Sofia Adventures

If you’re traveling the Balkans, one of the main hang-ups can be money. The currency changes with every border crossing and the conversions back to your home currency can get a bit confusing. By the time you’re on your fifth or sixth new currency, your head will start to spin. Plus, you can’t always exchange your leftover currency in the next country, so you need to keep an eye on what’s in your wallet at all times. Here’s what you need to know about Balkan currency: where to get it, how to spend it, and approximately what it’s worth.

Balkan Money Advice

Here are our best money tips that apply across the Balkan peninsula, regardless of which of the nine(!) different Balkan currencies you’re using.

Where is the Best Place to Get Money?

Serbia - Belgrade - Bus Terminal

Don’t use the exchanges, but feel free to use the ATMs at the bus stations or airports.

You’ll get the best exchange rate if you get your money from an ATM. For this, you’ll want an ATM card that charges no ATM fee and no foreign transaction fee. It’s even better if you have an account that will refund you any ATM withdrawal fees from other banks.

Don’t use the exchange offices unless absolutely necessary. These places have outrageous fees. The ATMs at airports and bus stations are a better option.

How Much Cash Should I Get?

Greece - Crete - Heraklion - Taxi Station

You’ll need cash for taxis anywhere that you can’t use a taxi app.

It’s better to take out too little cash and go back than to get stuck with a lot of currency that you can’t use. However, you need to have a debit card with no fees in order for this to work If you’re in a big city, take out what you need for a couple of days at a time.

If you are staying in a small village or will be going somewhere that’s very off-the-path, then take out what you think you’ll need for the time you’ll be away. It’s possible you won’t be running into another ATM soon, and these are the parts of the region where credit card usage is low.

Can I Use My Credit Card?

Bulgaria - Pernik - Kukeri Selfie Stephanie

Going to a Balkan festival? You’ll want to have cash on hand.

Whenever possible, using a credit card is a great option since you’ll get an up-to-date exchange rate. You need a credit card with no foreign transaction fee in order for this to be a good deal.

In most capital cities and other large centers, you can use a credit card for larger restaurants, hotels (especially if you pay online), and other major businesses like grocery stores.

How to Keep Your Money Safe While Traveling

Greece - Crete - Heraklion - Old Venetian Harbor Luggage

Keeping your money safe when you travel involves knowing what bags to use and having travel insurance just in case.

I don’t personally use money belts, preferring instead to just be smart about my money on the road. This includes using a day bag that has anti-theft features, and always having travel insurance so I can get my things replaced while on the road.

For travel insurance, I use World NomadsI’ve been a happy customer of theirs for almost three years, and I’ve never had an issue when making a claim. I’m happy to refer them to anyone I meet. Things can happen on the road, and it’s better to be safe than sorry! Recently my aunt fell on a train in France and needed surgery, but luckily her travel insurance covered it. Thank goodness!

Get a travel insurance quote for your trip here.

What to Do with Leftover Currency?

Serbia - Belgrade - Allison Platform Tickets

Have a little currency leftover for surprise expenses on the way out of town, like these platform tickets we learned about at 4 AM.

You want to have some currency leftover at the end of your trip in case a small need comes up. Something always does, like a last minute platform ticket on the bus from Belgrade to Sofia or a surprise Duty-Free stop with an amazing kalamata olive paste sale at 4 AM crossing from Thessaloniki. Plus, if you’re traveling by bus or train, you’ll need a small amount of cash to use the bathrooms.

However, you don’t want to have too much leftover, since you’ll get the worst deal exchanging your currency back. Avoid the exchanges at the border crossings unless you are pressed for time. Try to go to one before you leave the country since some currencies can’t be easily exchanged once you leave. For example, I couldn’t find anywhere to exchange Albanian currency once I was in Kosovo, and the Bosnian convertible mark is almost impossible to exchange outside of the country.

The best exchange rates you can get is to find someone who needs the currency. I exchanged about $100 worth of Bosnian KM in Serbia at my hostel with another traveler without having to pay any fee and got the best rate.

What to Do with Leftover Coins?

