Destinations Europe What You Need to Know About the Euro Written by James Martin Facebook Twitter James Martin is a travel writer and photographer who writes, photographs, and edits stories about western Europe. Tripsavvy's Editorial Guidelines James Martin Updated 10/20/19 Share Pin Email the_burtons / Getty Images Traveling around Europe before 2002 meant obtaining a new currency and learning a new exchange rate every time you crossed a border. On January 1, 2002, the euro replaced most national monetary units with a single, shared currency for some of the countries that are a part of the eurozone. The original 12 countries to adopt the euro were Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain. In the following years, Slovenia, Cyprus, Malta, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania adopted the euro as well. Additionally, the four microstates of Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City adopted the euro, despite not being members of the European Union. Outside of the European Union, there are several other countries and territories that pegged their currencies to the euro, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, and 15 countries in Africa. How Prices Are Written The euro sign (€) references both the Greek letter epsilon and the letter "E" for Europe. Depending on what country you are in, the currency sign may come before the number (€12) or after (12€). Be aware that many European countries use a decimal comma, so €12,10 (or 12,10€) is 12 euros and 10 cents. Which Currencies Did the Euro Replace? Before the adoption of the euro, each country had its own national currency. Belgium: Belgian franc Greece: Greek drachma France: French franc Italy: Italian lira Netherland: Dutch guilder Portugal: Portuguese escudo Germany: Deutsche mark Spain: Spanish peseta Ireland: Irish pound Luxembourg: Luxembourg franc Austria: Austrian schilling Finland: Finnish markka Estonian: Estonian kroon Latvia: Latvian lats Lithuania: Lithuanian litas Slovakia: Slovak koruna Slovenia: Slovenian tolar Cyprus: Cypriot pound Malta: Maltese lira About the Euro Paper money is issued in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500 euros, although notes over 50 euros are rare. The bills have a universal design across the eurozone, so a 5 euro bill looks the same whether you receive it in France or Greece. Coins are circulated in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents, as well as 1 and 2 euros. Each country is able to customize the back face of its coins, using a design that represents the national identity. For example, the euro coin made in Ireland shows an Irish harp. The coins are transferrable across borders, so you can use coins minted in one country in any other eurozone country. Outside the Eurozone There are several nations in Europe that didn't adopt the euro, such as the United Kingdom, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Croatia, and Switzerland. If you're traveling to any of these countries, you'll need to exchange for the local currency. Switzerland is unique because it's completely landlocked by countries that do use the euro. Although the official currency of Switzerland (and Liechtenstein) is the Swiss franc, shops and restaurants in Switzerland often accept the euro. However, they are not obliged to do so and they will apply an exchange rate that won't be to your advantage. If you are planning on staying in Switzerland for an extended period of time, it's smarter to get some francs. Was this page helpful? Thanks for letting us know! Share Pin Email Tell us why! Submit What You Need to Know About Currencies in Europe Is Spain in the Schengen Zone? What Is the Currency of Finland? Can You Drink the Tap Water in Europe? Travel to Europe: A Reopening Timeline, Country by Country How to Get a Visa for Visiting, Working, and Studying in Greece Tourist Visa Requirements for Europe You Need an Electronic Visa to Visit Australia and New Zealand Is It Safe to Travel in the U.S. Right Now? See the World's Embassies at Passport DC How Long Can I Stay in Europe on a Schengen Visa? Do You Need a Visa for Your Trip to Italy? Do You Need a Visa to Visit Germany? Do I Need a Visa to Travel to France? What Is the Official Currency of the Netherlands? Do You Need a Visa to Visit Finland?