Euro - EUR
The Euro is the relatively new currency in use across several countries in the European Union. There are eighteen countries that are currently using the Euro currency. These are Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain. In addition to these main countries there are a number of other places where Euros are also commonly used, even though it is not the official currency there. More information on such locations can be found later in this article.
However there are also other areas that are not within the European Union that have officially adopted the Euro as their currency of choice. These include Montenegro, Andorra and Kosovo.
What coins and notes are available for this currency?
The Euro is a decimal currency and is divided into Euros and Eurocents. The Eurocents were so called to make it easier to distinguish them from the dollar, but in practice most people refer to them simply as cents.
There are seven separate denominations of the banknotes for this currency. These are the €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200 and €500 notes. As you can see they go up far higher in denomination than many banknotes for other currencies.
There are also eight coins available in this currency. These are – from the smallest to the largest – 1 cent, 2 cents, 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, one Euro and two Euros.
One of the most interesting things to note about the currency is that the banknotes are uniform and identical throughout all the member countries that use them. However, it is a different story when it comes to the coins. One side – the so called common side – has the coin’s denomination on it along with a picture of Europe. There are no borders in the image and some of the islands are geographically wrong – otherwise they wouldn’t fit onto the coins!
The other side differs depending on the country that uses it. While there are rules in place that must be adhered to with regard to the design each country chooses, they are otherwise allowed to choose something relevant to them.
From past to present – the history of the Euro
Of the many currencies that exist in the world today, the Euro is one of the very few that most people will remember coming into existence in the first place. In the short time that it has existed, the Euro has grown to become the second most vigorously traded currency available. It is also giving the US dollar a run for its money (if you’ll excuse the pun) as the top reserve currency in the world. Who is to say this situation may not change in the future?
The name ‘Euro’ came into being four years before the currency replaced the ECU (European Currency Unit). It would be another three years after that before the Euro was officially launched to replace the currencies being used in the member countries.
The Euro has certainly had its ups and downs throughout its short life. Trading has seen it fluctuating anywhere between 0.82 and 1.60 against the US dollar. While it is currently nearer the top figure than the bottom one, the situation in the Eurozone is arguably anything but stable. The economic crisis showed how difficult it was to lump lots of diverse countries together under one currency and one set of rules. This has led to upset and unrest in many different countries, including most notably Spain and Greece.
If we can point to the dramas that have never been far from the history of the Euro from its creation to the present day, we can also speculate on whether those dramas will remain with it for some time to come.
How to get hold of Euros
Since this is the second most traded currency in the world it is no surprise to learn how easy it is to find Euros when you need them. If you have planned a trip to a European country that uses the Euro, make sure you buy your currency before you leave. This will ensure you always have some cash on you in case you need it.
The good news is even if you need Euros when you are on holiday or travelling through a European country that uses them, you will find it easy to get hold of them. Most countries have a network of cash machines that will give you a quantity of Euros. You should be able to use your normal bank card to get the money out. Your bank will charge you for the exchange rate but this shouldn’t be extortionate. You may wish to find out before you leave though, so you know where you stand.
Many countries will also let you pay with Euros by using a card – either a debit or credit card. This gives you even more benefits to keep in mind.
How to find out the latest exchange rate between your home currency and the Euro
Since the Euro is a common and well known currency, finding the latest exchange rate for it couldn’t be easier. Many financial and currency websites have a currency converter that provides information on a wealth of the most popular currencies. The Euro is often included near the top of the list, or you can find it by typing in EUR – this is the currency code for the Euro.
The exchange rate depends on which currency you want to exchange for the Euro. When using a converter you simply need to be sure you enter the correct two currencies to see what the latest rates are. Remember you will pay a fee for exchanging one currency for another; this fee will not be given by a converter since it can vary between providers.
For more information on the European Union, its currency and various other associated topics, you can visit the official website at http://europa.eu.
Travelling safely with Euros
The different countries that use the Euro vary markedly in many ways. For the most part they are safe to travel in and through, but it makes sense to be careful when you are carrying the Euro with you.
People who are tourists tend to stick out more in an area where they have never been before. As such it makes sense to keep your valuables – including your money – out of sight. Don’t make life any easier for pickpockets.
If you know you are visiting a particular country, make sure you find out as much as possible about the area you are going to before you get there. Most cities and large towns have areas you would not want to go to or through at night. This isn’t unique to the Eurozone either – it is fairly common around the world. A little knowledge can go a long way in helping you stay safe.
Where to spend your Euros in Europe – and what to spend them on
The most common example of Euros being used in other countries is in border towns to the Eurozone area. Typical examples are Poland and Switzerland. While these two countries have not adopted the Euro there are many outlets along their borders that accept the currency. This is an unofficial situation though; it is up to the individual trader as to whether they do this or not.
One of the furthest areas away from the Eurozone that does accept the currency in places is, ironically, London, England. The United Kingdom has long resisted joining the single currency but some major stores and tourist locations in London do accept the currency. This is owing to the large number of tourists who visit the city from various places in Europe.
The fact that the Euro is used in eighteen countries across Europe means you have an incredible number of opportunities for spending the currency. You can book a holiday to the beaches of Spain or one to the Austrian Tyrol to see the snowy mountains. In both cases it will be the Euro you will pull out of your pocket to pay for drinks, meals and tourist souvenirs.
The cost of living in the Eurozone as a whole is going up – it went up by 2.2% in 2012 alone. However there are countries within the zone that provide great value for money when compared to the cost of living in Great Britain.
When you have the Euro in your pocket you cannot easily find out how far it will get you and what you can spend it on. It all depends on which country you are visiting. For instance, if you go to Austria you can expect prices to be a lot steeper than they would be in Slovenia. The Euro will stretch a lot further in the latter country than it would in Austria. This may help you to plan a more cost effective holiday if your budget is an issue.
The best thing about the Euro is that it makes travel through more than one European country easier than ever. You could plan a trip that takes you through Germany, Austria, France and Spain and never have to change currencies before going from one to the other.
The advent of the Euro meant that old currencies such as the drachma, the franc and the mark disappeared overnight. While many have adopted and accepted the Euro, others would rather have those old currencies back again.
It is impossible to say whether the European single currency will last long into the future. It is sobering to realise however that every previous attempt to unify Europe has ended in disappointment and failure. Will the same be the case this time, or will the Euro be the one time when everything went right?