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Posted by on Apr 3, 2010 in Budgeting, Q&A | 7 comments

Money Matters in Ireland – How Should I Pay? How Much Should I Bring?

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 ; ).

Cashing Out

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.

Bogus Budget

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.

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7 Comments

  1. Any opinions on the benefit of having a (no fee) bank account with an Irish bank, say Bank of Ireland, for travel in Ireland and other countries in the EU? Using an ATM card from that bank instead of a US bank.

    I have dual citizenship with the US and Ireland so I assume I could do this if there was an advantage.

    Thanks.

  2. What’s wrong with my Rick Steves-approved money belt?

  3. Bill – Liam’s got an Irish bank account which is helpful when it comes to home improvements and paying bills. If you have to transfer $ from the US, I’m not sure there would much benefit if you’re not spending a significant amount of time there. You’d have to do the actual math to see if there is any financial gain… otherwise, the Irish ATM card works just like the US ATM card.

    Also, EU regulations have gotten pretty strict… two years ago you needed proof of residence to open a bank account (long-term lease agreement, utility bill, etc)… or plan to invest a significant amount of money in Ireland. Not sure what changes have taken place since the economy went south.

    Dan – I just wish the money belt came with shamrocks on it and a pot of gold inside ;)

  4. Bill –about the banking situation: both banks in the north and in the republic are required by law to ask for both proof of identity and proof of address, which is meant to be an address in the country/region where the bank is. you could ask about other address arrangements at he bank you’re interested in, of course, and see if they’d go for it. another thing to notice — no fee accounts usually require regular transactions to maintain no fee status.

  5. Thanks for the added info Kerry.

  6. Corey and Kerry,

    Thanks for the info. I actually found a type of account that doesn’t have a fee, but the residency requirement would be a show stopper. I’ll be in Ireland again next month and might inquire, but if there is not any advantage I probably won’t bother.

    I will be traveling to Italy next year and probably other EU countries in the future so I was just toying with the idea. I was also thinking Ireland was the only country I could even consider with citizenship perhaps trumping residency.

    Oh, I was thinking it might be a cool novelty too :-)

  7. We have euros saved from prior trips. But if we didn’t, I would just hit a cash machine over there. In dozens of international trips, we’ve had only one country that did not have a working cash machine at the airport. Canada, of all places. (Montreal)

    Credit cards charge 3% for foreign transactions. That’s pretty steep. There are a few US credit cards that don’t impose the fee – Capital One is an example (if you can stand their advertisements).

    We generally try to pay cash for everything in Ireland except for hotels and auto rental, and use a hotel only the night before returning home.

    And keep your extra euros for your next trip!

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