Ask Harriet: Credit cards or cash at the Christmas Markets

Because it’s the season of sharing, I’m delighted to be able to share this advice about how to pay for all of the treasures you'll discover on our holiday river cruises. Patricia B., a first time traveler from Woburn, Massachusetts, sought my pointers for her Christmas Markets Along the Rhine trip.

Q: Do the vendors at the Christmas Markets take credit cards or should I bring cash?

A. Hi Patricia,

Thanks for asking a great question. I'm sure many other travelers want to know the best way to purchase the ornaments, sausages, baked goods, and warm mugs of gluhwein that are some of the myriad highlights of our Christmas Market cruises. Since the Rhine trip includes four countries, there is a bit more to plan for, although three of them—France, Germany, and the Netherlands—all use the euro. Switzerland's currency is still the franc, so you may either exchange U.S. dollars when you arrive there at your hotel or at a bank, or obtain both francs and euros before you leave the States (although the rates, after fees, are typically more favorable once you arrive in Europe).

Although a few market stalls will take credit cards (usually the stores that are there year-round), most will not, so you should definitely plan in advance to use these local currencies—which typically saves time, as well. If you do want to use a credit card, you should make sure you call in advance and let your company know which countries you'll be traveling to and when. A little advice that's always helped me when I'm visiting many countries on one trip is to keep different change purses and/or wallets with each of the bills and coins separated. But, of course, this has been much simpler since many European countries adopted the euro, making it easier for Europeans and travelers alike.

Do you have advice you’d like to share with other travelers, or a question you’d like to ask me? Please email me at