Croatia switches to the euro and joins the Schengen area

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(CNN) — With over 1,000 miles of coastline and over 1,000 islands and islets, Croatia is one of Europe’s most idyllic summer destinations. Yet so far it has always felt a bit more exotic than France, Spain and Greece, with its own currency, the kuna.

This all changed on January 1 when Croatia joined the euro zone, replacing its historic kuna with the euro. It is the 20th country to join the single currency.

Euro banknotes and coins are now circulating in the country, with around 70% of the country’s ATMs already dispensing euros rather than kuna, according to the European Commission. The rest will follow by January 15.

The kuna can still be used until January 15, although anyone paying in kuna will receive their change in euros. The exchange rate was fixed at 7.53450 kuna for 1 euro.

Do you have spare kuna left over from your last trip? You can exchange them for euros at any Croatian post office until June 30 and at any Croatian bank until the end of 2023. Exchange at a bank is free until July 1. The National Central Bank of Croatia will exchange kuna banknotes free of charge until further notice and coins until December 2025.

“I welcome Croatia to the euro family and to the ECB Governing Council table in Frankfurt,” Christine Lagarde, President of the European Central Bank, said in a statement.

“Croatia has worked hard to become the 20th member of the Eurozone, and it has succeeded. I congratulate the Croatian people.”

Hrvatska narodna banka, the national central bank of Croatia, now becomes a member of the Eurosystem, the central banking system of the euro area, consisting of the European Central Bank and the national central banks of the euro area member states.

French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted: “Welcome, dear Croatian friends, to this common currency,” as he delivered a two-minute speech on the decision.

As well as changing currencies on January 1, Croatia also joined the Schengen Area – the bloc of 26 countries that abolished border controls in Europe, making it the largest borderless zone in the world. It is the 23rd of the 27 EU member states to be part of Schengen. Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland are also part of the zone, bringing the full tally to 27 countries and around 420 million European citizens who can travel without borders in the bloc.

Internal land and sea borders saw their controls removed on January 1, while internal air borders will follow on March 26. This means that Croatia can now also issue Schengen visas.

What does this mean for visitors? Less friction when crossing borders – previously lines could be long on road borders with Slovenia and Hungary, and on sea crossings from Italy. However, this also means that long-term travelers who max out their 90-day Schengen visa-free trip can no longer travel to Croatia to wait 90 days before they can return to Schengen.

Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković tweeted that January 1 was a “historic day for Croatia”.

“We are the first country to enter Schengen and the euro zone on the same day,” he added.

“With the introduction of the euro, our citizens and the economy will be better protected against crises.”


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