Can we use American dollars to tip guides and in restaurants?
You could get into trouble doing that in Russia.
“It is illegal to pay for goods or services in U.S. dollars.”
Not sure why you posted this several times as I think people's answers would be the same for all the countries you mention. There are some countries (Central America, countries whose currency is low compared to the dollar) where they might appreciate US dollars as tips, but not I think in Russia or the Scandinavian countries. Would you want someone coming to the US and tipping you in rubles or krone?
Of course I may be wrong, I've never tipped anyone in a foreign country with US dollars. I always use the local currency.
In some poorer countries people don't mind accepting dollars as a tip but it could be illegal. In western Europe they would certainly prefer their own currency.
Hi, maybee in Moscow's downtown, but I don't sure that it is possible. You can exchange your money in the city at value course. Do not exchange your money in the airport.
I was in St. Petersburg in 2009. Taxi drivers and souvenir sellers quoted prices in dollars and accepted dollars or rubles or a combination. At the tourist sights, restaurants and public transportation, we had to pay in rubles. Some places took credit cards, others required cash.
Based on our experience there, what we realized is that while it is (I think) technically illegal for Russians to have US dollars, many gladly accepted them and some especially value them (when received one on one, not publicly in stores/restaurants, etc.).....more so for tour guides and (sometimes) those who are selling small items outside formal stores. But, if given, fold the bills and transfer with a handshake....do NOT ask if they accept them, as that could put them in a tough spot. Russians seem to be very, very careful about what they do or say publicly (for all the obvious reasons). US dollars seem to be secretly valued sometimes where they are not publicly valued, if that makes sense.
But, as in most all circumstances in all nations, it is more convenient and leaves less question to tip in local currency.
It is NOT "technically illegal" to own dollars in Russia. Most debit cards issued by larger banks can have up to 6 accounts tied to them (checking/savings rubles, dollars, and euros).
The legal framework is actually quite simple:
1. Ruble is legal tender
2. Foreign currency transactions between residents are largely forbidden (there is a long list of exceptions)
3. Foreign currency transactions between residents and non-residents are largely unrestricted, BUT all currency exchange transactions can only be performed at an authorized bank.
4. Tips are not regulated (most restaurant bills will tell you something to the effect of "tips are welcome, but are always up to you", "our research tells us that out customers leave a 10 to 12 percent tip on average - if you like our service, feel free to help us keep our stats up", or, in the worst case, "service fee of xx percent will apply to parties of 8 or more")
So, technically, you being non-resident, you could use foreign currency to pay for souvenirs or tip in dollars - if the selling party/service provider is willing to accept dollars. But should you?
The part about handing money over in a secret handshake made me laugh out loud :-)
Tip issue alert:
Just arrived in Moscow yesterday, and already saw 2 places (a bar and a cafe) which had 10% tips ("service fee") automatically added on to their prices. This policy was stated on their menus, tip was also included as a separate line in the bill.
I talked to the manager - and he said it's a new "thing" that some less scrupulous places will try to get away with during the world cup. As a customer, you can refuse to pay this "mandatory" tip (which I promptly did) and it will be taken off the bill.
Look through your bill before paying - and if you see this add-on tip and don't feel like tipping, don't hesitate to dispute it.
When we were in Russia the ruble had taken a dive against the dollar but they were still using the old conversions, so for example if I paid for our apartment in Rubles it cost about half what it would to pay in dollars. And tickets bought on line for the Hermitage in dollars were more than twice as expensive as just easily buying them from machines there.
We were in St. Petersburg for 2 days last year as part of a baltic cruise. We didn't change dollars into Rubles as we didn't have a visa as part of our guided tour and would only be with our guided group except at the pier. As they took us places to shop, I was apprehensive as to prices and exchange rates. Everyplace we went accepted Dollars, Euros, and Rubles, even the shops at the pier. They also accepted credit cards. I always checked the exchange rate to see if prices were "fair", and I found the dollars vs. Rubles in the ball park. The tour guides were glad to get a good tip in any of the three currencies. BTW, I found the Units Plus app for my iPhone to be great for not only currency, but also other conversion.
My experience last month, as a cruise passenger in St. Petersburg, was like Bill's. I paid the guide for the tour in dollars, and then tipped her and the driver in dollars. The American who got our group together for the tour said this is what the company would prefer, though they were also willing to take credit cards for the tour itself. I also bought some postcards in a store, paying dollars and getting change back in rubles which I then spent elsewhere. All this, of course, was inside the tourist bubble that surrounded us the whole time.
If I'd had a visa and gone around the city on my own I expect most merchants who don't see many tourists would have been reluctant to take anything but rubles, or credit cards for larger purchases. But that's just my speculation.
It’s been about 20 years so I hope things have changed, but I knew a man who bought certain gift items in Belorus. His seller only accepted dollars, so he would make trips carrying the maximum he could take out of the US - $10,000. Of course he was scared to death each trip that he would be robbed or worse.
I had a recent experience in Russia which makes me wonder why US dollars would not be welcome. I was visiting Volgograd (aka Stalingrad) last October, and while checking out possible restaurants I noticed a few that would only accept as payment hard currency - US dollars or euros. No rubles. My tour guide wanted to be paid in US dollars (crisp bills with no markings which one of the popular guidebooks stated was a common requirement to defeat counterfeiting) which he would use in his side business of currency marketing. If you use rubles be sure spend the currency before you leave the country. These banknotes were harder to exchange back to US dollars than something as exotic as Iceland kronos (whatever). I still have about $25 worth of rubles which Wells Fargo won't buy back.
Have a good trip.
Any requirement to get paid in "hard currency only" is most certainly illegal. The only reasonable exception I can think of would be the store or restaurant at a foreign embassy or consulate. I am really quite surprised you have encountered that.
Going back to the issue of tipping in dollars or euros at a restaurant - please don't, there is absolutely no reason to.
We bought fur, amber, the usual souvenirs as well as hotel, restaurants away from the tourist track etc etc and the only place that only accepted dollars and Euros was the airport shops which is amusing if it is indeed illegal as this is the easiest place to assure legal compliance. And we found the exchange rate ludicrous if dollars were used, so we used rubles.