UK Postcode Finder is Easier to Use Than Ever

Royal Mail's Online Tool Helps Zero in on Vital Postal Information

The Championships - Wimbledon 2011 - Previews
Julian Finney / Getty Images

The UK Royal Mail's updated online postcode finder is now easier to use and faster than ever. If you're planning a trip to the UK or are sending gifts or holiday cards, it's a vital tool

It's also free for up  to 50 address searches a day (any more than that and the Royal Mail looks on your search as a business enquiry and they have other, paid services for businesses). The free postcode finder is for you if you just need to look up a few addresses or postcodes once in a while.

The online tool works in two directions - enter a full or partial postcode to find a full address or enter a partial address to find a postcode.The postcode finder is interactive so if you're unsure of any information, it provides suggestions as you type.There are also tips and pointers to help you search.

Try the Royal Mail Postcode Finder.

This is an invaluable gadget if you're shipping holiday presents, cards and letters to friends and family around the UK. Having the correct postcode speeds safe delivery for your packages,cards and letters. But these days a postcode is the key to a lot more that mail services. 

Why Do You Need a Postcode?

Not long ago, a visiting friend arrived in London from the USA. She said she was staying at Rose Cottage B&B on West Street. We made plans to meet up and I asked, "What's the postcode?" so I could choose the best way to get to her. 

"The what? Oh you mean all those numbers after the address?

I didn't bother writing them down."

A big mistake - especially when getting around the UK. UK postcodes are absolutely key to putting yourself on the map. Here's why - 

Collections of Villages

Britain's large cities and most of its larger towns grew by incorporating smaller villages and towns over hundreds of years.

Each borough in a city like London, Birmingham or Manchester was once a village or town on its own. As a result, there will be many duplicated street names.

London, for example, has 18 High Roads and at least 50 High Streets - maybe more. There are a dozen West Streets in London, plus dozens more West Avenues and West Roads. Hundreds of street names are likely to be repeated over and over in any UK city.

Getting around depends on knowing the postcode that differentiates one West Street from another. An address without it, in most parts of the UK, is unintelligible.

More Than a Location

Once you know the postcodes of a destination, you'll be able to find out a lot more about the location than simply where to mail a letter. The first part of the postcode, before the space (one or two capital letters and one or two numbers), is full of information. Will you be able to afford the hotels there? Will vacation rentals be apartments or small city houses? Will the shops be convenient? Interesting? All this information and more is revealed once you know the postcode.

Among other things, postcodes are used to:

  • give accurate directions to taxi drivers
  • find nearby branches of popular stores
  • find nearby ATMs or cash machines
  • set the satellite navigation in your rented car or on your smart phone.

And local people will be able to advise you about the character of an area based on the postcode. Which postcodes have snob appeal? And which might be a bit less fancy (the British say "down market") but still safe and fun for visitors.

Correct Format for a British Postal Address

Postcodes have been developing in the UK since they began as simple direction letter codes in London in 1857. The system in use today, a combination of between six and eight letters and numbers, dates from the 1960s and 1970s - about the same time as zip codes began in the US.

Every part of the postcode means something to post office sorters, postmen and various government officials. You don't need to know any of that. Just remember, when mailing a package, that there is a correct way to write one in an address.

The postcode should be placed in the last line of a written address. It is made up of two groups of capital letters and numbers with a space between them. 

Here's a sample (completely made up) of how to do it. The Postcode is indicated in Bold Italics in this example, but of course you can write or type it anyway you like as long as it is clear and in the correct format. If you have the city, the county, and Postcode in the correct places, you don't need to indicate England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. Just using "United Kingdom" is sufficient if posting from abroad. For big cities - like London, Liverpool, Glasgow or Edinburgh - you don't even need to include the county, just put the Postcode after the city name, with no commas. So here goes:

Jane Doe
12 Oak Street
Little Cheaphampton-nr-Big Bottom
Kent
XY5 12UZ
United Kingdom

And that's it.

And Just Remember...

If you are heading to the UK for vacation or leaving your UK hotel for an excursion or a night out, write down the postcode of where you are going and where you will be returning to later. If you don't, no one will be able to tell you how to get there - or how to get back.