We are going on the MS Vienna on the Danube from Budapest to Nuremberg and then 3 days in Prague. We are open to any comments or suggestions. I did read in Rick Steves' book that Prague is a hotspot for credit card fraud and not to use one. Any thoughts on this?
My thought it to ignore all extreme advice in RS books. It seems like every place is a hotspot for something and yet most people come back unscathed.
I'm not sure that it does good to totally ignore the reports. But I would keep them in perspective and take reasonable precautions. Fraud is easier in a place like Prague that can be wall to wall, hip to hip tourists at times. For the credit card, when it is time to pay, hold it up so the waiter can see it and he will bring the machine to you. No other option is acceptable. Never let them walk off with the card. But this is typical protocol in Europe. Check your receipt to see if the tip is already there and check the number on the machine before you push the button and you will be okay. As for the hop-on / hop-off in Budapest. I spend a lot of time in Budapest and I did have a "run-in" with them once. I was trying to determine how to get the door to the ATM room open and one of them approached me and helped me. That was the extent of it. Very sweet girl. In the high season they will be set up in about a eight locations around town and they will ask as you go by and I am certain that as among every group at least one will be rude. During the shoulder season and off season there are fewer to contend with. While I have never heard of the sort of credit card fraud and pick pocketing and harassment that I am hearing out of Prague these days, I would still encourage everyone to use common sense. This is one of the safest large cities in Europe but things can still happen. Oh, and you single guys in Prague and Budapest; when that moment happens when it seems too good to be true................ Well, I hate to say this but it really is too good to be true. Please remember that.
It is true that in many travels the only problem with a credit card that we have ever had was in the old town, Prague. Also true, that the card company took care of it instantly and our cost was zero. Since then we have returned to Prague (and Budapest) and used our credit card and debit card with no problem at all. In all travel a little common sense will save the day. If I were to go again I wouldn't hesitate to use credit cards. I don't know of a better option.
Judy I think Rick's standard advice for anywhere in Europe is to only use Credit Cards for major purchases, not for everyday shopping and meals. His standard advice is to use cash, obtained by debit card from ATM (bancomat). I've only used CC for hotel bills. Check the FAQ here, or the section on money on Grafitti Wall.
I would have said the same thing that Stan did. I have gone to Europe every summer for the last 12 years for a month and always get local currency using a debit card tied to a checking account at ATM machines that are all over the place. I pay cash for almost everything except major purchases and can only think of two of them (one hotel and one Turkish rug).
I did have another experience in Budapest. About 10 years ago we went to a gypsy market in Buda. My wife wanted this expensive table cloth and I didn't have cash so I pulled out the Visa Card. This put everyone into shock, but they took it and said they would work it out. A few minutes passed and I walked in the direction where my card had gone. In a back room I found a man with an antique paper/carbon credit card machine running one receipt after another. What the heck is going on! The poor guy tried to explain that the bank would only accept small charges from him so he needed to break the purchase into a series of small bills. You know, thinking back, he was probably telling the truth. At the moment I panicked, grabbed the card and began tearing up the receipts. Paper was flying everywhere and the poor guy was terrified. I left, went down the street and called the credit card company to cancel the card. The first thing they do on the phone was confirm previous charges. So sir, I see you stayed at the Ritz in London for a few days. Huh? No, I had dinner there last night. Oh my sir, is that what dinner at the Ritz costs?
It was a glorious evening, the tip was in the bill so I didn't want to know what it cost until we got back home; I never looked, I just signed it. Finding out the charges put a damper on the rest of the trip in Budapest. Some things are best unknown. I have also had a gypsy try to unzip my backpack while I was wearing it. But that was in Paris. I saw three people getting robbed while we were in Paris on one three day trip. Prague cant be any worse.
Check with your credit card company for using your card in EU. Last time I called Visa and told them I was traveling abroad, they told me the fraud coverage did not include the EU. I think using ATM's is the best way to go. Or exchange money in US and take cash and use a money belt.
I've had Visa go kafooey twice in Europe, once for a few grand and once to the limit. Both times it cost me nothing.
Gosh, James, what an amazing story. In 2011, my wife insisted on never using the credit card, so we paid cash for everything except maybe 2 dinners, and it worked great. Cash is quite simple in Europe.
Paul, I generally use the ATM for street money and my AMEX for the big ticket items like art work and nice evenings out. The idea of being in public and pulling out 200 euro to pay a bill just feels wrong for some reason. The thing in the gypsy market was unforgivably stupid and the Ritz meal was legit, it just cost what it cost. That one instance was one purchase in about 400 days of travel, mostly in Europe.
Yeah, James, I agree. My wife tends to be very conservative and concerned about danger, etc. I am much less so. Europe, for the most part, is a wonderful place where I have always enjoyed myself. Of course, there was the Turkish/Eastern guy in Vienna. I was there on the last day of our trip. We were trying to find our apartment. I suddenly realized that we were going the wrong way, and being from SD, did a u-turn to go back. There was this Mercedes about 100 Yds down the road, and he came right up and got on my bumper. He followed me closely for about 10 blocks, and then was going to turn left. I went straight and he came after me again. I found the apartment, but since he was right there, I didn't stop. Well, I finally found a cop who spoke English, and the cop convinced the guy to leave, and I did not get arrested. I did not park on the street that night. But that was the only weird thing to happen in the last 30 years, with 6-7 trips to France, Germany, Austria, Hungary, etc.