The Romanian leu (RON) is the one and only official currency of Romania. While it may be replaced with the euro in the years to come, it’s still very much in use.
Five Key Facts about Romanian Money
Where did Romania’s money get its name? What does it look like? Read on for more.
1. Leu means lion in Romanian.
While the exact origin of the name “leu” for the Romanian currency is up for debate, the word literally means lion in the Romanian language.
One common theory is that “leu” descends from the name of the Dutch currency Leeuwendaalder (i.e. the lion thalder). That currency was popular in the Romanian region in the XVI and XVII centuries.
2. The five lei note features a famous Romanian musician.
The five lei banknote features a violin, a music note, and an image of the composer and musician George Enescu.
Enescu became famous in Romania during the twentieth century and is known as one of the greats of his era. He was born in 1881, picked up a violin when he was just four years old, and began composing as young as five years old.
3. It’s (nearly) impossible to rip Romanian banknotes.
It’s commonly known that a leu bill is nearly indestructible. They are difficult to rip or soak through with water. This is because they make the banknotes with a strong polymer, plastic material and are very durable.
4. You can download an app about Romania’s money.
The Romanian National Bank has an app called Romanian Leu (or LeulRomânesc in Romanian) that can be downloaded directly from the app store. In the app, you can access pictures of the banknotes and coins to see designs and security features up close.
5. The future of the leu is short.
Romania has actually set a target to adopt the Euro by 2024, so the future use of the leu is actually quite short. It is likely that there will be a transition period where the Romanian people can swap in their lei for euros at the bank.
A Short History of Romanian Lei
Romanian leu (singular) or lei (plural) is issued by the Romanian National Bank (RNB), which was founded in 1880.
The RNB helped to work through the re-denomination of the old leu (ROL) to the new leu (RON) in 2005. With this transition, one new leu (RON) was exchanged for 10,000 ROL and the old currency ceased to be tendered in 2006.
With the move to the RON, currency exchange became more straightforward. The old, high denomination banknotes (paper money) ranging from 10,000 to 1,000,000,000 lei were removed from circulation.
The bills were replaced with the new currency, ranging from 1 leu to 500 lei banknotes.
You can break one leu note into 100 coins called ban (singular) or bani (plural). The coins and notes in current circulation by the RNB are:
- 1 ban – brass plated steel, yellow, plain edge;
- 5 bani – copper-plated steel, red, milled edge;
- 10 bani – nickel-plated steel, white, intermittent milled edge;
- 50 bani – brass, light yellow, lettering edge, frequently reissued as a commemorative coin;
- 1 leu – green on polymer, featuring a Gentian flower, the Romanian Coat of Arms, and a portrait of historian Nicolae Iorga;
- 5 lei – light violet on polymer, featuring a Carnation flower, a violin, and two notes, and a portrait of composer George Enescu;
- 10 lei – issued in 2005 and again in 2008, pink on polymer, featuring a Hollyhock flower, a paintbrush and palette, and a portrait of painter Nicolae Grigorescu;
- 50 lei – yellow on polymer, featuring an Edelweiss flower, an airplane propeller, and a portrait of airplane builder Aurel Vlaicu;
- 100 lei – blue on polymer, featuring a violet flower, two theatre masks, and a portrait of playwright Ion Luca Caragiale;
- 200 lei – orange on polymer, featuring poppy flowers, an open book of poems from 1895, and a portrait of poet Lucian Blaga;
- 500 lei – shades of blue on polymer, featuring lime leaves and flowers, an inkpot and a quill, and a portrait of poet Mihai Eminescu.
Romania has announced they have a target to transition to the euro by 2024.
Romanian Lei Exchange Rates
You can find Romanian currency exchange rates either directly in the Remitly app, on the Romanian National Bank (RNB) website, or with a quick online search.
Within the European Union, some common currencies you may compare to Romanian currency include the Great British Pound (GBP) and the Euro.
To compare the Romanian leu to currencies in North America, you might compare to the US Dollar (USD) or the Canadian Dollar (CAD).
As of writing, the current exchange rates using the Google currency converter between Romanian leu (RON) and various foreign currencies are the following:
- 1 USD: 4.18 RON
- 1 CAD: 3.33 RON
- 1 GBP: 5.75 RON
- 1 Euro: 4.92 RON
More about Romania and its People
Romania is a small country in Eastern Europe with a proud history. Outside the region, it’s best known for the story of Count Dracula, immaculately painted eggs, Olympic gymnastics medals, and the Carpathian Mountains (the second-largest mountain range in Europe).
Though still off the beaten track for many travelers, Romania has gained popularity as a destination for adventurers. Not only is the Romanian capital of Bucharest historic, but the country’s diverse natural landscape ranges from snow capped mountains to large forests and a wine region.
There are significant numbers of Romanians living abroad as well. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Romania has the fifth-largest emigrant population in its member countries. That amounts to 3.6 million people.
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