One of the most charming things about Slovakia is that it’s still so under the radar. This small, Central European nation has charming towns, well-preserved castles, an extensive folk history — and very few tourists compared to more popular European destinations. Still, tourism is on the rise in Slovakia — the number of domestic tourists rose 20.3% from 2015 to 2016, while foreign tourism increased 21.6% during the same time.
If you want to explore Slovakia before it gets crowded, now may be the time. But before you go, you need to understand one thing about the country: its money. Read on to learn everything you need about managing, spending and saving money in Slovakia.
Slovakia’s currency is the Euro.
|Characteristics of the euro (EUR)|
|Names and Nicknames||Euro, fiber|
|Symbols & abbreviations||€, EUR|
|1 EUR||One Euro is divided into 100 cents|
|EUR coins||Coins are available in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents, as well as €1 and €2|
|EUR banknotes||EUR banknotes are available for €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200, and €500|
Slovakia joined the European Union in 20042008 and adopted the euro in 2009. Since then, the euro is the only currency that’s widely accepted in Slovakia.
Exchanging money in Slovakia should be simple and straightforward; it follows the same rules you'd expect when exchanging money in most other countries. But because of the strength of the euro compared to many other global currencies, it’s important in Slovakia to get the best possible exchange rate to make your money go as far as possible.
Finding a fair exchange service can be difficult, though the following options are typically your best bet for getting a good deal:
The first two options will generally be your best bet for getting a low exchange rate. The second two are online currency exchange services that will likely have poorer exchange rates. Regardless of where you exchange money, it’s important to understand how exchange services make a profit. Even if they offer zero fees, they’re probably still marking up the exchange rate.
That means that the rate they’re charging you is different from the rate you'd find if you did a Google search for your home currency and euro. Generally, the exchange will give you slightly less than what your money is actually worth, and keep the difference for itself. That difference can vary wildly between exchange services, so it’s smart to use an online currency converter to compare the rate you’re being offered with what your currency is actually worth.
The euro is the second most traded currency in the world, behind the US dollar, so it’s very likely that your bank will have euros on hand. However, there’s no guarantee that your home bank will offer the most competitive exchange rate. Banks in the US and UK charge as much as 10 percent to exchange money. Rates in Australia can be as low as 1 percent of the sale amount.
Regardless of where you live, using a local ATM in Slovakia is likely to offer you the best possible exchange rates, as long as you use a debit card that doesn’t charge a foreign conversion fee.
If you get your cash from an ATM, you probably won’t need to worry about damaged notes. But if you get them from an exchange service, inspect them carefully to make sure they aren’t damaged, as some merchants will refuse to take even slightly marred notes.
If you happen to know someone in Slovakia who doesn’t mind helping you out, transfer money ahead of time and have them withdraw it from a Slovakian bank account for the absolute best possible rates.
Another option is to open a TransferWise borderless account, which allows you to hold and manage money in multiple currencies, including euros. This fall, bBorderless account holders will also have access to consumer debit cards they can use while they travel.
Travellers cheques are basically obsolete in Europe. Most merchants won’t take them and if you do find somewhere to have them cashed, the exchange rate is likely to be very poor. You’re better off not getting any, especially if you have a debit or credit card you can use on your trip instead.
In Slovakia, Visa, MasterCard and Maestro are extremely common and thus widely accepted. American Express isn't accepted everywhere. Though cards are commonly used, it’s always a good idea to carry a small amount of cash in case you happen upon a shop or restaurant that doesn’t accept plastic.
ATMs and points of sale will often “helpfully” offer to charge you in your home currency, saving you from having to do the math of the conversion yourself. Unfortunately, this is probably a Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC) scam, which means the local bank is making up a (usually unfair) exchange rate, and keeping a profit for themselves. Luckily, you can always choose to be charged in the local currency, which means you’ll have to do more math, but you’ll save money.
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