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Will I need cash?

I have found on my last few trips in Europe: England, Greece, Sweden and Netherlands, that only in Greece did I need cash. I'm taking the RS Berlin, Prague and Vienna tour next year. Will I need any cash in these countries? While I have some Euros left over, if I need cash I might get a couple of hundred dollars worth more of Euros before I go. Obviously, Czech Republic, I'd do an ATM when there if I had to do so.

I know this is frivolous, but I hate errands and I consider going to an ATM in Europe as an errand, so if I can avoid that, I will. I don't mind spending a slight amount more via my AAA then doing an "errand". LOL

Posted by
892 posts

Looking back at my 2 recent visits to Prague (fall of 2019 and 2018) the times I used cash were:

  • tiny souvenirs, such as a postcard
  • street fairs, where I bought a small meal or glass of hot wine
  • tips for street performers
  • small lunch counters or souvenir shops, if they had a minimum credit card purchase
  • tips for guides (you won't need this for the RS tour, but if you take any separate tours)
  • tips for waiters at some restaurants, who didn't want the tip on a credit card (again, only relevant to your independent meals)

Many stores, such as grocery stores and general merchandise chains, took credit cards for even the smallest purchases.

Edit: In Vienna on the same 2018 trip, I paid with credit card for even the smallest café and grocery store purchases. The merchants at the NaschMarkt took my credit card, though there may have been minimums.

Posted by
561 posts

My only regret from a 2017 (spring) visit to Prague - I was unable to buy a golem in the Jewish Quarter because I somehow managed to spend all my cash at the Mucha Museum and the golem vendors didn't accept credit cards. Insignificant, perhaps, but not a month has gone by when I haven't regretted that moment.

Posted by
2255 posts

Thanks folks. This is exactly the information I want.

Posted by
4876 posts

Wray, I agree about hating to spend travel time on "errands" but since there seem to be ATM's on almost every corner I just stop by one as I encounter it when I start running low on cash. Since I use a card (Schwab) that reimburses all bank fees I'm not looking for a specific bank, just a generic bank money machine.
Besides, you can save the Euros for your next trip -- and you know there will be one!

Posted by
3482 posts

Always have some cash. You may need a taxi or some other unexpected expense where cash is the option.

Posted by
1225 posts

For Berlin I would plan small cash Euro - depending on use cases you plan to do. In central areas of Berlin you would need cash (coins) for following use cases:

  • using public toilet
  • buying transport tickets on a bus
  • parking ticket
  • visiting small street or flea markets
  • some cafés and restaurants only accept cash (ask before)
  • tossing a coin to decide which sights to leave out (all currencies accepted)

Info: AmEx is seldomly welcome in Germany.

Germans love cash by the way.

Posted by
2790 posts

I am always prepared with both cards and cash . I recall several weeks ago , in Vienna , in a favorite Beisl near my hotel , a fellow diner unprepared to pay cash , and running out to a nearby ATM , while leaving his wife behind as ransom .

Posted by
7106 posts

Not for Berlin, Prague and Vienna but in France this Fall I found myself using my CC more than I ever had before. In the local grocery store near my usual hotel in Paris they've converted to "Carte Bleu" or CC only. I don't take cabs often and I usually am prepared to pay cash although this last time when taking a taxi from the hotel in Arles to the train station very early in the AM the taxi driver would ONLY take a CC - "no change" he said. Well, I had correct change but I realized he just did not want cash, so CC it was.

I still feel more confident if I have 100-200E or so split between my purse and my money belt. A few years ago on an RS tour in Paris one of the group got very ill the last night and asked the hotel to call a physician. He came but wanted to be paid 120E or so in cash. She had been spending her cash as she was leaving the next day, the roommate didn't have much left and neither wanted to go out to an ATM at midnight. They came across the hall to ask me and yes, I had cash and gladly loaned her the money to get seen. She sent me a check to repay me after she returned home. I was happy I had the Euro to help out.

I understand your thoughts about the ATM being an "errand"!!

Posted by
2731 posts

Be sure to read RS "Currency and Cash Tips" found along the right hand margin of the Travel Forum page. It gives good advice about NOT getting foreign currency before getting there. In my 17 yearly trips to Europe, I have always waited until I arrive in my destination country airport to get local currency from an ATM using a debit card. I do take about $200 US in my money belt incase of an emergency.

Posted by
892 posts

MarkK, "tossing a coin to decide which sights to leave out (all currencies accepted)"

Thanks for that chuckle!

In Prague, I had one restaurant that preferred my credit card to a larger bill. I don't recall if it was a 1000 or, perhaps, a 2000 CZK note. The bill was 400 CZK. It's easy to understand the reluctance.

Posted by
2255 posts

Thanks all. I think if I add slightly to the 80.00 Euro that I have before I go, that might be all we'll need, except for a minor ATM stop in the Czech Republic. It sounds like these countries are going non-cash as well. I loved Sweden...no cash at all wanted.

