Hey everyone. I just thought that I would explain the confusing system of currencies on the island as it confuses even me sometimes.
On the island we have 3 currencies that are accepted. There is the United States Dollar, the Euro and also the Gilder. The Dollar is accepted on both sides of the island, however it is not the official currency on either side! The official currency on the Dutch side is the Gilder, abbreviated NAF. The official currency on the French Side is the Euro. When I say official, I mean that this is how we pay our employees, our taxes and utilities on each respective side. However, we have so many American tourists on the island that Dollar is widely used and accepted. In fact, I have never used Gilder on the Dutch Side, although occasionally we do get change in Gilders. Gilders are very pretty notes, and their value is at a fixed exchange to the Dollar at 1.8.
So, 1.8 NAF = 1 USD always.
You will notice that on the Dutch Side most of the prices of things are written in NAF as well as USD. It is a law on the Dutch side that prices be displayed in NAF, but most businesses also write the USD equivalent as well.
On the French Side most prices are written in Euro. There is no fixed rate for the Euro against the USD, this of course depends on the strength of each of the currencies. It can be really confusing on the French Side, because even if the actual exchange rate of the Euro is say 1 Euro = 1.4 USD, lot’s of restaurants and activities will post a different exchange rate on their premises. Sometimes it is 1 Euro = 1 USD, sometimes it is 1 Euro = 1.2 USD, and so on. What the French companies are trying to do is to entice the American customers by offering a good exchange rate. However, be ware… these only work if you pay in cash!!!
If you go to a restaurant on the French side that offers an exchange rate of 1 to 1 (this is often true in the low season) then you must pay in cash. If you use a credit card, then they will simply charge you in Euros on the credit card. So, if the actual exchange rate is 1 Euro = 1.3 USD and you pay with a credit card, the bill of 100 Euros, which you think will only be $100, which actually turn into $130 on your credit card statement.
So, the answer is, on the French side it is always better to pay in US Dollar cash.
There are, of course, companies on the French side that will only use the actual, current exchange rate, so whether you pay in Dollar or Euro it doesn’t matter.
At Octopus Diving, we always charge in US Dollars, so you don’t need to worry about paying in cash, with a credit card, or travelers checks. Most of our clients are American, so we try to be as accommodating as possible, so I have set up my French bank to accept US Dollar credit card payments.
A lot of people ask me if they should buy euros before they get here, and the answer is no, just bring cash.
The only problem with cash is that a lot of people are wary to carry around large quantities of cash on the island and the ATMs here only give out US Dollar if you go to an ATM on the Dutch Side. The French banks will only dispense in Euro. My advice, bring about $1,000 in cash, and if you run out, it is worth going to the Dutch side to go to an ATM there. Travelers Checks may not be accepted as being considered “cash” so don’t count on that.
Currently, the Euro is at an all time low, only 1.22 USD per euro, so most establishments on the French side are giving a 1 to 1 exchange rate right now so it is a great time to come to the French Side.
On other notes, the diving has been great lately, Roger is getting better at swimming at we are looking at a lovely week of weather coming up!
(Sally wrote this blog 🙂 )