This summer was my first ever time to Europe, and really the first time I dealt with a currency difference. Previously, when I traveled to the Dominican Republic, I had just stayed at a resort and did all of my tipping, booking etc in American money. Here are a few tips for you on how to handle your money, and things to remember. All of these I either struggled with or learned during my time in Europe!
1.Just because you are spending 6 Euros does NOT mean you are spending 6 dollars.
We struggled with this the first few days. We had a budget of 50 dollars each, and found ourselves then spending 50 euros, which actually equated to about 55 US dollars. We had been keeping track of the Euros we were spending and not how much we were spending in American dollars. Luckily we caught this in the first few days! Rookie Mistake! Familiarize yourself with the currency exchange!
2. You should budget for 10 dollars more a day than you want to
Despite Jack and I both only wanting to spend 50 dollars a day each, we found that we were being a little too stingy. Sure, we were still eating and doing activities, but found ourselves sacrificing things like shopping or getting an extra glass of wine or desert! After our two meals a day (breakfast was included at the hotels and hostels) we found that we didn’t have much left over to spend on ourselves!
3.Keep Track of How Much your are Spending!
When we first arrived in Europe, we went a little overboard because we were SO excited. Despite your excitement, remember you made a budget for a reason. You will regret it later when you still have two weeks left of your vacation and ZERO money to spend for that duration. The way we recorded our spending was through a note tab on my iphone. I tracked every meal, activity, excursion, gelato purchase, snacks etc. This really helped Jack and I stick to our budget and make it last throughout the duration of our trip.
4.Don’t Forget to Add Tipping into your budget!!
We went on a month long guided tour and knew about the custom of tipping daily tour guides, bus drivers, and our main tour guide. I think this is one thing a few of the people on our tour really forgot about, and then found themselves with a lot less money than they expected or worse not tipping our guides. Our tip is to add these expenses into your initial budget so you will end up with more money to spend on fun things like shopping or yummy food!
5.Bring some extra money to splurge on yourself!
I like to pride myself in my gift giving, especially when it comes to souvenirs. I am always so careful about picking out the best gifts to bring back during my travels. During my trip, while I splurged on some things, I really held back and didn’t buy nice things for myself because I didn’t want to eat up my budget. Bring some extra YOU money to get yourself some nice things, you will appreciate it when you get home.
6.Don’t carry around more than 100-200 Euros or whatever currency at a time
During our month long trip, a few of our travel companions lost their wallets. Even when you are being careful, it’s possible to drop something, have it stollen or even lost. If you are carrying all of your money on you at once, you’re a real risk taker. Plus, you really don’t need more than that for a day unless you’re really living the lavish life.
7.Bring and carry around change
One big surprise for us in Europe was PAYING for public bathrooms. Often times they charge you money to use them and a lot of times don’t accept bills. So if you’re someone who doesn’t feel like going back to your hotel every time you have to pee, make sure you are carrying some coins with you!
8.Take out larger sums of money so you can avoid ATM fees
While your card will work a majority of the places you go to in Europe, make sure you are watching your bank account/talking to the teller before you go to see what your international ATM fees and regular transaction fees are. In my case, it was often cheaper for me to use my card versus taking out cash for my smaller purchases. With that being said, many restaurants, locals, activities etc only accept cash. When you are withdrawing cash, make sure you are making the most of that transaction and taking out more money so you don’t lose a bunch of money because of ATM withdraw fees.
9.Watch where you are exchanging your money
While Jack and I never had any issues, a few people in our group found that some people/money exchange places were a huge rip off. Often times their exchange rates and fees are very high. In addition, some places may just give you the wrong amount of money in general because they know you are usually unfamiliar with the currency. We typically found that our tour guide only allowed us to exchange at verified places in order to keep the fees low, and ensure we weren’t getting ripped off.
10. Familiarize yourself with the local currency so you know what your change should be/feels like!
It is so important to familiarize yourself with the exchange rate for your USD to whichever currency you will be using in order to make sure that you know what you’re spending in relation to USD. We did this in order to determine what to order, buy etc to stick to our budget of 50 US dollars. It also helps when you are receiving change, paying etc to know what you are doing. LASTLY, remember that in Europe many of your coins are worth a LOT more than they are here, so be careful where you’re tossing them! During our trip, we stopped at a Macdons, and accidentally threw away 6 euros in coins because we forgot it was on the plate/figured it was only a couple cents. NOPE.