Croatia - Zagreb - Lemonade

Use your coins as you go on small purchases since you can’t easily exchange them when you’re done.

It’s almost impossible to find somewhere to exchange coins unless they’re Euros or another near-universal currency. Try to spend your coins as you go, and the ones that are leftover you can keep as souvenirs. I have a tin of coins from about fifty countries, and someday I’ll figure out what to do with it.

While traveling, it’s helpful to have a coin purse so have your coins organized and easily accessible so that you can spend them as you go.

What are the Rules for Tipping in the Balkans?

Slovenia - Piran - Restaurant

Every country has different tipping guidelines, but there are some common things to know.

Below we’ve listed every Balkan country’s tipping guidelines, but there are a few things that are the same across the region. First, always tip in cash. You will almost never be able to tip on your credit card, even if you can pay for your meal or ride with a card. Second, not every restaurant allows the servers to keep their tips, so it’s okay to ask your waiter or waitress if they get to keep their tips before your leave one.

Tip your tour guides, especially for private tours and any free tours. Determining what to tip in these situations can be rough, but it’s okay to ask if you’re unsure.

Finally, in countries where tipping servers is common, please don’t skip the tip. Servers in some parts of the Balkans make less than minimum wage, and their tips are part of the money needed to survive in the job. For example, servers in Bulgaria depend on that 10% tip.

Whatever your home tipping culture is, it’s not okay to come to this part of the world and skip out on tipping in places where it is part of the custom. You represent your home country when you come here, so act like a good ambassador. 

The Balkans Currency by Country

Here’s what each Balkan country uses for their currency. Exchange rates are as of February 2019.

Albania

Albania - Berat - Berat Flowers Walls

In Albania, the currency is the Albanian Lek (plural: Lekë). This is one where you might start to feel like you’re holding monopoly money, as spending a Lek is like spending one American penny. However, everything you see will for sale cost hundreds or thousands of Lekë, so it evens out in the end.

Currency Code: ALL

Currency Symbol: Lek

Exchange Rate: 1 LEK = .008 EUR / .009 USD / .007 GBP / .012 CAD

Most Common Banknotes: Lek200, Lek500, Lek1000, Lek2000, Lek5000

Most Common Coins: Lek1, Lek5, Lek10, Lek20, Lek50, Lek100

Can I Use My Euros: the Euro is widely accepted; however, you may find yourself in a pinch if you don’t have Lekë and a business chooses not to take the Euro.

Tipping in Albania: For restaurants, tip 10%. You don’t need to tip for taxis, but you can round up to the next hundred Lekë.

Bosnia & Herzegovina

Bosnia - Mostar - Ćejvan-Ćehaja's Mosque

In Bosnia, the currency is the Bosnian Convertible Mark (plural: Convertible Marks). It is subdivided into one hundred Fenig. This is one of the hardest currencies to exchange outside of the country (nearly impossible) so try not to leave with any extra cash other than a small amount for emergencies.

Currency Code: BAM

Currency Symbol: KM

Exchange Rate: 1 BAM = 0.51 EUR / 0.59 USD / 0.45 GBP / 0.77 CAD

Most Common Banknotes: KM10, KM20, KM50, KM100, KM200

Most Common Coins: KM1, KM2, KM5, 5, 10, 20, 50

Can I Use My Euros: You can use Euros at some businesses. They will give you a 2:1 rate, which is not as good as you will get if you pay with KM.

Tipping in Bosnia: For restaurants, check to see if the tip was included on the bill. If not, then tip 10%. You don’t need to tip for taxis, but you round up to the next KM.

Bulgaria

Bulgaria - Sofia - Alexander Nevsky

In Bulgaria, the currency is the Bulgarian Leva (plural: Leva). It is subdivided into one hundred Stotinki.

Currency Code: BGN

Currency Symbol: LV / лв.

