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Tipping on Excursions - foreign currency?


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Hello,

We will be cruising the Panama Canal in the fall.  I am wondering about tipping our excursion guides / drivers.  Do we need to get the correct currency everywhere?  It would be much easier to use US dollars.....

Thanks for your advice and experience!

-Jerie

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Money is money.

USD for tips always works. I don't expect that you would ever find someone saying "No"' (unless tipping is prohibited [we actually had porters refuse taking a tip at the Sydney port!]).

 

BTW, and particularly if you're doing a ship's often repeated itinerary (e.g., the Canal), various foreign currencies (of countries along the route) are useful as tips for room service onboard. That saves us (and wait staff) from having to convert currency.

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Most places I have been, people are fine being tipped in any hard currency (dollars, Euro, Pounds).

 

But the official currency of Panama is the balboa, and it is 1 to 1 with the dollar.  But there are no paper currency balboas, only US dollars.  So tipping is in dollars is tipping in the local currency. 😄

 

 

"The official currency of Panama is the Balboa, named after Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa, who discovered the Pacific Ocean in 1513. One Balboa is divided into 100 cents. Since 1904 one Balboa equals one US Dollar and since then, the US Dollar has legally circulated in Panama. In other words, in practice, the currency used day-to-day in Panama is the US dollar, which is also legal tender. For this reason, Panama is considered a dollarized country and was the second economy in the continent to become a dollarized economy. Currently there are Panamanian coins that have the same weight, dimension and composition of the coins used in the USA (1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 cents). Panama also has its own $1 coin. For paper money, only the US Dollar is used (there are no paper Balboas)."

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ID just disembarked 2 days ago from a 15 day Panama Canal cruise on the Pacific Princess, and USDs are definitely cheerfully accepted, both as tips for tour guides and for purchases and/or restaurant tabs in the ports in Mexico and Costa Rica. Our time in Panama was scenic cruising the Canal, so no opportunity to spend any cash, but I recall the previous time I did a similar cruise and did go ashore in Panama, USDs were readily accepted there too.

Edited by flamomo
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Given the itinerary that you will experience, no foreign currency is needed.  US dollars will be accepted everywhere, I would expect.  If the cruise ends in Canada, I would recommend some Canadian currency for small expenses including gratuities that might be needed.

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Thank you all!

Excellent information!  I'm sorry I wasn't more specific, we are only cruising the canal - and no excursions that day.  We will be going eastbound from Los Angeles to Miami. Our ports are:

Ensenada

Cabo San Lucas

Acapulco

San Juan Del Sur

Puntareanas

Cartegena

 

With just a few hours to most of a day in each port, it didn't make sense to exchange money a few times.  I'm glad that US dollars will be gladly accepted.  I had no idea that the US dollar was legally circulated in Panama, than you for that information SRF!

thanks again!

-Jerie

 

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No problem.  There are a number of countries in the world where USD are used.  Zimbabwe had such high inflation that their currency became worthless, so they use the USD now.   And even other countries, where it is accepted, and sometimes at a better than the official rate, for buying things.  I was recently in Central Asia.  They country had a set exchange rate.  But if you paid for meals or for the other expenses in USD cash, you would get 3 to 6 times the "official" rate. 

 

In Canada, I normally get Canadian money, but most places will exchange USD bills at close to the official rate, but coins are exchanged at 1 for 1.

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On the rare occasions I don't have local currency I will tip in USD in most countries primarily because it still has one dollar bills. Exchanging foreign coins is often impossible in most places so unless you want to tip 5 euros or $5CDN it's much better to have a supply of U.S. singles for small tips.  

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18 hours ago, 14thmed said:

one of our travel group in Israel tried to give a 9-+10 year old selling gum a Loonie for a pack, Kid looked at it and said NO WAY and gave it back!!

 

Buying something is different than tipping.

 

The only time I have been able to pay with non-local currency is in those countries where their local currency is worthless outside their country.  Especially if there is an unreasonable (for value), fixed exchange rate.

 

And SOME places in Canada have accepted USD at a reasonable exchange rate (for bills).

 

Other than those cases, nope.

