It is strongly recommended that students have access to enough funds to last the entire term/semester/year. They will need pocket money for lunches, weekend meals, bus fares, laundry, postage, theater, movies, and cafés. Although spending habits vary among students, plan on approximately $2,000 to $2,500 per semester and $1,000 per summer term for these expenses. Dollar-Euro exchange rates fluctuate. Exchange rates can be checked online.
Bringing Money to France
Change about $100 into Euro at your bank or at the airport before departure. You can also purchase Euro in the U.S. via AAA. While it is better not to bring money to change, the best place to change money in Aix-en-Provence is in any local post office branch, where no commission is charged. You can also change money in most banks. Avoid using bureau de change through-out the city, as they often charge hefty commission fees. Personal checks are difficult to cash and should be avoided; a fee is required, and the transaction takes several weeks.
Keep all money and checks in a money belt, neck pouch, or other safe place on your person. Precautions against theft should be taken at all times and particularly on trains and buses. Purses, wallets, passports, credit cards, money are lost each year through lack of vigilance. Never put your documents, money, or traveler's checks in your backpack.
Make photocopies of valuable documents (passport, driver's license, etc.), and carry these separately in your suitcase. It is also recommended that you scan and save a digital copy to your email so you can access it remotely if necessary.
Accessing your Money
ATMs and Credit Cards: There are numerous 24-hour ATMs in Aix as well as all over Europe. With a bankcard (PIN number required), cash withdrawals are possible from home accounts. Visa and MasterCard are also widely accepted, but American Express less so. The increasing availability of ATMs has simplified gaining access to your funds while abroad. ATMs are widely available in Aix, and cash will be withdrawn in Euro. Be aware that your home bank may charge a small transaction fee (usually between $1.50–$3.00). Bank of America is the current exception; they have an affiliate bank in Provence (BNP Paribas) so their customers may withdraw without a fee. Traveler’s Checks can be difficult to cash. Prior to departure, contact your bank to let them know you will be travelling internationally so they do not freeze your accounts when they see charges being made abroad. Please note: Most foreign ATMs re-quire a four-digit Personal Identification Number (PIN) that does not begin with a zero. If your PIN doesn't meet these requirements, change it prior to departure. Any of the major banks on the Cours Mirabeau or Cours Sextius can perform this service for you. If you have a MasterCard credit card you may obtain a cash advance from Crédit Agricole offices in Aix.
Best Way to Make Purchases
It's smart not to carry around a lot of Euro/currency on a given day but to have enough for emergency purposes. Otherwise, most business in Aix accept the Visa or MasterCard debit or credit cards.
In France, a 15 percent service charge is added automatically to your bill in cafes and restaurants. Keep in mind, however, that servers do not customarily receive this service charge as extra wages. Adding extra (around 10 percent) is recommended if the service is good, particularly in restaurants. Tipping in taxis isn’t obligatory, although most people do tip a small amount.