It’s towards the end of my day before tucking into my warm apartment. The girls and I are both frigid from our walk. We step off the street briefly into the open-air produce market near my house.
I notice the two in front of me. The back of her hair is matted, and my eyes go to the shoes, a telltale sign that either she’s a tourist that just got off a long-haul flight or a local waking up from a nap.
I look up, and my produce man, Monsieur Legumes, is staring at me with panicked, wide eyes. “Can you help me?” he half whispers.
I glance over and see that she has pulled out of her purse a HUGE wad of American paper money. Easily a few hundred. And she’s shaking the entire stack at Monsieur Legumes, who has no idea how to respond.
“You cannot pay with American money in Europe,” I calmly say. I wait for her response.
“Oh! You’re American! Thank goodness. What do I do?”
The travel partner finally pipes up, “Where do we exchange our money?”
I shrug. “You should have done that back in the States. Or at the airport. But I’m not sure where in the city.”
Monsieur Legumes is watching closely, but the panic has ebbed from his eyes, and now he just waits.
“You can’t pay for anything here with US dollars. You need to get cash from the ATM.”
Because of the high card processing fees in France, small shops like Monsieur Produce have a card minimum, but he’s desperate to see this situation over. “Can they pay with a card?” I ask on their behalf.
He agreed, and it was quickly over.
A few reminders about cash & money in France:
1 – If you want to arrive with cash, have your local bank prepare the euros for you before you depart.
2 – If you forget and want to exchange, you can do it at your home or destination airport, but the fees are high.
3 – The best option is to use a *safe* ATM to withdraw euros. 👉 Notify your bank before departure. And expect bank fees with each withdrawal, a daily maximum of your home country limit vs. the Euro exchange. Plan accordingly.
4 – For me, the safest ATMs are located INSIDE the post offices, open Mon through Friday and Saturday mornings (in Paris).
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