If you’re going to Scotland and you’ve got questions about money, this guide will clear things up. We’ve covered the currency used, the best places to get your money and some top budgeting tips for when you’re in the nation.
We’ve also considered the prices you can expect to pay while you’re in Scotland, with a handy collection of average prices for coffee, accommodation, camping and more.
For money-saving tips to make sure you’ve plenty of cash to spend on haggis, bagpipes and deep-fried Mars Bars, we’ve got your back.
What Currency is Used in Scotland?
Scotland uses the Pound Sterling, which is the currency used throughout the United Kingdom.
But though the same currency is used in all four nations of the UK (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland), Scotland has its own banknotes.
There are three types of banknotes in the UK:
- Scottish banknotes
- Northern Irish banknotes
- Bank of England banknotes
The latter of which are used in both England and Wales.
All three types of banknotes can be used in Scotland, but it’s best to use Scottish banknotes if you can. Likewise, it’s best to use English banknotes in England and Wales, and it’s best to use Northern Irish banknotes in Northern Ireland.
While businesses in Scotland will typically always accept English banknotes, the courtesy isn’t mutual, and lots of English establishments will be reluctant to accept Scottish banknotes. If you’re traveling to England after you visit Scotland, it’s therefore sensible to spend all of your Scottish banknotes in Scotland.
If you get stuck in England with Scottish banknotes, go to a branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland (also known as RBS), which are common in England. At these bank branches, they’ll exchange Scottish notes for their English equivalent, free of charge.
All coins and banknotes used throughout different parts of the UK, though they look different, are all worth exactly the same amount.
Although there are different types of banknotes in different parts of the UK, all coins across the UK are the same. Confusing.
What Scottish Coins and Banknotes Are There?
Scotland has the following coins: 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, £1 and £2. And Scotland also has the following notes: £5, £10, £20, £50 and £100.
The £50 note is relatively hard to find, while the £100 note is unique in that England doesn’t produce a note of similar value.
It’s possible to find £1 notes in Scotland, but these are very rare.
For reference, £1 is equivalent to around $1.29 USD at the time of writing.
Compared to most other countries in the world, there’s a pretty big coin currency in Scotland. Because there are coins worth up to £2, it’s possible to make lots of transactions purely with coins.
In case you’re confused, there are 100p (or 100 pennies, or 100 pence, depending on who you’re talking to) in £1.
Local people throughout the UK like calling pounds by the name of ‘quid’. So, for example, £1 can be called ‘a quid’. Or ten pounds can be called ‘ten quid’. And one million pounds can be called ‘a million quid’ (not that you’re probably ever going to be carrying a million quid). Knowing this in advance will save you a lot of confusion.
Can I Use US Dollars in Scotland?
No, US Dollars are not accepted in Scotland.
On very rare occasions, some tourist attractions might accept US Dollars (along with Euros) at very bad exchange rates, but you shouldn’t consider this as any sort of logical option.
How Do I Exchange Currency in Scotland?
The best place to exchange money in Scotland is at a travel agent, which you’ll find on high streets and in shopping centers. These establishments, which local people use to book holidays and flights, offer pretty good rates, and accept lots of different currencies. Post offices also offer pretty good rates.
Don’t go to a place which is purely a currency exchange (or bureau de change, depending on how cosmopolitan you like to think you are). These places have very low rates, so you’ll lose a lot of money in the conversion. Equally, don’t exchange money at a hotel or any other accommodation, as they too offer terrible conversion rates.
Don’t exchange money in airports or any other transport hubs, because they love ripping people off, but that’s the same around the whole world.
Unlike traveling in most countries, the best place to get good rates in Scotland is usually by simply using an ATM. Instead of carrying cash to Scotland (which you then change), you can instead simply take your ATM card and use ATMs. If you withdraw money at an ATM owned by a reputable bank, you often won’t be charged a fee by that bank, and the exchange rates are typically very good.
But beware: depending on which country you’re from, and which bank you use, you might be charged high rates from your bank for withdrawing money abroad.
You should check these fees with your bank before you leave for Scotland. If you are going to get charged high fees, it will probably make more sense for you to withdraw money in large sums, rather than in multiple smaller sums. But that’s the same no matter where you visit.
If you plan on using ATMs, use ones which are attached to bank buildings, as they are the most reliable.
A note on ATMs: most local people call them ‘cashpoints’. If you need to find an ATM, don’t ask anyone where you can find an ATM. Instead, ask them where you can find ‘a cashpoint’.
ATMs in Scotland accept pretty much any cards which have MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Plus and Maestro logos. If your card uses a four-digit pin, it’ll likely be accepted in Scotland. If you want to pay by contactless or chip and pin, MasterCard and Visa are best.
Can I Use My Bank Card in Scotland?
Yes, you can use your bank card in most places in Scotland. As above, ATMs are usually an excellent way to obtain Scottish cash without ridiculous charges, fees or exchange rates.
In the vast majority of establishments, you can pay via contactless and chip and pin. This is the case in most pubs, restaurants, bars, cafes and accommodations. Contactless payments are permitted sometimes up to only £30, though they’re now usually available up to £45, meaning that you can pay for most transactions with contactless payments.
