Shopping in Europe this Summer

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Who doesn’t like to spend money overseas, especially when the Pound and Euro are so low!  As of today, the Pound is 1.23, practically a lifetime low. As recently as a few months ago, the Pound was above 1.35.  The Euro, which we use in many Continental countries, is now 1.05. That is a WOW rate.

Armed with loads of British cash, I spent a few days in England before and then with our London Countryside group in May 2022. Invited to a dinner at a friend’s home, I went to Gail’s a fantastic bakery on Seymour Place, Central London. Then paid 7 Pounds for short breads. The price was the equivalent of $8.61. I handed the cashier money from my wad of cash. Gail’s no longer takes cash even for a small purchase, fortunately they accepted Amex as many European stores prefer Visa.  The same thing happened along the way for snacks, restaurants, entrances, and odds and ends.  A big relief was the forewarning to credit card and banks and ATM pals about overseas usage.

I was stuck with load of UK cash; what a strange sentence to admit to? My next unexpected problem was that half of the cash was ‘old money’. Britain is terminating ‘old 20- and 50-Pound notes on September 30, 2022.  When a country ends old currency, you have a few options, all awkward. Deposit in your British bank account, which you probably do not have. Or take them to a currency exchange bureau, the UK Post Office or keep trying banks.  It is unclear who will exchange old cash for a non-UK resident. As we get close to September 30, there will be more information.  If the paper money is badly damaged, you might be out of luck. Give it to the UNESCO envelope on your airplane or as a donation in a charity box; some entity will exchange it for a charity.

Breathe easy if you are going to France; it is against the French Penal Code to refuse cash. Merchants will try to get you to use a credit card, but they cannot turn away reasonable cash unless the notes are in very poor condition. Don’t give Chanel 1,000 coins.

Now that we have the cash/old money thing explained, here are some shopping tips:

  • Before you go, look up online the cost of what you want to buy. You might not find the exact equivalent, even in the same name stores. Merchandise is unique country to country.
  • Colors go with local preferences. If you live in Florida and like bright colors and are buying in London, you might not find aqua or hot pink in the tee shirts.
  • Be aware that sizes are different in Europe, generally Europeans are smaller and thinner than we are. So, a 12 in the UK might fit like an 8 here.
  • Even shoes can have a different fit. They are manufactured for the feet of the local population.
  • Cosmetic colors match local skin; not always the right color for you. Cosmetics from UK stores like Super Drug and Boots are a steal compared to the US prices. P.S., Boots is now part of Walgreens where you will see the same products 3x the price. In Paris, you will see Sephora and too many cosmetic shops to list.
  • Generally, prices are fixed in Europe. Shopping around for the same item might be a waste of time.
  • Sales are usually twice a year: Winter Post Christmas and mid-Summer. In Paris look for SOLDES, that is sale lingo in French.
  • Finally, when you pack your goodies to take home, remove the sales tags and carry the receipt. Luxury items with a sales tag attached are easily fenced by the bad guys.

Here are a few links to help you scratch your shopping itch.

Bank of England Rules on Old Money

Guide to Money in France from our Favorite Frommer’s



My go to UK Stores:

Primark

Selfridges

Boots

For information about The Women’s Travel Group

Author

  • Phyllis Stoller has a BA from Tufts University, an MA from New York University and a Finance Degree from the University of the South Bank, London England. Phyllis founded the leading tour operator for women's travels in North America. After selling her company in 2006, Phyllis started a new company for women: The Womens Travel Group which she defines as Smart Tours for Women. She was voted top in women’s travel by Travel & Leisure Magazine,the first to receive this honor. Phyllis has appeared on The Today Show, CNN, Lifetime TV for Women and others. Phyllis now resides in New York and London For more information: or to join a trip this year: Phyllis Stoller Visit her web site: www.thewomenstravelgroup.com/ Follow her on Facebook: on Facebook at /toursforwomen phyllisnycity@gmail.com For more information: or to join a trip this year: https://www.thewomenstravelgroup.com/contact/

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