United Kingdom Currency Exchange Guide

The United Kingdom is one of the top tourist destinations for visitors from all over the world. Famous for its rich history, stunning landscapes, and vibrant nightlife, the United Kingdom is a truly magical place to visit. From the lively city of London to the stunning scenery of Scotland, the United Kingdom is sure to make you fall in love with its many charms, whether you’re looking to explore centuries-old castles or simply enjoy a pint of ale in a traditional pub.

General UK Currency Information

What is the currency of the United Kingdom?

The official currency in the United Kingdom is the Pound sterling (GBP).

What do UK notes & coins look like?

united kingdom pound bills

The British currency is made up of both notes and coins. British pound notes come in denominations of £5, £10, £20 and £50. The Bank of England also issues a £1 note, but this is being phased out and replaced by a coin.

Each paper note features the late Queen Elizabeth II on the front and various historical figures on the back, such as Sir Winston Churchill (£5), Jane Austen (£10), JMW Turner (£20), and Alan Turing (£50). Now that Prince Charles acceded to the throne on the 8th of September 2022, his image is expected to appear on banknotes eventually.

united kingdom pound coin

British pound coins come in denominations of 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, £1 and £2. All coins feature an image of the late Queen Elizabeth II on the front, while the reverse of each coin features a different design, such as the Segment of the Royal Arms, abstract concentric design, and various commemorative designs.

Economy

As a member of G7, an organisation made up of the world’s seven largest advanced economies, the United Kingdom’s economy is one of the world’s most developed and prosperous financial markets with highly competitive business environment. The UK is the sixth-largest economy by nominal GDP ($2.83 trillion) and the ninth-largest economy by purchasing power parity. Thanks to its large energy resources, such as coal, oil and natural gas, the UK has been able to weather global economic turmoil in recent years and maintain a strong economy. With a stable financial market and a booming business sector, the UK is an ideal place to live and work.

Brief currency history

During the Anglo-Saxon era in 775 AD, the Pound was a unit of currency, and it was worth 1 pound weight of silver. This is equivalent to a vast fortune at the time. The first King of England, Athelstan, made sterling the country’s first currency in 967. He established mints throughout the kingdom to meet the expanding nation’s demand for money. Only in 1489, when King Henry VII struck the first pound coin, did the Pound become a physical currency.

After 205 years since the first pound coin was minted, King William III founded the Bank of England in 1694 to finance his continuing conflict with France after England’s naval loss at the Battle of Beachy Head in 1690.

After World War I and II, the United Kingdom suffered from high inflation and a period of economic decline. Then, in September 1992, the United Kingdom was forced to leave the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) after failing to keep the Pound above its lower limit specified by the ERM. This event is commonly known as “Black Wednesday”.

In 2002, after the European Union’s member countries signed a currency agreement and adopted the euro as their shared currency, the United Kingdom chose not to join. Instead, the United Kingdom kept the Pound sterling as the official currency of the country.

Fourteen years after, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union in a referendum on the 23rd of June 2016 and officially left the EU on the 31st of January 2020. During this time, there was much uncertainty about the impact of Brexit on the UK economy and the Pound.

Now, as the United Kingdom prepares to negotiate new trade deals around the world, there is much optimism about the future of the UK economy and the Pound.

Taking Travel Money to the United Kingdom

united kingdom travel

What currency should I take to the United Kingdom?

If you’re travelling to the United Kingdom, you’ll need to exchange your Australian dollars (AUD) for British pounds (GBP) before you leave. Read our guide on exchanging AUD to GBP here. 

Is it cheaper to convert currency in Australia or the United Kingdom?

It’s generally cheaper to convert your currency at home in Australia before you travel to the United Kingdom, as you’ll get a better exchange rate. This way, you’ll know exactly how much money you have to spend while you’re away, and you won’t be hit with any unexpected fees or charges.

How much money can I take to the United Kingdom?

If you plan to visit Northern Ireland and carry more than €10,000 (or equivalent) in currency, you must follow the regulations for transporting currency into Northern Ireland.

If you’re carrying cash of £10,000 or more between Great Britain (England, Scotland, and Wales) and a country outside the UK, you must notify customs.

If you’re travelling as a family or group with more than £10,000 in total (even if individuals are travelling less than the amount), you must still declare it. The deadline for making a declaration is 72 hours before your journey begins.

Where to convert currency?

Crown Currency Exchange is one of the leading foreign currency exchange providers in Australia. With over 20 years of experience, we offer great exchange rates on over 80 foreign currencies. Whether you buy pounds in one of our stores or any other currency, we’re here to make your currency experience easy. You can make sure you get the best deal with us as we don’t charge any commissions or fees on foreign exchange currency transactions. Our stores are located in CanberraSydneyBrisbane, The Gold CoastAdelaideTasmaniaMelbourne & Perth

Is tipping customary in the United Kingdom? How much is expected?

Tipping in London or any other part of the United Kingdom can be taxing if you aren’t knowledgeable about proper etiquette. Additionally, gratuitous tipping can unnecessarily waste money that could have been spent elsewhere during your trip; however, knowing when and how much to tip can be an excellent way to show appreciation for good service without overdoing it. So how many pounds should you tip in the UK?

Hotels: Most hotel personnel in the United Kingdom do not demand gratuities unless they provide exceptional service or if you are staying at a luxury hotel. You can tip around £3 to £5 per day for the maid service, depending on how many days you stay. If you receive exceptional service from the concierge, doorman, or porter, a gratuity of around £1 to £2 is appropriate.

