Local currency in London
Unlike most of Europe, the United Kingdom ( England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales) use the British Pound. The paper denominations are £50 (red), £20 (purple), £10 (orange) and £5 (blue). Coins are £2, £1, 50 pence, 20 pence, 10 pence, 5 pence and 1 pence. There are 100 pence in one British pound.
The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man coins and banknotes have different designs but are still legal tender and the same values.
If you are arriving from outside the European Union, then on arrival, you will be required to declare your cash if it exceeds 10,000 euro. You will probably be asked for proof of how you obtained the amount. All points of entry into the UK have random bag search procedures and also dedicated sniffer dogs trained to detect cash in your bags.
There is a growing trend in the larger stores to also accept Euro at the till. I have recently used euro cash in Selfridge's Store on Oxford Street.
Currency can be easily obtained through the multitude of ATM machines throughout all 5 London airports and all major railway stations, large stores, and on every high street. There are are also banks and currency exchange shops throughout the capital.
Like any city, you must be aware of what's going on around you when using ATM's. You should also cover the pad with your spare hand when putting in your personal code. On rare occasions, the machine may have illegal code skimmers installed, hence the required caution. Also double check if anyone is watching where you put your cash when leaving the machine.
Around all main tourist areas you will find the Currency Exchange shops. Always ask for the full details as commission free may simply mean that you are not getting the proper exchange rate. Most are open late and some, like Chequepoint in South Kensington, are open 24 hours.
Sterling travellers cheques can be cashed at any bank, usually without a charge if they are affiliated with the issuing source. You will have to show some identification, ideally your passport. They can also be cashed at Currency Exchange shops but you will be charged.
Banks are usually open from 9.30 am until 4.30pm on Monday to Friday. They are all closed on public holidays however many have cash machines in the foyer, or set into the wall outside,which are accessible 24 hours a day
Credit cards are a way of life and everywhere accepts the mainstream varieties of Visa and Mastercard. American Express and Diners tend to be the realm of the larger outlets and restaurants only.
Our advice is to use travellers cheques cashed in high street banks wherever possible and to avoid currency exchange shops unless its a last resort. We also tend to use ATM's outside of the West End so as to avoid any potential pickpocketing scenario.