I do agree with Pam as well though, it is always nice to have a little backup cash in case computers fail, small items are needed, etc. so I think I will get a little more to start from home and be hopeful that is it. And when I travel solo I am even more conservative in this area, but this time I'll be with my husband. I realize you can get money at the airport that costs a little less, but I just want to keep moving in the airport not stand in the line at the ATM, which always seems to be per my observation. AAA is very reasonable for me here in eastern Massachusetts.

Posted by
3223 posts

it is always nice to have a little backup cash in case computers fail

And they do fail on occasion. One time in Paris at a nice restaurant with a fairly large dinner bill none of our cards would work. Next day they all worked fine. One time in Venice we had to try several to get one to work for vaporetto passes. Half an hour later they all were usable. Technology is great when it works, but it doesn't always operate as it should. Simple fact of life. Better to have some cash and not need it than the other way around.

Posted by
3421 posts

I found Berlin to be very cash centric. Quite a few bars and restaurants would only accept cash. The bigger stores and more popular or central restaurants will accept cards but don't assume they will. Berlin, in this instance, is at odds with most of the other European cities. I'm not sure why they are so cash driven.

Posted by
2255 posts

JC, Oh. I'm surprised at Berlin, so back to my old system...cash and ATM errands. (I'd also just momentarily forgotten about having backup cash just in case...)

Posted by
3421 posts

Wray, yes it surprised me as well particularly as Germany in general is known for embracing technology. There was a particular bar in Berlin, very popular but there was only one card machine and it was jealously guarded by the bar manager. All the other staff could accept cash as payment but for those who wanted, or could only pay by card they had to wait for the manager to be free. As it was, he wasn't loitering around waiting for people to present their cards, he was also busy totting up receipts and other jobs that should be done at the end of the evening when the bar was closed. Consequently we experienced a bizarre 30 minute wait to pay for some drinks at a time when the bar was quiet, the staff were relatively free but the manager was determined to finish his administration job before deciding to take payment from us.

Posted by
2301 posts

It’s a good idea to have some cash. Most countries aren’t as “cashless” as some people may think.

Posted by
2255 posts

JC, That's so surprising. Thanks for that information.

I so loved Sweden for many reasons, but one reason was for its no cash. And I was proud to be of partly Swedish heritage as the taxi driver had said I was the first American to pay for his services with a card. However, as I was traveling solo I had initially obtained about $300.00 worth of Krona so I ran it out on my last day to get rid of it...which was kind of fun...

Posted by
11938 posts

The last couple of trips to Berlin, (2017, 2018, and especially this last one in Oct) I used almost always used cash, 99%, refrained from using the credit card.

Posted by
114 posts

Just a note to add that while I was in Prague a couple of months ago, I was grateful to find that merchants quickly offered a Euro conversion of cost and accepted Euro as easily as CZK. The rate was not inflated one bit to pay in Euro. This saved me from having to replenish my cash during a short stay. If you don't plan to do the bulk of your spending in cash, you will likely be able to avoid an ATM stop. Enjoy your tour!

Posted by
394 posts

I always have cash in Italy. Many places do not allow you to use cards for purchases of under 10 or €20. I’ve even been told “the machine isn’t working.“ A few times I’ve called their bluff and started to walk away and magically, the machines start working again! 🤣

Posted by
1226 posts

hey hey wray
you will get 2 answers, yes get money or no don't get money. i'm in the old school region. i always have at least a 100E from my bank before i go. that will cover my taxi and a meal until i get to an ATM in town. People say get at airport when you arrive. learned my lesson, one ATM out of order, another is a travelex machine with high fees, another ATM has a long line "around the airport", another one in terminal 4 and i'm in terminal 1, just saying. i do have patience since retired, but not my cup of tea for this issue. so much easier to have country's cash in my pocket.
another lessoned learned, on a cruise thru greek islands a few years ago, first stop split croatia. didn't want to take out from ATM for the few hours there. sat at a cafe outside by the water and minimum of 30E to spend there. didn't do it, but now i wish we did, who cares if we got a little or lot boozy. was near port for tender to ship and my friend was there to help.
if you're interested in a food/beer tour, look at eatingeurope.com they have a black friday sale 20% with code BFCM for tours or 25% off gift cards, ends dec 2.
have a great time and enjoy
aloha

Posted by
11479 posts

You can survive without cash. Anything you need can be picked up quickly at an ATM when you arrive. To me it's expensive and unnecessary to buy euros before your trip.

Posted by
2800 posts

I always go to the cash machine before leaving the UK and European nations on the €. When the exchange rate favors the US$, I take out more money. The cash machines I prefer are those whose banks have an affiliation with my bank in the US thereby I am not charged transaction or any other fees. For example, Barclays, BNP Paribas & Deutche Bank.

Cash seems to be the easiest form of payment in the Netherlands in particular.

Posted by
2255 posts

Thanks to everyone for your answers. I appreciate all of them.

My question really wasn’t whether to get cash before or after I go, it was whether I would need cash at all; ie, Sweden’s cashless society vs a cash society. I am well travelled so I have established my routine if I need cash as I hate errands as I said. LOL. Thanks to all.