Exchange rates can be tricky things to handle, sometimes creating a large disparity between the cash you should have to spend and the money you really get at the exchange counter!
If you’re planning a trip to London, then you’ll certainly want to make the most of your budget. In this blog, we’ll look at some of the best ways to get the best possible currency exchange rate in the UK capital.
Don’t change currency at the airport
For those flying in or out of London, one of the first things you’ll see on arrival is a huge number of currency exchange counters, each offering you special deals and their ‘best’ rates. However, these desks frequently take advantage of having effectively a captive audience, and are rarely the best place to find a great deal.
Airport currency exchange and travel money services know that you might have left it to the last minute, and there is little real motivation for them to be particularly competitive with their pricing. During your stay at the Montcalm Royal London House, we recommend holding on and resisting the urge to change your currency as soon as you touch down in the city.
One of the best things about staying in a city like London is that you can be sure these initial currency exchange counters are not the only place you can change your money.
Know that currency changes value
The Great Britain Pound is sometimes referred to as GBP or even pound sterling. Its value changes over time, and is influenced by the supply and demand for this currency. Common factors which can influence its value include everything from political change to economic factors, and the pound has been known to experience sharp losses and gains in value from time to time.
It’s important to know this, as the exchange rate you saw when researching your budget may not be the one you should expect on arrival. Always do any prior checking as close to the time you leave as possible, because this will put you in the most powerful position for getting a great rate and enjoying hotel packages in London.
Check your banking arrangements
Some overseas banks will allow you to enjoy free withdrawals from UK ATMs. HSBC is one bank which provides this perk, and you’ll be able to spot a large number of their cash machines throughout London.
Ask your domestic bank whether they are involved in any schemes or initiatives like this, and if not, check their withdrawal rate in the UK. The Global ATM Alliance is a banking network which provides its customers with low-cost withdrawals at international ATMs, so be sure to check whether your own bank is a member of this group before you head to the Montcalm luxury hotel London.
Be aware that there are some ATMs in London which will offer you the chance to use your home currency during the withdrawal transaction. While this sounds like a great deal, it is often a trap. The exchange rate used by the bank may be much less favourable than the rates available to you.
Opt for a pre-paid card
Using these cards is simple, you just top up the balance before travelling and then pay for goods and services when you’re in London. These cards also lock in the currency exchange rate on the day your card is loaded with funds, so we recommend checking you purchase when the exchange rate is in a favourable position.
This will allow you to enjoy your stay in London without worrying about fluctuating exchange rates and could even make budgeting a lot simpler and more straightforward.
Spend your cash before you leave
It can be tempting to change more money than you need, but we recommend instead making sure you’ve spent your cash before leaving London. This might sound simple, but this way you’ll avoid doubling your exchange fees when changing the currency back.
Simple ways to use up any remaining cash include grabbing a few souvenirs, tipping generously, and even simply enjoying a meal at Finsbury Square restaurants and paying in cash.
All of these are common activities you could enjoy during your visit, and they save you relying too heavily on your debit or credit card.
Consider a travel credit card
Travel credit cards will work in the same way as when you’re back at home, allowing you purchase the things you need and then pay off your credit card allowance each month. There are a few advantages to this approach, as you could not only get some great exchange rates, but also give your credit rating a boost (assuming you use the card responsibly).
In addition, a credit card is more secure than travelling with cash. If the card is stolen or lost during your travels, you just need to contact your card issuer and they’ll block the card for you.
If you prefer to travel light, then this is certainly one of the more practical options at your disposal. However, using a credit card is not without its pitfalls. You could be charged large fees if you don’t check the small print before travelling, and withdrawing cash using an ATM could negatively impact your credit score.
Don’t settle for the first exchange rate you see, as you may be able to find another. London is never short of places for you to change currency, including everything from travel hubs to hotels – and while these rates may not always be favourable, one thing you can count on is that should you have to pay by card, this will be possible almost everywhere you go.
This knowledge helps to take some of the pressure off pouncing on the first bureau de change you see, and should help you feel a little more confident about exploring your options.