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Tips on currency exchange in London

Going on a holiday is always an exciting time, especially if you have planned a trip to a charming destination like the City of London. It offers the best of both old and modern attractions and is the top tourist spot in the UK. With a glorious history that dates back to Roman times i.e. over two thousand years, it certainly has an amazing variety of places to visit and explore. Among the many attractions that dot the city landscape some of the more prominent are its palaces, Royal Parks, historic museums, world class art galleries, the finest in entertainment and shopping etc.

The most suitable time to spend a holiday in London is during the summer months when the temperature is relatively mild, unlike the winter when the climate can be damp and depressing. Summer temperatures in London generally hover around 640Fahrenheit with it rarely soaring into the mid 80s. It is also one of the busiest parts of the year in London being peak tourist season. Although there are a number of top class hotels in London like the Shaftesbury Hyde Park International, it is prudent to make hotel reservations in advance.

The best way to explore the city is by joining any of its walking tours that take visitors to London’s most famous landmarks and iconic attractions; like St. Paul’s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace, Houses of Parliament, London Bridge and Kensington Palace among others. While the possibility of sudden showers always exists, it can be handled by carrying an umbrella while on a tour of the city. The month of August is an ideal time to visit as it is relatively drier than the other summer months.

Besides all the usual preparations to be made such as booking flight and hotel reservations and planning a travel itinerary, there is another important aspect that needs to be dealt with i.e. of currency exchange. Thankfully money exchange these days in London is relatively simpler in comparison to the past! For first time travelers dealing in a new currency may pose a few challenges of their own and visitors need to be aware of certain basics to have a hassle free stay in the city. A few tips to keep in mind when opting for currency exchange in London are:

The Euro:

Although Britain is a member of the European Union, which has adopted the Euro as the Union’s official currency, it is not an official currency in London. However, with London being a financial and tourist hub there are a number of places where the Euro is accepted. If you are left with Euros from travelling to any other city or cities of the European Union, you could try to exchange it at a bank or choose to spend it where accepted. The only caveat is, if you decide to spend it at a store you will have to accept the ongoing exchange rate, which may not be as favourable as what the bank offers.

The Pound:

The official currency of the UK is the pound sterling (£), commonly referred to as the Pound. The Pound serves as the basic unit of currency in the UK and in colloquial terms is referred to as a “quid”. Then there are pennies which are referred to as pence, their plural term. A Pound comprises of a 100 pence with most currency being in the form of coins including £1, £2 and even £5 Pound coins. Carrying around a number of coins can become quite weighty so preferably opt for notes (where possible).

ATMs:

A very popular mode of getting money is the ATM (automated teller machine), which is common in London like other cities. Transactions are conducted with either a credit or debit card and all the user needs to do is enter the PIN. At the time of withdrawal the associated ban calculates the ongoing exchange rate and debits the requisite amount from the account. At most times the exchange rate is more favourable than that of a private money exchange, although enquire from your bank if there are any associated transaction fees. Generally a transaction fee applies.

Credit Cards:

While it may seem to be very convenient to use a credit card on a trip overseas, these transactions entail the user to share personal information like the PIN or personal ID number. It is the norm for debit cards in the US, with the exception of credit cards. Before you arrive in London ask your credit card agency to issue you a PIN (if you plan to the credit card). Also ask for information from your credit card company regarding extra fees or charges (applicable for overseas use), besides the standard currency exchange costs.

Exchange of Money:

As frequent travelers are aware the exchange rates vary from place to place. In most if not all tourist hotspots there are private traders who specialize in exchanging currencies such as US Dollars, Euros and Yen etc. The rate of exchange is prominently posted and may even appear competitive, however if you enquire further you will find there are associated fees. It could be in the form of a percentage of the sum changed or a flat fee, which would definitely add up. So it is better to exchange currency at a bank or use an ATM.

Tipping:

Unlike America where tipping is more customary, in the UK it mostly is not the norm, with the exception of a few places. At restaurants to leave a tip is customary and can be anywhere between 10-15 percent of the bill, although enquire if service charges have not already been added to the bill. Also cab drivers generally expect to get a tip of about 10 percent of the trip’s fare.

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