Should I get euros before going to Ireland?

Should I get euros before going to Ireland?

One of the most common dilemmas that travelers face when planning a trip abroad is whether to exchange currency before leaving or wait until they’ve reached their destination. If you’re considering a journey to Ireland, this question becomes particularly relevant, considering the country’s dual currency scenario. The Republic of Ireland uses the Euro (€), while Northern Ireland, part of the UK, uses Pound Sterling (£).

So, should you get Euros before going to Ireland? The answer isn’t as straightforward as a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ It depends on several factors including where in Ireland you’re visiting, your home country, and your comfort level with various payment methods.

  1. Euro in the Republic of Ireland

If your visit is confined to the Republic of Ireland—Dublin, Galway, Cork, and the many charming towns and villages scattered across the landscape—then Euro is the currency you’ll need.

To Exchange or Not to Exchange Beforehand?

There’s no harm in having a small amount of cash on hand when you arrive, especially for immediate expenses like taxis, snacks, or tips. The challenge is to find the best exchange rate.

Home Country Exchange: Banks or currency exchange services in your home country may not offer the most competitive rates. They often mark up exchange rates by 6-8% over the interbank rate—the rate banks use when selling currency to each other. However, the convenience of having local currency in your pocket upon arrival can outweigh the cost for some travelers.

Airport Currency Exchange: Airports are usually the most expensive places to exchange currency, with high service fees and poor exchange rates. It’s best to avoid these unless you’re in a pinch.

ATMs in Ireland: In general, using an ATM in Ireland to withdraw Euros tends to provide a better exchange rate than most currency exchange services. Irish banks’ ATMs usually offer competitive exchange rates close to the interbank rate. Keep in mind, though, that your home bank may charge a foreign transaction fee or international ATM fee. It’s also crucial to inform your bank about your travel plans to avoid your card being blocked for suspected fraudulent activity.

Credit Cards: For most transactions, a credit card with no foreign transaction fees offers the best deal. Credit cards provide close to interbank rates and add a layer of purchase protection. Remember, though, small businesses or rural establishments may not accept credit cards, so having some cash is necessary.

  1. Pound Sterling in Northern Ireland

If your journey includes Northern Ireland—Belfast, Derry, the Giant’s Causeway—you’ll need Pound Sterling. Similar to the Euro, it’s best to withdraw pounds from an ATM in Northern Ireland or use a credit card with no foreign transaction fees for most of your purchases.

  1. Using Travel Money Cards

Another option is travel money cards, also known as prepaid travel cards. You can load them with your desired currency (Euros or Pounds) before you leave, then use them like a debit card abroad. These cards offer the benefit of locking in your exchange rate. However, they can come with their own set of fees, including loading charges, ATM withdrawal fees, and inactivity fees.

  1. Modern Money Apps

Revolut, Transferwise (Wise), or similar apps offer a modern solution for travelers. These apps allow you to exchange money at real-time rates and hold multiple currencies in one account.

  1. Beware of Dynamic Currency Conversion

Whether using a card to withdraw cash or make purchases, you may be asked if you want to complete the transaction in your home currency—a practice known as Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC). It might seem convenient to see the cost in your home currency, but this is a service that often comes with a hefty fee.

The DCC service lets credit card processors, merchants, or ATM operators charge a markup on the exchange rate used, leading to a higher cost for you. Always opt to be charged in the local currency (Euro or Pound Sterling) when in Ireland. This allows your home bank, which generally offers a better exchange rate, to handle the conversion.

  1. Safety First

While discussing the financial aspects, it’s vital to remember safety. Don’t carry large amounts of cash, always keep your cards secure, and be vigilant while using ATMs.

  1. The Convenience Factor

Ultimately, the decision to get Euros before going to Ireland depends on your personal convenience. If you feel more secure having local currency on hand upon arrival, by all means, do so. But balance that with the understanding that the best financial deal usually involves withdrawing cash locally or utilizing a good travel-friendly credit card.

  1. Your Bank’s Partnerships

Before you leave, check if your home bank has partnerships with Irish banks. Some banks have international partners allowing you to use their ATMs without the extra fees.

  1. The Future is Digital

As with much of Europe, Ireland is increasingly adopting digital and contactless payments. Mobile payment apps, contactless credit cards, and digital wallets are widely accepted in most urban and tourist-centric locales. These can be convenient, secure, and help you avoid the hassles of physical cash.

  1. Local Customs

In Ireland, tipping is appreciated but not mandatory. A tip of 10-15% is typical in restaurants, while it’s customary to round up to the nearest Euro for taxi drivers. Tips are usually given in cash, even when you pay for the service with a card.

In conclusion, a blend of payment methods serves most travelers well. It’s advantageous to arrive with a small amount of local currency. However, ATMs, credit cards, and digital payment methods often provide the best combination of convenience, security, and value. Always consider your bank’s fees, stay alert to DCC pitfalls, and factor in the comfort and safety that each option offers you. After all, minimizing stress is part of the joy of travel.