Monies of Central Asia

When so much of Europe moved over to the Euro, quite some time ago now, it made a lot of sense on so many fronts, you can’t deny it. However, at the same time it was a sad happening because the world lost so many currencies. The Deutschemark, the Italian Lira, the French Franc to name but a few.

Money from Soviet times in the National Museum, Dushanbe.

But let’s consider the break up of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union was made up of fifteen different republics, all basically with the same currency or some small variation of it – the Ruble. It breaks up in the early 1990s and suddenly “republics” become countries. Independent nations now and that means countries with their own currencies. In fact, there are several unrecognised, unofficial nations in the mix too, some of which I think print their own money.

This makes Central Asia a special case too – now five new nations with their own capitals, leaders and yes – currencies! When I travel I love to collect postcards, stamps and money to stick in my diaries/journals as a memento of the places I’ve been. Something that’s easy to collect that is unique to the place you go. So today I want to present to you, now that I have been to all five countries, the monies of Central Asia!

  • Kazakhstan – the Tenge

In Kazakhstan you find the ‘Tenge’. It’s presently around 420 Tenge to one USD so it’s not the easiest of currencies to convert in your head. Lots of blue and a bit of red with the different notes.

  • Tajikistan – The Somoni

You’ll find that three countries have very similar sounding currencies – Tajikistan stuck a ‘oni’ on the then of Som to get their currency. It’s roughly just over 10 Somoni to one USD.

  • Uzbekistan – The Som/Sum

See, it’s like an abbreviation of the Somoni! This is the craziest of currencies, with one USD equals just over 10,000 Som. When I went in 2011 the biggest note in regular circulation was the 1000 Som note. Boy did I have a wads of cash on me! I felt so rich. Today there are bigger notes, 10,000 is common and there are 50,000 and 100,000 these days although they seem somewhat rare.

  • Kyrgyzstan – the Som

Yes, it’s called the same thing basically. One USD equals around 79 Som.

  • Turkmenistan – the Manat

Finally, the Manat. Turkmenistan’s currency, the value of which can be somewhat hard to pin down. Why? Because there’s an ‘official’ rate and an ‘unofficial’ rate. Interestingly it’s hardly moved in the last 12 months, whereas the other currencies are more volatile – perhaps though it’s tied in some way? Anyways, the official rate (if you change at a bank in Turkmenistan) is around 3.5 Manat to the USD, and the unofficial rate is much more generous – and the one I was luckily able to operate when I was there, I never even went to a bank – is 10 to the USD. So that does make a massive difference to the daily budget.

I don’t know what you think, but I think currencies are very cool indeed! Thanks for popping by today – May the Journey Never End!


13 thoughts on “Monies of Central Asia

  1. It’s true that foreign currency brings something exotic to travel, but at the same time it’s when exchanging money that the traveller has the strongest feeling of being exploited, not to say robbed. Come on, I dream of a single currency that would be accepted everywhere without the need to change money at every border.

  2. I agree! I often bring home a bill or two when they are particularly colorful or pretty. I think my faves are the Mongolian bills with Genghis Khan on them!

  3. I am all for different currencies. Also, very often you get really good deals with different currencies. When we had the Deutsche Mark, everything was so much cheaper in Poland. We used to look forward going shopping there. Now, the prices are more or less the same, so that excitement is gone. How much can you get for the money? If you are saying 420 Tenge to one USD, what can you buy with 420 Tenge?

    1. ummm im not sure what you can get for 420 Tenge. Probably a beer at a supermarket? some are probably less. But despite the Tenge’s apparent weakness it’s not an overly cheap country – not expensive at all, but not that cheap either.

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