Prices can seem high in Scotland, though this has improved because of the economic downturn. However, travelers do get some breaks: national museums are free, and staying in a B&B or renting a city apartment brings down lodging costs.
Prices throughout this guide are given for adults. Substantially reduced fees are almost always available for children, students, and senior citizens.
Banks never have every foreign currency on hand, and it may take as long as a week to order. If you're planning to exchange funds before leaving home, don't wait until the last minute.
ATMs and Banks
ATMs are available throughout Scotland at banks and numerous other locations such as railway stations, gas stations, and department stores. Three banks with many branches are Lloyds, Halifax, and the Royal Bank of Scotland.
Your own bank will probably charge a fee for using ATMs abroad; the foreign bank you use may also charge a fee. Nevertheless, you'll usually get a better rate of exchange at an ATM than you will at a currency-exchange office or even when changing money in a bank. And extracting funds as you need them is a safer option than carrying around a large amount of cash.
Avoid exorbitant Dynamic Currency Conversion fees by asking to be charged in local currency, i.e., in GBP. Do not accept the enticing ATM screen option to "Convert into your home currency," which will incur extra hidden costs.
PINs with more than four digits are not recognized at ATMs. If yours has five or more, remember to change it before you leave.
MasterCard. 0800/964767; www.mastercard.com.
Visa Plus. 0800/891725; www.visadps.com.
Credit cards are accepted almost everywhere and for everything (except for bus and taxi fares), as are debit cards. Most cards issued in Europe are now chip-and-PIN credit cards that store user information on a computer chip embedded in the card. In the United States, all credit cards were required to switch to "chip-and-signature" cards in 2015. While European cardholders are expected to know and use their PIN number for all transactions rather than signing a charge slip, U.S. chip-and-signature cards usually still require users to sign the charge slip. (Very few U.S. issuers offer a PIN along with their cards, except for cash withdrawals at an ATM, though this is expected to change in the future.) The good news: unlike the old magnetic-strip cards that gave American travelers in Europe trouble at times, the new chip-and-signature cards are accepted at many more locations, including in many cases at machines that sell train tickets, machines that process automated motorway tolls at unmanned booths, and automated gas stations—even without a signature or PIN. The bad news: not all European locations will accept the chip-and-signature cards, and you won’t know until you try, so it's a good idea to carry enough cash to cover small purchases. The use of contactless cards, devices, and phone apps has accelerated in the United Kingdom in recent years: a transaction limit of £30 is widespread unless more secure biometric technology is involved.
Visa and MasterCard are more widely accepted than American Express; it is a good idea to travel with a picture ID in case you're asked for it.
Currency and Exchange
Britain's currency is the pound sterling, which is divided into 100 pence (100p). Bills (called notes) are issued in the values of £50, £20, £10, and £5. Coins are issued in the values of £2, £1, 50p, 20p, 10p, 5p, 2p, and 1p. Scottish coins are the same as English ones, but have a thistle on them. Scottish notes have the same face values as English notes, and English notes are interchangeable with them in Scotland.
At this writing, the exchange rate was U.S. $1.30 to the pound.
All the leading online search engines do currency conversions. XE.com is another good currency conversion website with some handy tables and conversion apps.