Frankfurt stopover - euro needed?
June 19, 2014 5:56 PM   Subscribe

Do I need to cash/euro to get by for 12 hours in Frankfurt?

I will have a long stopover in Frankfurt on my way to Johannesburg next week. Accounting for customs and security I figure I have 10 - 12 hours free. I arrive in the morning and depart in the evening, so I'd planned to take the train into Frankfurt to walk around, maybe see a museum, get lunch and just pass the time.

So my question is two fold - any recommendations for activities for the day that will keep me awake and entertained? And do i need to withdraw euros for the day? Since i won't be staying in Europe I'd rather not get euros if I don't have to, but wasn't sure if I could expect to be able to use credit cards most places or not. I recall during past trips finding that credit cards weren't accepted as commonly as in the us.
posted by moshimosh to Travel & Transportation around Frankfurt, Germany (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You might have some trouble. Restaurants and tourist attractions should all accept your American credit card, but most places are not equipped to accept magstripe cards - it's all chip+PIN over there. Small shops will likely either not accept credit or not accept your card. Vending machines (including ticket vending machines at the train stations) will not accept magstripe cards, so you're going to need cash for those. You may also need small change for public toilets and lockers if you need them.

Going to a shop and paying for, say, a Coke with a credit card is not something that's generally done as far as I've noticed.
posted by backseatpilot at 6:22 PM on June 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

You have to pay for public toilets everywhere, including shopping centers and department stores.
posted by brujita at 6:36 PM on June 19, 2014

Are the pay toilets a new thing or specific to frankfurt? I was in Berlin probably 3 years ago and only remember a few of those.
posted by moshimosh at 6:49 PM on June 19, 2014

It's been a while since I have spent much time in Germany, but in France, magstripe cards are much more widely accepted now than they were 5 years ago. That said, you don't want to count on being able to use your card. Among other things, it almost certainly won't work in unattended kiosks, such as train ticket vending machines. The (partial) exception is Amex - it works in some machines that won't take Visa or MasterCard. For example, my Amex card works in the Vélib' bike share stations in Paris, which reject Visa and MC.

If I were you, I'd take out a little bit of cash at the ATM in Frankfurt airport for miscellaneous expenses, and either keep what's left or donate it in the airport when you're back for your connection. I go to Europe frequently, so I usually keep Euros, but I'll donate other currencies (NOK, for instance, or SFR) if I don't think I'll be back anytime soon.
posted by brianogilvie at 6:50 PM on June 19, 2014

In much of Germany, pay toilets have attendants, including in department stores and shopping centers. On the other hand, if you're in a museum, the toilets will be free.
posted by brianogilvie at 6:51 PM on June 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

If it were me, I would grab €40 from an ATM. There's a street market on Kaiserstraße with bratwursts and other treats. Walk down to the river where there are several bridges.
posted by humboldt32 at 8:59 PM on June 19, 2014

I've been travelling to Frankfurt for the last 15 years and the only place I've ever seen a pay-to-enter toilet is at the rest stops on the autobahn. And that's only because people (or maybe the foreign tourists?) stiff the toilet attendants. You put some coins in to open the turnstyle and you get a receipt that's good for the same amount in credit at the convenience store.

Everywhere else I've ever been that has an attendant has a dish out for tips and it's customary to drop in some pocket change on your way out. But you won't be in trouble if you don't pay.

I've never had a problem with using my US-based credit card over there, and it's only magstripe. Just call your company ahead of time and let them know when you'll be overseas so your card isn't flagged as stolen.

Still, just grab €20 from the ATM at the airport. You'll be surprised how quickly it'll go if you spend an afternoon snacking and visiting various places.
posted by JoeZydeco at 9:07 PM on June 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yeah, get €50 or whatever you can afford and resolve to spend it all in ten hours. It can be freeing to have that goal.

