The currency used in Scotland is that which is used throughout the UK, the Sterling pound and it’s divided into one hundred pennies. The coins in circulation are 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p and £1. Notes come in denominations of £1 (coin is now more common and notes have been discontinued in England), £5, £10, £20, £50 and £100. Some Scottish banks including the Royal Bank of Scotland, Bank of Scotland and Clydesdale Bank, do issue their own sterling notes which are legal tender throughout the UK. Occasionally, however, some places in England are reluctant to accept them.
Scotland is an English speaking country but about seventy thousand people in the Western Isles speak Gaelic. They also speak English but they can be difficult to understand as they have a very distinctive accent that takes quite a bit of getting used to.
Because the country shares a latitude with Norway and Moscow, people are led to believe that it is much colder than it actually is. The Gulf Stream, however, does have a warming effect making it much less cold than its counterparts. The best weather is between May and September.
Greenwich Mean Time or five hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time
Shops are generally open from 9.00am to 5.30/6.00pm from Monday to Saturday but some close early on either Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon. Businesses are open from Monday to Friday between 9.00am and 5.00pm and most banks are open from Monday to Thursday between 9.30am and 12.30pm and 1.30 to 3.30pm. They open on Fridays between 9.30am and 1.30pm. The main post offices are open from Monday to Friday between 9.00am and 5.00pm. Finally, pub hours are 11.00am to 11.00pm from Monday to Saturday and on Sunday they are usually open between 12.30pm and 2.30pm and 6.30pm and 11.00pm. It is worth noting that these hours vary widely from pub to pub and from city to city.
Electricity in Scotland is 240 volts AC (50Hz)
There is no local sales tax but the British Government impose a standard value added tax of 17.5% which will show up on your hotel or restaurant bill, unless otherwise stated. With regards to shopping, this tax can be claimed back on goods taken out of the country by non-nationals but not all stores participate in this 'Retail Export Scheme' so, before purchasing, look for a sign or enquire.
Citizens of EU member states are free to live and work in Scotland without a visa and visitors from Ireland, England and Wales do not even need a passport to enter the country. American, Canadian, Australian, South African and New Zealand nationals are allowed to stay for up to a period of six months without a visa. Visitors from all other countries should contact the British Embassy in their area for entry details.
The main tourist information centre in Scotland is located in Edinburgh but there are over one hundred and seventy tourist centres scattered throughout Scotland. Please see below for details on some of the bigger offices.
Edinburgh and Scotland Information Centre
3 Princes St.
Edinburgh EH2 2QP Tel: 0131 5571700
Open Monday to Saturday between 9.00am to 8.00pm and on Sundays from 10.00am to 8.00pm in July and August. In May, June, and September, hours are Monday to Saturday from 9.00am to 7.00pm and Sundays from 10.00am to 7.00pm. Finally from October to April, it’s open from Monday to Saturday between 9.00am to 6.00pm and on Sundays from 10.00am to 6.00pm.
Highlands of Scotland Tourist Board
PH32 4DD Tel: 01320 366367
Dunfermline Tourist Information Centre
KY12 7NE Tel: 01383 720999
Dumfries & Galloway Tourist Board
DG1 2RS Tel: 01387 245550
Argyll, The Isles, Loch Lomond, Stirling & Trossachs Tourist Board
Old Town Jail
St John's Street
Stirling Tel: 01786 471301
Aberdeen & Grampian Tourist Board
North Silver Street
AB10 1RJ Tel: 01224 632727
While traveller’s cheques are widely accepted in the cities, they may prove difficult to use in the more remote parts of the country, particularly for cheques worth over £20. If you heading north or to the further flung parts of the west, you should obtain cash before you go. Banks are generally open from Monday to Friday, some also open on Saturday mornings. Bureau de Changes tend to open later than banks but these are only to be found in the larger towns.
Visa and Mastercard are also accepted but some of the smaller hotels, restaurants and B & Bs in the north will probably want cash payment. You can also use your credit card to obtain money from an ATM if you have the pin. Remember, however, that you do pay a charge every time you withdraw cash. ATMs are available throughout the country.
The country code for Britain is 44 and the international code is the standard 00. You should note that all area codes and rural codes in Scotland have been changed recently but you will hear a recorded message that will tell you what change you need to make to the number that you are dialling. The cheapest time to make international calls is after 8.00pm on weekdays and all day on Saturdays and Sundays.
If you wish to use a payphone, you can either use coins (all except 1p), or phonecards in the designated booths. You can purchase a card at the post office or the tourist board and they come in £2, £4, £10 and £20.
To make a collect call you need to dial 155 and when dialling foreign countries from the UK, start with the country code followed by area code and then the number.
Tipping in Scotland is not compulsory, but as with everywhere else it is greatly appreciated. If you are happy with the service you should leave some amount, however big or small. In some restaurants a fifteen per cent service charge is included in the bill. Where this is the case, you will probably feel less obliged to leave a tip. If you are paying by credit card, the final total is left blank so you can leave a gratuity if you so wish. Taxi drivers and hotel porters are usually paid a small amount for their services.
It is worth noting what the public holidays are before you travel to a country as the majority of businesses, banks and shops usually shut for the day. In the UK they take place on January 1st, Good Friday, Easter Monday, the first and last Mondays in May, the last Monday in August and December 25th and 26th. It is a good idea to check the particular area too as certain towns and cities also shut down during special events.