Many people may consider that traveling to the UK might be without problem. However, there are a few issues to keep in mind prior to your trip in order to make your vacation of a lifetime run without a flaw.
One of the main problems travelers face while in the UK concerns finances. If you don’t plan ahead and visit the UK without significant information in mind, you might well run into a few situations that can cause major stress for you on vacation. It is best to plan your trip with a little basic financial information in mind, to insure your holiday is as stress free as possible.
Prepare Your Finances In Advance
This really goes without saying. While you may consider having enough money in the bank and carrying travelers cheques is sufficient, this may well not be the case. Prior to your trip, I would strongly suggest heading to your local bank and buying around $400 worth of local currency (about £300 at this point in time). This will help cover immediate expenses when arriving in the UK, such as taxi transfer fees to your hotel and food on arrival. Additionally, this will make sure you can buy additional necessities as soon as you arrive.
Be aware also that the UK uses a Chip and Pin system for all card payments. Both credit card payments and debit card payments will require you to input your pin number into a cashier system when paying for goods in the UK. Stores in the UK these days really do not like to offer a personal signature system when paying for goods on cards, so make sure that you know all your pin numbers for all of your payment cards in advance. Also, insure that these are all memorized. Do not write down the card pin numbers and store them with the cards if you can not recall your pins. This is a major security risk and should be avoided at all costs. If you do have to write your numbers down, store them in a different pocket or bag, just in case your wallet is stolen.
One other point of information to be aware of in relation to credit and debit card pins numbers is that the UK system will only take pin numbers up to four digits long. A number of banks in the US provide 6 digit pins with their cards and these pins will not be accepted by the UK payment systems. I would suggest that if you do have a pin number longer than 4 digits, contact your bank in advance of your trip and change your pin number to be 4 digits. This will prevent any payment issues within the UK when using your credit card or trying to use an ATM machine.
I would also suggest you keep around $200 on you at all times during your trip. If you run into any difficulties with regards to local payments, you can always go to a bank or high street travel agents to change your US Dollars into Pounds.
All local banks, post offices and travel agents in the UK also offer travelers cheque services. Again, if you are having problems using your cards within the UK, you can head to one of these outlets to buy travelers cheques.
If you do find yourself in a spot of financial trouble in the UK and need cash sent from home, there are numerous Western Union branches located in many shops and post offices through out the country. Just be aware in advance of the locations of places offering Western Union services, just in case you should need to use them.
ATM machines are located both at banks and often within shopping locations in the UK. Again, these machines only accept pin numbers up to 4 digits long, so be sure to change any longer pins to a 4 digit pin prior to traveling. ATM machines based in banks often charge a lot less than the stand alone ATM machines you might find in stores, so be inclined to use these to save a few dollars. The main banks in the UK are Lloyds TSB, HSBC, National Westminster (Nat West) and Barclays. There are also numerous building societies such as Halifax and Abby National that also provide ATM facilities at cheaper costs, so look out for these.
Stores in the UK accept all major credit and debit cards. There is no need to worry about shopping in the UK if your credit or debit card are issued by Visa, Mastercard or Amex. All stores that offer merchant card facilities will accept any of these cards as a means of payment. Also, all ATM machines are programmed for all of these types of cards. Again, just be aware of the costs that can occur from using your cards in ATM machines not located at bank sites.
Another point that confuses many US visitors to the UK is that the price of items is exactly what you pay for the item. If you wish to buy something marked up at £1.99, then you will pay £1.99 and not a penny more. Stores within the UK apply VAT (tax) charges to items as part of the costs, so you will not be stumped trying to find that extra few pence to pay for an item at check out.
Additionally, if you are looking to purchase some day to day items such as snacks and drinks, it is always better to use one of the numerous supermarkets to make your purchase. This is especially the case in a large city like London as local stores often charge a lot more money for such basics than the larger supermarkets do. London has many local supermarkets located on the major shopping streets, so it is easy to find somewhere less expensive to buy your required items that heading into a smaller store. Some of the main supermarkets in London are Tesco Metro, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose. In some areas, you might be able to find a local ASDA store. ASDA is run by the Walmart group in the UK and often offers the cheapest prices, although they generally run more out of town supermarkets.
One final financial point to remember is that using your credit or debit card in the UK will occur an international fee from your bank, so you will have to spend an additional few dollars on any items purchased.