Restaurants: A service charge of 12-15% may be added to your bill when dining out, though this is not standard practice in all restaurants in the United Kingdom. There is no need to leave a tip if a service charge has already been added to your bill. However, 10% is a good rule of thumb for gratuity if there’s none.

Taxis: If you’re ever in the U.K., it’s important to remember that tipping your cab driver is almost always expected. As a general guideline, rounding up to the nearest pound is usually sufficient, but 10% of the total fare for metered taxi rides would be a good tip. In rural areas or with minicabs, you might be charged a flat fare instead of by meter – in these cases, it isn’t customary to leave a tip.

Guides and drivers: 10–15% of the tour price is appropriate as a gratuity if you feel well cared for and entertained throughout the experience. Think about bringing at least £2 to £4 if you’re going on a trip by yourself, and £1 to £2 if you’re going with a family.

Spas and salons: Although tipping at spas is uncommon in the United Kingdom, if you feel like your service was outstanding, many spa and salon workers greatly appreciate a gratuity of 10%.

Can you bargain in the United Kingdom?

Sometimes, there’s a belief that haggling “simply isn’t British” or is “quite difficult,” but asking for a discount is not impolite; it’s simply playing the game. Retailers will always have some wiggle room on price, so it’s worth asking—especially if you’re buying in bulk or making a significant purchase.

What is ATM access like in the United Kingdom?

You don’t have to worry about ATM access in the United Kingdom—ATMs are plentiful, and most accept international cards. Credit and debit cards are also widely accepted, although your bank may charge you a foreign transaction fee. If you’re planning on using cash, it’s a good idea to exchange your currency before you leave, as the exchange rate will almost always be better than what you’ll find in the United Kingdom.

What should you budget per day?

Budget

When travelling on a shoestring, you’ll need at least 55 pounds (about AUD $96) per day. You’ll be staying in hostel dorms, making all your own meals, limiting your alcohol consumption, riding the bus between towns, and taking advantage of the many free attractions across the country in order to stick to your budget (free museums, parks, beaches, etc.). To give yourself a little breathing room, we would recommend increasing your daily budget by an additional £10 to £15 (AUD $17 to $26)

Moderate

If you have a daily budget of approximately £120 (AUD $210), you can treat yourself to a private hostel room or Airbnb, take advantage of cheap eats at pubs or fast food stalls, cook some meals yourself, use public transportation for intercity travel (if booked in advance), allow for a few alcoholic drinks and the occasional taxi ride, as well as visiting paid attractions like The London Eye and the Tower of London.

Luxury

On a luxurious budget of £300+ (AUD $523+) per day, you can enjoy all the comforts and conveniences that the United Kingdom has to offer. Stay in a nice hotel or upscale Airbnb, take cabs or Ubers instead of public transportation, enjoy meals at restaurants (without worrying about the cost), and treat yourself to as many activities and attractions as you want. You can also splurge on shopping, nightlife, and other indulgences without feeling guilty. Literally, the sky’s the limit.

Currency details

Currency:

British Pound

Currency code:GBP
Currency symbol:

£

Central bank:

Bank of England

Nickname:NoneCurrency sub-unit:

Penny = 1/100

Bank notes:

£5, £10, £20, £50

Coins:

1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, £1, £2

Must-do's while you are in the United Kingdom

uk london tower

1. Marvel at the Tower of London

Located in the heart of historic London on the Thames River, the Tower of London is one of the United Kingdom’s most iconic and popular tourist attractions. This imposing structure has served as a royal palace, a prison, an armoury, and even a zoo over the centuries, and today it houses the world-famous Crown Jewels. A visit to the Tower of London is a must for any first-time visitor to the UK.

uk london eye

2. Take in the view from atop the London Eye

For unbeatable views of London and its many landmarks, hop aboard the giant Ferris wheel known as the London Eye. This popular attraction is located on the banks of the Thames River and offers riders a slow, 30-minute rotation in one of its 32 glass capsules. On a clear day, you can see up to 40 kilometres (25 miles) in all directions.

uk warwick castle

3. Explore Warwick Castle

Warwick Castle is a medieval castle located in the city of Warwick in central England. Built by William the Conqueror in 1068, Warwick Castle has been home to some of England’s most famous historical families, including the Newburgh family (11th – 13th century), De Beauchamp (13th – 16th century), Dudley (16th century), Rich (17th to 18th century), and Greville (18th century to 20th century). Today, the castle is a popular medieval tourist destination, with attractions that include a trebuchet, an archery range, and a dungeon.

uk stonehenge

4. Visit Stonehenge

Located in the county of Wiltshire in southern England, Stonehenge is one of the most famous prehistoric monuments in the world. This UNESCO World Heritage Site consists of a ring of standing stones that are thought to have been erected between 3000 and 2000 BC. Although the exact purpose of Stonehenge is still unknown, it is believed to have been used as a burial ground where ancient people would bury their dead. Today, Stonehenge is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the United Kingdom.

Hogwarts Express uk

5. Take a ride on the Harry Potter Hogwarts Express

For Harry Potter fans, a visit to the United Kingdom is not complete without a ride on the Hogwarts Express. This historic steam train runs between the cities of London and Edinburgh, making stops at various Harry Potter-related locations along the way. The Hogwarts Express is a must-do for any fan of the popular book and movie series.

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