International phone and data charges can cost almost as much as your trip. Do research before you go to save yourself the exorbitant fees. There are options. U.S. wireless carriers offer International plans if you have a world GSM phone or iPad. Some available options: $$$$ If you have a World GSM phone, use your own carrier and phone. Sign up for international minutes and data usage with your provider.
- $$$ If you have access to an unlocked world GSM phone – buy a World, Country or local SIM card.
- $ Purchase a local SIM card once your arrive. SIM cards are available at phone stores, kiosks, and Tabac’s.
- $$ Purchase a World, Europe, or Country SIM card before you leave from various sites such as OneSimCard.com, maxroam.com, telestial.com, cellularabroad.com or others. The cost of the SIM and the rates will be higher than buying locally, but they are cheaper than most US providers.
- $$$ Rent an international phone. A few of the websites mentioned above will rent you a phone and SIM for your trip.
- $ Most hotels offer wifi and will be included if available. Wireless is by far the cheapest method. Use Skype or email to stay in touch.
Europe uses 220v electricity. Be sure to have the correct adapters and transformers for the countries to which you are traveling.
- France & Italy – electrical outlets accept a plug with two round pins.[/li] [li icon=”icon-dot” color=”6aabb0″]Great Britain & some other European countries have a plug with 3 prongs (not the same as the US grounded 3 prong plug.)
- Many wireless phone & tablets chargers and travel appliances are made to vary between 110-240v, so only an adapter would be required. These appliances automatically convert the voltage. Please check your chargers to verify the voltage.
- Other appliances may be only 110v and would need a transformer for the correct voltage in addition to an adapter. Check the voltage listed on your appliance to prevent damaging your equipment.
Credit cards and ATM’s are usually the cheapest way to pay for your trip to Europe. However, Europe is changing their credit card system from the magnetic strip that we are all familiar with, to a new EMV (Europay-MasterCard-Visa) or chip and pin system. These new credit cards have a small microchip embedded and a pin number is required to process the transaction. Many restaurants, shops and train stations in Europe are using these systems potentially causing trouble for US travelers. Waiters now bring a handheld device to your table where they slide in the card and you enter your pin number. But these machines may not accept the magnetic striped cards. We found most locations would accept our card after we indicated that it was a US based credit card which may need to be processed on another machine or by swiping the card rather than inserting it.
NOTE: If you are a frequent traveler, consider getting a card with both the strip and the chip. A few U.S. banks are incorporating this new technology, but you will have to ask for a new card to be sent to you with the chip. Do research if you want one of these cards, since many customer service agents at the banks are still unaware of the technology. Some banks only have the chip in certain cards directed toward travelers- a few of which come with hefty fees. After doing some calling around we found that Citibank, Chase, and Bank of America do have this technology. I found Citibank to be the most knowledgeable and provided many of their cards with the chip. *Be sure to know your pin numbers for your ATM and credit cards**
- Cash is still king. Euros are accepted everywhere.
- It is always good to leave home with a few euros in your pocket, but it’s cheaper to buy euros once you arrive by withdrawing from an ATM machine. These usually provide the best exchange rate.
- Many banks in the US no longer carry foreign currency on site but will order them for you, but the cost is high.
- We have purchased euros from Wells Fargo Bank online (https://www.wellsfargo.com/foreignexchange/). It is an easy process and our euros were delivered to my home the next day by FedEx. Their rates were much more competitive than our local bank. (Be aware if you use a credit card to buy euros online it will be charged to your card as a cash advance. We suggest using a debit card.
- Check with your bank for additional foreign transaction fees. Cash advances from credit cards often have high transaction fees in addition to exorbitant interest rates…try to avoid a credit card cash advance.
- Another option is to find a CHANGE office to exchange US dollars for Euros once you arrive. The fees can be high in these offices and the closer you are to the main tourist areas the higher they will be.