We will be going on a river cruise in a couple of months from Budapest to Prague. As part of our travels we will be staying in Budapest for 5 nights and Prague for 6 nights. The rest of the time will be spent on the ship in EU countries. Will Euros work in Budapest and Prague or should we pick up $100 or so in local currency in each town.
You're always better off using the local currency--I've been to both cities, ATMs are plentiful and our dollar goes a long way. If you're curious about the conversion rate (not so much for food and basic necessities, but in case you're shopping for more expensive items) I like to print the wallet-size tables on www.coinmill.com.
That is a lot of time extra... Definitely get the local currency. We've done what you are doing and you will want local currency for many things. Many restaurants will take your Credit card, but NOT all! And if you only have Euro at local shops you will be subject to whatever rate of exchange they give you. (one time it was an awful exchange, but recently not as bad) Go to an ATM that is connected to a bank, (if possible) get a couple of hundred in each country and you should be good to go. On cruises, unless you a shopper you hardly need any Euro (depending on if tips to local guides and drivers is included in your cruise or not). Have fun!
Get local currency. Even if some stores accept Euro, exchange rate benefits them, not you.
tgreen099, pretty much hit it on the head. For a five day trip in Budapest I would carry about 40,000 Hungarian forints in my pocket (about $140). Then top it off when you get nervous, but more often than not (check your bank) you want to make larger withdraws to overcome the service fees. But I will be honest with you, I just figure the service fees as the cost of travel and don't worry that much about it.
The ATM might give you two 20.000 ft notes so first I would purchase something to break one of the large bills to nothing larger than 10.000 (5.000 is better) and then rely on my credit card as much as possible. The places most tourists in Budapest visit will 9 out of 10 times take a credit card. ATM machines are everywhere. which oddly enough doesn't show them all, but most. Just be sure its a bank machine and avoid the EuroNet machines like this one as its a for profit company that I believe has higher fees or something other than the VISA rate of exchange.
In a pinch most everyplace will take your Dollars or Euros. For Dollars the current rate is 277 forints to the dollar (VISA/ATM) but I bet the best you would get in a restaurant is 250 to the dollar.
If you have any Hungarian money left over, if you PM me I will give you the name of a charity you can send it to. Or make the market your last stop (very near the ship docks) before getting on the ship. I also bet the ship will convert your money but at lousy rates.
Always remember these basic principles when using a currency other than the local one (for instance, euros in Budapest):
1) Whether or not to accept the foreign currency is at the discretion of each establishment; there is no requirement that they accept anything other than local currency.
2) The establishment sets the exchange rate as they wish; there is no requirement that it be anywhere near the "fair" rate you would get at an exchange booth for cash, much less the better rate you get using your ATM card at a local ATM.
3) Any change you get will be in local currency.
For these reasons, while it may be fine to count on euros and credit cards for a very short stay in Prague or Budapest, for a stay as long as yours, use ATM's to get local currency. If you have any left at the end of your stay, use it to pay down your hotel bill before putting the rest on your credit card.
And just a technical note: Prague and Budapest are in EU countries - just not ones on the euro. Sweden, Denmark, Bulgaria, and Poland are just some of the other countries, off the top of my head, that do not use the euro, but are in the EU.
Harold, Its been a few years since I was in Prague but I spend time and do a little business in Budapest on a fairly regular basis.
Your comment that any change you get for your euros will be in the local currency is more true than not, but not an absolute. The Budapest tourist industry is very into the Euro. There are restaurants and shops that list prices in Euro printed along side the Forint cost. Generally speaking the Forint price is a better deal. But the implication is obvious; "we want euros" because they are more stable. Most every tourist apartment charges only in Euros and it is possible to have Euro bank accounts in Hungary.
Still, its not that hard to convert to Forints, pay in Forints and if the thought of leaving the city with 20,000 forints upsets you, I would suggest one make a charitable contribution on the way out of town; or mail it back later. The best thing one can do is make a conscience effort to spend the coins. That's what people generally end up with too much of. Street vendors and street musicians are a good way to get rid of the coins and help a cause while doing it.