If you’re looking for a combination of old world charm and natural beauty, Lithuania is definitely worth a visit.
From the enchanting cobbled streets and quaint courtyards of the capital, Vilnius, to lush green forests and the white sands of the beautiful Baltic coastline, this Eastern European gem is a delight to discover.
But what’s the best way to pay your way in Lithuania? And how do you get enough money to fund your trip?
Read on to find out everything you need to know about using your money in Lithuania.
As from the 1 January 2015, the official currency of Lithuania is the Euro (€). The Euro is a floating currency; and its value fluctuates on a daily basis. One Euro is made up of 100 cents.
Before it switched to the Euro, Lithuania’s official currency was the Litas. This has now ceased to be legal tender though, which means it’s no longer accepted anywhere in the country. However, it’s still possible to exchange Litas for Euro at a fixed rate. One Lita is equivalent to €0.29.
Euro coins are available in denominations of 1c, 2c, 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, €1 and €2. Banknotes are available in denominations of €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200 and €500. The most frequently used banknotes are €5, €10 and €20. The highest two denominations (€200 and €500) are rarely used; and some shops won’t accept them.
The Euro is the second largest reserve currency in the world and the second most traded currency after the US Dollar. This means getting your hands on Euros ahead of time shouldn’t be a problem. That said, it’s worth waiting until you land in Lithuania to exchange your money, as you can usually get a much better exchange rate than you’ll be offered at home.
US Dollars and British Pounds are very easy to exchange, provided your bills are unmarked and undamaged. You’ll also need to present your passport or other proof of ID. Currencies from neighbouring countries such as Poland and Russia are also quite easy to exchange.
Try to avoid changing your money at the airport or at a hotel. The exchange rates on offer here are normally bad, and you’ll also be charged a fee on top. Banks and exchange bureaus in the city offer far better rates. ATMs offer the best exchange rate possible - the mid-market rate.
If you choose to buy Euro from a bank or foreign exchange bureau, always compare the rate you’re offered to the mid-market rate. There’s no such thing as a fee-free foreign exchange transaction. While you may not be charged an outright fee or commission, chances are the profit will be built into the exchange rate you’re offered.
You can check the current mid-market rate by using our handy currency converter.
Of course, if you’re visiting Lithuania from another Eurozone country, you won’t need to exchange currency at all. In fact, you don’t even need to bring cash with you.
ATM withdrawals, credit card transactions and debit card transactions from a Eurozone account are considered domestic, so they don’t attract any foreign exchange fees or international transaction fees. Instead, you’ll pay exactly what you’d have paid at home.
If your home bank charges an ATM fee for out-of-network withdrawals, you’ll pay the exact same fee when you use an ATM in Lithuania. You won’t pay any fees if your bank does not charge out-of-network fees. The same withdrawal limits you have back home will also apply in Lithuania.
The same goes for credit and debit card payments. Whether your transaction attracts a fee will depend on the situation back home. It’s worth checking your bank’s fee schedule so that you’ll know what to expect.
Avoid taking travellers’ cheques with you to Lithuania. Very few banks will change them and they’re practically unheard of anywhere else. Besides, travellers’ cheques rarely offer attractive exchange rates. It’s much simpler and cheaper to exchange cash or make an ATM withdrawal.
Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted in Vilnius. They’re less popular in the smaller towns and villages, where cash payment is preferred. The traditional markets in Vilnius also expect cash payments.
AmEx isn’t used as much as Visa and MasterCard in Lithuania (or in most of continental Europe for that matter). Always have some cash in your pocket as back up.
When you pay by card, never agree to perform the transaction in your home currency. If you do, you’ll be given with an unfavourable exchange rate made up using Dynamic Currency Conversion. In Lithuania, always pay in Euros, so the conversion will be made using the mid-market rate.
And don’t forget to advise your bank where you’re travelling to. If you don’t warn them about being away, they’ll consider any activity in a foreign country suspicious and block your card.
ATMs offer the best exchange rates, because the transaction is worked out at the mid-market rate.
There’s a good network of 24-hour ATMs throughout Lithuania, even in some of the smaller towns. Most of them have an English language option; and they accept Visa (Plus), Cirrus and Maestro (both operated by MasterCard). Unfortunately, only Citadele ATMs accept AmEx.
You can find the nearest ATM using the following online locators:
ATMs tend to issue higher denominations, so if you want smaller notes, punch in a specific amount such as €80, rather than €100.
Most ATMs do not charge a fee. Those that do will clearly display the amount and give you the opportunity to cancel the transaction before you’re charged. Your bank back home may levy charges. Usually, these include a foreign currency exchange fee and an international transaction fee.
As mentioned above, be sure to perform the transaction in the local currency. Never choose to be charged in your home currency, or you’ll be given an unfavourable exchange rate and unnecessary extra fees.
There are various banks in Lithuania, but the major ones are predominantly foreign. Lietuvos is the premier Lithuanian bank, and Šialių is also popular. However, the largest network of ATMs in the country belongs to two Swedish-owned banks: Swedbank and SEB.
Here’s a list of the most popular domestic retail banks in Lithuania:
The following foreign banks have branches in Lithuania:
If you’re not from the Eurozone, it’s worth checking whether your home bank has a partnership with a bank in Lithuania. You may be able to use their ATMs for free or pay lower fees.
However, if you have a Lithuanian bank account, accessing your money is even easier. Just use TransferWise to transfer funds into the account using the real mid-market rate. You can then use a local bank card to make payments and withdrawals without incurring foreign currency and international transaction fees.