(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 until now it has always felt a bit more exotic than countries like France, Spain and Greece, with their own currency, the kuna.
That all changed on January 1 when Croatia joined the eurozone, replacing its historic kuna with the euro. It is the 20th country to join the single currency.
Euro banknotes and coins are already circulating in the country, with around 70% of the country’s ATMs now dispensing euros instead of 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 is fixed at 7.53450 kuna for 1 euro.
Do you have spare kunas 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. Bank exchange is free until July 1. The National Central Bank of Croatia will exchange kuna banknotes for free 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 worked hard to become the 20th member of the Eurozone and 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, made up 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 shared currency,” as he made a two-minute address about the move.
As well as changing its currency on January 1, Croatia also joined the Schengen zone, the 26-nation bloc that has abolished border checks in Europe, making it the world’s largest border-free zone. It is the 23rd of the 27 EU member states that are part of Schengen. Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland are also part of the zone, bringing the total to 27 countries and around 420 million European citizens who can travel without borders around the bloc.
Internal land and sea border controls were lifted on 1 January, while internal air borders will follow on 26 March. This means that Croatia can now also issue Schengen visas.
What does this mean for visitors? Less friction during border crossings – queues could previously be long at road borders with Slovenia and Hungary and at sea crossings from Italy. However, this also means that long-stay travelers who exhaust their 90-day visa-free travel in the Schengen area can no longer cross into Croatia to wait 90 days until they can return to Schengen.
Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic tweeted that January 1 was a “historic day for Croatia”.
“We are the first country to enter Schengen and the Eurozone on the same day,” he added.
“With the introduction of the euro, our citizens and economy will be better protected from crises.
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