With the current day ATMs, the modern Euro and the economic status of the countries and the world, converting cash and currency when travelling to another country has changed immensely. Gone is the day of traveler’s checks and AmExCo is a dinosaur.
Traveler’s checks are old and outdated and should be history. It’s not worth the hassle to check them, i.e. the long lines and bank fees. Go with ATMs.
Cash Exchanges should be minimal or zero for that matter. A percent of the total amount exchanged will be deducted whenever you change dollars to another foreign currency. Most banks take 8 percent off and currency exchange booths like Forex and Travelex take at average 15 percent. If your changing cash, postal banks inside post offices offer best exchange rates.
Smart travelers don’t buy foreign currency in advance. It might make you feel more secured but it’s always better if you wait until you’ve arrived to get them instead of getting lousy stateside exchange rates. All European airports have ATMs.
Use local currency. Stores will always have the worst exchange rates of all places. Unconsciously, you’re just exchanging money, albeit at an even more terrible rate, even coming up to 20 percent, every time you use foreign currency.
Figure out currency conversions. All currencies are decimalized and have a logical system of exchange. A currency converter would be a good thing but not totally necessary, a 5-minute coin examination would suffice, you just need the rough conversion estimate. Tip for beginners would be that bigger coins almost always denote bigger value, and a hundred little ones would almost always amount to every big one.
Be a bit familiar with the rough conversion of the unit of currency to US dollars. Ten euros is about fifteen dollars, compute and budgeting according to this method will be second nature to your travels given that you practice the skill. If you master this, you’ll be comfortable with the local currency in no time.
Always assume the worst of the people behind cash tellers and the like. Assume you will be shortchanged everywhere, especially if you don’t do your own figuring. Most people in booths and turnstiles have no problem shortchanging clueless tourists.
Foreign coins have no value once you left the country. Though you can always use it as a souvenir but what would you do with a pocketful of them really? Spend your change for food, drink or a ride, change them into bills or buy a souvenir out of them. Big value-coins are common in Europe and can be your most expensive mistake. However, Euro coins each have a national side (indicating where they were minted), they are perfectly good in any country that uses the euro currency.
Bring in-case-of-emergency US dollars. It won’t be used for day to day purchases but it is really handy if you have some in case of emergencies such as when your ATM card gets lost or broken or in extreme circumstances national strikes or emergencies. Hard cash is hard cash and most people will always know roughly how much your dollar is worth. If local banks don’t have exchange services, you can exchange your money at airports or train stations.
Exchange any foreign currency left at the end of your trip. Change it to dollars or just spend it at the airport before your flight home. You might opt to get more from your foreign money exchanging at your local bank but it’s more convenient to just travel with local money in your person.