Exchange Rate: 1 BGN = 0.51 EUR / 0.59 USD / 0.45 GBP / 0.77 CAD

Most Common Banknotes: LV2, LV5, LV10, лLV20, LV50, LV100

Most Common Coins: LV1, LV2, Stotinki1, Stotinki2, Stotinki5, Stotinki10, Stotinki20, Stotinki50

Can I Use My Euros: Euros are almost never excepted anywhere except in exigent circumstances.

Tipping in Bulgaria: For restaurants, tip 10%. You don’t need to tip for taxis, but you round up to the next lev or two.

Read: For more information about traveling to Bulgaria, check our Bulgaria trip planning checklist.

Croatia

Croatia - Zagreb - View

In Croatia, the currency is the Croatian Kuna (plural: Kuna). It is subdivided into one hundred Lipa.

Currency Code: HRK

Currency Symbol: kn

Exchange Rate: 1 HRK = 0.13 EUR / 0.15 USD / 0.12 GBP / 0.20 CAD

Most Common Banknotes: kn5, kn10, kn20, kn50, kn100, kn200, kn500, kn1000

Most Common Coins: kn1, kn2, kn5, lp5, lp10, lp20, lp50

Can I Use My Euros in Croatia: You can sometimes pay in Euros, but don’t expect to be able to do so commonly.

Tipping in Croatia: For restaurants, tip 10% for regular service and 15% for exceptional service. You should tip even if there is a service fee included on the bill. For taxis, round up to the nearest easy number. For long trips, tip 10%.

Greece

Greece - Crete - Heraklion - Old Venetian Harbor

Greece is an easy country to travel, currency-wise, since it uses the Euro (plural: Euros). The Euro is subdivided into one hundred cents.

Currency Code: EUR

Currency Symbol:  €

Exchange Rate: 1 EUR = 1.15 USD / 0.88 GBP / 1.50 CAD

Most Common Banknotes: €5, €10, €20, €50, €100

Most Common Coins: €1, €2, 5cent, 10cent, 20cent, 50cent

Tipping in Greece: If the restaurant bill has already been rounded up, you do not need to tip. Otherwise, tip between 5% and 10%. For taxis, round up to the nearest Euro or two.

Read: For more information about traveling to Greece, check our Greece trip planning checklist.

Kosovo

Kosovo - Pristina - Spomenik

Like Greece, Kosovo uses the Euro (plural: Euros). The Euro is subdivided into one hundred cents. Pay attention to ATMs. Once I accidentally got Serbian dinars out at a Mitrovica ATM, and I had to find another ATM that gave out Euros.

Currency Code: EUR

Currency Symbol:  €

Exchange Rate: 1 EUR = 1.15 USD / 0.88 GBP / 1.50 CAD

Most Common Banknotes: €5, €10, €20, €50, €100

Most Common Coins: €1, €2, 5cent, 10cent, 20cent, 50cent

Can I Use Serbian Dinars in Kosovo: Some places will allow you to use Serbian dinars, but it’s complicated and not universal. I had taxi drivers who took them with no problem, and another taxi driver who acted like I was insane trying to use them. It’s better to have Euros, but if you have some leftover Dinars it never hurts to ask.

Tipping in Kosovo: Tipping is not common or expected, although touristy places might expect tips from foreigners.  Feel free to leave a Euro or two. For taxis, round up to the nearest half Euro or Euro.

Macedonia

Macedonia - Lake Ohrid - Boat

In Macedonia, the currency is the Macedonian Denar (plural: Denars). It is divided into one hundred Deni.

Currency Code: MKD

Currency Symbol: Den / ден

Exchange Rate: 1 MKD = 0.02 EUR / 0.02 USD / 0.01 GBP / 0.02 CAD

Most Common Banknotes: Den10, Den50, Den100, Den500, Den1000, Den5000

Most Common Coins: Den1, Den2, Den5, Den10, Den50

Can I Use My Euros in Macedonia: It is almost impossible to use Euros in Macedonia.

Tipping in Macedonia: For restaurants, check to see if the tip was included on the bill. If not, then tip 10%. For taxis, you need to negotiate your rates before you leave, so you are not expected to tip on top of this amount (but you can for exceptional service).

