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How much money to take

If we don't want to have to ge money from an ATM in Europe... how much cash should one take? We are going on a 40 day trip, will have credit cards, will eat in our apartment for bfast and most dinners....any thoughts out there?? We won't be buying a lot of trinkets either. Thanks

Traveling to Vienna, Krakow and Budapest

Posted by
3493 posts

Not sure of the reason for your aversion to using ATMs. It is the least costly, easiest, fastest, and safest way to get money in the places you mention traveling to.

How much to take? How much do you normally spend in a 40 day time frame while at home? That would be a good point to start from. Add in 10 - 15% to give a good buffer. Will you be paying for your rooms with cash? Then add that into the total as well.

Are you talking about taking USD (or whatever the money is for the country you live in) and then converting actual cash once you get there? Add another 10 - 15% to cover the loss incurred by exchanging cash at exchange booths at airports or train stations. And you will have to find an exchange booth. They aren't everywhere like they were even 10 years ago since everyone uses ATMs.

Posted by
8889 posts

How long is a piece of string?
I guess you want to buy food from supermarkets, that is missing out on on of the experiences of travel, experiencing the local food.
Have you paid for your travel Vienna to Krakow to Budapest?
That leaves local transport, entrance fees, lunch, coffee / drinks etc.

Why don't you want to get cash from an ATM? That will almost certainly be cheaper than bringing cash (Euros, Florints and Zloty) from your home country.

Posted by
2574 posts

Not sure why the aversion to using an ATM in Europe. They are everywhere, easy, and you avoid carrying large sums of cash. We find using credit cards is fine in decent restaurants, hotels and the like. But many places that are small, street vendors, etc. want cash. On our recent tour a member badly lacerated a finger (Portugal) had to have sutures in an ER. Cash only, no credit cards accepted. We've had several occasions over the years where we expected to use credit cards only to find the system was down. Happened a few weeks ago in Sintra. I like to have €200-300 available, most in my money belt. We always take some foreign currency as I don't want to seek out and use an ATM when I'm bleary coming off a plane. Otherwise, about once or twice a week we hit an ATM and replenish our cash. I would not want to worry about a larger sum sitting around somewhere.

Posted by
4585 posts

An approximate number would be 80-100 Euro for 2 people, assuming apartment and trains are already paid.

Posted by
7254 posts

Based on your description $2000 per person for 40 days.
More if you intend to go out concerts theater etc.

Posted by
2788 posts

I have gone to Europe 14 times in the last 16 years and have never taken any spending money with me. I have always used ATMs for the easiest, least expensive and best exchange rates. I do, however, take a hundred or so in 20s for any emergency and have never had one.

Posted by
12964 posts

I don't waste money on trinkets either, not my style.

Be advised in Vienna that the ATMs are two types. They almost look alike if you don't pay attention to the wording. There is the "Auszahlung" ATM and the "Kontoauszug." Both are listed as "Geldautomat" adjacent to each other. I've seen Americans go to the wrong one and leave frustrated in not being able to withdraw cash.

The ATM that you need for withdrawing cash is "Auszahlung" The other one "Kontoauszug" has to do with statements based on one's account, ie, not relevant to you. If you don't want to be bothered with ATMs, financing your trip in Vienna can certainly be done, provided you bring enough cash from the US, and that your hotels and eateries can be paid with a credit card. My Pension in Berlin really frowns on paying with a credit card, so after a 14 night stay this time, I paid the proprietor (Inhaberin) at check-out 588 Euro in cash.

Posted by
5697 posts

Can't speak for Krakow, but we have been to Vienna and Budapest several times and found ATM's easily available -- you can go inside the bank if using an ATM on the street bothers you. Personally, if I were carrying 40 days worth of cash, I'd be super paranoid ... but getting it out €400 at a time I can handle.

For budgeting purposes I use $100 per day for meals and "stuff" other than pre-booked lodging and transportation (mostly paid by credit cards)

Posted by
21843 posts

Remember Europe is just like the US in that the ATMs are there to serve the local population in their banking needs. A nice side benefit is that they are also available for tourists to use. It is super convenience and should be taken advantage when traveling. But if bring cash from the US and will to dealing with currency exchanges is your preference I would plan on at least 100 Euro/person/day. For 40 days, that is about $9300 US at current exchange rate. That may be a little high but if not using a debit card, then you have no back up plan should you encounter an unexpected expense or a need for additional cash.

Then you have two other problems that you may not have thought about. First, is carrying the cash because of the bulk of that much cash. Fifty dollars are not well accepted since the fifty is the most widely counterfeited bill so you probably will use mostly hundreds. Second problem is finding the currency exchanges. At one time internet points, phone banks, and currency exchanges were often housed together and were fairly frequent in big cities. With the rise of the smart phones, free internet, and ATMs, the availability of these services have decreased substantially. You will find them but you will have to look for them and they could be in inconvenient locations.

