Traveling to Europe can be an amazing experience full of new sights, sounds, cultures, and cuisines. One important consideration when planning your trip is how much cash to bring with you.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: the recommended amount of cash to bring to Europe is €200-€300 for each week you’ll be traveling. This provides a buffer for any cash-only expenses while allowing you to rely primarily on debit/credit cards.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about managing money in Europe, including:
Understand How You’ll Be Using Cash
When planning your trip to Europe, it’s important to consider how you’ll be using cash during your travels. While credit cards are widely accepted in most places, there are still instances where cash is necessary or preferred. Here are some key considerations for using cash:
Paying for incidentals like taxis, snacks, etc.
While many businesses in Europe accept credit cards, it’s always a good idea to have some cash on hand for small purchases or incidentals. Taxis, street vendors, and smaller establishments may only accept cash, especially in more rural or remote areas.
Having a small amount of local currency can save you from the hassle of finding an ATM or dealing with currency exchange fees.
Tipping at restaurants and for porters
In Europe, tipping customs vary from country to country. While some countries include a service charge in the bill, others rely on customers to leave a tip. It’s important to have cash available for tipping at restaurants, especially if you receive exceptional service.
Additionally, if you’re staying at a hotel and have porters assisting you with your luggage, it’s customary to tip them as well.
Shopping at markets or small merchants
Visiting local markets or small merchants is a great way to experience the culture and find unique souvenirs. Many of these vendors may only accept cash, so having some on hand will ensure you don’t miss out on any great finds.
Plus, bargaining is common in some markets, and having cash can give you more negotiating power.
Withdrawing emergency funds
While it’s always important to have a backup plan in case of emergencies, it’s especially crucial when traveling. In case of a lost or stolen wallet, having some emergency cash tucked away can be a lifesaver.
Consider withdrawing a small amount of cash as a precaution, and keep it in a secure place separate from your main funds.
Remember, it’s important to be mindful of your safety when carrying cash. Keep your cash in a secure location, such as a money belt or hidden pocket, and only carry the amount you’ll need for the day. If you need to withdraw cash, try to do so from reputable ATMs in well-lit and busy areas.
Factor in Your Destinations
When planning a trip to Europe, it’s important to consider your destinations and how they will impact your overall budget. The cost of living can vary significantly between Western Europe and Eastern Europe, so it’s essential to factor this into your calculations.
Western Europe vs Eastern Europe costs
Western European countries such as France, Germany, and Italy tend to be more expensive than their Eastern European counterparts like Poland, Hungary, and Czech Republic. This price difference can affect everything from accommodation and transportation to meals and activities.
So, if you’re traveling on a tight budget, you might consider spending more time in Eastern Europe to make your money go further.
According to a study conducted by Numbeo, the cost of living in Western European cities like Paris and London is approximately 30% higher than in Eastern European cities like Budapest and Prague. This means that your daily expenses, such as meals and transportation, are likely to be more affordable in Eastern Europe.
Big cities vs small towns
Another factor to consider is whether you’ll be spending most of your time in big cities or smaller towns. Big cities tend to have higher prices for accommodation and dining options, while smaller towns often offer more budget-friendly options.
So, if you’re looking to save money, consider staying in smaller towns and taking day trips to nearby cities.
In addition, smaller towns often offer a more authentic and off-the-beaten-path experience. You’ll have the opportunity to immerse yourself in local culture and traditions, and you may even find hidden gems that are not overrun by tourists.
This can be a great way to make the most of your budget while also enjoying a unique travel experience.
Touristy spots vs off the beaten path
Lastly, consider the balance between visiting popular tourist spots and exploring off-the-beaten-path destinations. While famous landmarks and attractions can be must-see experiences, they can also come with a higher price tag. Entrance fees, guided tours, and souvenir shops can quickly add up.
On the other hand, venturing off the beaten path can lead to incredible discoveries and cost savings. Exploring lesser-known destinations often means finding more affordable accommodations, dining options, and activities.
Plus, you’ll have the chance to discover hidden gems and have a more unique travel experience.
Ultimately, the amount of cash you should take to Europe will depend on your personal preferences, travel style, and budget. By considering factors such as the cost differences between Western and Eastern Europe, big cities versus small towns, and touristy spots versus off-the-beaten-path destinations, you can make informed decisions that will help you get the most out of your European adventure without breaking the bank.
