Does anyone have any experience with money exchange--or not exchange--- in Stockholm, Helsinki, Tallinn, or Copenhagen? We know that we need rubles for Russia but have heard that the other Baltic ports are fairly accustomed to dollars. Would we be better off exchanging for local currency?
We haven't gone on our Baltic cruise yet, but from what I've read, the only country using the Euro is Finland. In Russia, most places seem to take either credt cards or dollars. We're using a private guide in St. Petersburg, and we've been advised that the guide will buy anything for which rubles are needed, and we can reimburse her in dollars. It has sounded like sometimes local currency is needed for local transportation in Stockholm and Copenhagen. Most people seem to get local currency at an ATM, which offers a better exchange rate.
Dear English Cruisers,
That was a bit harsh, don't you think? Lighten up a bit, please. Some of us actually do not know which countries now use the Euro. So, please try not to be so judgemental.
We travelled to the Baltic ports in May. The countries visited have thriving economies and unlike many other ports of call do not rely on tourism. They either have their own currency or the Euro and will accept dollars in exchange bureaus or banks but not in shops.
My recommendation is to take a small amount (approx $20) in local currency to cater for taxi/bus fares (or a beer or two) and then to either exchange additional money into local currency or use a credit/debit card to shop or via an ATM.
I am not trying to be judgemental but 'the world is your oyster so try to embrace it'.
We went in April, and we took about $40 of the currency for each country. We found that a few stores in the shopping district in the old town in Stockholm accepted dollars. We do independent sightseeing, so we found that all of the museums and attractions take credit cards for purchases over $10 U.S. each. If you leave the country with extra paper currency, you can exchange on board the ship, but you'll lose about $6 U.S. per transaction, and the exchange rate is not very good. We recommend exchanging large amounts at a local bank if you need to do that. We found that ATM machines were readily available in every country except for Tallin, Estonia. How much or how little you will need depends on whether or not you need to do independent sightseeing, which I highly recommend that you do using the walking tours on the www.frommers.com web site. English is widely spoken in all of these countries, public transportation is inexpensive and easy to use, and you'll have a great time exploring on your own. I hope you won't let that rude comment you received without provocation from the English Cruisers to affect your desire to solicit info on the message boards. Most of the site users are friendly and not nasty. If you need any additional info, please do not hesitate to let me know. It's a wonderful trip, and I hope you have a great time!
P.S. The cab drivers in Copenhagen take credit cards!! They have a machine in their cab (it's not like the ones that are used in the States), and the transaction goes through electronically at the end of your ride. I recommend this mode of transportation to Tivoli because you won't be stuck on the bus schedule, and it's cheaper. Cabs are readily available as you disembark the ship.
Did you notice whether the ATMs charged the usual $2-3 transaction fee? We're debating whether to use ATMs, credit cards (we heard that some companies are now charging a 7% currency conversion fee, which is outrageous considering that the Interbank service charges 1-2%), or travellers cheques (American Express is offering to convert USDs into their new Euro travellers checks, with NO service charge or conversion fees!)
The first thing we did when we hit each port was go to an ATM (they're never very far) and get a small amount of local currency for incidentals such as local transportation, bottled water, etc.. Most purchases, including food, we did on credit cards (best exchange rates).
The exception to this was St. Petersburg where we were on a Red October tour. Only needed rubles for a few restrooms and our guide took care of that. We only spent money in the Red October store and used a credit card there. (We brought dollars to pay for the tour - there's a 7percent surcharge for paying for the tour with a credit card.)
It's really easy to deal with money on this trip. Don't worry about it.
Nina, you may have already noticed, but I wanted to let you know that there's lots of info on these boards and on shore excursion boards regarding these ports, and they are VERY easy to do on your own, which I highly recommend. If you book and need specific info, I'll be glad to tell you how we saw a lot in each port.
P.S. I had e-mailed DrWong back separately, so if anyone wants the info I sent him regarding conversion, etc., just let me know. I agree with the ATM info above and have more info, including do NOT exchange $$ on the ship unless you want to lose more $$.
Donna provided an excellent summary of her trip - thanks so much!
Got our first bill - Citibank charged $5 per overseas ATM transaction, plus the usual finance charges. For credit card purchases, Citibank charged an additional 2% on top of the 1% Interbank (Mastercard) currency exchange fee. I heard that if I had used my MBNA or CapitalOne card, I could have avoided the 2% charged by Citibank and other "major" banks.
As an American Express card holder, I was able to purchase travellers cheques in Euros. They worked great in Finland and the Low Countries, but caused some confusion in Tallinn, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. We had to find a cash exchange office (good luck trying to find one on a Sunday!), incurring a fee ranging from $2-5 to obtain the local currency.
At the end of the cruise, the ship was offering to exchange Euros for Dollars on a one-to-one basis as a "courtesy" to its passengers. I offered to take the hated Euros off their hands at an identical rate of exchange, but I was rebuffed. :-)
Went to the Ukraine last year, currency is Drakna, and it's very easy to exchange at many money exchange banks. It is also easy to get money( US or Drackna) from many 24 hour tellers. It's the language barrier and the lack of English signs that make it almost impossible to travel unless you're with someone who lives there., good luck, Doug
Oh yeah - Douglas raised a good point about English - our travelling companions ran into some problems with foreign ATMs that didn't provide an option for instructions in English. And heaven help you if you have an alphanumeric PIN code - European touchpads don't always parallel their American counterparts.
Had to laugh about this one. We were at an ATM in Norway, and we were all talking and laughing about how funny it would be if someone got $1,000 instead of $100 or whatever. Well, my husband was apparently not paying attention and did not select the English key (there was one because the others in our group used it) and ended up with $700 instead of $70 in local currency. So we had to find a bank to sell it back.
Also, I forgot to mention this earlier--I hope anyone traveling to Europe has seen the warnings about the plastic devices that thieves can slip into the ATM machines. What happens is that you put your card in the slot, try to enter your PIN, the machine won't work, and your card doesn't come back out. If this happens to you, call your bank immediately because the thieves wait for you to walk away and then pull their plastic device out--they now have your card and have watched you enter your PIN number. You're probably all way too informed to let this happen, and this may be going on in the U.S. too. My husband and I always cover the keypad anyway, but just FYI.