The pound sterling is the official United Kingdom currency, used in all four of the countries that form the UK:
- Northern Ireland.
Important note: If your holiday includes a detour into the Republic of Ireland, you’ll also need some euros (they won’t accept pounds here, no matter how charming you are).
You’ll also want to exchange your Australian dollars to pounds if you’re packing bags for:
- The British Antarctic Territory
- Falkland Islands
- The Isle of Man (not as sexy as it sounds)
- South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (not as edible as they sound)
- Tristan da Cunha.
Coins and notes
Forget about dollars and cents. In the UK you’ll be dealing with pounds and pence. (And yes, we know that rhymes.) There are 100 pence (p) in every pound (£), so at least that’s straightforward enough. You’ll most commonly see coins of 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, £1 and £2, and banknotes of £5, £10 and £20. There are a couple of other odd denominations floating around (like a 6p coin and a £25 note), but these are rarer than sunshine in Glasgow.
Facts about the currency
- The pound is the oldest currency in the world that’s still used today. It dates right back to the 8th Century, making it even older than England itself. Fancy that!
- Queen Elizabeth II appears on every Bank of England banknote printed since 1960.
- In 2009, the Royal Mint accidentally released a batch of 20p coins that hadn’t had their year of production marked on them yet. Whoops-a-daisy.
- The UK is one of the few countries in the world where multiple banks are permitted to print and issue banknotes. In most countries, there is only a singular bank that’s allowed to do this (e.g. the Reserve Bank of Australia).
- The Bank of England is currently rolling out the replacement of paper banknotes with polymer versions. This began with the release of polymer £5 notes in 2016.