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1. Posted by Ryan5231 (Budding Member 4 posts) 5y

I'm heading to Europe next Monday for a couple months. I'm extremely excited, but have some questions that hopefully y'all can help me with.

1. Money-- Will my bank's debit card work? What's the process I go through so that I can just carry cards? I hate carrying cash, so I doubt I'm going to want to be carrying a wad of euros with me, although I understand I'm gonna have to have some on me at pretty much all times. Do I have to go to a bank when I arrive?

2. Phone-- As I understand it, I can get a sim card and buy some minutes there to call home. Is there anyway I can just get a monthly plan with a company there that will allow me to use a cellphone globally?

3. Necessities-- I figure 3 changes of clothes will be ok. I'm assuming I can wash my clothes at hostels? Is that right? Should I bring a towel or do hostels provide it? What about detergent? Also, do I need to bring my license for anything? My passport should work for everything right?

If there's anything else y'all think could help, by all means, let me know.

2. Posted by GregW (Travel Guru 2634 posts) 5y

Can you tell us where you are from? That would help answer the questions.

You will most likely be able to use your ATM card in Europe, assuming it is on a major network like CIRRUS or PLUS. Check the back of your card to see - you should see a symbol of one of those. Make sure your PIN if 4 digits long. As much as you don't want to carry around a lot of cash, take out as much as you can. This will minimize the amount of fees you have to pay. Note that US and Canadian banks can charge up to $5 per withdrawal.

I wouldn't count on being able to use your ATM card as a debit card. If it has a chip and PIN, you might be able to, but in general it seems that non-European debit cards don't work with debit machines in Europe.

Check out the money matters guide on this site, or this page on about.

On the phone, again you would need to tell us where you are from, but there are US companies that provide world-wide roaming phones and plans. They are pretty expensive, though. You are probably best off just getting a SIM card over here.

Greg

3. Posted by Ryan5231 (Budding Member 4 posts) 5y

I'm from the United States-- New Orleans, LA.

4. Posted by Ryan5231 (Budding Member 4 posts) 5y

Also, I'm gonna be there from Jan. 20- March 10-- are there any must do festivals then?

5. Posted by adam3809 (Budding Member 47 posts) 5y

Hello,

American debit and credit cards work just like in the U.S. Make sure your debt card has a 4 digit pin to get cash out of the atm. Atms often offer the best currency conversion rates, so don't take to much cash over initially so you wont waste money paying high currency conversion fees. Call the card company before you go and tell them you will be travelling abroad. I have met people who didn't and the card company froze the account. I wouldn't bother with a sim card the internet stores all have phones and they usually aren't that much to call back home. You should also look into skype as that is free for skype users to call one another. Also, three pairs of clothes should be fine, I would pack plenty of socks and underwear though. Don't bring detergent most laundry places have some for free or a small fee. Have fun!

6. Posted by andy11 (Full Member 136 posts) 5y

Which countries are you going to?

7. Posted by Ryan5231 (Budding Member 4 posts) 5y

I arrive in Madrid, but from there I have no idea where I'm headed. I have the global pass, so I'm flexible. Any suggestions?

8. Posted by tway (Travel Guru 7274 posts) 5y

Quoting adam3809

American debit and credit cards work just like in the U.S.

Not necessarily. You probably won't be able to use your debit card at a store, but only at an ATM with a compatible network. Europe also uses credit cards with an embedded smart-card chip (which requires that you enter a PIN), but almost everywhere still allows you the old swipe-and-sign method.

Personally, I use my credit card when I'm away to get that day's conversion rate and skip the ATM fees.

I agree that you should just buy phone cards when you're away. They're pretty popular in Europe and can save you a bundle (although they have all kinds of rules and regulations that snip off minutes when you're not looking).

9. Posted by Gelli (Travel Guru 2457 posts) 5y

but almost everywhere still allows you the old swipe-and-sign method.

To a point, yes. But in the UK and Western Europe, that is rapidly changing. It is already impossible in many places (UK and Scandinavia in particular), and will cease almost entirely in some countries in the next 6-18months, for security/anti-fraud reasons.

Occasionally if it is obviously a foreign card they will accept it the swipe/sign option, but increasingly the are just refusing to accept the card.

Also be aware that, for no obvious reason, occasionally foreign cards from certain banks will not work at all in certain towns/machines/countries. For example, at one point a couple of years ago, there was only a single ATM in Budapest (and the whole of Hungary) that accepted cards from a certain American bank, though I have no idea of which one. The machine became known both for long queues of tourists, and as a place for muggings of drunk Americans late at night.... Also, I once spent several days walking around Bucuresti in Romania with a Canadian who's Visa debit card did not work in any machine (my UK one did), and visa were at a loss to explain why it didn't work) and who didn't know her Credit Card PIN. We eventually arranged for her to take out a large sum on her credit card in a casino, waited 30mins, then went to cash in almost all of the chips - it was the only way she could get any money.

So if possible, have more than one card, and from different banks/networks/debit and credit etc, so you have a backup...

10. Posted by tway (Travel Guru 7274 posts) 5y

Quoting Gelli

but almost everywhere still allows you the old swipe-and-sign method.

To a point, yes. But in the UK and Western Europe, that is rapidly changing. It is already impossible in many places (UK and Scandinavia in particular), and will cease almost entirely in some countries in the next 6-18months, for security/anti-fraud reasons.

Dang! Banks here are just starting to introduce smart-card technology. There's a pilot project going on with one of our clients to see how a community reacts to and uses the new card. Most stores are equipped with keypads that accept the technology, and all that's left is for banks to introduce smart cards across the board. Hope they hurry up!!