Have a Mix of Denominations
When traveling to Europe, it is important to have a mix of different denominations of cash. This will ensure that you are prepared for various situations and have the appropriate amount of money for different expenses. Here are a few tips on how to have a well-rounded mix of denominations:
Bring plenty of €10 and €20 notes
€10 and €20 notes are widely accepted in Europe and are the most commonly used denominations for everyday purchases. By having a good supply of these notes, you will be able to easily pay for meals, souvenirs, and other small expenses without needing to rely on change.
Avoid large bills to make change easier
While it may be tempting to bring a few €50 or €100 notes for emergencies, it is best to avoid using these large bills for everyday transactions. Many smaller businesses, such as cafes and local shops, may not have enough change to break these bills.
By using smaller denominations, you can avoid any potential inconvenience or delays in making payments.
Bring some coins for buses, toilets, etc.
In many European cities, you may come across situations where you need to pay with coins for services like buses, public toilets, or luggage lockers. It’s a good idea to have some coins on hand to avoid any unexpected difficulties.
You can exchange a small amount of cash for coins at the airport or withdraw them from ATMs once you arrive.
Remember, having a mix of different denominations will give you more flexibility and convenience during your trip. It’s always a good idea to check with your bank or credit card company about the best ways to obtain the local currency before you travel.
Additionally, be cautious of your personal belongings and keep your cash stored securely to avoid any potential loss or theft.
Use ATMs Strategically
When traveling to Europe, it’s important to have a plan for accessing cash. One of the most convenient and cost-effective ways to get cash is by using ATMs. Here are some strategies to help you make the most of your ATM withdrawals:
Withdraw what you need for a few days at a time
Instead of taking out a large sum of cash all at once, it’s better to withdraw smaller amounts that will last you for a few days. This way, you won’t have to worry about carrying around large amounts of money and you’ll have a better idea of how much you’re spending.
Plus, it reduces the risk of losing all your cash if it gets stolen or misplaced.
Find ATMs with low/no fees
ATM fees can add up quickly, especially if you’re withdrawing cash frequently. To avoid paying excessive fees, look for ATMs that offer low or no fees. Some banks have partnerships with international banks, allowing their customers to withdraw cash without incurring additional charges.
Researching the best ATMs to use in your destination can save you money in the long run.
Notify your bank you’ll be traveling
Before you leave for Europe, make sure to inform your bank about your travel plans. This way, they won’t flag your transactions as suspicious and freeze your account. Additionally, some banks have special international travel services that can assist you if you run into any issues with your cards while abroad.
It’s always better to be proactive and ensure a smooth banking experience during your trip.
Protect Your Cash and Cards
Use a money belt or hidden wallet
When traveling to Europe, it’s important to protect your cash and cards from pickpockets or potential theft. One effective way to do this is by using a money belt or hidden wallet. These discreet accessories can be worn underneath your clothing and provide a secure place to store your money and important documents.
By keeping your cash close to your body, you reduce the risk of it being stolen or lost. Remember to only carry the amount of cash you need for the day and keep the rest safely stored away.
Leave reserve cash/card in hotel safe
Another precautionary measure to protect your cash and cards is by leaving a reserve amount in your hotel safe. This way, even if you encounter an unfortunate situation where your belongings are stolen, you will still have a backup fund to rely on.
It’s always a good idea to carry a photocopy of your passport and any other important documents in the safe as well. This will make the process of replacing lost or stolen items much easier.
Spread out cash and cards in case of theft
In case of theft or loss, it’s wise to spread out your cash and cards among different locations. This means not keeping all your money in one wallet or bag. By doing so, you minimize the risk of losing everything at once.
For example, you can keep some cash in your money belt, some in your backpack, and a few emergency bills in a hidden pocket. This way, even if one location is compromised, you’ll still have access to some funds.
Remember to keep track of where you’ve hidden your money so that you don’t accidentally misplace it.
Protecting your cash and cards while traveling is essential to ensure a stress-free trip. By using a money belt or hidden wallet, leaving a reserve amount in your hotel safe, and spreading out your cash and cards, you can significantly reduce the risk of financial loss.
Remember to always be aware of your surroundings and take necessary precautions to keep your money safe. Traveling in Europe should be an enjoyable experience, and taking these steps will help ensure that your focus remains on exploring and creating wonderful memories.
Deciding how much cash to bring with you to Europe requires planning ahead based on your itinerary and personal spending habits. Following the tips above will ensure you have enough to cover your bases without carrying excess cash.
The key is to primarily rely on debit/credit cards and selectively use cash for small purchases, tipping, and any emergencies. With the right strategy, you’ll be able to comfortably manage your money and focus on creating amazing memories during your Europe travels!