The UK pound sterling is the fourth most traded currency in the foreign exchange market and is a generally stable and high-value currency. Exchanging foreign currency for British pounds is extremely easy in and around the city of London. There are numerous Bureaux de change in airports, banks, post offices, street kiosks and travel agencies where you can exchange money. But it is always wise to shop around for the best deal, as exchange rates and commission charges may vary from place to place.
Some of the best rates are available in Banks like HSBC, Natwest, Barclays and Llyods TSB, Travel Agencies like Thomas Cook and sometimes Post Offices. Banks, building societies and post offices are open Monday to Friday between 9-5 and some are also open Saturday mornings. Travel agents are often open on Saturday afternoons, and some may open Sundays.
Before you travel, consider bringing your money in several ways - cash, credit/debit cards and traveller’s cheques which can be replaced if stolen. While there are no restrictions on the amount of money you can bring in or take out from the UK, make sure you are aware of the rules in your own country.
ATM cards are a cheap and convenient way of obtaining British pounds and they accept most international cards with the Visa, MasterCard or Maestro symbols. Using an ATM card means you never have to carry around large amounts of cash but keep in mind that there may be a limit on the amount you can withdraw each day. Some ATMs (or cash points as they are called in the UK ) may charge your card for withdrawals especially if you have a non-UK account.
Credit/Debit cards like VISA and MasterCard are widely accepted in shops around the UK and are easy way to pay for things as they operate on a good exchange rate and a fee of roughly 1.5%. Check with your bank for rates and charges and try to notify them of your trip before you travel. American Express and Diners Club are less commonly accepted and sometimes carry additional surcharges.
If you are exchanging Traveller’s cheques, make sure you buy them in UK pounds sterling as there are additional fees to exchange traveller cheques in other currencies. Thomas Cook travel agencies charge no fees for cashing UK pounds sterling traveller’s cheques issued by another one of their own branches anywhere in the world.
Currency that is not very stable or common in the UK (like South America, Russia etc) is less likely to be accepted or exchanged so consider bringing US Dollars or Euros instead of your own currency.
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