We covered this topic back in Episode 5, but that was a long time ago and the questions keep coming, so I thought I’d revisit and add my two cents (you can do the conversion to euros on your own ; ).
Most travelers feel more comfortable with at least a bit of local currency on hand (that’s euros in the Republic and Pounds Sterling in Northern Ireland). For a fee, your home bank can easily exchange your money, just contact them in advance to make sure they have the currency.
I must confess, I don’t usually hop on the plane with euros in my pocket. Instead I travel with about $200US (usually less). It’s enough to cover expenses if I get stranded for a day or two in either the US or Ireland, and it’s an amount I can afford to lose if, God forbid, something unpleasant were to happen. Today, that $200 translates to 148 euro and 133 pounds.
If you choose to carry US dollars, you should march passed the bureau du change kiosks and find an Irish bank (they have branches right in the airport and just about every Irish town). In my local bank in Nenagh, Co Tipperary, they even have a special line for people like you, but you’ll probably get stuck behind the old woman on her way to Fatima who insists the teller give her Portuguese euros instead of Irish euros (I’m not making that up).
Credit Card is King
Unless you feel comfortable with thousands of dollars or euros stashed in your Rick Steves-approved money belt, credit cards are the way to go. Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted at stores, restaurants and hotels. Plus, purchases are protected based on your credit card contract, it’s easier to dispute any questionable charges and you might even wrack up points (hopefully, you know how to redeem them).
You’ll still need cash for incidentals and for any B&Bs, pubs or attractions that don’t take cards. That’s where the debit card and a trip to the ATM every couple of days comes in handy. The best rates are usually available at an ATM attached to an Irish bank rather than in a pub or news agent, and most banks don’t charge a fee for withdrawal.
There are some credit/debit card fees you should know about. Your bank will likely charge a fee for charges made in a foreign currency… usually less than 2%. And there’s a particularly expensive fee called the Dynamic Currency Exchange where merchants in Ireland present your slip with the total already converted to dollars. It’s handy and accurate, but it usually means you’ll be paying the worst possible exchange rate – you can ask the merchant to rerun the charge in the local currency.
Does Anyone Still Use Travelers Checks?
Well, old-timer, let me assure you that your travelers checks will work just fine in Ireland. Here’s the catch; you’ll want to exchange them for euros or pounds at Irish banks. Many hotels, restaurants and B&Bs don’t take travelers checks… no matter what their currency.
I wish there was a magic formula that could tell you exactly how much you will spend in Ireland. So much depends on where you travel, where you stay and what you like to do.
I will throw out a guestimate for one person going middle of the road (does not include airfare and car rental):
$50 (B&B) + $40 (meals) + $30 (transportation + attractions) = $120/day
I’ll repeat, $120/day, is just a guess. I’ve had one-night hotel stays that cashed in at over $120, and I’ve been able to go for a week without crossing the $400 mark.
Okay, now that this money thing is sorted out, it’s time for you to start doing the fun part of travel planning — choosing your amazing destination on the Emerald Isle. Have fun!
Feel free to leave your suggestions for handling finances in Ireland in the comments section below.