The Travel Money Guide to Currency in Northern Ireland
There are lots of reasons to travel to Northern Ireland including visiting the Giant's Causeway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, walking the Cuilcagh boardwalk trail or admiring speculator County Antrim. But it isn’t a budget destination and to get the most out of your trip, it’s a good idea to learn everything you can about the local currency and payment options before you go.
Want to learn more about the Northern Ireland currency and how to get your hands on it for the best value? Read on to find out:
What Currency is Used in Northern Ireland?
The official currency in Northern Ireland is the Pound Sterling, which has the international code GBP and the symbol £. Northern Ireland have 5 different banknotes: £5, £10, £20, £50 and £100.
In Northern Ireland a Pound Sterling is divided in to 100 and there are 5 coins 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p and 50p. In addition there are 2 pound coins, similar to the $1 and $2 in Australia, they are £1 and £2.
Northern Ireland uses different currency to Ireland, which uses the Euro, so if you are travelling to both, you need to take 2 different sets of currency.
How to Buy Pound Sterling Before You Go
There’s a certain reassurance that comes with stepping off the plane (or cruise ship) already cashed up with Pound Sterling.
Buying Pound Sterling before you leave Australian shores isn’t just convenient. It can also save you money. But it all depends on where you get your Pound Sterling in Australia. There are 3 main options:
- Buy GBP online and have it delivered or collect it in-store
- Swap Pounds Sterling for Australian dollars from a money changer
- Buy Pounds Sterling at your home airport
Try S Money or a similar online currency exchange store to get rates that reflect the comparisons you see on XE or Google.
If you choose online delivery or in-store pickup, check the processing time. Some exchange companies with online options suggest you allow between two and five days to process currency.
Prefer in-store currency exchange? Head to the CBD of your nearest city for the most competitive exchange rates; suburban bureau de change outlets tend to have poorer rates and fees.
Currency exchange counters in Australia’s airports are infamous for their atrocious exchange rates. Avoid them if you can.
How Much Cash Should I Bring to Northern Ireland?
Budgeting for your trip gives you a good idea of how much you may need for the length of your stay. This might keep you accountable, help you stretch your savings, or help you avoid having to convert currency back into dollars at the end of your trip.
The average daily travel budget in Northern Ireland is about $210. Some of the expenses you might be looking at include:
$200 per night
A double room in a mid-range hotel
Average lunch for 2
Pint of beer
Average daily transport
Admission for entertainment
How to Change Currency When You Arrive
Places like Belfast and Londonderry receive great numbers of tourists, so there are facilities to cater to money exchanges. Beyond these major destinations, it’s best to get cash before you venture into remote territory.
There are many ATM’s in Northern Ireland, particularly in the major cities. Common banks are Ulster bank and the Bank of England. Be aware the Bank of England will issue UK notes and the Ulster Bank will issue Northern Ireland notes.
Depending on your bank, you may have to pay for overseas ATM withdrawals and currency conversions. To reduce the amount you’ll pay in fees, try to withdraw just the right amount of money you’ll need for the duration of your trip.
Don’t forget: Let your bank know you’re travelling! If they detect a foreign transaction but aren’t aware you’re overseas, they could end up freezing your card.
Currency Exchange in Northern Ireland
Number 1 Currency Exchange and NM Money are money changers that operate in Northern Ireland and they look very similar to currency exchanges in Australia.
You won’t have any problem changing money in the major cities. There are plenty of money changers at the Belfast international airport and the George Best city airport
Money changers tend to offer marginally better rates than banks as many banks charge a high flat fee. Also, banks only exchange currencies on weekdays.
Not worth the bother! Travellers cheques are so outdated, very few banks even accept them any more.
Thanks to advances in bank fraud protection and an increase in places accepting card payments, travellers cheques are virtually redundant in 21st-century travel.
Few Northern Irish traders will accept them and you may even have trouble changing them in a bank so your best bet is to avoid them altogether as they’re often more hassle than they’re worth.
Using Your Bank Card
Most Northern Irish businesses are well set up to receive card payments. But before you use your bank card willy-nilly, it’s worth reading up on the fees and charges you might incur.
You’ll probably want a debit card if you plan to withdraw money from an ATM. While you may also be able to pay with a debit card in some businesses in the major destinations, you might discover some hefty fees on your account summary.
Depending on your bank, you could be hit with fees for foreign ATM withdrawals or currency conversions. But some banks are better than others; we recommend checking out ING, Revolut, and TransferWise, all of which have travel-friendly debit cards that waive these charges.
Credit cards can come with some enticing perks, including added security, loyalty programs, and even free travel insurance.
But are they worth it?
Major local businesses, including hotels, restaurants, airline offices, and department stores, accept credit cards. But you might have to pay a surcharge.
Mastercard and Visa are widely accepted. You may also be able to use your American Express card, though local ATMs won’t accept them.
Just be aware of additional charges you may incur for foreign transactions. These could include:
- International transaction fees
- High exchange rate margins
- ATM fees
- Potential ‘cash advance fees’ if you use an ATM
If you still prefer credit cards over any other payment, consider going with a company that offers cards that waive certain travel fees. Bankwest Platinum and 28 Degrees both have travel-friendly cards.
Prepaid Travel Cards
The biggest advantages of prepaid travel cards are that you can lock in a favourable exchange rate. You also get a handy back-up card.
Just remember that while they are convenient, you could end up paying a long list of hidden fees. Many travel cards still impose:
- Currency conversion fees
- Uncompetitive exchange rates
- International ATM withdrawal fees
- Initial load fees
- Reload fees
- Inactivity fees