Essential Information About Currencies in Europe

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Most of Europe is now using a single currency, the Euro. How did Europe go from countless currencies to one common currency? In 1999, the European Union took a large step towards a unified Europe. 11 countries formed an economic and political structure within the European states. Membership to the EU became something to aspire to, as the organization gave significant support and financial aid to countries wishing to meet the required criteria. Each member of the Eurozone now shared the same currency, known as the Euro, which was to replace their own individual monetary units.

These countries only started the Euro as the official currency in early 2002.

Adopting the Euro

Using a single currency in all of the 23 participating countries makes things a bit more simple for travelers. But which are these 23 European countries? The original 11 countries of the EU are:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Luxembourg
  • The Netherlands
  • Portugal
  • Spain

Since the introduction of the Euro, 14 more countries have started using the Euro as formal currency. These countries are:

  • Andorra
  • Cyprus
  • Estonia
  • Greece
  • Kosovo
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Malta
  • Monaco
  • Montenegro
  • San Marino
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Vatican City

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 adapt to the new currency regardless. A special agreement has been reached with these countries that allow them to issue Euro coins with their own national emblems. The Euro currency is currently one of the world’s most powerful currencies.

Abbreviation and Denominations

The Euro’s international symbol is €, with the abbreviation of EUR and is comprised of 100 Cents.

As mentioned, the hard currency was only introduced on 1st January 2002, when it replaced are 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 who are allowed to print their individual national designs on the back. The technical features such as size, weight and material used are the same.

With the Euro, there are 8 coin denominations in total, which includes 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 a prime example.

European Countries Not Using the Euro

Some of the Western European nations not participating in the conversion are the United Kingdom, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and independent Switzerland.

Aside from the Euro and Crowns (Krona/Kroner) used in the Scandinavian countries, there are only two other major currencies in Europe: The Great Britain Pound (GBP) and The Swiss Franc (CHF).

Other European countries have not met the required economic standards to join the Euro, or do not belong to the Eurozone. These countries are still using their own currency, so you will need to exchange your funds upon visiting 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

To avoid carrying excessive amounts of cash on you, it is always advisable to convert some of your cash into the local currency. Local ATMs at your European destination will also provide you with a great exchange rate if you need to draw from your account at home. Just be sure to check with your bank prior to your departure if your card will be accepted at ATMs in some of the smaller independent countries, such as Monaco.