Planning a trip abroad can be intense: You've got to account for navigating new languages, different customs and strange transportation systems. For travelers to Europe, however, planning became a bit easier in 2002 when the euro was introduced. As countries ditched their traditional currency in favor of the new system, the largest-ever currency change took place, involving about 8 billion notes and 40 billion coins. The euro is used in 19 countries in the European Union, saving travelers the hassle and expense of changing currencies every time they cross a border.
Knowing a bit about the euro can make it easier to use the currency without making mistakes next time you're abroad. Although the brightly colored bills and shiny coins might look like play money, understanding them ahead of time can help you avoid costly mistakes.
Where Can I Use The Euro?
One of the most important things for travelers to know is that not all member countries in the European Union accept the euro. Great Britain is leaving the European Union, but even before that the island nation stuck to its own currency, British pounds. Denmark, Poland and six other European Union countries do not use the euro. However, major tourist destinations including France, Germany and Greece all use the currency.
Denominations of Euro Paper Money
Whereas Americans refer to their paper money as bills, Europeans call their paper money banknotes or just notes. The euro offers notes in seven different amounts: 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500. Each different note has a distinct color and size, which makes it easy to tell them apart when you're in a hurry.
Beginning in 2013, the European Central Bank started issuing a new series of banknotes with a slightly redesigned look and enhanced security features. This is called the Europa series. The 5-euro note was the first to be changed, and new 10, 20 and 50 euro notes have since been issued. In the new series, the European Central Bank will no longer print the 500-euro note, although it will still be accepted and will always remain legal currency.
Denominations of Euro Coins
Since the smallest note is worth 5 euros, coins cover the smallest denominations of euros. There are coins worth 1 and 2 euros. In addition, there are coins worth 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents. Coins have a common side which is the same all the time and a side that reflects the country in which they were issued. However, all euro coins can be used in any country that accepts the euro.
For travelers, the coin of most interest is the 2-euro coin. That's because each country can issue two commemorative coins each year, recognizing important milestones or anniversaries. Collecting commemorative coins can be a fun pastime during a trip.
Kelly Burch is a freelance journalist living in New Hampshire. Her writing on educational issues has appeared on Bright, The Washington Post, We Are Teachers and School Leaders Now.