Posted by
3700 posts

For me in Europe restaurant meals all run together but I remember every supermarket I've used.

Posted by
3713 posts

Have you read the money tips on this website? If not, the link is here.

When I read this, "will eat in our apartment for bfast and most dinners," my immediate thought was how you planned to get local currency to shop for groceries to stock your apartment. Your credit cards may not be accepted at most markets, large or small.

So I'm also puzzled as to the reason to avoid ATMs on your trip. There are many more of them than there are places to exchange currency. Learn what the exchange rate is for each currency so you know how much to ask for in comparison to your daily limit. Always select the local currency option, not the one where the amount is listed in US$. Use ATMs in the lobbies of banks or right outside them when the bank is open.

Be sure to inform your CC and ATM card providers where you are going and for how long so they don't block any transactions.

There are many more tips at the link above. While you're at it, you should also read the security tips here, especially the part about money belts.

Posted by
16941 posts

How about this scenario, Take out $10,000 and carry it around with you for 40 days and see how comfortable you feel. Also, you will be changing it into PLN's and HUF's, not the most liquid currencies, so bigger exchange spreads.

Oh, and make sure you don't travel with all 10 G's in one person's pocket without declaring it at customs. Even then, you'll look like a money launderer and authorities will be asking the same questions we are, "Why isn't this person using the banking system and ATM's like a normal person?"

Posted by
13659 posts

When I read this, "will eat in our apartment for bfast and most
dinners," my immediate thought was how you planned to get local
currency to shop for groceries to stock your apartment. Your credit
cards may not be accepted at most markets, large or small.

I had the same thought. Your credit cards may not be accepted everywhere so you are going to need to acquire local currency. The place to do that is at an ATMs as the banks may not be willing to exchange U.S. dollars (if you're an American) and exchange bureaus are famous for their lousy rates.

So I'm curious as well: why don't you want use the ATMs that most of us do when traveling abroad?

Posted by
11292 posts

As someone put it on another forum, it's not just that ATM's are the best way to get cash in Europe. It's that there is no second-best way. All the other methods have much more hassle, cost more, and/or entail more risk (as Sam pointed out, carrying thousands of dollars in cash is not a good idea anywhere).

Please do read Rick's money tips - they really do have everything you need. There's nothing wrong with bringing a few hundred dollars' worth of local currency for your first county, but after that, ATM's are definitely the way to go.

Posted by
5788 posts

I don't have first hand experience with Budapest but I'm wondering what kind of exchange rate you would get for your Euros. The Budapest tourist information website suggest exchanging into Forints after arriving in Hungary.


It is better to obtain Hungarian Forints upon arrival to Hungary than
to exchange it with a bank at home, as local Hungarian banks work with
better rates than their counterparts abroad. Exchanging foreign
currency into Forints is therefore possible in banks, official
currency exchange offices (these are affiliates of larger banks) and
travel agencies.

That said, I suspect that an ATM could give you even better rates depending on your bank's FX charges.

Posted by
120 posts

We visited Krakow in June of this year, and I was very surprised that credit cards seemed to be accepted at every store and restaurant we visited. We did not encounter any grocery store that did not accept credit cards. BTW, there is a Carrefour Supermarket at the Galeria Krakowska right next to the main train station. We also rented an apartment in Krakow, and although we had breakfast at the apartment, we went out for our lunch and dinners. Poland is a real deal compared to the countries in Europe that use the Euro, and I felt that lunches and dinners were quite inexpensive. The tour that we book to Auschwitz-Birkenau did require that we pay in cash. We also did some free walking tours, so cash again was needed. I obtained local currency from a bank once before my trip to Europe, and I will NEVER make that mistake again. The exchange rate was terrible. As everyone states, ATM's are the way to go.
Have a great trip!

Posted by
12964 posts


You need not be concerned if your credit cards (Visa and MC) are accepted in Vienna for your needs. I used the credit card at numerous places plus cash. I had already paid for my hotel prior to departure. That expense was taken care of already. There was one restaurant (very good place) near Am Graben that stated in its menu that it was philosophically against electronic payment. In the tourist areas no problems. When the weather was "cool" enough in May, I wore my light jacket, put Euros there and used the hidden pocket. No problem carrying around one thousand or so Euro if you know what are doing in Vienna.

Buying groceries in Vienna: the Mercure Markt accepts credit cards. If you use the credit card with cash as a back up, that is easily done. Groceries at train stations take credit cards providing your purchase is more than 5 Euro. Museums and the Hofburg , the State Opera tours (given in seven languages) take credit cards.

Posted by
8829 posts

did some free walking tours, so cash again was needed.


