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Exchanging currency in London? Please help.

Travel Forums Europe Exchanging currency in London? Please help.

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1. Posted by Aingeal (Budding Member 7 posts) 7y

Hi, all.. I'll be leaving for London in less than a week. I'm curious, where all can you exchange US currency there? I'll be arriving at Heathrow, would it cost a lot to exchange it there? and would it be safe to exchange it all there (a couple thousand dollars)? I would greatly appreciate help. Thank you so much.

2. Posted by bgl (Full Member 167 posts) 7y

No matter what terminal you happen to arrive at, you'll easily find a place where you can exchange currency. And that's a lot of money to exchange. Unless you're planning on spending all that money in the UK you should not exchange all of it into Pound Sterling. Each time you exchange currency, you lose a little bit. In other words, if you're going to visit other countries after the UK, you should only exchange the amount you expect to spend in the UK. When you get to the next country, you should then exchange your USD directly into that country's currency.

3. Posted by Aingeal (Budding Member 7 posts) 7y

Hi and thanks. I will be staying 2 weeks, mainly in London, might go to Scotland for a couple days. I've never been to another country, so I wasn't sure what to bring but I heard the costs in London were high, so I thought I'd probably need a couple thousand to be safe. (I know just 5 days in my hotel alone will be 600.00)

[ Edit: Edited on 03-Aug-2009, at 21:32 by Aingeal ]

4. Posted by bgl (Full Member 167 posts) 7y

That amount of money sounds very excessive for two weeks, and I would be concerned having that much cash. Major expenses are best handled with a credit card, like the hotel for instance. You also get an excellent exchange rate when you use a credit card.

No matter how much money you plan to exchange, keep in mind that whatever amount in Pound Sterling you don't spend, you will then have to convert that back into USD. The rate when you buy foreign currency (Pound Sterling in your case) is always higher than when you sell that currency back at the end of your stay. In other words, if you were to take a reserve sum of US$500 (for instance), exchange it into Pound Sterling and then after two weeks when you realize that you didn't need that money in the UK after all, you take that Pound Sterling cash and convert it back into US$. I don't know how much you would end up with, but it would definitely be less than $500. Maybe $450 or so. Just a guess. You can check buying and selling rates for varioius currencies by googling it.

5. Posted by Aingeal (Budding Member 7 posts) 7y

OK, thanks for the info. I was fairly aware of what you'd said already, for the most part. I don't own or use credit cards. I was more or less wanting to know where is best to exchange currency and if it'd safe to have that much money.

6. Posted by bgl (Full Member 167 posts) 7y

Since you don't have a credit card you may consider paying the hotel as soon as you're confident that you'll be there for your whole stay in London. For instance after one night, if you're pleased with the room and the service, pay in advance so that you don't carry but so much cash.

Also, try to estimate how much money you may need each day, and be conservative when you exchange your US$ to Pound Sterling upon arrival. If you happen to run out of Pound Sterling after a week or so, there are plenty of places in London where you can exchange US$ into Pound Sterling again. Better to do that than to end up with too much £ at the end of your stay.

And how safe it is all depends on you, and how careful you are...

7. Posted by t_maia (Travel Guru 3289 posts) 7y

I don't own or use credit cards.

A trip abroad is a very very good reason to get a credit card. I mean, just carrying that much money in cash is crazy. If your credit card gets stolen all you have to do is call your bank, if your cash gets stolen you are screwed.

I don't use plastic either in my daily live, but I have both a debit card and a credit card for my trips abroad.

if it'd safe to have that much money.


Pickpocketing is a big problem in Europe, especially in touristy places. I strongly recommend that you have at least 5 wallets with the money distributed all over you and your luggage. When you go sightseeing and need to pay for small things use a specially prepared wallet, on that has no more than 20 pounds and small change. Let potential thieves see only this wallet.

[ Edit: Edited on 04-Aug-2009, at 01:38 by t_maia ]

8. Posted by Aingeal (Budding Member 7 posts) 7y

Oh, I do have a debit. I just never wanted a credit card; too many get in bad debt because of that. Would just having a debit be ok? Oh, and I got a security money and passport thing, if that makes any difference.

[ Edit: Edited on 04-Aug-2009, at 01:35 by Aingeal ]

9. Posted by t_maia (Travel Guru 3289 posts) 7y

Depends. Europeans use the EC card debit system, this does not always work well with other systems.

What kind of card do you have and what bank do you use? If it is Visa Debit you might be able to use it in London, but no guarantees. If you bank with Citibank note that there is a Citibank branch in London, you can use your normal US ATM card to withdraw pounds directly from your account in the USA free of any fees.

10. Posted by Aingeal (Budding Member 7 posts) 7y

No, I use a branch that mainly just has branches in this state. The debit says Visa on it, I've heard if it says Visa, most places will take it, like ATMs anyway.