Understanding British Currency, IMG Cred: Chris Osburn

Prep So You Don’t Get Short-changed!


Your first flight to London and the United Kingdom means you need to do some planning, it’s a really good idea to take a moment before you go to get familiar with the local currency and of what you can expect as far as prices and how to access and spend your money wisely.

The Pound

The British pound – characterized by the “£” symbol – is the official currency of the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and a few other British territories). For the past decade or so the pound has been a much stronger currency than the US dollar. At the time of writing this article, one pound is worth approximately $1.60. It’s always best to check the current exchange rate just before you travel as well as during you trip.
One pound is the equivalent of 100 pence. Pound notes (paper money) for £5, £10, £20 and £50 are issued as well as coins for one pence (“p”), 2p, 5p, 10p, 20 and 50p and for £1 and £2.
Not the Euro

Contrary to the surprise of many American tourists, the UK does not officially recognize the Euro (“€”) which is the shared currency for many European nations. However a number of larger department stores, such as Selfridges and Harrods, and a few popular tourist attractions do accept Euros. Still, it’s a good not to rely on using the Euro and to always make sure you have a few “quid” (a colloquial term for the pound) in your pocket for spending cash.


If possible, it’s best to have some pounds before you arrive. If traveling to the UK from a major airport, you should be able to find somewhere that will exchange your dollars for pounds at a good rate. Upon arrival in the UK, you’ll find plenty of places to get your hands on the local currency. It’s smart to shop around if you have the time. It’s also worth noting that withdrawing money from ATMs/cash machines/cash points here in the UK (or anywhere you might be visiting for that matter) as it will ensure you get the best exchange rate of the day. This is also good advice for making purchases at shops and restaurants that accept debit and credit cards.
Once you’ve reached your destination, keep the Post Office in mind for free exchange of all major currencies to pounds. They’ll also change your pounds back to dollars, Euros or other currencies for free as well. ATMs, Post Offices and currency exchange counters are all plentiful in Central London.


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IMG Cred: Chris Osburn

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