 

Oh, one other exception, airports.  Many airport shops will accept most hard currencies.  And in a few countries, it has been interesting that once past security, the only acceptable currency was USD or Euro. 😄

 

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2 hours ago, SRF said:

 

Buying something is different than tipping.

 

The only time I have been able to pay with non-local currency is in those countries where their local currency is worthless outside their country.  Especially if there is an unreasonable (for value), fixed exchange rate.

 

And SOME places in Canada have accepted USD at a reasonable exchange rate (for bills).

 

Other than those cases, nope.

 

Oh, one other exception, airports.  Many airport shops will accept most hard currencies.  And in a few countries, it has been interesting that once past security, the only acceptable currency was USD or Euro. 😄

 

 

In my experience there are many countries that will accept other than their local currency, especially around the EU.  

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On 5/31/2019 at 11:59 AM, ldubs said:

 

In my experience there are many countries that will accept other than their local currency, especially around the EU.  

 

Many of those currencies are tied to the Euro, so easy to convert.

 

BTW many EU countries do not use the Euro.

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On 5/31/2019 at 11:59 AM, ldubs said:

 

In my experience there are many countries that will accept other than their local currency, especially around the EU.  

 

I think it would be more correct to say that there are many countries in which you may find individuals who will accept other than their local currency.

 

As for the countries, most of them consider it illegal to use other than their own legal tender. This is frequently discussed on the Ports of Call boards. In Croatia for example, it is made very clear that the kuna (not the euro or dollar) is legal tender. You won't be able to use anything else for things like official admission costs (e.g., to walk the walls in Dubrovnik) or public transportation, etc.

 

Doesn't mean that you may not find an individual gelato cart or souvenir store that will accept other currency. But strictly speaking, it is not really legal.

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2 hours ago, SRF said:

 

Many of those currencies are tied to the Euro, so easy to convert.

 

BTW many EU countries do not use the Euro.

 

Yep, that is a big reason.   I may have misread your earlier comment. I thought you were saying that the only time you were able to pay with non-local monies was in countries with severely devalued currencies, airport shops, and some places in Canada.    

 

I don't doubt that is your experience if you say so.  My actual experience has been quite a bit different.  I have frequently made purchases using non-local currency in many countries, including many with strong economies.  And these were certainly not back alley deals with shady characters. 😀

 

Anyway, I'm not sure why, but our experiences seem to differ quite a bit.  One of those YMMV I guess.  

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On 5/29/2019 at 2:29 PM, SRF said:

But the official currency of Panama is the balboa, and it is 1 to 1 with the dollar.  But there are no paper currency balboas, only US dollars.  So tipping is in dollars is tipping in the local currency. 😄

 

"...currently there are Panamanian coins that have the same weight, dimension and composition of the coins used in the USA (1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 cents). Panama also has its own $1 coin. For paper money, only the US Dollar is used (there are no paper Balboas)."

I transited the Panama Canal twice in 1979 as an ROTC Midshipman on a Navy LST ( we were escorting the Pegasus (PHM-1) from Panama to Norfolk; the Pegasus transited the canal in 2 hours 41 minutes, a record that still stands today). Needless to say the crew picked up a lot of change in Balboas. We soon learned that they worked just fine in the ship's vending machines, despite the supply department's insistence that they'd jam the machines up (I'm sure they were worried about what to do with all of those "quarters").

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I had a gentleman tip me with Euros at my hotel (in the US) when I volunteered to sew up a rip in his pants.  Good thing I was going back to Italy that Fall, as there is no place in my town to change 5EU into $US.  So, I think this same way when I tip - I will tip in their currency because I don't want to put the onus on them to change the money.   

It is up to you whether or not you want to just take US$ and hope everyone takes them everywhere you are going or they will take a credit card.  Or, be prepared to ask for the closest ATM...

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23 hours ago, cruisemom42 said:

 

I think it would be more correct to say that there are many countries in which you may find individuals who will accept other than their local currency.

