When you travel to a country in Europe you will need to exchange money from your currency to the European Union's euro. There are a few things to consider including current exchange rates, fees associated with money exchanges and safety when exchanging or getting money in Europe.
The best way to exchange money in Europe begins before you ever set foot in Europe by checking fees and current rates. The actual exchange however is best done once you arrive in Europe.
Check exchange rates and fees.
Check the exchange rates of the Euro in real time using a website such as the one included in the References section below. These rates will show you what the current exchange rate is--that is, how much you will get in Euros for each U.S. dollar that you want to exchange.
You will also want to check with your credit card issuer and bank if you will be using the cards or using an ATM while in Europe. Your card issuers and ATM bank card issuer will need to be made aware of your travels.
Your issuer or bank will also be able to tell you how much it charges in fees to use your card overseas and how much it charges when you take money out of an ATM in Europe. In some cases, the fee associated with withdrawing a few hundred dollars from an ATM from your bank account may be far less than the fees associated with exchanging cash.
Of course you will want to limit the number of withdraws you do while in Europe or else the fees can begin to add up. Your particular bank or card issuer will provide up to date fee information.
Keep in mind that the current exchange rate can change on a daily basis. Also currency exchange centers that are privately owned or in a hotel or airport may have a worse exchange rate that an European bank.
Exchange cash currency once you get there.
The exchange rates in the United States for the Euro will not be as good as the rates once you get there. Exchange rates in currency exchange centers in hotels and airports will be some of the worse rates available, either at home or abroad.
If you intend to cash to exchange, you will want to visit an exchange center outside of the airport or hotel area. Local banks often offer the best exchange rates. As a last resort you can visit independent currency exchange businesses but their rates are usually higher than the local banks.
All exchange locations should have current rates and any fees clearly marked and visible to the customers. Keep in mind that you may end up spending more money by exchanging small amounts of currency at a time as the fee is usually a set rate or percentage.
However, if you have determined that the fees associated with getting money from an ATM is lower than the exchange rate or fees, you should simply take money from the ATM with your bank card.
Safety and Exchange
Tourists are a perfect target for pickpockets and thieves while in Europe. If using an ATM, make sure that you check your surroundings carefully. Store the money in a secure inner pocket and be sure that you end the transaction completely before walking away from the ATM.
When at a local bank or a currency exchange center, never walk outside with the euros visible. Also never announce how much money you are trying to exchange.