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Top 10 Do's and Don'ts for Currency Exchange in Eastern Europe

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Currency exchange in Eastern Europe is a regulated activity that requires official sanctions. Follow the country's rules as well as these tips to protect yourself and your finances, get the best rates, and avoid scammers who will take advantage of tourists who aren't familiar with how to properly exchange currency in Eastern Europe.

1. DO Research the Exchange Rate Before Traveling to Eastern Europe

Currency exchange rates may vary daily in Eastern European countries, but you should always have an idea about the exchange rate for the country to which you are traveling. Having an idea about the exchange rate will better prepare you for exchanging currency in the Eastern European country of your destination and arm you with the knowledge that will prevent you from getting scammed.

2. DO Know What You Will Get When You Exchange Currency in East Europe.

Always read the posted exchange rate before exchanging money. In addition, know the difference between the BUY and SELL rates. Currency exchanges will often BUY US dollars or Euro for a different rather than they will SELL them. Sometimes, both ofthese numbers both be posted; other times, only the SELL rate will be posted. Confirm this before entering into the transaction!

3. DO Ask to Be Shown on a Calculator the Final Currency Exchange Amount

Many times, currency exchanges in Eastern Europe will do this as a matter of practice. If they do not, just ask. If they refuse, or the amount seems incorrect according to your calculations, ask for clarification or terminate the transaction. The honest Eastern European currency exchanges will have no problem walking you through the calculation and showing you the process they took to get to the final exchange amount.

4. DO Exchange Currency in a Safe Environment, and Stay Aware

Avoid currency exchanges in Eastern Europe where suspicious individuals are loitering around. These people may want to scam you, steal from you, or otherwise gather information about how much money you are carrying. Consider exchanging at more secure locations, like banks, within hotels, or at other visible, highly public areas.

5. DO Know How Much Cash You Have and Be Aware of Allowed Limits

While U.S Customs simply requires you to declare cash and equivalents in excess of 10,000 US dollars, other countries may require you to itemize all currency. For example, Russian customs forms require that you disclose all foreign currencies you are carrying and in what amounts. Failing to do this will give authorities the right to confiscate the undisclosed currencies. In some cases, you may even be subject to prosecution. While these laws are unlikely to affect tourists, it is always better to follow the rules to avoid any unpleasant surprises.

6. NEVER Exchange Currency in Eastern Europe With an Unauthorized Individual

Scam artists abound. Even though the risk of getting cheated has decreased in recent years, individuals on the street or loitering around exchanges may offer seemingly good exchange rates that are, in reality, scams. Stay away from these people, as there is always a dangerous catch. Instead, proceed to a reputable currency exchange and refuse to be taken in by unauthorized individuals.

7. DO NOT Exchange Currency at Airports or Hotels in Eastern Europe

Airports and hotels in Eastern Europe can seem to be convenient locations at which to exchange currency. However, because they are convenient, they often offer unfavorable exchange rates and charge unreasonable commissions.

The only reason to exchange at hotels or airports is for safety's sake. If you feel your destination city is unsafe, forego worry about unfavorable exchange rates and use airport or hotel currency exchanges.

8. DO NOT Exchange Large Sums of Money

Never exchange more currency in Eastern Europe than you will need for the next couple of days. If you don't use all that exchanged currency, you will just have to exchange it back at a lower rate. In addition, exchanging a small amount of money at any given time will prevent others from being alerted to how much money you actually have on you.

9. DO NOT Hand Over Cash Until You Accept The Rate Of Exchange

Once you have handed your money through the currency exchange's window, kiss it goodbye. If you realize there has been a mistake after you have received your exchanged bills, there is very little you can do about it. No amount of complaining will correct the situation. The transaction has taken place, and that's that.

10. DO NOT Expect to Pay With Credit Cards or Foreign Currency in Eastern Europe

While the black market has often favored US dollars, legitimate business will require you to use the national currency. In most situations, paying with currency other than the national currency is illegal.

Businesses in cities may be equipped to handle plastic, but don't count on it. Cash is always the best way to go when traveling Eastern Europe. It is a guaranteed legitimate form of payment for transportation, food, board, and the purchase of goods.

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