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Author: NiceI Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 21025  
Subject: Currency question Date: 3/24/2010 5:47 PM
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I'm planning a trip to Scotland this summer and have been watching the Pound against the $$$ for a while now. Just noticing the Euro coming down significantly, though, and I've been wondering whether I can use Euros instead of Sterling? I know I've already had to make my hotel booking for Edinburgh so have to pay that in Pounds, but if I can pay in Euros, I will hold off any more travel arrangements until I get there, exchange my $$$'s for Euros and pay cash for everything else. I've already talked to my bank and cc's, and they say if I use any of my cards, they will automatically convert to "local currency," the Pound, no choice.

Any ideas or does anyone know if Euros are accepted in GB? Thanks in advance.
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Author: grue22 Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 15111 of 21025
Subject: Re: Currency question Date: 3/24/2010 6:29 PM
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Any ideas or does anyone know if Euros are accepted in GB? Thanks in advance.


Some stores may accept Euros, but I can't guarantee what exchange rate you'll get. You're better off using pounds or your credit cards.

When I was living in Europe, we always got pounds at the ATM in the airport for "walking around money".

Grue

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Author: TMFPMarti Big funky green star, 20000 posts Home Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 15112 of 21025
Subject: Re: Currency question Date: 3/24/2010 6:50 PM
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I've already talked to my bank and cc's, and they say if I use any of my cards, they will automatically convert to "local currency,"

While you're talking to them, find out what kind of charge they tack on to the transaction. The last time I went to Europe I did all my conversion here at my bank. My Geezer account entitles me to free traveler's checks and currency exchange, so I went with Sterling denominated traveler's checks and a bit of "off the boat" running around cash in Sterling. I used my fee-free credit card for my hotel, but otherwise I paid cash for everything, cashing the traveler's checks at American Express for no fee and with no conversion runaround except my last day in London, when I cashed the remaining checks and got Euros.

This was 2007, when the Euro was not widely accepted in the UK. I'm told it's different today, but I have no personal knowledge. I do know that nobody wanted US dollars, which came as an unpleasant surprise to many of my fellow tourists on a blazing hot Sunday afternoon in Paris when they couldn't buy a bottle of water or an ice cream from a street vendor. They don't take VISA.

Phil
Rule Your Retirement Home Fool

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Author: barneybetty Three stars, 500 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 15113 of 21025
Subject: Re: Currency question Date: 3/24/2010 10:53 PM
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NiceI,

Scotland's currency is the pound. Your best bet is to pay in Pounds. Don't bother converting currency to Euros to then have them converted to pounds by the vendor. BTW, the pound is falling against the dollar just like the Euro.

A couple of suggestions. Check what your bank charges for cash withdrawals (ATM) oversees. Mine doesn't charge anything, and I get bank exchange rates, no commission. There are ATMs in the airports, and I always hit them as soon as I get off the plane when I travel out of the US. I've been to ~40 countries, and have used a currency exchange once, to get local currency in Oman to buy a visa on arrival. There were no ATMs in the immigration hall.

Also, check that automatic conversion to local currency. That will cost you 3%, just for the convenience of seeing your bill in dollars. At this time, the exchange rate is about 1£ for every $1.49. That's pretty easy to do in your head. Every time you spend 1£ it's really ~$1.50. The credit card I use overseas (CapOne) charges no conversion fees. If I let the vendor convert the charge to dollars, I'd pay an extra 3% every time. Check with your bank about what their fee is, and whether they will charge you that fee in addition to the conversion fee the vendor in Scotland charges you.

The CC companies have been going after foreign transaction fees even on dollar denominated oversees charges. That means you will get 3% charged by the vendor for the convenience of seeing your bill in dollars, and your bank may charge you another 2-4% because the transaction originated outside the US, even though it is in dollars.

Whenever I travel, my mantra is "Local Currency, please" for every purchase, and I have refused to sign dollar denominated slips. I can do the exchange to dollars in my head, and won't pay for the convenience of having someone else do it.

YYMV, but I'm pretty adamant that I'll only pay for services I need, and currency conversion isn't one of them.

BB

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Author: NiceI Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 15114 of 21025
Subject: Re: Currency question Date: 3/25/2010 10:47 AM
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Thanks for the replies, all. I am definately looking into all the silly fees-looking into opening a new checking account just for this purpose-to have a "vacation account" which doesn't charge too much in ATM fees for w/drawing overseas and to use the debit function for as little as possible.

Trip isn't until August, so just trying to line my ducks up; weighing the options and trying to get the best deals. This Euro/Pound thing just caught my eye as the 2 currencies, which are so seemingly connected, aren't falling lock in stride with each other and the Euro is a better deal right now. But if the hassle factor is too high, well, it sounds like it isn't worth it until the spread gets quite a bit better! Thanks again.

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Author: stannius Big red star, 1000 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 15115 of 21025
Subject: Re: Currency question Date: 3/25/2010 4:02 PM
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If there was a discrepancy between the dollar to euro, dollar to pound, and pound to euro exchange rates, I am 100% sure that the markets would step in and arbitrage that difference away before you could hit "refresh" on your browser.

I follow the same strategy as barneybetty, that is, just get some cash at the destination airport. I don't quite travel enough to make it worth having a separate credit card with a 0% transaction fee, but my debit card only charges 1% and that's fine with me.

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Author: richinaz Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 15116 of 21025
Subject: Re: Currency question Date: 3/25/2010 4:36 PM
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This is probably getting a bit off track but if the exchange rate gets to a point where you feel it is extremely good for you, you can always "hedge" it with an ETF currency fund. That would kind of lock you into a rate.

