Know Before You Go: A Guide to UK Currency

British coins
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The UK unit of currency is the pound Sterling (£). In London, a one pound (£1) coin is often referred to as a 'quid' and sometimes a 'nicker.'

It's thought that the term 'quid' comes from the Latin term quid pro quo, a phrase used to describe an exchange of something from one person to another. It's likely it was shortened to quid in the 16th or 17th century.

Nicker is thought to be London slang that dates to the early 1900s.

Coins

One pound is made up of 100 pence (p). Coin denominations are:

  • 1p and 2p ('copper')
  • 5p, 10p, 20p and 50p ('silver')
  • £1 ('gold')
  • £2 ('silver middle-gold edge')

Notes

The notes available are:

  • £5 (blue)
  • £10 (brown)
  • £20 (purple)
  • £50 (red)

If you have a £50 note do make sure it is the newest design as the Houblon £50 note stopped being legal tender on 30 April 2014. 

Have at look at the Photographs of UK Money to familiarize yourself before your vacation.

What about Euros?

The Euro has been adopted by many countries across Europe. A number of London's larger retailers will accept the Euro as an alternative currency and their goods are priced in both pounds and Euros. London's bigger department stores (often attractions in their own right) accept currencies including Euros, US Dollars, and the Japanese Yen. Selfridges and Harrods both take Euros and US Dollars in addition to Sterling. The larger Marks and Spencer stores feature a bureaux de change in which you can exchange foreign currencies.

Scottish Notes

Scottish notes are not officially 'legal tender' in England but this does not mean you can't use them to pay for goods here. The Bank of England regulates the issue of Scottish and Irish banknotes and although shopkeepers may look at the notes more carefully, once they recognize them they are usually accepted.

If you have any problems, simply exchange them (at no cost) at any High Street bank.

Northern Irish Pounds

Northern Ireland still uses pounds sterling, while southern Ireland has adopted the Euro. Northern Irish pounds are accepted in England but you will rarely see them. Find out more about Irish currency issues.