Frommer's lists prices in the local currency. However, rates fluctuate, so before departing consult a currency exchange website such as www.oanda.com/convert/classic or www.xe.com to check up-to-the-minute rates.
As you might expect, Virginia is most expensive in its larger cities and in the Washington, D.C., suburbs of northern Virginia. It's also hard to find bargains at the beach in the summer or in the Shenandoah during the October "leaf season." Even so, the state is not a particularly expensive destination, and is much less costly than London, New York, and other major metropolitan areas. While there are plenty of high-end restaurants, luxury hotels, and bed-and-breakfasts, smaller independent hotels and motels abound, as well as multitudinous representatives of all the major budget chains. It's possible to eat and stay well in Virginia without spending a fortune, and should you decide to splurge, you can find a lot of luxury for your money.
However much you plan to spend, it's always advisable to bring money in a variety of forms on a vacation: a mix of cash, credit cards, and traveler's checks. You should also exchange enough petty cash to cover airport incidentals, tipping, and transportation to your hotel before you leave home, or withdraw money upon arrival at an airport ATM.
The easiest and best way to get cash away from home while in Virginia is from an ATM (automated teller machine), sometimes referred to as a "cash machine" or "cashpoint." The Cirrus (tel. 800/424-7787; www.mastercard.com) and PLUS (tel. 800/843-7587; www.visa.com) networks span the country; you can find them even in remote regions. Go to your bank card's website to find ATM locations at your destination. Be sure you know your daily withdrawal limit before you depart.
Don't forget your personal identification number (PIN) since all ATMs in Virginia require them to withdraw cash. American cards use 4-digit PINs, so check with your bank before leaving home if yours is longer.
Note: Many banks impose a fee every time you use a card at another bank's ATM, and that fee is often higher for international transactions (up to $5 or more) than for domestic ones (where they're rarely more than $2). In addition, the bank from which you withdraw cash may charge its own fee. To compare banks' ATM fees within the U.S., use www.bankrate.com. Visitors from outside the U.S. should also find out whether their bank assesses a 1% to 3% fee on charges incurred abroad.
Credit Cards & Debit Cards
Credit cards are the most widely used form of payment in the United States: The most commonly accepted are Visa (Barclaycard in Britain), MasterCard (EuroCard in Europe), American Express, Diners Club, and Discover. They also provide a convenient record of all your expenses, and offer relatively good exchange rates. You can withdraw cash advances from your credit cards at banks or ATMs, but high fees make these advances a pricey way to get cash.
If your credit or debit cards disappear and you cannot remember the number to call, www.cancelthatcard.com gives phone numbers to report lost or stolen cards.
I highly recommended that you travel with at least one major credit card. You must have a credit card to rent a car, and hotels and airlines usually require a credit card imprint as a deposit against expenses.
ATM cards with major credit card backing, known as debit cards, are now a commonly acceptable form of payment at most businesses. Debit cards draw money directly from your checking account. Some stores and most U.S. post offices enable you to receive cash back on your debit card purchases as well.
Dear Visa: I'm Off to Richmond! -- Some credit card companies recommend that you notify them of an impending trip or they may become suspicious when the card is used numerous times in a destination that's not your home and block your charges. If you don't call your credit card company in advance, you should carry the card's toll-free emergency number with you, so that you can get in touch if a charge is refused. But perhaps the most important lesson here is to carry more than one card on your trip; a card might not work for any number of reasons, so having a backup is actually quite important.
Though credit cards and debit cards are more often used, traveler's checks are still widely accepted in the U.S. Foreign visitors should make sure that traveler's checks are in U.S. dollars; foreign-currency checks are difficult to exchange.
You can buy traveler's checks at most banks. Most 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. 800/807-6233 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) and 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). Call tel. 800/223-9920 for information on MasterCard traveler's checks.
Be sure to keep a copy of the traveler's checks 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.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.