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Tuesday, 16 May, 2000, 09:10 GMT 10:10 UK banner
Guide to euro currency
Euro currency
It's too soon to trade in pounds for euros at the finals
So you've got your tickets for Euro 2000 and all you need is some spending money. But what to take? Isn't there something called the single currency?

Well, yes there is. But even though the euro is now the official currency of Belgium, the Netherlands and nine other EU countries, football fans won't be able to reap the benefits yet.

The single currency is introduced by-the-by. In January last year, the exchange rates of all eurozone currencies were "locked".

But coins and bank notes will not come into circulation until January 2002.

Until then, the Belgian franc and the Dutch guilder are the local denominations of the euro - a bit like the cent to the dollar or the penny to the pound.

A franc issue - and a guilder one too

Therefore all tourists - whether from inside or outside Euroland - can't avoid the trip to the bank or post office.

Depending on which matches you attend you will have to swap your pounds, Deutschmarks or lira into guilders and francs.

If you are British, you can rub your hands with glee. The weakness of the euro has given the pound real purchasing power.

The pre-match dinner should be relatively cheap and cheerful.
The Euro
Euro notes won't come into force until 2002

Taking a cut

The introduction of the euro was supposed to make things easier for traders and tourists alike.

Merging 11 currencies into one has cut out a lot of "transaction costs", the fee charged by banks for converting one currency into another.

This works for big money transactions. Tourists, however, continue to be fleeced by financial institutions.

Say you've stocked up on Belgian francs to see the England v Germany match in Charleroi.

After the match you want to celebrate - or drown your sorrows - across the border in Amsterdam.

You will soon discover that Dutch pubs (or drinking holes anywhere outside Belgium) won't accept your argument that the franc and the guilder are all part of the euro currency.

Now you have two options:

  • Either you wait until 2002, when everybody shops and pays with euro coins and bank notes, or
  • you go to the bank, hand over your Belgian franc and pay yet another exchange fee.
If you are lucky - and that depends on the bank you go to - it will cost less than in the days when the guilder and franc where two truly different currencies.

Cheque it out

But there is one alternative, travellers cheques denominated in euros.

There is still a good chance that you will have to pay a fee at the foreign exchange desk. But at least you don't lose money twice if you travel through both Belgium and the Netherlands.

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