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  #1 (permalink)  
Old July 1st, 2001, 04:22 PM
Uwe Hans Schreiber
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Default European money exchange

We are going on cruise with stops in Italy and France. In addition to our credit cards, (visa) we plan to have some cash on hand for taxis, etc.

Are American dollars accepted or do you recommend that we get french francs and italian lire from our bank before we leave U.S.

We are concerned that currency exchange at ports of call will be too expensive.

What do you recommend?
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  #2 (permalink)  
Old July 2nd, 2001, 12:32 AM
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Admiral
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Posts: 5,238
Default Re: European money exchange

My husband would probably not agree with me on this one, but the amount of "walking around money" most people exchange isn't a big deal on the exchange rate side.

I recommend having local currency at all times. I also recommend carrying a calculator

The ship's purser or a special exchange desk will exchange U$ for you for a fee. Sometimes it's a set amount for the transaction, other times it's a percentage.

Your local bank will sell you what's called a "Tip Pak" of foreign currency in increments of $20. At least that's what our bank does. Depending upon your relationship with your bank the service may be without cost and is at the current exchange rate. Or it might cost a little bit more.

The best exchange rates are (almost always) at American Express offices. But it can be a real pain. Local banks are also good, but the lines are even longer than at AmEx and banks in foreign countries keep some very strange hours and have some strange rules.

I was recently unable to exchange cash (real, green, U$) at a bank in Portugal without a passport or photo ID. The cruise line had my passport and I didn't think to bring my driver's license along. No plans to rent a car I handed the money to a friend who was with us and HAD a photo ID (MasterCard with photo). They refused.

When you think of what you pay for a cruise, a few bucks for exchanging money is just Not A Big Deal.

However, if you are thinking of exchanging several million dollars, I will be happy to accompany you on your next cruise.

pamda -- CruiseMates First Time Cruisers Hostess and Utility Infielder
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  #3 (permalink)  
Old July 2nd, 2001, 10:38 AM
AJ
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Default Re: European money exchange

Many travel articles suggest your "best buy" is with your ATM card as your usage fee and exchange rate are very competetive. Of course, now you have to find an ATM.
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Old July 2nd, 2001, 12:01 PM
Winner
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Default Re: European money exchange

ATMs are everywhere (although different countries have different names for ATM). We just returned from a Baltic cruise and found ATMs in Tallinn Estonia and even in St. Petersburg. The exchange rates on our latest bank statements were very good--better than on board ship and far better than our bank and/or Thomas Cook. My advice: use local ATMs for walking-around money and VISA for shops.
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Old July 2nd, 2001, 01:42 PM
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Admiral
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
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Default Re: European money exchange

Hi, Winner ...

Did interest on the amount you hit the ATM for begin to run immediately as a cash advance? And was there a usage charge?

Thanks.

pamda -- CM Frist Time Cruisers Hostess
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Old July 3rd, 2001, 01:12 PM
MHS4
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Default Re: European money exchange

Winner -- can you provide more details re the ATMs in St. Petersburg? Did they take Master Card? (This is a card we have used through out Europe so I know it "works".) What happened re Russian Customs when you left and returned to the ship? Did you have to declare how much $$ you had? your camera/jewelery/etc?
Were there ATMs at the museums? Did the museum gift shops take Visa or Master Card?
You can see I have lots of questions! Thanks for any info.
Pamda -- our Master Card has always treated ATM cash as a "purchase" not a cash advance. One reason why we are so loyal to this card.
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  #7 (permalink)  
Old July 4th, 2001, 11:10 AM
Uwe Hans Schreiber
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Default Re: European money exchange

Thanks everyone for the feedback on your currency change experiences and also the suggestions. We have decided to work with American Express here in our home town and exchange a couple hundred U.S. $$$ for French and Italian currency, with intent to cover port snacks, cab fares, museum entry fees, etc, etc.
we'll rely our our credit cards for major purchases. This will eliminate standing in lines for currency exchange and searching for ATM's at portside.

By the way, exchanging $500 U.S. dollars into foreign currency is costing us a small fee of $3.00 at American Express, and they will convert leftover currency back into U.S. $$ at no additional fee. You must have an American Express card to do this. Hope this offers others another option to the currency issues for future voyagers.

U H Schreiber
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Old July 10th, 2001, 09:27 AM
flo
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Default Re: European money exchange

I just got back from a cruise that stopped in France and Italy.
Cab drivers were happy to take $$$. For small purchases, drinks, meals, postcards etc. There are pros and cons for exchanging.

Pros, the shop keepers appreciate that you have gone to the trouble to get their money. It is easier to know what you are paying when the price tag is in local currency. It is fun.

Cons: You have to stand in line some where and usually get charged some kind of fee. Some times you have a lot of change left over. The bank on the ship would take paper money but wouldn't buy back coins. You have to keep your money straight and have extra spots to keep it seperate.(I used the ever glamorous small zip locked bags)

Finally if you do have change left you might give it in addition to your tips at the end of the cruise. These guys sometimes have a day off and will be able to use the money to call home or change for a drink etc. on shore. HAVE FUN!
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