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The best way to pay for things in Eastern Europe?

I will be in Prague, Vienna, Budapest, and Krakow and I was wondering what was the preferred method of payment. Cash, credit? Also, is it easy to use American credit/debit cards in European ATM's? Is there a certain kind of debit card that is more widely accepted?

Posted by
215 posts

I can only speak for Prague and Krakow. It was as
easy using credit and debit cards there as back home.
We had no problems with Visa. We paid in cash at
small restaurants and merchants. Used credit card
for major purchase such as a week long hotel stay.
Again, no problems whatsoever.

Posted by
655 posts

Our experience was the same as Arn has described. We used credit cards for larger purchases and debit cards to keep pocket money in the local currency. As always, alert your financial institution at home to your travel plans and have a four number pin code.

Posted by
1358 posts

I have been to all four cities and agree with others that it is as easy to use CCs there as anywhere. I don't use debit cards.

Having traveled in over 50 countries, I have developed this plan: I use ATMs for currency exchange and CCs for major purchases like transportation, accommodations and meals.

To be safe, always ask if the merchant takes CCs before purchasing anything.

Posted by
233 posts

I can only speak for Budapest. I withdrew money at the train station with my ATM/debit card without trouble and then used cash for my whole time there (5 days). Even the place I stayed only took cash.

Posted by
26 posts

I lived in Krakow for a semester, and I found that having a small amount of cash on hand was very useful. There are frequently little market days that will appear out of nowhere on the main square (Rynek), where merchants will sell flowers, roasted nuts, trinkets, etc. Also, in the pedestrian underpass between the main train station and the old town, you can buy cheese from the Tatry Mountains, bagels on strings and pretzels. Additionally, some purchases are just easier with cash - for example, if you want to visit Bazylika Mariacka, there is an cash fee at the door for photos. Having cash will allow you to make spontaneous little purchases without a lot of hassle and will help you have a more "Polish" experience (many people pay cash for everything).

In larger cafes and in grocery stores we could pay with credit cards, and of course you can use the ATM to get the cash out if you need it. Just be aware that they are not using the Euro yet. If you arrive in the train station late at night (as we did), you won't be able to exchange money and will have to pay in Euros for a taxi (at about 3 or 4 times the going rate). Better to get zloty at your point of departure before getting on the train, just in case.

Lastly, pickpocketing is very high in Krakow. Many of my friends lost their purses and wallets while sitting in restaurants. We never had problems ourselves, but be advised!