Although Estonia is a small country, it punches well above its weight, and attracts tourists and expats from all over the globe. Maybe you’re headed to work in the vibrant capital Tallinn, as part of the country’s expanding start-up scene. Or Perhaps to advance your studies in elegant Tartu, or relax on one of the 1,500 islands, or miles of sandy Baltic beach. Whatever your reason for exploring this Northern gem, you’re going to need some cash to make the most of it.
This guide explains all you need to know about Estonia’s currency and banks, where to get your cash, and how to spend it.
Estonia adopted the euro in 2011. Other currencies aren't widely accepted and even if you're offered the opportunity to pay in a different currency, the rates applied are highly likely to be not in your favor.
|Characteristics of the euro (EUR)|
|Names and nicknames||Euro|
|Symbols and abbreviations||EUR, €|
|1 EUR||One euro is divided into 100 cents.|
|Euro coins||Euro coins are available in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents, as well as €1 and €2. Coins feature a standard image on one side, with the second side bearing a design related to the country of issue. You may, therefore, have coins of similar denominations which look quite different to one another. Currently Euro coins and notes are accepted anywhere in the Euro zone, regardless of the country of issue.|
|Euro banknotes||Notes which are commonly used are 5, 10, 20 and 50 Euro denominations. Although €100, €200 and €500 notes are also available, they won't be accepted by many retailers. The €500 note is currently being phased out of circulation.|
If you’re changing money in Estonia, you should only do so through an official money exchange. The infrastructure in cities and towns is good, so you'll have no issue finding a bank or exchange office, especially in the major tourist areas.
- Eurex has an exchange office in the Viru Keskus shopping centre in the middle of Tallinn, as well as branches in other popular cities and towns
- Tavid exchange has several Tallinn branches and you can review their rates online before committing
- Monex allows you to book your travel money in advance and collect at Tallinn airport when you arrive
Even in official money changing offices, you should watch out for hidden fees. Some exchanges claim ‘Zero Commission’, or “Fee Free” - but they'll be sure to find a profit somewhere. Often their cut is rolled up into a poor exchange rate. The best way to protect yourself against exchange rate scams is to make sure you understand the mid market rate. This is the only real exchange rate and should be used to compare against the tourist rates on offer.
Before you travel, it’s smart to do a bit of research to see if exchange rates are better at home, compared to in Estonia. Rates vary widely across different exchange services in the UK, the US, Australia, and elsewhere in Europe, and whether there's a better deal on offer will depend on where you are in the world.
You can check the daily rates at an estonian exchange office on the Tavid website so you can get an idea of what deal you’ll get if you wait until you arrive in Estonia to get your cash.
If you need currency upon arrival, you can change cash at the airport - but the rates on offer are unlikely to be the best in town, because of limited competition. The same goes for your hotel currency exchange - it’s convenient, but it’ll cost you. If you must use these providers, it’s usually best to switch only a small amount, and then seek a better deal elsewhere. Otherwise, find an ATM to withdraw your euros directly at a reasonable rate.
Make sure that the currency you’re carrying for exchange is in good condition. You might be refused if you try to change up damaged, marked or torn currency. Keep some crisp, clean notes for changing.
A great way to get simple access to your money abroad - with transparent fees for a fair deal - is to use TransferWise. If you have a euro bank account, or know someone who does, you can transfer money between accounts using the real mid market exchange rate. It's a quick and convenient way to get your euro cash, with no hidden fees.
If you’re a regular traveller, you might also benefit from a borderless multi-currency account, which allows you to hold cash in several different currencies. And if you need to switch between currencies, you only pay a small flat charge. Select consumers can get their hands on the TransferWise debit card or join the waiting list - the card can be used internationally for payments and withdrawals at ATMs.
Travellers Cheques aren't widely used in Estonia. You might struggle to change them, and even when you find a bank willing to do the exchange, the rates and fees applied make them a poor deal.
Generally Travellers Cheques aren't worth buying. In Estonia, as elsewhere in the world, the wide acceptance of cards, as well as the proliferation of ATMs makes it easier to rely on cash and credit/debit cards to pay for your trip. Even taxi drivers in Estonia will typically accept payment by card, which can make life easier for travellers.
Credit and debit cards are widely used in Estonian towns and cities. All the major providers Visa, Mastercard/Maestro/Cirrus, and Amex are commonly accepted in tourist areas, in ATMs, shops and restaurants. Amex is the least widely used provider, so if this is your main card, it's always a good idea to carry an alternative form of payment.
In general, it’s a good idea to keep a small amount of local cash with you, for smaller purchases, tipping, and in the event you find yourself somewhere where cards aren't accepted.
Whenever you choose to pay for things while abroad on a credit or debit card, you might be asked if you want to be charged in your home currency. This is called Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC), and can also be seen if you use an ATM - but more on that later.
DCC is sold as a customer service because you can see the cost of the transaction expressed in your home currency at the point of payment. However, it's a bad idea. DCC transactions leave you exposed to hidden fees. Usually the base rate used won't be favourable because additional charges are often into the headline number. Always opt to pay in the local currency instead.
If you’re planning using your card abroad, check if you need to let your bank know in advance. Some banks’ anti-fraud technology will block the use of cards if they suspect suspicious activity - and a sudden spike in spending overseas can trigger this. In most cases it’s really easy to inform your bank of your plans with a simple online form, or by calling into a branch.
Most tourists heading to Estonia are bound for one of the towns or cities. Here, you won't struggle to find an ATM. There’s an extensive bank network, but if you’re headed off the beaten track, then bear in mind that the most remote villages won't be covered. Check out the locators below to make sure there's an ATM somewhere convenient for your stay.
Just the same as with credit and debit cards, DCC means you might be asked by an ATM, if you want to be charged in your home currency for the withdrawal. Always select to be charged in local currency, or you'll be ripped off by a foreign bank’s exchange rate.
As long as you avoid the DCC scam, withdrawing from an ATM is a convenient way to get reasonable rates for your Euro exchange. Because you can take out what you need, it should also mean that you don't need to carry round large amounts of cash at any one time - much safer.
The banking sector is very well developed in Estonia, meaning that you’ll find a good range of local and global banking brands. It’s well worth checking if your home bank operates in Estonia, or has a partnership with another local banking brand. If they do, you might find you benefit from reduced or fee free cash withdrawals, or other beneficial services.
You’ll find local banks like Big Bank which covers Estonia and the Baltic region, and has started to expand throughout Europe and beyond. Many of the local Estonian banking brands are specialised, mainly offering products like loans or business banking. However, private retail customers are well served by a few local options, and the Nordic banking giants such as Swedbank and Nordea, which are also present in Estonia.
- Big Bank
Banking in Estonia isn’t difficult. You’ll find a good range of banks and ATMs, and cards of all types are widely accepted. However, as with elsewhere in the world, getting a good deal on your currency exchange might be trickier, so it’s worth checking out your options before you go. Then all you need to do is relax and enjoy your trip.
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