Merriam-Webster definition of 'free':

not costing or charging anything

Sounds like what you did was take a tour where a 'tip' was obligatory, or the circumstances were such that you thought one was.

"Free" and "needing cash" are incompatible concepts.

As for OP question, the suggestions that 40-50 euro per person per day ( ~$10k total) is probably a good one, presuming lodging is already accounted for and credit cards will be used as much as possible. Would be no surprise if OP ended up with a little left over but given the circumstance laid out by OP, better to have too much than too little

Posted by
120 posts

Yes, Joe, you are absolutely right - needing cash for something that is free is an absolutely incompatible concept! After I wrote the post, I recognized the incongruity of that statement, but I was too tired/lazy to go back and change it. I thought, as you figured out, that most folks would know that a "free" tour was not actually free and that a tip was obligatory (for most people anyway!) But you, Joe, did not cut me any slack! Lol

Posted by
18 posts

Thank you to everyone who gave input. I have ordered an ATM card from our bank (Wells Fargo). I now think I need to find a better ATM card for foreign travel as they charge $5 plus 3 % for any transaction. Any input on that??

Posted by
3493 posts

There are multiple options for fee free ATM usage.

My favorite is the Capital One 360 account which includes a no fee MasterCard Debit card. I have used it for over 10 years and have never paid even a penny in ATM fees on my trips to Europe. You can open the account and maintain it over the internet. The account remains open as long as it has a positive balance. The 360 account has no fees for anything. Just make sure you choose the 360 account as many of the other Capital One accounts do have foreign usage fees.

If you don't have a fee free credit card, there are many options out there. Capital One, of course, has some, but just about every card issuing bank offers some no fee cards.

Which ever cards you choose, you will need to make sure to inform your bank about your travels telling them where and when you will be in Europe so they don't cut you off for suspected fraud.

EDIT: This is not a suggestion to abandon your existing bank, only a way to save fees by having an additional account if you feel it is worth the very small effort required to open it (5 minutes online, and you are done, no need to visit any office in person for any of it). One of the good things about the one suggested here is that there is no minimum balance required, you can leave a penny in it and only put money in it and use it when you travel once a year and it will not close.

Posted by
5697 posts

Another option is opening an account with Charles Schwab -- free ATM usage with any charges imposed by the local bank reimbursed on your next statement. I have used this card for many trips over 5+ years and wouldn't leave home without it.

Posted by
21843 posts

....card for foreign travel as they charge $5 plus 3 % for any transaction. Any input on that?? ......

That is fairly typical for many brick and mortar banks and is towards the high end --- BUT it is still cheaper than in country money exchanges. Local credit unions generally are much better. Now just to make your life more complicated -- it is generally recommended that you take two debit card tied to to different account ----- just in case something goes wrong with the first card. Keep the WF as back up and find a debit card with better rates.

Posted by
2742 posts

I use my ATM card from my bank here, with similarly high fees. I don't love it, but the hassle of changing banks to save fees on international trips is just not worth it to me. So to minimize the fees I use my no-fee credit card wherever possible and take out 300-500euros with my ATM card when I need cash (reduces the per-use fee, obviously not the percentage. Don't want to go to the ATM and pay $5 each time I need 20euros).

There is no option that is reasonable besides ATMs.
Getting foreign currency at home costs more, plus who wants to carry around thousands in cash? I'd feel very nervous about theft/loss, and my wallet would be bulging. I do get about 100-300euros just to start off, so I don't need an ATM right away, but this costs more, it's just something I'm willing to pay for convenience.
Carrying US cash would have similar problems, plus high fees and difficult to find exchange booths.
Travelers checks are extinct.
Cash-less is not possible, some places don't take credit cards.
So really an ATM is your only option, and the fees you mentioned are high-normal. If you have time and patience to get a new account go for it, otherwise stay with your current card.

Posted by
2574 posts

What Mike said. And, if you are an established customer of your bank, walk in there, let them know about your travel plans so your card does not become useless while in Europe, and tell them you're upset about those fees and ask if they can be waived. You may be surprised.

Posted by
12964 posts

One "incident" on this trip I witnessed pertaining to a German food vendor not accepting an American credit card was in Berlin at Bahnhof Friedrichstrasse. I'm eating lunch there, two older American women come in (New Yorkers), decide on what to order, when it came time to pay, the younger one gives the German guy behind the counter her credit card.

It was politely refused, she told him she had no Euro. This exchange was all in English. He then told her where an ATM was in the station. She went leaving the older woman at the table with the food, came back and paid the guy in cash. It is more than some places in Germany or Austria when it comes to eateries where the US credit card is not accepted but "they" might accept the Euro card.

Posted by
293 posts

I have a debit card from a credit union. No ATM fees and no transaction fees. I mainly use this card while traveling. $5 plus 3%? Ridiculous.