 

As for the countries, most of them consider it illegal to use other than their own legal tender. This is frequently discussed on the Ports of Call boards. In Croatia for example, it is made very clear that the kuna (not the euro or dollar) is legal tender. You won't be able to use anything else for things like official admission costs (e.g., to walk the walls in Dubrovnik) or public transportation, etc.

 

Doesn't mean that you may not find an individual gelato cart or souvenir store that will accept other currency. But strictly speaking, it is not really legal.

 

Very true.


The place I mentioned that I was recently, with a better exchange rate paying in dollars, officially, vendors are not allowed to take dollars.  But most will.   Especially if they travel outside their home country.

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8 hours ago, slidergirl said:

I had a gentleman tip me with Euros at my hotel (in the US) when I volunteered to sew up a rip in his pants.  Good thing I was going back to Italy that Fall, as there is no place in my town to change 5EU into $US.  So, I think this same way when I tip - I will tip in their currency because I don't want to put the onus on them to change the money.   

It is up to you whether or not you want to just take US$ and hope everyone takes them everywhere you are going or they will take a credit card.  Or, be prepared to ask for the closest ATM...

 

There is no bank your town?  Or AAA office?

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21 hours ago, ldubs said:

 

Yep, that is a big reason.   I may have misread your earlier comment. I thought you were saying that the only time you were able to pay with non-local monies was in countries with severely devalued currencies, airport shops, and some places in Canada.    

 

I don't doubt that is your experience if you say so.  My actual experience has been quite a bit different.  I have frequently made purchases using non-local currency in many countries, including many with strong economies.  And these were certainly not back alley deals with shady characters. 😀

 

Anyway, I'm not sure why, but our experiences seem to differ quite a bit.  One of those YMMV I guess.  

 

I have never really tried to pay with non-local currency, except for mainly the instances I mentioned.

 

I do not that some EU (non-Euro) and countries just outside the EU will take Euros.  My SO is from Bulgaria, and their currency is tied at a fixed rate to the Euro, so everyone is fine with Euros.  Plus, almost everyone travels to Euro countries, so they will use them.  In fact, many people have two bank accounts.  One in Euro, one in lev, so they do not pay exchange fees.

 

So our experiences are not that far apart, you have just tried it in many more places.

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6 hours ago, SRF said:

 

There is no bank your town?  Or AAA office?

 

My Credit Union doesn't do currency exchange.  And, the bank in town charges a fee.  The closest AAA office is 40 miles away.  Not everyone lives in the big city with easy access to banks who will exchange 5EU...

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On 5/29/2019 at 2:13 PM, JC in CA said:

Hello,

We will be cruising the Panama Canal in the fall.  I am wondering about tipping our excursion guides / drivers.  Do we need to get the correct currency everywhere?  It would be much easier to use US dollars.....

Thanks for your advice and experience!

-Jerie

 

Based on my experience in that area $USD will be fine. Many stores, etc. accept $USD.

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9 hours ago, SRF said:

 

There is no bank your town?  Or AAA office?

 

The thing is it takes time to go to an exchange to change the money. So really your tip isn't that helpful to the person if the have to take time out of their day, especially if they still need to work.

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On 5/31/2019 at 9:47 AM, SRF said:

The only time I have been able to pay with non-local currency is in those countries where their local currency is worthless outside their country.  Especially if there is an unreasonable (for value), fixed exchange rate.

IME entrepreneurs are always willing to negotiate for anything whose value they understand. While it is usually easiest to use local currency, I have easily bought meals in Mexico, beer in Uruguay, taxi rides in Brazil, souvenirs in Romania, etc, etc with US dollars or Euros by negotiating a rate agreeable to both parties. Just because a country has a legal currency, in very few countries is it illegal for individuals to negotiate for something else of value, be it US dollars, Euros, your wristwatch or whatever; I assume this may well be illegal somewhere but I can not identify where - can you give examples?

 

Your statement presumes there is a local currency, which is not always the case. In addition to counties that have unilaterally latched onto some other currency (eg Ecuador, Montenegro), there are other places that seem to have no pretext of a standard currency (eg Zimbabwe - many currencies [Rand, Pound, Yen, Yuan, Euro, US] in circulation but the government does seems to want to be paid in US Dollars). 

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