Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Eurozone Welcomes Estonia

The Eurozone and its fiscal problems have been in the news a lot recently. However, from the viewpoint of travellers from overseas, the adoption of the euro has brought many benefits. In pre-euro days virtually every European country had its own currency, and a trip on the continent required many changes of currency with all the associated costs--exchange costs, costs incurred from not understanding how much the currency was worth, embarrassment over not having the right currency.
I can recall once travelling on a train from France to northern Italy that went via Germany, and finding out that the ticket I had was not good for that route, only for the route that stayed in France. I didn't have any Deutschmarks, though, so the conductor finally allowed me to remain on the train anyway. (I was very grateful for not being kicked off at the next stop.)
At present 16 countries use the euro, currently worth about one and a third dollars. On January 1 2011 Estonia will adopt the euro, and a number of other countries are expected to begin using euros in the relatively near future, barring economic and political catastrophes.
In a few years it may be only the U.K., Norway, Switzerland, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine that do not use the new currency. Some pessimistic commentators are predicitng, on the other hand, that the euro may fail and large countries like Germany and France may go back to having their own money.
For now, though, if you enjoy travelling in Europe it makes sense to keep some funds in euros. The value of the euro has fluctuated considerably against the dollar, from about 80 cents at the start to over $1.50. By keeping a stash of euros on hand, you avoid having to exchange large amounts of dollars when the rate is very unfavourable. And euros are starting, like dollars, to be accepted in some non-euro countries in the region.


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