In Galicia, all through Spain and most of Europe, the currency is the euro. The dollar to euro ratio changes frequently but basically you can think of it as 1 euro is about 1 dollar plus. Since I can’t do math, this works well for me. I just have to know that it will be more than 1 dollar.
Another challenge besides doing math, is having massive amounts of coins with you; you can get shoulder pain from carrying all of those coins.
Galicia is not so dissimilar to the United States as far as getting money to spend. You can use your United States credit cards there but just be aware that some companies (except Capital One) will charge you a foreign transaction fee. You may want to ask your bank if your ATM card will charge you an additional fee beside the fee you pay for not using one of the proprietary ATM machines. Just like you do in the United States, just be careful who is behind you when you are getting your money at the ATM and pick a machine that is not rundown. I like to use the ATM when the bank is open just in case something goes wrong. In some places, they are located right where people walk and the Spaniards will not take into consideration to give you privacy. Also, don’t be concern with the language barrier since you can get ATM instructions in English. When using your credit cards, before you leave, call your credit card company to tell them you will be using the card in Spain and what time frame. If you don’t call, they may think someone stole your card and lock you out. It will be a pain to find the Spanish phone number of your credit card company to tell them to unlock your card…so save the hassle.
Banks have odd hours so make sure you find out when they open when you get to your final destination. Don’t be surprised if they close from 12 to 2 for their lunch breaks. Don’t bother taking a checkbook or traveler’s checks because they charge you an arm and a leg to cash them. If you are going to be staying there for awhile and you are thinking about opening a bank account, don’t be surprised if they charge you a hefty maintenance fee; a lot of locals have to pay for this.
If you are dealing with individuals, in Galicia specifically, they still prefer to do everything with cash. If you want to take some cash with you, avoid exchanging your dollars to euros at the airport, they charge a lot. Instead, you can order euros from major banks in the US; it may take a few days or a few weeks to get them for you or if you are lucky, they may have some at the bank already. It is nice to have some cash before you arrive for transportation and minor necessities.