Here I go...

Finding magic under the stars of the Camino Santiago de Compostela

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Money on the Camino - 2018

When my friend arrived in Spain for the first time,
her fare was €2 and she "tipped" the taxi driver the "quarters"
which amounted to about €8!!

When I arrived in Portugal the first time,
I paid the taxi driver €20 for a €2 fare.

For many, learning to use Euros takes a few days.
The money looks different.

Why not do some studying BEFORE you leave for Europe.

Here are what Euros look like.


The bills are not too difficult. 
They are clearly marked and in colors! 
 When you take €300 from an ATM machine, 
you generally will get one €100, two €50, 
and five €20 bills. 

Albergues and tiny tiendas are not going to want to change your €100 bills, 
so try to get them exchanged in a large supermarket or bank.

Albergues and tiendas also will NOT take credit cards.
They operate on a cash-only basis.

Private albergues will sometimes take cards,
as will hotels.
So if you're booking hotels, 
a credit card is fine.


Here is a photo of American coins next to Euro coins.

As you can see, both the ONE EURO and the fifty cent EURO 
are approximately the same size as our American quarter.

The TWO EURO coin is larger.

The colors are different also, so pay attention.
Study these now so you don't make mistakes later.
The ONE EURO will become easy to recognize because it is two-toned.


There are ATM machines all along the Camino,
beginning in the airport when you arrive.
As soon as I get through customs,
I find an ATM in the airport and withdraw 200 to 300 Euros.
This will hold me for about a week or 10 days.
In the 11 years I've been walking the Camino,
I've never found it difficult to obtain Euros
in the airport
from the ATM.

I do NOT purchase Euros from a seller in the airport.
I use the ATM

In the airport, there are security guards everywhere,
so you're as safe there as anywhere at home.

On the streets of busy cities,
I'm a little more cautious when I take out my cash.
Places I'd be cautious would be Pamplona,
Burgos, Leon, and maybe Santiago.
You're pretty safe in the smaller villages.
Just be aware of your surroundings.

It is good practice to have a friend stand with you while you take out your cash. 
Before you begin, study where the cash will come out and keep your hand ready
to retrieve both your card and your cash.

If anybody appears to be standing too close or to be watching you, be wary.
Also beware of locals who want to "help" you -
they've been known to grab and run.
These are usually children or young people.
But I had an adult man try the "bird poop" scam on me in Barcelona,
so adults can also be culprits.

When you take your cash out of the ATM, 
Immediately go to a bathroom or to your room 
and put the cash into your money belt IN PRIVATE.
ATMs are watched closely by gypsies, 
especially in the larger cities. 
Not so much to worry about in smaller villages.

I never take cash from the ATM on a weekend.
I've seen cards get eaten 
and then the person is stuck until Monday, 
when the bank opens.

When possible, 
I use the ATMS where you go into a little private cubicle.

The week before you leave for Spain 
be sure to call your bank
and tell them you will be traveling in France (SJPP) and Spain. 
Otherwise, the first time you try to use your card, 
they will think someone has stolen it and will block it 
and you'll be stuck in a foreign country with no money.
 And considering the time change, 
calling your bank to straighten this out can be a huge problem.

ATM machines in Spain use the 4 digit NUMERAL system. 
If your pin uses letters, you will not be able to use most ATM machines in Spain.

Most ATM machines in Spain work just like the ones at home. 
You put in your card, type in your pin number, 
and choose the amount you want. 
Most have English options.

I did this the first time I walked the Camino but I never do this anymore.
I go to Spain every year, sometimes twice, and I never take Euros.
Every international airport will have ATM machines inside.
The Madrid airport has several on different floors.
I've never had a problem getting Euros.

If you DO want to take Euros, 
I suggest no more than €200-€300 to begin with.

That will last you a week on the Camino.


I use Charles Schwab online bank for my travel.
They issue me a card that I can use anywhere and 
If a bank in Europe charges a fee,
Charles Schwab reimburses me at the end of each month.
Charles Schwab also has the best exchange rate I've found anywhere.
And I get that simply by using my ATM card.

Bank fees can add up to hundreds of dollars.
So I suggest you do NOT use your regular bank's ATM account 
unless your bank gives you a special rate.

Exhange Rates
Not only do banks charge fees for using the ATM,
but many also charge a HIGHER EXCHANGE rate.
For example, 
if the regular exchange rate is 1.37, 
the bank might charge 1.50 or higher.
Those pennies along with ATM fees add up.
Call your bank and ask what exchange rate they charge
for international withdrawals.
They will talk around the bush
but eventually you will learn
that most charge a whopping fee
for exchanging cash in a foreign country.

Use a Travel Account.
It's a good idea to keep your travel money
separate from your regular bank account,
just in case your card is compromised.

I know Wells Fargo has a special travel account you can open
to keep your travel cash separate from your regular bank account.
They also offer a travel card that has no fees, so you can call them and check.

But I am in love with my Charles Schwab card.

And… since Schwab only gives you one ATM card,
I'm opening an account with my walking partner this year.
That way he will get a card also in case mine is lost or stolen.
If two of you are traveling, it is smart to have your walking partner carry 
your extra card, in case of problems.

I know I harp on this,
but be aware of girls with clipboards.
It is a scam, and a successful one!
While one "deaf" girl has her clipboard pressed into your belly,
the others will be picking you clean!
So take a wide berth and steer clear of these girls.
They are NOT deaf.
They are pickpockets.

Let me know if you have questions.


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