Credit cards: some larger shops accommodate magstripe cards, still, but I'd ask your credit card company for a chip card. Most banks offer them now and it can't hurt to have one for the future.
posted by kcm at 9:07 PM on June 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

I was just in eastern Germany and it was a mix of pay turnstiles and attendants with a coin dish.
posted by brujita at 9:19 PM on June 19, 2014

Nthing taking around 30-40 EUR from the ATM. If you don't think you'll be in Europe any time soon again and won't have any use for the extra change, perhaps you can find a friend who does spend more time in Europe and exchange the money with them once you get home, since it'll be a small amount.
posted by gemutlichkeit at 1:03 AM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I live in the Netherlands and here in the Netherlands those coin dishes are not meant for optional tips but definitely for paying the person who is sitting there and cleaning the toilets. It may be their only income (warehouses may rent out their toilet space to someone who is their own boss about managing the toilet and makes their income from the entrance price). I don't know if that's different in Germany, but just wanted to mention it so that people reading this thread don't think that those coin dishes are for optional tips only across Western Europe in general.

I agree with most people that you will want to have a small amount of cash, especially if you might want to order food in small stores/restaurants, or buy some kind of inexpensive thing that you happen to see in a shop somewhere. backseatpilot has a good point about public transport tickets too.
posted by blub at 1:44 AM on June 20, 2014

Even if they take chip and pin it will likely be of the local variety. I had trouble shopping with my Swedish chip and pin bank card in Bremen because "Nein, wir nehmen nur EC-Karten." Restaurants are sometimes ok with VISA (etc.), everything else: not so.

Get 60€. Money goes fast in Germany.
posted by Namlit at 1:46 AM on June 20, 2014

Even if they take chip and pin it will likely be of the local variety. I had trouble shopping with my Swedish chip and pin bank card in Bremen because "Nein, wir nehmen nur EC-Karten." Restaurants are sometimes ok with VISA (etc.), everything else: not so.

Yeah, it's worth noting that Germany is very into cash. That's changing, but I wouldn't walk around Germany with no cash in the way I often do in the US. Set a budget for the day, add a margin of error and spend the rest on magazines and chocolate or something in the airport on your way out. (Or hang on to it to spend in the airport on the way back if you're going through the Eurozone both ways.)
posted by hoyland at 4:14 AM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Just wanted to clarify after blub's comment, and I'm going to try avoid going down a deep rabbit hole here.

If you're in a private establishment in Germany (restaurant, pub, museum, etc as opposed to a train station or autobahn rest stop) they can't make you pay the use the bathroom. That said, the attendant sitting in that room is being paid almost nothing to sit there so giving them €0.50 to present you with a clean bathroom is very strongly encouraged. Kind of like tipping your waiter/waitress in America. You don't have to do it, but the person doing the work really depends on your contribution to get by. Nothing to stress out about, but it's something that disorients a lot of Americans.
posted by JoeZydeco at 6:33 AM on June 20, 2014

I live in Frankfurt and credit card acceptance definitely varies - compared to America, this is very much a cash-and-carry society. American-style magstripe cards are accepted, but only at the airport and a handful of other places that are used to getting foreigners (hotels, some major department stores, etc). Many more merchants here (not all, but at least a majority) will accept American EMV-style "chip-and-signature" cards, so if you happen to have one that will definitely help. However, I would just plan on finding an ATM and getting enough euros to get through the day.

As for activities, I can suggest plenty. Take the S-bahn downtown (S8/S9 to Hauptwache, ~15 mins from airport) and that'll dump you more or less in the middle of things. Some of my favorites include: Museumsufer (a row of museums along the south bank of the Main, all good museums), Main Tower (office tower with a viewing platform, great views), walking around the Römerberg (city hall/town square area). Zeil near Hauptwache is a mile-long pedestrian street with plenty of restaurants and shopping, and Sachsenhausen is a good option for bars and nightlife.
posted by photo guy at 1:32 PM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Forget using American Express credit cards abroad. Most places won't take them. Just take 100 Euro out of a bank machine, and figure any left over will be exchangeable on your trip home. A day in Frankfurt can find you spending the lot on pretzels and wurst.
posted by zaelic at 9:22 AM on June 22, 2014

I was able to use my chipped Amex in Germany.
posted by brujita at 10:31 AM on June 23, 2014

« Older Extreme Exposition   |   Brand new unworn shoes reek of mothballs. Why? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.