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In general, US dollars, euros, pounds sterling and Swiss francs are the most easily exchanged currencies in Europe. You lose out through commissions and customer exchange rates every time you change money, so if you only visit Hungary, for example, you may be better off buying forints straight away if your bank at home can provide them.

Nearly all European currencies are fully convertible, but you may have trouble exchanging some of the lesser known ones at small banks. The importation and exportation of certain currencies (eg Cypriot pounds) is restricted or banned entirely so get rid of any local currency before you leave the country. Also try not to have too many leftover Bulgarian leva, Estonian kroons, Serbian dinar etc, as it can be difficult to change them back into hard currency. Get rid of Scottish and Northern Irish pounds before leaving the UK; nobody outside Britain will touch them.

Most airports, central train stations, big hotels and many border posts have banking facilities outside normal office hours, sometimes on a 24-hour basis. You'll often find automatic exchange machines outside banks or tourist offices that accept the currencies of up to two dozen countries. Post offices in Europe often perform banking tasks, tend to be open longer hours, and outnumber banks in remote places. Be aware, though, that while they always exchange cash, they might balk at handling travellers cheques unless they're denominated in the local currency.

The best exchange rates are usually at banks. Bureaux de change usually - but not always by any means - offer worse rates or charge higher commissions. Hotels are almost always the worst places to change money. American Express and Thomas Cook offices usually do not charge commission for changing their own cheques, but may offer a less favourable exchange rate than banks.


Nothing beats cash for convenience...or risk. If you lose it, it's gone forever and very few travel insurers will come to your rescue. Those that do, limit the amount to somewhere around US$300/UK£200..

It's still a good idea, though, to bring some local currency in cash, if only to tide you over until you get to an exchange facility or find an automatic teller machine (ATM). The equivalent of, say, US$50 or US$100 should usually be enough. Some extra cash in an easily exchanged currency (eg US dollars or euros) is also a good idea, especially in Eastern Europe.




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