plan if I arrive in Europe without enough euros/kronors/pounds to start our trip and airport ATMs are empty/broken (never has happened, but just in case) and thus can patronize an exchange bureau purchasing just enough local currency until I get to a proper ATM elsewhere. Not much downside risk. Same theory can apply for friends in Canada.

Posted by Daniel
Ocean Shores, Wa, USA
71 posts

George, Since we are business owners, we know full well the cost to the business every month for processing fees for taking cards in our establishment. We tend to patronize the mom & pop businesses on vacation esp staying in smaller B&B's who more often then not are unable to even take plastic,and if they are able, they prefer not to because of the fees. Since we average about $100/night for B&B's, on a two week trip, that takes most of it. If we don't go that route we do self cater for a week, and while they will hold the reservation with a credit card, the smaller mom & pop self caters want cash at arrival. Guess it all boils down to cost of doing business! Also I'm paranoid about subjecting my bank account to hackers by using a debit card. With credit card there is more protection against this happening.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2702 posts

On emergency cash...carrying it, yes. It's in Euro, GB Pounds, US dollars, and some Polish zloty.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7828 posts

daniel doesn't your bank take care of ATM fraud.. I had my card compromised here in Victoria where I live,, scammer got 500 bucks out before bank froze card,, but I lost not one penny.. I assume your bank system is similar isn't it? so basically you are afraid of nothing?

Posted by Rose
NYC
922 posts

I've been away from the Helpline for over a month because I've been engaged elsewhere. Good to see that a question about how much currency to carry can still turn on a dime and so quickly devolve into something entirely different. LOL!!! I'm a member of the $200 Club - only for a bit of peace of mind in case of an unanticipated circumstance going or coming that is out of my control. Even then, I use a credit card for everything Stateside because every dollar spent equals Amex points collected. Invariably, I have always returned with the $200 intact in a corner of my moneybelt, but I still carry it each time nonetheless. Once in the UK or Europe, it's cash from the ATM for everything, except paying for hotels, expensive restaurant bills, big shopping purchases, etc. Do what makes you comfortable.

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
2394 posts

This topic veered way off course and frankly has been over-responded to anyway. But I will say this, people are free to choose where they are interested in visiting and most will have their personal reasons for not wanting to go somewhere. Fine. But on a travel helpline, it is inappropriate to make a judgment on a place/people/culture that you have never visited.

Posted by Webmaster
Edmonds, WA, USA
241 posts

I have removed a particular side discussion from this thread. This discussion won't be continued and I will allow Douglas' excellent post as the last word on it. Thank you.

Posted by Stay-ce
Northern California
141 posts

I had $8 and after 2 weeks I dumped it because I was sick of carrying it. I also started with around 200 Euro to get me going till I got settled and could easily find an ATM. :)

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
6840 posts

I've seen souvenir stores in Manhattan with "we accept Euros" signs in the windows. There was a NY Times article about the phenomena, according to merchants it was just a gimmick to get euries inside the store. Few actually took them up on the offer. At the Woodbury Commons Outlet Mall north of the city there is a Travelx Exchange center. Place is always crawling with euries, and Japanese. I've actually been seated next to passengers on transatlantic flights who said the outlet mall was the primary purpose of their visit to the US, the exchange rates and the "low" sales tax is so favorable.