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US dollars / Euros for travel to Portugal and phone options

I am traveling to Portugal for 2 weeks in September. I am going to order some Euros from my bank ahead of time and then plan on getting Euros there with my debit card to supplement. any suggestions if this is a good plan? or what other options to use?
and how much euros should I bring along from us?

The other item I am coordinating is my phone. I have a work phone so have to be careful. should I load whatsap on it and turn off cellular? will that work? I think I would only need to make calls in country for portugal in case I need to call hotel or tours or places. for US family and friends back home I think I can facetime on my ipad using wifi. I think imessages will work via wifi too?

thank you
Christine

Posted by
5201 posts

In regards to money, yes, you will need some euros, it is not vital that you get any before, I just stop at the first decent ATM I see, or have some from a previous trip, but I have them, and I know at least one, if not all of my debit cards, will work in Europe.

If it is your first time, then having a back up stash of a couple hundred euro to last until you can verify that your card will give you no issues is a good plan. It will cost you, some 5-7% from a good bank, to do so, but worth the peace of mind.

However, anymore, I do find that if I have a couple hundred euro, that pretty much lasts the trip. I find using a credit card easier and easier each time, especially in cities, but in Portugal, cash will come in handy, more than the UK or Scandinavian countries.

Posted by
3467 posts

There are many different opinions about the best way to obtain local currency. The least expensive way is to get local currency from an ATM at your destination. Having said that, however, it's always a good idea, in my opinion, to have some local currency in hand when you land. Getting two or three hundred euros from your local bank will cost you a little more, but it eliminates the hassle of trying to find a machine, the stress of hoping it works (they do occasionally malfunction), and doing it all while somewhat jet lagged. The small amount extra it cost to have money in hand when arriving is money well spent, and the extra cost relative to the overall cost of the trip is really not that much.

Regardless, be sure to notify your bank and credit card companies that you will be traveling. Otherwise they may see a foreign transaction, suspect fraud, and shut down access to your cards.

Posted by
5909 posts

What Paul said. My rule is to have enough cash on hand that would at least cover paying for a taxi, sundries, and maybe dinner, if necessary.

Posted by
745 posts

I also like to arrive with a little currency of the realm in hand. If you are a AAA member, I recommend checking their rates. At present, 1 Euro = $1.18 although the rates fluctuate. My local AAA office has no service charge for members ordering a minimum of $200 worth of foreign currency - and their turn around time is 24 hours (Monday - Thursday) if ordering prior to noon. Keep in mind - this is currency only - the smallest denomination being 5 Euros. So, at the moment, 170 Euros would cost $200.60.
Happy travels in Portugal! I love their green wine and those insanely delicious cod/onion/potato cakes.

Posted by
18746 posts

When using your debit card in an ATM or when using your credit card to make a purchase, you may be asked whether you want to record the transaction in euros or in US dollars. The answer should always be in euros. No matter how attractive the machine makes the dollar option sound, it will cost you more money--maybe a lot more money--because you are giving the processing bank the power to use whatever exchange rate it wants to use. You can be sure it will not be in your favor. This invidious process is called Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC). It is a big money-maker for hotels, restaurants, shops, etc., so staff will sometimes push it hard. When using a credit card, try to keep physical control of the scanning device so you are the one answering the dollars-or-euros question.

If you possess multiple credit cards, it would be an excellent idea to check on the foreign usage fee each will assess. Some will slap on a flat surcharge of over $1 (US) every time you use your card plus a percentage fee. You may find that one of your cards is much better than the other(s). I'd still take at least two credit cards, because something could happen to one of them. In my case, what could happen is that I would leave it behind somewhere, but there are other possible unfortunate possibilities that don't involve traveler carelessness.

Rick has some very good money-related tips on this website, right here: https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/money. I don't know that they emphasize the ever-increasing prevalence of DCC and the imposition of usage fees by ATMs as much as I'd like. I haven't been to Portugal in ages, so I don't know that you'll run into either issue, but they've been the bane of my trips since 2015 and seem to be getting worse every year.

Posted by
992 posts

In addition to the other suggestions, be certain to use Multibanco machines in Portugal. There are other machines that look like a regular ATM, but they charge high rates. And, check your debit card to make certain there are no foreign transaction fees and make certain they know you will be in Portugal. Also, credit cards are not used quite like they are in the states. You may not be able to use one for small purchases, especially in coffee shops and some small restaurants.

Regarding phones - WhatsApp works great and wifi is readily available all over the country. Also, if the phone is unlocked, purchasing a SIM card is easy and cheap which would enable you to use it as you do in the states. Your assumptions regarding FaceTime are correct.

Posted by
3528 posts

Acraven offers good advice, as usual. Let me expand a little bit. I carry credit cards for two systems, Visa and MasterCard, and debit cards from two separate banks. And I never carry all of them in the same wallet. I don't worry too much about exchange rates and fees if getting off a plane after eight hours red-eye. Just get enough euros for the arrival day and do a bigger exchange at a bank when settled.
Usually, but not always, fees are imposed by the home bank. And always, like back home, avoid "grey" ATMs operating independently of banks, such as that shadowy thing at the back of a pub.

Posted by
3148 posts

I always have some cash upon arrival. When making hotel reservations and using a hotel’s website, if it isn’t obvious it accepts credit cards, ask if it does. There are some independent hotels that only take cash, so you’d want to ensure you have enough cash to cover that bill without having to go in search of an ATM in a town you’re probably unfamiliar with. A couple years ago in Wales, we had pre reserved a room and when we got there found it only accepted cash. Fortunately we always have some so it wasn’t an issue.

Posted by
819 posts

Hi from Wisconsin,
When I was in Portugal, ATMs restricted withdrawals to 200 Euros. Any body encounter this recently?

Your bank will love you if you order money through them. It is unnecessary. Upon arrival see which ATM has a line. That is the one you want to use. Experienced travelers know which ATM organization has the lowest fees.

wayne iNWI

Posted by
245 posts

If you're planning to ask your bank for Euros, it's a good idea to specify you want bills no larger than 50 (a good mix of 10s, 20s, and 50s would work well). If they send you 100 Euro, or worse, 200 Euro notes, they can be hard to use; places that want cash generally don't have change for 200 on hand. We found that a euro 200 limit on many bank (Multibanco) ATMs was normal. Every time we got cash, it was all in 20s. WhatsApp worked when interacting with our Airbnb hosts and making calls home. WiFi was great everywhere. If you're traveling with a work phone, though, it probably would be a good idea to check with your IT people to get their advice on turning off cellular, etc.

On our last trip, for the first time ever, we had one of our debit cards rejected due to an "expired validity" date, which wasn't the case, but for some reason, several ATMs thought it was. I called the bank and the "extended" the expiration and the problem was solved. But in the meantime we used a second card from a second bank. If you have that option, take a second card with you. Without ours, it would have been a cashless few days until the problem was resolved.