The nation's currency remains the pound sterling
(?). One pound equals 100 pence (p). 1p and 2p coins are
copper; 5p, 10p, 20p and the seven-sided 50p coins are silver; the
?1 coin is yellowy-gold; the ?2 coin is silver in the centre with
a circle of yellowy-gold around the edge. Paper notes are as follows:
blue ?5, orange ?10, purple ?20 and red ?50. You will probably find
an increasing number of places pre-empting the Government and accepting
euros (t), but don't rely on it.
You can exchange foreign currency at banks and bureaux de change.
If you're here for a long stay, you may need to open a bank or building
society account. To do this, you'll probably need to present a reference
from your bank at home, and certainly a passport as identification.
Exchange and commission rates on currency vary hugely, and it pays
to shop around. Commission is sometimes charged for cashing travellers'
cheques in foreign currencies, but not for sterling travellers'
cheques, provided you cash the cheques at a bank affiliated to the
issuing bank (get a list when you buy your cheques); it's also charged
if you change cash into another currency. You always need ID, such
as a passport, when exchanging travellers' cheques.
You will be charged for cashing travellers' cheques or buying and
selling foreign currency at a bureau de change. Commission rates,
which should be clearly displayed, vary. Chequepoint (13 London
branches), Lenlyn (26 London branches) and Thomas Cook (149 London
branches, many within branches of the HSBC bank) are reputable bureaux.
Major rail and tube stations in central London have bureaux de change,
and there are many in tourist areas. Most are open 8am-10pm, but
those listed below are open 24 hours daily.
9am-4.30pm (some close at 3.30pm) Mon-Fri
The Universal Currency Converter: www.xe.net/currency/
Most shops, restaurants, ticket agents, garages, box offices and
the like, as well as selected bars and museums, will accept credit
cards. Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted, with American
Express and Diners Club taken in noticeably fewer establishments.