If you’re looking for a combination of ‘old world’ charm and natural beauty then the southernmost Baltic state of Lithuania is definitely worth a visit. From the enchanting cobbled streets and quaint courtyards of the capital, Vilnius, to the white sands of the beautiful Baltic coastline and lush green forests of the countryside, this East European gem is a delight to discover.
But what’s the best way to get money out in Lithuania?
Is there a national currency or are Euros widely used?
Read on to find out everything you need to know about using your money in Lithuania.
Currency In Lithuania
The official currency of Lithuania is the Euro (€).
Lithuania was the first Soviet nation to break away from Russia in 1990. It became a member of the EU in 2004 but didn’t adopt the Euro until 1 January 2015. Before then, the ‘Litas’ was the official currency of Lithuania.
The Euro is the second largest reserve currency in the world and the second most traded currency after the USD$.
Coins are available in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 cents, €1 and €2.
Banknotes are available in denominations of €5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500. The higher denominations are rarely used, though and some shops won’t accept them.
Litas are no longer accepted but they can be easily exchanged for Euros.
Exchanging Currency In Lithuania
All transfers in €s from one EU country to another are considered domestic and don’t incur international transaction fees. Credit and debit card transactions and ATM withdrawals in the Euro zone are also considered domestic. There are also no limits to the amount of €s you can transfer from one Euro zone bank to another.
USD$ and GBPs are welcome and are easy to exchange. USD$ to € is the most popular exchange rate. Currencies from neighbouring countries: Poland, Russia and Belorussia, are also frequently exchanged in Lithuania.
Banks are widely available throughout cities and towns in Lithuania and the exchange procedure is very straightforward; just remember to take your passport. Some banks in the larger shopping malls have longer opening hours and are even open on Sundays. Exchange rates are reasonable and don’t vary significantly from bank to bank, although most charge a flat rate rather than a percentage fee so the costs can mount up if you make frequent exchanges.
You’re better off changing your money to Euros once you’ve arrived in Lithuania. Most home banks will sell you overpriced Euros and offer a really poor exchange rate. Use our handy currency convertor to check out the most up-to-date mid-market rates.
Try to avoid changing your money at the airport. There’s a Medicinos Bank exchange bureau at Vilnius International Airport but they apply a ridiculously low exchange rate and charge a hefty commission. Many taxis will accept credit cards and the 15 minute drive from the airport to the centre of the city should only cost around €10.
If you want to get some Euros out before you leave the airport, use the ATM next to the exchange bureau and only change what’s necessary. You’ll get a far better rate once you’re in town.
Exchange booths are widely available throughout the capital and other large cities. They are open 7 days a week and charge similar rates to the banks. Ensure your banknotes are undamaged with no tears or marks or they won’t be accepted.
Avoid changing money in hotels as they apply unfavourable rates.
Using an ATM is the easiest and cheapest way of getting Euros out. ATMs are widely available and offer a better exchange rate than the banks and exchange booths.
Don’t bother changing back any spare Euros once you leave Lithuania. Put them aside for your next trip to Europe.
Using Travellers’ Cheques In Lithuania
Avoid bringing travellers’ cheques with you. Very few banks will change them and they’re practically unheard of anywhere else.
Paying with Credit and Debit Cards in Lithuania
Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted, however, they’re less popular in the smaller towns and villages where cash payment is preferred. The traditional markets in Vilnius also expect cash payments. American Express is not used as much as Visa or MasterCard so always have some cash in your pocket as back up.
When paying by credit card, beware of Dynamic Currency Conversion. It’s an option to pay in your home currency. Always decline. Use the local currency option instead or you’ll be hit with a hefty commission and terrible rates.
Always let your bank and credit card provider know where you’re travelling too. If you don’t warn them, they’ll consider any activity in a foreign country ‘suspicious’ and will block your card.
ATMs In Lithuania
If you want ready cash at a decent exchange rate then ATMs are your best option. There’s a good network of 24 hour ATMs throughout Lithuania, even in some of the smaller towns, petrol stations, supermarkets and shopping malls.
Most ATMs have an English language option and they all accept cards from the major providers. International cards will work wherever you see the PLUS (Visa) or Cirrus/Maestro (MasterCard) signs. American Express cards can be used at Citadele ATMs.
The following locators make it even easier to find your nearest ATM while in Lithuania:
ATMs tend to issue higher denominations, so if you want smaller notes, punch in a specific amount such as €180 rather than €200. Most ATMs will display any charges before proceeding with the transaction. If you’re offered the DCC option, press ‘proceed without conversion’ so you’ll be charged in Euros.
Banks In Lithuania
There are various banks in Lithuania, but the major ones are predominantly foreign. Although Leituvos (The Central Bank Of Lithuania) is the premier Lithuanian bank and Šialių is also popular, the largest network of ATMs available around the country are owned by Swedish-owned banks, Swedbank and SEB.
Here’s a list of the most popular domestic retail banks in Lithuania:
The following foreign banks have branches in Lithuania:
Check whether your home bank has any partnerships with the above banks. You may be able to use their ATMs free of charge or pay lower fees.
Alternatively, if you have access to an EU € bank account you can use TransferWise to simply transfer funds across, then use a local card to make payments and withdrawals without having to pay foreign currency and international transaction fees.