Essential Information About Currencies in Europe

The euro makes money less complicated when you're traveling

Wallet with euro notes and coins
Stefanie Grewel / Getty Images

Most of Europe is now using a single currency, the euro. Once upon a time, each European country had its own currency. In 1999, the European Union took a large step toward a unified Europe. Eleven countries formed an economic and political structure in Europe. Membership in the EU became something to aspire to; the organization gave significant support and financial aid to countries that could meet the required criteria and wanted to join. Each member of the Eurozone shared the same currency, known as the euro, which was to replace their own individual monetary units. These countries started using the euro as the official currency in early 2002.

Which Countries Use the Euro?

Using a single currency across different countries makes things a bit more simple for travelers. Here are the ones that currently use the euro:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Cyprus
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • The Netherlands
  • Portugal
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain

Technically speaking, Andorra, Kosovo, Montenegro, Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City aren’t members of the European Union. However, they have found it beneficial to adopt the new currency regardless. A special agreement has been reached with these countries that allow them to issue euros with their own national emblems. The euro is currently one of the world’s most powerful currencies.

Abbreviation and Denominations

The euro’s international symbol is €, with the abbreviation of EUR. As with all foreign currencies, it varies in value against the U.S. dollar.

On Jan. 1, 2002, the euro replaced the respective previous currencies of the countries who joined the Eurozone. The European Central Bank might be responsible for the authorization of the issuing of these notes, but the duty of putting the money into circulation rests on the national banks itself.

The designs and features on the notes are consistent throughout all the euro-using countries and are available in denominations of EUR 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500. Each of the euro coins has the same common front-sided design, with the exception of certain countries, which are allowed to print their individual national designs on the back. The technical features such as size, weight, and material used are the same.

There are eight euro coin denominations: 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 Eurozone countries use the 1- and 2-cent coins. Finland is an example.

European Countries Not Using the Euro

Some Western European nations are not participating in the conversion. Crowns (krona/kroner) are used in the Scandinavian countries, the Great Britain pound (GBP) in the UK, and the Swiss franc (CHF).

Other European countries have not met the required economic standards to use the euro or do not belong to the Eurozone. These countries are still using their own currency, so you will need to exchange euros when you visit them. The 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: Romania leu (RON)
  • Serbia: Serbian dinar (RSD)
  • Turkey: Turkish lira (TRL)

It is always advisable when traveling in a foreign country to convert some of your cash into the local currency. Local ATMs at your European destination will also provide you with a decent exchange rate if you need to draw from your account at home. Check with your bank before your departure to be sure your card will be accepted at ATMs in some of the smaller independent countries, such as Monaco.