In some of Scotland’s remote areas, you may need to pay in cash. This is especially true in bed and breakfasts (or B&Bs, accommodations in which you stay in a family home). You should therefore ensure you always carry some cash.
It’s very unusual that any establishments will accept card payments which are verified only with a signature.
Should I Get Pounds Before I Go to Scotland?
I wouldn’t. It’s much easier to just get some Scottish notes when you arrive in Scotland. But more importantly, if you do get pounds before you arrive in Scotland, they’ll likely be English notes rather than Scottish notes.
Though pretty much everywhere in Scotland will accept English banknotes, seeing foreign currency is all part of the fun – so having Scottish banknotes means you get the full Scottish experience.
Is Bargaining Accepted in Scotland?
Very rarely. If you’re at an outdoor market, antique store or flea market, you can bargain, but at any other venue, everything has a fixed price.
What’s the Average Cost of a Trip in Scotland?
Scotland is a pretty pricey place to travel to. But it’s absolutely worth it, as it’s one of the most exciting, adventurous and varied destinations on the planet.
Here are some of the estimated costs you can expect from a trip to Scotland:
- Cup of coffee: £2.50-£3
- Mid-range meal for 1 person: £15
- Double room in a mid-range hotel: £50-£100
- Takeaway meal: £8
- Bed in a hostel dorm: £15
- Wild camping: free!
- Car hire per day: £25-£35
- Pitch fee on a campsite: £10
(Again, for reference, at the time of writing, £1 is equivalent to $1.29 USD)
Though these prices are around average, they of course vary depending on where you are. In cities such as Glasgow and Edinburgh, for example, you can find bargain options for food, drink and accommodation. But in more remote parts of the country (and there are lots of them!), you can camp wild for absolutely nothing.
What is the Average Cost to Live in Scotland?
Living in Scotland is generally a little cheaper than living in England. Monthly living costs in Scotland are around 10% lower than most parts of England, and as much as 30% lower than London. If you like big cities, moving to Edinburgh, for example, is a much cheaper option than moving to London.
The cost of one month’s rent in a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre of Scotland’s cities is as follows:
- Edinburgh: $1000
- Glasgow: $850
- Aberdeen: $800
- Inverness: $700
- Dundee: $600
- Perth: $600
For reference, the same type of apartment in London would cost around $2000 per month.
Do I Need to Tip in Scotland?
There isn’t a huge tipping culture in the UK, though it is expected to an extent.
- When riding in a taxi, round up your fare to the nearest pound, or maybe a little more if it’s an expensive journey.
- In restaurants, add 10-15% to your bill if you’ve had table service.
- In pubs and bars, don’t worry about tipping – table service is very rare in Scotland’s drinking establishments.
I wrote a complete guide about the tipping etiquette in the UK, you absolutely need to check it out so you won’t find yourself in embarrassing situations.
Money Saving Tips for Scotland
Scotland can be an expensive place to visit, but with a frugal mentality, it’s actually pretty easy to travel through the nation on a budget. If you’re willing to give up some luxuries, Scotland is very well set up for budget adventuring.
Here are some of my top tips on saving – and using – money in Scotland:
- Wild camping! In the vast majority of Scotland, you can pitch up a tent on any public land. Though there are a small number of exceptions, it’s a great option in much of the country.
- … or just normal camping. If wild camping is a little too excessive for you, you can instead camp on an official camp site, complete with showers, toilets, running water and other luxuries. These are very affordable, and they’re available in the vast majority of the country, giving you a place to stay for around £10 per night.
- Bothies are your friend. These small huts, which are located in some of Scotland’s most remote areas, are basic and rudimentary, but they’re entirely free to sleep in. Wild cabins maintained by a charity, they’re a great place for a budget stay.
- Be careful where you exchange money. Bureau de changes, airports, transport stations and hotels offer very high rates. Don’t exchange money at any of them.
- Eat takeaway food instead of eating out. Restaurants in Scotland can be expensive, but takeaway food such as fish and chips can be pretty affordable.
- … or even better, cook for yourself. Groceries in Scotland can be surprisingly affordable.
- Hitchhiking is very easy. Though it’s not everyone’s ideal method of travel, it’s very easy to hitch a lift in Scotland, especially in rural and remote northern areas. In some countries, hitchhikers are expected to offer money. In Scotland, they aren’t.
- Don’t buy lots of coffee. Takeout coffees in the UK can be very expensive – and the price of buying endless coffee soon adds up to a significant amount. Instead, take a flask with you.
- Get accustomed to coins. In the UK, there’s a pretty big coin economy. Get yourself accustomed to the coins used, so you don’t end up leaving your vacation with a pocket full of valuable money.
- Do some research into getting a good travel credit card or debit card in your home country, which can save you on fees while you travel. But no matter where you’re traveling to, you should always do that!
- Be aware of current exchange rates before you exchange money anywhere. You don’t want to let anyone rip you off.
Scotland is one of the best countries in the world. It’s remote, rugged and rural, but it also has some of the most fascinating cities in the whole of the UK.
Before you go, check out our money tips for how to save, handle and manage your money while you’re in Scotland. Get familiar with the cash, get familiar with how to get your hands on it, and get familiar with how to spend it wisely.
If you do, you’ll have one of the best trips of your life. Och aye the noo!