The euro (€) is the only legal tender in France and Monaco. ATMs are widely available, and most hotels and restaurants take credit cards.
ATMs (distributeurs automatiques de billets or points d’argent) are the easiest means of obtaining cash, but banks charge foreign-transaction fees (usually 2% to 3%), plus a per-use ATM charge. Check with your bank. Cirrus and Maestro networks are common.
Credit & Debit Cards
Credit and debit cards are widely accepted, although some restaurants and B&Bs may only accept cash.
- North American cards with magnetic strips don't work on (certain) autoroutes or at unattended 24-hour petrol stations – which can leave you in a sticky situation if you have no alternative method of payment.
- Nearly everywhere requires a card with a chip and PIN. Notify your bank/card provider before departure to avoid a block on your account.
- Visa (Carte Bleue – or CB – in France) and MasterCard (Access or Eurocard) are common. American Express is less so, but Amex offices provide exchange and travel services.
- Credit cards generally incur a more favourable exchange rate than debit cards, but it depends entirely on your bank/credit-card provider.
- Most credit cards charge a foreign-transaction fee (generally around 2.5%), but again it depends on the provider. Some credit cards charge a 0% fee for overseas use.
- Consider getting a prepaid currency card, which you can load with currency before departure. You won't incur a foreign-transaction fee, and if it's lost you just cancel the card and order a replacement. Most importantly, you don't lose the funds.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
- Banks usually charge stiff €3 to €5 fees per foreign-currency transaction – if they change money at all.
- Bureaux de change (exchange bureaux) are faster and easier, are open longer and usually have better rates.
- To track rates and find local exchange bureaux, see http://travelmoney.moneysavingexpert.com.
- Some post offices exchange travellers cheques and banknotes but charge a €5 commission for cash; most won’t take US$100 bills.
By law, restaurants and cafes are service compris (15% service included), thus there's no need to leave a pourboire (tip). If satisfied with the service, leave a euro or two on the table.
- Bar Round to nearest euro
- Hotel housekeepers €1 to €1.50 per day
- Porters €1 to €1.50 per bag
- Restaurants Generally 2% to 5%
- Taxis 10% to 15%
- Toilet attendant €0.20 to €0.50
- Tour guide €1 to €2 per person
Secure and fee-free, but places where they are accepted are becoming extremely rare. Must be converted at exchange bureaux, and rates aren't always favourable.