Have Cash on Hand
(contact the issuing bank to enable this feature and get a PIN). The Cirrus (& 800/424-7787; www.mastercard.com) and PLUS (& 800/843-7587; www.visa.com) networks span the globe; look at the back of your bank card to see which network you're on, then call or check online for ATM locations at your destination. Before you leave home, make sure the PINs on your bank- and credit cards will work in Europe; you usually need a four-digit code (six digits may not work in Europe). Also find out your daily withdrawal limit before you depart, and keep in mind you can only access your checking account (not savings) from ATMs abroad.
Although ATMs usually give a better exchange rate than banks or exchange services, remember that many banks impose a fee every time a card is used at a different bank's ATM, and that fee can be higher for international transactions (up to $5 or more) than for domestic ones (where they're rarely more than $2). On top of this, the bank from which you withdraw cash may charge its own fee.
We usually rely on ATMs, but we also find it's a good idea to have some cash or traveler's checks just in case of emergency (or in case the bank computer lines are down).
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