Assuming ATM's are not in many villages I am wondering how to calculate how much cash I will need at any given point between ATM's, and secondly I am wondering on how best to carry that amount of cash? Any help most appreciated.
Counting that you need about € 25 - € 30 per day (on the camino frances) for the albergue, menu del dia, bocadillos, cafe con latte, cerveza etc you would need about € 100 - € 120 cash in coins and bills(depending on how fast you walk). There are ATMs in all bigger cities, even the smaller ones. If you stay in hotels you can use your credit/debit card. VISA and Mastercard are accepted everywhere, Amex only in some bigger cities. Good to have some coins in your pocket - when the day is HOTHOTHOT after a long walk you might find a machine with cold drinks - sometimes in the middle of nowhere and during the siesta!
On the Camino we would take care with cash or cards as we would do anywhere. We usually split ours up so that it isn't all in one purse or one pocket. Maybe you could keep some in reserve with your passport/ID.
Tio Tel and Tia Valeria
For the two of us, we carried one credit card each (separate companies), one debit card and no more than 50€ each. We carried all cards and some cash under our shirts in our passport holders (or neck wallets), and a little cash in our zip pants pockets for easy access during the day.
Almost every village has an ATM-- the only stretch you will need to concern yourself about is between Astorga and Ponferrada. I found it useful to always keep about a hundred in my pocket, just in case I needed to pay for a hostal and meal for two nights running, but everyone is different in these matters.
Like evanlow said above, the ATM maxes out at about 300 euro or even 250. I would take out that much and use it until I was nearly out (taking into consideration the next ATM). This worked well for me. I always kept my money, passport, and camera with me.
I don't remember where I found it but there is a list of towns on the French Route and whether they have a bank and/or ATM. I marked a black heavy dot on my map for every town where there was an ATM. Helped keep me thoughtful. I know I am way too anal. I made a calendar with my expected destination and I indicated when/where I thought I was going to need to access an ATM.
There were some ATMs that worked better than others--I know the servireds never seemed to want to take my card. Watch the cities because on Sundays, the ATMs can be empty--especially if there is a festival or street fair event. I tried to keep about 30 euro in my little wallet (in my fanny/tummy pack) and 50-100 euro in my waist wallet (worn under my clothes and where I also kept my passport, driver license (I had to produce two official photo ids because my airline ticket was written before the new rules were implemented and my name did not match exactly), airline confirmation, and USA cash (for the return home). Separating cash meant no one saw large bills.
Does anyone know if the ATMs/ABMs along the Camino are generally compatible with North American (especially in my case, Canadian) debit cards? I still carry one Canadian credit card which doesn't have a chip, and I believe it's useless in Europe (so I've called the card issuer to get it replaced with a chip card, even though I don't expect to be using a credit card outside of the large cities perhaps). Is the same true of bank debit cards (that they need a chip)? My debit card has "interac" and "plus" (which I think is a Visa system) imprinted on the back. I think that limits me to accessing Spanish banks' ATMs that are part of those systems. Does anyone know, in general, whether some/all of them are in those sytems? Has anyone from US or Canada had difficulty getting cash out of an ATM/ABM along the Camino?
As a fallback, do any of the Spanish banks accept travellers' cheques/checks? Even if so, I'd expect it would be expensive to exchange a US dollar TC into Euros so I'd rather not bother with them.
I have a bank card from a British Columbia credit union and had no problem in 2008. It wasn't chip ennabled then. I also found bank machines in quite small towns. I carried a duplicate of my bank card which I never used but was glad I had. I don't know if the chipless nature of my Visa credit card was an issue but noone really wanted to deal with it. I will likely take my Visa card with me when I go again but only as an emergency back up to my bank card.
No experience with traveller's cheques but I am doubtful.
We switched to chip cards this time, but I don't think it's absolutely essential. Don't try to use travellers' cheques- not accepted. I saw several people stuck trying to use them.
As John says, debit card or cash for just about everything. Only used credit card a few times. You'll be fine.
I have encountered US pilgrims with travellers' cheques in the past and they have found it quite challenging finding banks which would cash them-- one poor lass had to stay an extra four hours in Estella while they searched for a manager to counersign them. They only really seem to work at hotels or larger restaurants in cities. My local (Ottawa) bureaucrats' credit union ATM card worked nicely all throughout Spain, efficiently taking my money out in euro form. My chip-laden credit card worked well, but I saw many places accept non-chip cards, but I think that this is likely going to die out very quickly.
I took the precaution of alerting my credit card bank & my credit union to my time in Spain, so that their computers need not think that someone nicked my card and was living it up in Belorado.
This last is an important point, and I have a cautionary tale. I know all of you seasoned travellers know this, but things have changed in that area. For years, I've alerted my bank and my credit card company that I'll be out of the country etc. Prior to this past camino, when I called VISA to say I was going to be out of the country, I was surprised to find very detailed questions:
-what date are you leaving Canada?
-what date do you arrive in UK?
- what date do you leave UK?
-what date do you arrive France?
-what date do you leave France?
-what date do you arrive Spain . . . . . .
and on and on - right until the date of arrival back in Canada. It seems it is no longer OK to just say "I'll be travelling around Europe for about 2 months".When I asked her, she said it is easier to catch fraud with tight dates and timeline - they just enter it into the database and that's it until you arrive back in Canada.
She also said they are freezing more and more cards belonging to folks who don't notify them that they are leaving the country but that show a pattern of moving from one country to another. That could be problematic. I'm not sure if all credit card companies do this, but VISA sure did.
I am sure I am now going to be perceived as the student in the group who asks a question that is deemed by the group as SO rediculous it could be answered by a child - but here I go anyway - What the hell is a 'chipped card"? When I travelled to France 3 years ago I simply had a debit card (in Euro's) and drew Euro's as I needed them. I have never travelled with a credit card ( because I have never owned one - dislike debt) so is " chipped card" relevant for debit cards or just credit cards? What, what , what are you all talking about? Humbly would appreciate being educated.
My apologies - I didn't know about it until last year either!
This card has been in common use in EU countries for a long time, and in Canada for just about a year. As far as I know, there are no plans to introduce it into America. There is a chip embedded in each card that supposedly adds another level of security. Both your debit and credit cards require a PIN number - and a signature is no longer required. We switched to chip cards before our camino last year because of reports that ONLY chip cards would be accepted. That turned out to be false, however it seems it might eventually be true. It's not optional here in Canada - when your credit/debit cards expire, the new issue is a chip card. Here is some more information:
You'll figure that one out after tracking your spending habits on the Way for a bit. It will depend on how much food you eat, how much you drink, what snacks you like, and so on while you walk on a given day, plus what you spend on accommodations and dinner after you stop.
secondly I am wondering on how best to carry that amount of cash?
I carried larger bills and my credit/atm cards and passport in a money belt (after sweating on it for a couple of days I kept it in my pack/ day pack and never let it out of my sight), and smaller bills in a wallet kept in my front pocket for daily transactions. I had tried using a neck wallet, but it was uncomfortable, bulged out like a bulletproof vest, and I soaked everything inside of it with sweat on my first day.
One thing to remember is to carry some small bills and coins. In one town without an ATM, I had to break into my stash and use a larger bill at a farmacia. The women, who had been quite helpful, was dismayed that I couldn't pay her with a small bill because I depleted her change. I felt bad about that, and resolved to keep some small denominations on hand to prevent a re-occurrence...