Here's What You Need to Know About the Euro

What the traveler needs to know about the euro

Euro bank note and coins in jar at the beach during sunset
••• the_burtons / Getty Images

If you haven't traveled to Europe for a long time, one major difference you'll find is in the currency. Travel through the many participating countries and you won't have to go through the hassle of converting local currencies because the euro is the shared, official monetary unit. 

There are 19 participating countries (of the 28 members of the European Union). The countries that use the euro are Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain.

Outside of the European Union, there are 22 other countries and territories that have pegged their currencies to the euro. These include Bosnia, Herzegovina and 13 countries in Africa. 

How Do You Read or Write a Euro?

You will see prices written like this: €12 or 12€. Be aware that many European countries a decimal comma, so €12,10 (or 12,10€) is 12 euro and 10 euro cents.

Which Currencies Did the Euro Replace?

Here are some of the currencies that the euro replaced. 

  • Belgium: Belgian franc  
  • Greece:  Greek drachma  
  • France: French frank 
  • 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
  • Kosovo and Montenegro have unilaterally adopted the euro.
  • The Bulgarian lev, the Bosnian convertible mark, and the Danish krone are all pegged to the euro.

Can You Use the Euro In Switzerland?

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 Swiss francs.

Quick facts about the Euro

  • While all coins have the same front face, each country may customize the backs of the eight coins with forms of national identity. Here's how they look.
  • Notes are issued in seven denominations from 5 euro though 500 euro.
  • Six coins representing fractional values of the euro (cents) are circulated.
  • Two coins with the value 1 and 2 euros are circulated.
  • The size of the coins increases in size with their face value.
  • While most western European nations use the euro, some don't, such as the United Kingdom, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Switzerland.