Since I'm leaving next week and have gotten good replies on my last post, the only I need to know now is where is the best place to exchange cash? Thanks!
Edit--don't take lots of cash. Just use the ATM when you need money.
For the thousandth time, don't take cash with you unless you are fairly wealth so that exchange rates don't mean anything to you.
I thought the exchange rate would be the same for ATM withdrawal or dollar exchange. Isn't that right? I realize it might be safer to use an ATM, but even though Capital One doesn't charge to w/d funds, probably the ATM has its own fees. That's why I was thinking of taking mostly cash.
Any other thoughts on this?
There's usually a small bank-to-bank exchange fee, but you'll still get a much better rate from your own ATM than if you exchange the money in person. A select few banks (USAA and possibly Navy Credit Union) do not charge any exchange fee, although they do not advertise this. Unless your bank card does not work in European ATMs (which is rare), there is no good reason these days to use a bureau de change.
Use the ATMs! If you exchange cash you will incur sometimes huge fees. ATMs in other countries don't charge fees for their use, but you may see a "foreign fee" on your bank statement just like you'd see if you used out-of-network ATMs at home. (My local credit union charges a one-time fee if I use an out-of-network ATM more than three times in a month.) When you use an ATM you get the rate for that day. This could change slightly over the course of your trip, but probably not enough to notice.
Carrying a lot of cash just isn't smart or safe. Nor does it make economic sense. Check with your bank to make sure you know what your daily withdrawal limit is (and know what that converts to in the local currency), and ask them to raise it while you are traveling if it's not high enough. Use a credit card for big things like your hotel bill, and use the ATM for your daily cash needs.
Thanks everyone for all your advice. It has been a big help!