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Croatia changes its currency on a historic day and joins the Eurozone

(CNN) – With more than 1,600 kilometers of coastline and more than 1,000 islands and islets, Croatia is one of the most idyllic summer destinations in Europe. However, until now it always looked more exotic than countries like France, Spain and Greece, with their own currency, the kuna.

Everything changed on January 1, when Croatia entered the eurozone and replaced the historical kuna currency with the euro. It is the twentieth country that joins this currency.

Euro banknotes and coins are already in circulation in the country, and about 70% of ATMs dispense euros instead of kuna, according to the European Commission. The rest will do before January 15th.

Kona can continue to be used until January 15th, although everyone who pays in Kona will receive change in euros. The exchange rate is set at 7.53450 kuna per euro.

Do you have coins 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. Change at the bank is free until July 1. The Croatian Central Bank will exchange banknotes for kuna free of charge until further notice, and coins until December 2025.

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

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

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Hrvatska Narodna Banka, the national central bank of Croatia, is now a member of the Eurosystem, the central banking system of the eurozone, made up of the European Central Bank and the national central banks of the eurozone member states.

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

In addition to changing its currency 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 area in the world. It is the 23rd of the 27 member states of the European Union to join Schengen. Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland are also part of the space, bringing the total to 27 countries and about 420 million European citizens who can travel without borders throughout the bloc.

On January 1, controls were abolished at the internal land and sea borders, and on March 26 at the internal air borders. This means that Croatia can now also issue Schengen visas.

What does this mean for visitors? Fewer obstacles when crossing borders: Previously, lines could be long on the land borders with Slovenia and Hungary, and on the sea borders from Italy. But it also means that long-term travelers who spend 90 days without a visa in the Schengen area will no longer be able to cross into Croatia to wait 90 days until they can return to the area.

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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 our economy will be better protected from crises.”