Please sign in to post.

Managing Currency in Eastern Europe

My husband, son and I leave for our four week trip to Eastern Europe in a week. The 3 of us are traveling to Budapest, Prague, Krakow, Vienna plus a few other stops in Austria and Germany.

Any recommendation how much local currency we should withdraw from ATM's in Hungary, Czech Republic and Poland? We travel to Europe almost every year so I am happy to come home with extra euros for the next trip but am not interested in left over other currency. I prefer to use VISA where possible but need to accumulate local currency for tips, bathrooms, etc. Also, any recommendation how to quickly accumulate change for tips and bathrooms beside buying a few snacks at a grocery store and accumulating the change.

Thanks much for any suggestions.

Posted by
1590 posts

It depends on your spending habits. In all three non-Euro countries you listed, credit cards and phone payments are widely accepted.

Posted by
4342 posts

I will speak to Budapest and Krakow since I have been there most recently.

My last week in Budapest in March, I spent about HUF 5,500 in cash (@$16) for a whole week. I also spent 2 weeks there in Oct. and never needed any for a bathroom. In Oct, I needed about HUF 11,000 extra for my taxi airport to town because of a non-functioning card machine - but that’s kind of unusual (only time it ever happened). So you can always use it up at the end of your stay instead of card.

In Krakow, I also stayed a week last September. I don’t know exactly how much cash I needed but in a whole month I only needed 1,000 zl (@ $230). Never needed any for a bathroom.

Prague 4 nights I don’t remember but almost everything was by card. Even a cheap tram ticket up to the castle.

It’s been too long since I was in Vienna to be relevant.

Posted by
1046 posts

I am happy to come home with extra euros for the next trip but am not interested in left over other currency

We just donate our leftover currency to charity. There are usually collections for the UNHCR by the cabin crew on our flights on the way home.

That said we have been to both Budapest and Prague. We withdrew around USD $180 for a one week stay for two people. We withdrew it in whatever unusual amount the ATM allowed so that we got some smaller notes to start with. Be warned that for both HUF and CZK you will get what seems to be an alarming wad of large denomination notes from the ATM no matter what you do. To get small change we bought bread or pastries at bakeries, cups of takeaway coffee or small purchases in supermarkets (eg. bar of chocolate). Buying public transportation tickets at train stations or machines is also a good way to get change.

In Prague many public toilets had to be paid for. It was usually a small amount but for that you got an immaculately clean bathroom, a personal towel and a smile from the bathroom assistant.

Posted by
18794 posts

Well, I can speak to Prague and Hungary from fairly recent experience.
500 CZK and 10.000 HUF per person. Thats $20 to $25.

What for?

Occasionally the taxi credit card machine doesn't work (has happened to me in Budapest too TTM)
I've been in a grocery and their credit card machines were down
I from time to time use a professional service provider that can only take cash tips
Some bars will not let you put the tip on the credit card
What the %^$% I left the credit card in the other pants
Entrance tickets cash only
Officer, I did buy a metro ticket, I must have dropped it. 10.000 huf now or 25.000 later?
Dang, that looks good and I am hungry. I'll take two please..... what do you mean cash only?
That guy with the violin on the street corner doesn't take credit cards
But Ive been drinking Czech beer all day. I gota go!

What to do with it at the end if you still have it? Pay the taxi to the airport in cash, give it to a homeless person, keep it as a souvenir, mail it to me (PM for my address).

Posted by
6664 posts

And if you are stuck with a lot of zlotys, more than you can spend before you leave Poland, you can always exchange them to e.g. euros or Czech korunas.

Posted by
338 posts

We were just there in September. I got $100 in currency in CZ. Whatever was leftover, I exchanged. There are exchange places everywhere in these countries. (don't go for the glitzy ones--know the exchange rates and make sure you aren't getting taken) I found it fun to exchange money, maybe because I'm in financial services, I enjoyed my little bit of arbitrage. hahahaha. Looking at Quicken, I took out $300 in cash total for a 3 week trip. I didn't bring much home, maybe $10 worth of coins.

Some restaurants are cash only. You need coins for restrooms. Some stores give you a better rate when you pay with cash--credit card fees add up, and I just don't like putting a $5 charge on a credit card at a mom and pop store. Whatever coins were leftover at the end of the trip, we gave to the grandson so he could learn some geography and foreign exchange.

Posted by
3073 posts

I would ignore all the advice to change money. You get horrible rates. Instead, I would use all the money at "duty free" on the way home. Buy whiskey or calvados or lemoncello. Many of these are at great prices in duty free, some are unavailable in the US, and you can give them to drinkers if you don't drink.

Posted by
7568 posts

We used our credit cards (and Apple Pay too, because we didn't have enough Touchless cards back then) a lot in Poland.

It's important to watch out for ever-present Dynamic Currency Conversion traps set by the merchants. Because the POS terminal buttons may say something like "F3", it becomes scary to have to associate that button with the Zloty figure in the glowing display just above it. There's also the technique of giving you a phony "scary" prompt, like "Reject precise currency conversion." You have to know that means "Reject scam to do our bloodsucking conversion instead of Visa's"

Posted by
18794 posts

There's also the technique of giving you a phony "scary" prompt, like
"Reject precise currency conversion."

Well, how would you express the options? Because you will have two choices before you; 9,750 forints or precisely $31.86 which you can reject if you like. Nothing phony about it.

Posted by
8647 posts

From the old days when every country had their own currency. If you leave country A with 53 leftover Skrodniks, go to the first money changer you see and exchange for whatever currency country B uses. Yes, you get hosed on the exchange rate, but so what, it's not going to ruin your trip. At the end, use up whatever is left. Not worth the fretting.