You’re almost ready. Your long overdue European expedition is about to come to fruition. You packed your universal travel adapter, checked the weather, and even got an old-fashioned “English-French” pocket dictionary, just in case. Just need to exchange a whole bunch of euros to make your way through the Old Continent and you’ll l be all set, right?
Well, not so fast. Turns out, this depends on which European country you’ll be visiting. Because, believe it or not, almost half of Europe does not accept euros. Yeah, seriously.
You see, Europe is a complex melting pot of different cultures and languages, heavily influenced by long-lasting historical feuds and complex alliances that make it very difficult to reach true economic agreements. In fact, 25 European countries still use their own currency. What’s even more surprising, 9 of them are actually part of the European Union. Confusing? You bet. But that’s not all. To make things even more complicated, there are a few countries that use the euro even if they are NOT part of the European Union! This is the case in countries and city-states like Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, Montenegro, and the Vatican. Oh, and get this: French Guiana and some islands far away from Europe (such as Saint Barthélemy, Saint Pierre, Miquelon, Mayotte, and Reunion) also use euros as legal tender due to their French colonial connections. Even Iran likes to deal with this European currency!
Yep, euros can be a tricky and complicated mess. But fear not. We’ve prepared a convenient guide to show you where in Europe you might raise a few eyebrows if you try to pay with euros.
Extreme caution after the massive 2008 financial crisis — just one year after Bulgaria officially joined the European Union — was the main factor that led this Balkan republic to keep using levs (which means “lion”, by the way) like it has been doing since 1881. So, whether you intend to stroll the streets of Sofia or get lost exploring the scenic and wildly popular Belogradchick Rocks, be sure to have enough of these “lions” in your wallet.
In recent years, Croatia has become one of the most unexpected and sought-after destinations in Eastern Europe. Indeed, Croatians have learned how to rise from the ashes of a turbulent past and turn its unpolluted beaches into a tourist magnet. The country’s celebrated health resorts and nautical clubs right next to the Adriatic sea attracted more than 18 million visitors in 2018. Although Croatia formally entered the European Union in 2013, you’ll still need plenty of kunas to enjoy Pag Island’s thrilling nightlife or explore Dubrovnik’s old town.
Rest assured, the monumental and bucket list-worthy capital of former Czechoslovakia still withstands the test of time as one of the most beautiful European destinations. With its rich art nouveau legacy and stunning landmarks next to the scenic Vltava river, one could only assume that euros would be more than legit within Prague frontiers and beyond, right? Well, think again. Czechs fiercely defend their currency in a patriotic effort to preserve their national identity. So, whether you want to explore Prague’s Castle or taste an original Pilsner Urquell in Pilsen, you’re going to need a whole bunch of good ol’ Czech korunas to make your way through Czechia.
This Baltic country is well known as the birthplace of world-class philosophers, audacious explorers, avant-garde filmmakers, and beloved storytellers. It’s also one of the most progressive nations in Europe, being one of the first to allow same-sex marriage among other social equality milestones. Even though it’s been part of the European Union since 1973, the Kingdom of Denmark rejected by referendum to be part of the Eurozone in 2000. Therefore, you’ll need to use Danish krones if you visit Denmark or its two autonomous constituent nations: Greenland and the Faroe Islands.
Buda and Pest: Two sides of the same city, divided by one of the most romantic rivers in the world. Indeed, Hungary’s capital is a classic destination that stands out from the usually less-traveled cities of Central Europe. Heirs of the once-mighty Austro-Hungarian Empire, Hungarians are a relatively isolated people who cherish their ancient Magyar culture. With its history-filled heritage, it’s no wonder that this former Soviet Bloc nation decided to stick with its own traditions and keep its post World War II currency, the forint, instead of embracing the euro. Although, in theory, the country will have to join the Eurozone at some point in the future, chances are that you’ll still need to keep some forints handy if you want to sail the raw beauty of the “Blue Danube”.
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Poland is that kind of under-the-radar gem that can easily be ignored by those who are only attracted to Europe’s biggest tourist hubs. But, truth be told, this nation has so much to offer to open-minded visitors. For starters, Polish cuisine is one of the most unique and appreciated on the whole continent. Both Warsaw and Krakow’s Old Towns are enchanting architectural treasures and the country’s vast forests have plenty of surprises for nature lovers, such as herds of wild European bison! Yes, in case you were wondering, you’re right: no euros in Poland! You’ll just have to get used to the zlotys — a currency that has been around since the Middle Ages — if you want to treat yourself with local delicacies such as the world-famous pierogis or the traditional bigos cabbage stew.
Like so many regions that formed part of the once unbeatable Roman Empire, Romania is an ancient nation filled with fascinating historical facts and larger-than-life characters. You might be familiar with a moody Wallachian guy named Vlad Tepes, although you may know him better as Count Dracula. Ever since his alleged Transylvanian castle became one of the main attractions of this mysterious region, thousands of people flock here every year to experience the unique, unexplored Romanian charm. Not with euros, though. Romanians use leu, a currency almost as old as the country itself.
The mythic land of Vikings, this Scandinavian treasure is the third-largest country in the European Union. Commonly ranked among the best places to live in the world, Sweden seems to also be a true Eden for creativity. According to the US Patent and Trademark Office, more than 47,000 patents have been registered by Swedish inventors, from Alfred Nobel to Nikola Tesla. Its highly navigable capital, Stockholm, is a top-notch destination for all kinds of museum buffs. It doesn’t matter if you love Medieval warfare or are an incorrigible ABBA fan, you will get your fix here. Its government does not seem to have plans to accept euros anytime soon, which means that you’ll have to get some Swedish kronas (as well as warm clothes!) if you decide to explore Northern Europe.
Pretty sure you already knew about this one, right? Yes, pound sterlings are a necessity when traveling to the United Kingdom (that is, England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland). It definitely seems odd that a country so involved in European affairs would not adhere to the Eurozone, but that’s exactly what happened when British politicians had the chance way back in 1997. Since then, they have presented many explanations to justify this position, from unstable economic cycles to the desire to control their own rate fees. Since, undoubtedly, you will end up traveling to Old Albion at some point in your life, you better get used to struggling with pounds the same way Europeans do. Sure, the exchange rate is never pretty, but cities like London, Belfast, or Edinburgh are always worth a visit!
Outside the European Union?
Okay, so your destination is not even part of the EU. No worries. Just take a look at this list and check if the country you’re visiting is in it. If that’s the case, stop by your nearest currency exchange office, because these nations also enact their own “non-euro” policy:
Albania (Albanian lek), Armenia (Armenian dram), Azerbaijan (Azerbaijan manat), Belarus (Belarus ruble), Bosnia and Herzegovina (Bosnia and Herzegovina convertible mark), Georgia (Georgian lari), Iceland (Icelandic krona), Liechtenstein (Swiss franc), Moldova (Moldovan leu), North Macedonia (Second Macedonian denar), Norway (Norwegian krone), Russia (Russian ruble), Serbia (Serbian dinar), Switzerland (Swiss franc), Turkey (Turkish lira), Ukraine (Ukrainian hryvnia).
Now that you know more about the countries that use the euro, do you plan to visit Europe anytime soon? Let us know in our comments section below!