Montenegro

Montenegro - Kotor - Church of St. Luke

Montenegro uses the Euro (plural: Euros). The Euro is subdivided into one hundred cents.

Currency Code: EUR

Currency Symbol:  €

Exchange Rate: 1 EUR = 1.15 USD / 0.88 GBP / 1.50 CAD

Most Common Banknotes: €5, €10, €20, €50, €100

Most Common Coins: €1, €2, 5cent, 10cent, 20cent, 50cent

Tipping in Montenegro: For restaurants, tip 10%.  For taxis, tip 5-10%.

Romania

Romania - Sibiu - Castelul de Lut Valea Zanelor

In Romania, the currency is the Romanian Leu (plural: Lei). It is divided into one hundred Bani.

Currency Code: RON

Currency Symbol: lei

Exchange Rate: 1 RON = 0.21 EUR / 0.24 USD / 0.18 GBP / 0.32 CAD

Most Common Banknotes: lei1, lei5, lei10, lei50, lei100

Most Common Coins: 1, 5, 10, 50

Can I Use My Euros: You can sometimes get away with using Euros at hotels in Bucharest, but do not expect to be able to use Euros regularly.

Tipping in Romania: For restaurants, tip 5-10%. For taxis, tip about 5 lei or round up to the nearest sensible rate.

Serbia

Serbia - Novi Sad - View of Novi Sad from the Petrovaradin Fortress

In Serbia, the currency is the Serbian Dinar. It is divided into one hundred Para. Keep in mind that Serbia and Kosovo are on different currencies.

Currency Code: RSD

Currency Symbol: RSD / РСД

Exchange Rate: 1 RSD = 0.01 EUR / 0.01 USD / 0.01 GBP / 0.13 CAD

Most Common Banknotes: RSD10, RSD20, RSD50,RSD100, RSD200, RSD500, RSD1000

Most Common Coins: RSD1, RSD2, RSD5, RSD10, RSD20

Can I Use My Euros: Serbia is not part of the EU, and the situation with Kosovo is tense. You should not try to use Euros in Serbia. Near the Kosovo border, you might be able to use them, but the exchange rate will not be good for you.

Tipping in Serbia: For restaurants, tip 10-15%. For taxis, round up to the nearest hundred Dinars.

Slovenia

Slovenia - Piran - View of Piran and Coast

Slovenia is the fourth and final Balkan country that uses the Euro (plural: Euros). The Euro is subdivided into one hundred cents.

Currency Code: EUR

Currency Symbol:  €

Exchange Rate: 1 EUR = 1.15 USD / 0.88 GBP / 1.50 CAD

Most Common Banknotes: €5, €10, €20, €50, €100

Most Common Coins: €1, €2, 5cent, 10cent, 20cent, 50cent

Tipping in Slovenia: Tipping in restaurants is not an obligation, but you can tip 10% for good service. Keep in mind that while tipping is not always expected in Slovenia, servers can be underpaid. For taxis, tip 1-2 Euros.

Turkey

Turkey - Istanbul - Istanbul Trolley

In Turkey, the currency is the Turkish Lira (plural: Lira). It is divided into one hundred Kuruş. The lira has been extremely volatile lately, so you may want to double check the exchange right before your trip.

Currency Code: TRY

Currency Symbol:  TRY

Exchange Rate: 1 TRY = 0.17 EUR / 0.19 USD / 0.15 GBP / 0.25 CAD

Most Common Banknotes: TRY5, TRY10, TRY20, TRY50, TRY100, TRY200

Most Common Coins: TRY1, 5Kr, 10Kr, 25Kr, 50Kr

Can I Use My Euros: Sometimes you can use Euros in Istanbul. If prices are listed in Euros, you can bet the exchange rate is inflated. It’s always better to pay in Lira.

Tipping in Turkey: For restaurants, tip 5-10%. For taxis, round up to the next whole lira. If you go to a Turkish bath, tip 10-20%.

 

Leave any Balkan money tips and questions you have about Balkan currency below!

 

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Balkan Currency Guide: What You Need to Know about Balkan Money

 

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