Most of Europe is using a single currency, the euro. Once upon a time, each European country had its own currency. In 1999, the European Union took a big step towards a unified Europe. Eleven countries formed an economic and political structure in Europe. Membership in the EU became something to aspire to; the organization provided significant support and financial assistance to countries that could meet the required criteria and were willing to join. Each member of the Eurozone shared the same currency, known as the euro, which was to replace its own individual currency units.
These countries started using the euro as their official currency in early 2002.
Adopting the Euro
The use of a single currency in the 23 participating countries simplifies things for travelers. But what are these 23 European countries? The original 11 EU countries are:
- The Netherlands
Since the introduction of the euro, 14 more countries have started using the euro as their legal currency. These countries are:
- San Marino
- Vatican City
Technically speaking, Andorra, Kosovo, Montenegro, Monaco, San Marino, and the Vatican City are not members of the European Union. However, they have found it beneficial to adopt the new currency independently. A special agreement has been reached with these countries that allows them to issue euros with their own national emblems. The euro is currently one of the most powerful currencies in the world.
Abbreviation and Denominations
The international symbol for the euro is €, abbreviated for EUR. As with all foreign currencies, their value varies against the US dollar.
On January 1, 2002, the euro replaced the respective previous currencies of the countries that joined the Eurozone. The European Central Bank could be responsible for authorizing the issuance of these notes, but the duty to put the money into circulation rests with the national banks themselves.
The designs and characteristics of the banknotes are consistent in all countries that use the euro and are available in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 euros. Each of the euro coins has the same common front design, with the exception of certain countries, which may print their individual national designs on the back. The technical characteristics such as size, weight and material used are the same.
There are eight denominations of euro coins: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents and 1 and 2 euro coins. The size of the coins increases with their value. Not all countries in the Eurozone use the 1 and 2 cent coins. Finland is an example.
European countries that do not use the euro
Some of the Western European nations not participating in the conversion are the United Kingdom, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and independent Switzerland.
Besides the euro and the crowns (krone / krone) used in Scandinavian countries, there are only two other major currencies in Europe: the British pound (GBP) and the Swiss franc (CHF).
Other European countries have not met the economic standards required to use the euro or do not belong to the Eurozone. These countries still use their own currency, so you will need to exchange euros when you visit. Countries include:
- Bulgaria: Bulgarian lev (BGN)
- Croatia: Croatian Kuna (HRK)
- Czech Republic: Czech koruna (CZK)
- Hungary: Hungarian forint (HUF)
- Macedonia: Macedonian denar (MKD)
- Poland: Polish zloty (PLN)
- Romania: Romanian leu (RON)
- Serbia: Serbian dinar (RSD)
- Turkey: Turkish lira (TRL)
It is always advisable when traveling in a foreign country to convert part of your cash into the local currency. Local ATMs in your European destination will also provide you with a decent exchange rate if you need to withdraw money from your account at home. Check with your bank before your departure to make sure your card is accepted at ATMs in some of the smaller independent countries, such as Monaco.