Foreign money and euros can be brought in and out of Vienna without any restrictions.
The euro, the single European currency, is the official currency of Austria and 12 other participating countries. The symbol of the euro is a stylized E: €. Exchange rates of participating countries are locked into a common currency fluctuating against the U.S. dollar. For more details on the euro, check out www.europa.eu.int.
The relative value of the euro fluctuates against the U.S. dollar, the pound sterling, and most of the world's other currencies, and its value might not be the same by the time you travel to Vienna. We advise a last-minute check before your trip.
Exchange rates are more favorable at the point of arrival than at the departure point. Nevertheless, it's often helpful to exchange at least some money before going abroad (standing in line at the exchange bureau in the Vienna airport isn't fun after a long overseas flight). Check with any of your local American Express or Thomas Cook offices or major banks. Or, order in advance from American Express (tel. 800/221-7282, cardholders only; www.americanexpress.com) or Thomas Cook (tel. 800/223-7373; www.thomascook.com).
It's best to exchange currency or traveler's checks at a bank, not at a currency service, hotel, or shop. Currency and traveler's checks (for which you'll receive a better rate than cash) can be changed at all principal airports and at some travel agencies, such as American Express and Thomas Cook.
ATMs are prevalent in all Austrian cities and even smaller towns. ATMs are linked to a national network that most likely includes your bank at home. Both the Cirrus (tel. 800/424-7787; www.mastercard.com) and the PLUS (tel. 800/843-7587; www.visa.com) networks have automated ATM locators listing the banks in Austria that'll accept your card. Or, just search out any machine with your network's symbol emblazoned on it.
Important note: Make sure that the PINs on your bankcards and credit cards will work in Austria. You'll need a four-digit code, so if you have a six-digit code, you'll have to go into your bank and get a new PIN for your trip. If you're unsure about this, contact Cirrus or PLUS. Be sure to check the daily withdrawal limit at the same time.
You can buy traveler's checks at most banks. They are offered in denominations of $20, $50, $100, $500, and sometimes $1,000. Generally, you'll pay a service charge ranging from 1% to 4%.
The most popular traveler's checks are offered by American Express (tel. 800/528-4800 or 800/221-7282 for cardholders -- this number accepts collect calls, offers service in several foreign languages, and exempts Amex gold and platinum cardholders from the 1% fee); Visa (tel. 800/732-1322) -- AAA members can obtain Visa checks for a $9.95 fee (for checks up to $1,500) at most AAA offices or by calling tel. 866/339-3378; and MasterCard (tel. 800/223-9920).
American Express, Thomas Cook, Visa, and MasterCard offer foreign currency traveler's checks, which are useful if you're traveling to one country, or to the Euro zone; they're accepted at locations where dollar checks may not be.
If you carry traveler's checks, keep a record of their serial numbers separate from your checks in the event that they are stolen or lost. You'll get a refund faster if you know the numbers.
Credit cards are invaluable when traveling -- they're a safe way to carry money and a convenient record of all your expenses. You can also withdraw cash advances from your cards at any bank (although this should be reserved for dire emergencies only, because you'll start paying hefty interest the moment you receive the cash).
Note, however, that many banks, including Chase and Citibank, charge a 2% to 3% service fee for transactions in a foreign currency.