Shops and people at Oxford Circus in London.
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Money in the UK: a traveller's guide

Currency: pound sterling

Symbol: £

Currency code: GBP

The UK is generally known as an expensive travel destination, even by European standards. Transportation, accommodation, and food will be the highest costs of your trip, but there are some easy ways to save money when travelling the UK.

There’s a saying in London that you will spend a ‘ton’ (£100) just by leaving the front door; it’s an expensive city even for Brits. But head out of the capital and you will find that the prices of goods drop significantly.

The further north you go the cheaper it gets, and there’s plenty to see like Snowdonia, the Lake District, the Peak District, the Highlands, and the Giant’s Causeway.

ATMs in the UK

ATMs are plentiful in towns, at supermarkets, and outside banks. They are usually free, but some still charge a withdrawal fee particularly in airports or train stations. Always withdraw in GBP as ATM exchange rates are astronomical.

The same goes if a shop or restaurant offers to charge you in your local currency - always say no. If you choose to pay in your own currency they will use a terrible rate that will end up costing you a lot more, even big reputable brands allow this practice. You can use a travel card, like Wise, to avoid high exchange rates from your own bank back home.

How to pay in the UK

Since 2020, many shops will accept card and digital payments. More remote spots in the UK do tend to rely on cash still, and spare change is always useful for parking, public toilets, and tipping.

Smaller shops often have a minimum spend on card, and some taxis may claim their card machines are ‘down’ to avoid credit card fees - if you have some cash on you at all times it won’t be an issue.

Tipping in the UK

Tipping is common and highly appreciated for low-paid hospitality staff. Servers at a sit-down restaurant would usually be given a tip of around 10% to 15% of the bill. Fast food and drinks don’t usually require a tip.

Walking tour guides, especially ‘free’ tours, rely on generous tips to stay in business. It’s an honour system that ensures that you are getting the best service, so feel free not to tip if the experience is less than satisfactory.

Safety and common scams in the UK

Although tourist scams are not common outside of major cities in the UK, travellers are unfortunately always targets. Be especially wary in London.

Avoid over-charging pedi-cabs and stick to licensed black cabs instead - the drivers know the city inside out and often make good local guides. Always make sure taxis are using a metre before getting in, or use a prepaid app.

Have an RFID wallet when using your contactless card, especially on the ‘Tube’ (underground), to avoid having your card details swiped by passers-by. Make sure to buy tickets for transport and shows from reputable outlets or in advance online, street ticket sellers are usually selling fakes.

As with anywhere, hide your valuables in busy areas, watch out for anyone that seems too friendly, and attach your bags to something (or yourself) when eating outside at cafes and on public transport.

How to save money in the UK

Travelling out of season is the best way to save money when travelling in the UK, but there are other ways to not overspend for budget conscious travellers.

Tap water is safe to drink in the UK, so you don’t need to buy bottled. Bring a reusable water bottle and fill up from a public water fountain. Look for accommodation with included breakfast or self-catering options to save on eating out, or hire a campervan to explore more remote regions - saving on accommodation, transport and food.

You can buy a rail pass to save money if travelling around the UK by train, but look at other options like buses, coaches, or car hire if you want to make a lot of stops.

Typical prices in the UK

Typical prices in the UK can vary greatly depending on which region you are in and even how close you are to an attraction or tourist area.

A good rule of thumb is to always head a few streets back from the main square and have a quick look at the reviews on Google maps for the opinions of locals.

In general expect to pay a few pounds more for anything in London, and other major cities like Edinburgh, Belfast, and Cardiff. For the rest of the UK expect to pay the prices listed below:

  • A coffee or pint of beer - £3.50

  • ‘Meal deal’ lunch from a supermarket £3 – £5

  • Meal in a pub - £10 - £15

  • A museum visit - Free

  • BritRail pass - 2 days from £96

  • London sightseeing pass - 1 day from £99

  • Accommodation - £75 - £150 per night

  • Ticket to Stonehenge - £20

According to information collected from travellers, visitors spend on average £153 per day in the United Kingdom. But of course it depends on personal budgets, excursions, and any additional activities.

Check our other guides for more information on the average costs of transport, accommodation and visas etc.

Planning a trip to the UK? Read our UK travel guides

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Jo Williams

Author - Jo Williams

Jo Williams is a freelance writer with 10 years' experience working in travel and tourism. A Brit who got fed up with the 9 to 5 corporate life, she sold everything to become a full-time wanderer.

Jo has travelled to over 70 countries and worked throughout Europe for a major tour operator. She hopes to inspire you to work less and travel more.

Last Updated 13 June 2023

Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England, UK

United Kingdom

Encompassing England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Island, the United Kingdom has a long and interesting history, several cosmopolitan cities and a range of enchanting landscapes.