We’re considering the Eastern Europe tour. However, most of the countries on the tour, with exception of Slovenia (using euro), have their own currency. Since we don’t really do any shopping, we mainly need local currency for lunch or dinner. We can often use a credit card, but some places may not take credit cards or the amount is too small. How did people juggle the different currencies. Going to an ATM to get a small amount of cash in each country can get expensive. Plus you are stuck with leftover currencies from several countries. Thanks.
The best answer is, yes, you are correct. Except for maybe the ATM costs if you stay away from Dynamic Conversion schemes. You can make your last stop in each country a charity and give a little back. But, honestly, your credit card will suffice 95% of the time.
There are certainly ATM options that don't cost anything or not much. Many credit unions offer free ATM withdrawals with only a 1% currency conversion fee. (The ATMs in Europe generally don't charge any fee; I've never paid one over the years.) The Andrews Federal Credit Union debit card charges no per-use fee and no currency conversion fee. With a card like that, you can take out only small amounts when needed in each country and not worry about fees.
You can use your credit cards most of the time and maybe get just a small amount of currency in each country. Make sure you have a credit card that charges no foreign transaction fees, if possible.
Will you have small amounts of currency left over at the end from various countries? Maybe. Sometimes you can buy candy or something as you are leaving the country. Even so, you can change whatever remains at the end, if you have much left, at a currency exchange place, and just pay whatever crazy fees they charge. Consider it a tiny extra cost of the trip.
There is another exception. On the tour you go via Slovakia. You don't stay overnight but you stop there. They also use Euro.
When I did this tour in 2012, the guide (Peter Polczman) gave us a handout on the first day with a detailed itinerary and suggested money needs. He noted stops where getting money would be idea, where you could exchange money for your next stop, and when to offload the last bits of your currency (at rest stops, for example). It may be different now, but cash was preferred for most places. I didn't find it terribly difficult and it was actually fun (like Europe in the old days!). If you're worried about ATM fees, there are plenty of suggestions in other posts about banks with low or no foreign transaction fees.
We did this tour last fall, 2017. We had a similar experience as CL mentions with a different guide. He provided an itinerary at the beginning with expected expenses for each country. Every time we entered a new country, he would either have the bus driver stop at an area where ATMs were available, or he would point them out in each town as we arrived. He would also note the last options for spending money as we were getting close to leaving each country. Most of the time we had just the right amount of cash that we needed. Our ATM card worked fine in every country we visited and I don't recall anyone having any problems. At the end of the trip anyone who had lose change leftover could donate it and our guide donated it to charity. The guides are well prepared for helping out with currency issues as you move from one country to another. This was a wonderful trip. Enjoy!
I think you should first check how many of your lunches and dinners are already covered by the tour. It doesn't seem to me like this will be as big an issue as it seems, but you'll always need some small change for incidentals. The biggest barriers are getting a bank account that doesn't rip you off on overseas ATM withdrawals (easy to overcome because there are many choices out there) and getting skilled at estimating how much money to take out at once in the first place (that, unfortunately, takes practice and knowledge about roughly how much various things cost in each of these countries). I only take out cash in small amounts and as I need it because my credit union doesn't punish me for several withdrawals. If I have cash left over, I save it for another trip. I went on an independent trip to Bosnia, Croatia, and Montenegro (all different currencies) and don't recall coming back with much change at all.
First off, if you are worried about fees for getting cash from ATMs, get an account somewhere that doesn't fee you to death. Most ATMs in Europe, at least so far, do not charge a fee for use. You only have to worry about what your bank charges you. There are many banks out there that charge zero or close to it for ATM withdrawals in Europe. Capital One 360 and Charles Schwab accounts both have zero fees they even absorb the fees the card networks charge. I use Capital One 360 as a travel account, funding it as needed for my travels through Europe. I have never paid any type of fee for any ATM withdrawal in Europe with this account.
As another mentioned, the guide provided suggested costs for each country visited for them to decide how much cash to withdraw. Hopefully yours will do the same. And remember, you can exchange your leftover cash when you get home at your bank (most large banks anyway). Check with them to see if they can do exchange. Or at worst, use the airport exchange booth when leaving Europe. You might not get much for it, but it you don't want to hold onto it that is an option. But remember, no one exchanges coins so make sure you spend all of those unless you want to keep some as souvenirs.
I love the tour member comments regarding suggestions from the RS Guide on money issues. I've not taken this tour but had the experience on the 21Best of Europe where the guide did the same thing for Swiss Francs - told us where the last place was we could use Euro (coming from Italy), stopped at an area with ATMs and gave us a heads up on when the last opportunity was for us to spend Swiss Francs before returning to Euro-land.
Excellent of the guide to collect the leftovers for a charity! i just checked with my bus driver to see if he had any more trips to Switzerland after mine (he did) and gave him my extra.
I disagree with Mark. I don't think many of us have accounts at institutions that will accept the currencies of central (formerly "eastern") Europe and exchange them for dollars, even at a poor rate. If you do miscalculate, you'll do better to keep your eyes open for a kantor (money exchange) before you leave the country. With luck you'll be able to exchange the excess for the currency you need for your next stop, and at a decent rate.
I suspect, but do not know for sure, that the rate you get will be better if you have more than a paltry amount to exchange. I've seen posted rates in that part of Europe that looked remarkably reasonable, but I don't see now anyone can operate on a 1% margin unless substantial sums are involved. So be sure you know all the fees involved before committing yourself. Know the official value of the currency (per the internet) so you can make an informed decision about whether the kantor's offer is acceptable.
We were in the Czech Republic this past March. Many stores posted both Euros and Czech Koruna prices for each item, and even if not posted, most would take Euros.
I found it was convenient to carry small change purses and to keep the currencies separate.
For restaurants , we would often hand them a credit card, and they would then say "no cards", so check in advance. I had a feeling they would have taken the card if we had said we were out of that currency.
It's good to go home with Euros, because you are then prepared in advance for the next trip!
I took this tour in 2016 and my experience was the same as mentioned above. At the beginning of the tour, our guide gave us a itinerary with a suggested amount of money one would need for each country where the currency was not the Euro. It worked out fine for everyone. He also would either point out or lead us to ATMs once we were in each country. There was one point where several members of the group had too much money left over and our guide had the driver stop at a border point where we could exchange money and yes, you do loose some when doing that but no one had huge amounts. If you have loose change, buy a candy bar or something! I don't remember what my transaction fees ended up being, but it wasn't awful as I use Capital One debit card and have no foreign transaction fees with it.
It is a wonderful tour, enjoy.
I just took this tour last month. No need to worry at all about the different currencies. Our guide let us know how much money we needed forr each country and she pointed out the ATM’s we should use. She always told us to use one that was attached to a bank. We used a combination of cash and a credit card. We used the card for shopping and restaurants that took a cc. My card does not charge a conversion fee. By only taking out what our guide advised we didn’t have too much left over. My daughter and I were quite surprised at some of the amounts because when we converted it to USD ...it wasn’t that much. There were a few rest stops on the bus rides, where you needed cash for the restrooms. If you do have any money leftover, you do have the opportunity to use it at the last rest stop as you are leaving that country. We bought snacks for the bus ride. We also kept some coins as souvenirs.
There is an app called “Globe Convert” which came in very handy. This is a wonderful trip and I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.