For example (I'm making up these numbers) if one dollar equaled one Euro and you buy $5,000 worth of the FXE ETF. Then if the dollar got weaker by 15%, the fund would increase 15% and you would maintain the original exchange rate. So when you return and your expenses for your trip went up 15%, it would be offset by the 15% gain in the ETF. Obviously there are some commissions, etc. so it wouldn't be exact.

For most people it wouldn't be worth the effort, especially since guessing short term movements of currencies correctly isn't something most (any?) people can do.

As stannius mentioned the markets would not allow inefficiencies between the currencies to last.

Credit Unions generally have the best ATM/Credit Card fees on foreign transactions.

Also when you travel don't let the hotel, resort, etc. bill you in dollars instead of the local currency. They will tell you it is more convenient but you'll almost always will end up getting a poor exchange rate and the credit card company will still charge you the foreign fee since it is being done outside the US.

Rich

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Author: jmbooth2000 Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 15117 of 21025
Subject: Re: Currency question Date: 3/25/2010 9:51 PM
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As some one who was born in the United Kingdom and now lives in the US but returns to the UK most years I can confirm that most stores will not except Euros - a handful of the bigger stores will but there exchange rate will be less than ideal and they will give you your change in pounds anyway.

The best bet is probably a combination of ordering some pounds (or travelers checks) in advance and using a your credit card (but check what charges they add). Some credit cards are very good but others are appalling. Also, remember to tell your credit card company you are going overseas. Some credit card companies will helpfully block your card assuming it has been stolen the first time you use it overseas (not the best start to your vacation). If you do decide to order currency if you are ordering more than a small amount you are best to talk to a specialist vs using your bank (I have seen some very bad exchange rates at US banks). Credit cards (Visa and master card are accepted everywhere but normally aren't used for small amounts). ATMs are also common place and most US cards will work.

Take a tip from a Brit - you don't need to tip like an American in the UK. Even with the current exchange rate you will have enough sticker shock when paying for meals etc. In the UK its not normal to tip at all for meals or drinks. You might put down a small tip (5%) for a really good meal but it isn't the norm. If it makes you feel any better remember unlike the US serving staff get paid the full minimum wage.

Enjoy your trip. I went to university in Edinburgh and its a great city. Don't bother with a car for your time in the city, but do try to get out of the city for a while. The highlands are a short drive away. Depending on how long you are there you could also see quite a bit of the UK (the UK is small in comparison to the US).

Depending on exactly when you are going you migth want to look for the Edinburgh festival. This is a great a event but it does drive prices up a little.

Enjoy
Jonathan

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Author: fleg9bo Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 15118 of 21025
Subject: Re: Currency question Date: 3/25/2010 11:01 PM
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I went to university in Edinburgh and its a great city.

Was it Fettes College by any chance? Or is that even a college by the American use of the word?

--fleg

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Author: NiceI Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 15119 of 21025
Subject: Re: Currency question Date: 3/26/2010 10:39 AM
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Thanks so much for the info. I hadn't thought of the efficiency thing, but it sounds un-doable anyway since there is little acceptance, so I think the idea has hit the "too much trouble" threshold! I know about the blocking thing-had it happen once on a trip just down to Las Vegas. More a PITA than anything, but still unnerving when you're so far from home.

I'm going in August. Definately going to try to get to some Festival events. Definately want to see the Tatoo. Definately being in Edinburgh during Festival time drives up prices above "normal" from what I've been researching! The hotel & B&B rates are ghastly that time of year! I'll be there 2 weeks total, 4 full days in Edinburgh and surrounds, a day or so in the Sterling area, 3 or 4 days in the Inverness area, then the rest kind of up in the air, except to know I want to hook to the west and hit a couple of islands-Skye, maybe Lewis. I spent 7 weeks in South Africa a few years back and am very intimidated with the driving on the left side thing, so getting around the whole countryside and into the highlands is a bit challenging to my planning with public transportation schedules and all. I know European public transport is generally far superior to anything in America, but I've also been stranded on Crete during a transportation strike, so I know how badly a planned trip can quickly go south due to lack of transportation availability!

Cheers, and thanks again.

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Author: fleg9bo Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 15120 of 21025
Subject: Re: Currency question Date: 3/26/2010 11:04 AM
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I want to hook to the west and hit a couple of islands-Skye

We were on the west side of Skye overlooking the Hebrides from atop a cliff on a spectacularly clear and sunny day. I will always remember it as the best scenery I've ever seen.

--fleg

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Author: jmbooth2000 Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 15121 of 21025
Subject: Re: Currency question Date: 3/26/2010 7:49 PM
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Public transport is ok but not perfect. You will significantly limit your options, particularly once you get out of the cities if you aren't willing to drive.

My suggestion minimize the driving in the cities (that where the driving is hardest). You won't need a car for Edinburgh, Stirling and Inverness and public transport should get you between them without too many problems.

Pickup a car in Inverness - its pretty rural up there so the driving won't be too bad and this is the only way you are going to get out into the more remote parts of the highlands. Bite the bullet and pay the extra for an automatic (one less thing to worry about) and full deductible just in case. Take your GPS (make sure it covers Europe) the driving won't be too bad. My tip, remember the driver should never be in the gutter. Its amazing how many people forget about whether they are supposed to be on the left or right but everyone can remember they are supposed to be in the middle as the driver! Only time this fails is if you take a UK across to Europe! If you decide against the car, work out how much the car would cost and be willing to pay this. Given how much your paying for the flights, hotels etc theres no point in skimping on cars.

One option to consider during the festival is the University Halls of Resident. With the students out I know Edinburgh Uni use to let the student rooms. Not exactly 5 star but the goal isn't to spend time in your room anyway.

Make sure you get down into the grass market while you are in Edinburgh. Lots of speciality shops and pubs.

Enjoy

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