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Currency of Northern Ireland explained

Everyone asks “What currency do you have in Northern Ireland?”. So if you’re thinking that, don’t worry, you’re not the only one!

Northern Ireland is part of the UK and so has the Pound Sterling. Down south in the Republic of Ireland it’s the Euro. Assume you’re in England for everything like currency, laws, driving etc. Not Europe.

If you’re a regular to England, you’ll recognise the coins we have – 1p, 2p, 5p, 20p, 50p, £1 and £2 coins. All the same. However, when it comes to the notes, you’re going to find a rainbow of surprise.

What’s the deal with the Northern Irish notes?

So, all the main banks issue their own notes – £5, £10, £20 and £50 – some do all, some just a few. So that’s 4 banks [Ulster Bank, First Trust, Danske Bank and Bank of Ireland] multiplied by on average 3 notes = the potential to have 12 different coloured notes in your wallet/purse. Add to that the 4 notes from England and that’s 16! So you’ll need to keep an eye on what you’re handing over. In England there would be 3. Even the locals sometimes have to look twice at our own notes, so don’t think you’re alone if you’re taking time at the check outs. We understand and apologise for adding complication!

The 4 different £10 notes:

The 4 different £20 notes:

You thought we were kidding right about our amazing currency! :O)

Are English notes accepted in Northern Ireland?

Yes.

If you haven;’t got enough notes in your pocket already, you’ll also have a few of these…

and the coins:

Are Euros accepted in Northern Ireland?

Generally no, however some places might if you ask. The closer to the border you are, the more chance they will as they have a lot of cross border trade.

I’m not accepting that, sorry!

Here’s the thing, when you leave NI with a pocket full of our notes and try to spend them in the rest of the UK, you’ll struggle because not many people have seen them before. Northern Ireland is still a rarely visited place by the rest of the the UK population, that very few people will ever have seen one. Most shops are used to seeing Scottish notes, but this will be a novelty. Whenever we hand over an Northern Irish bank note in England we always get challenged. Simply explain it’s from Northern Ireland and point to the words ‘Sterling’ on the note. Generally they won’t want to accept it as they won’t be able to hand it bank over to anyone – people in England, Scotland and Wales who will never have seen one before won’t accept it – but legally they have to. We’ve never had a situation where they have refused. We once had a very unhappy newsagent who was short of change who found himself with just our £10 in his £10 draw..

“What am I meant to do with that?!?!” he demanded.
“Come to Northern Ireland” I said,
“…and spend it” was the reply. :O)

Try not to leave with a pocket full of NI notes – buy local whilst you’re here!
– Take a bit of authentic Northern Ireland home with you

As you’ve gathered, the point of this site is to encourage you to spend your money with small, local shopkeepers. So if you do find that you have a pocket full of notes that aren’t worth taking back with you, we’d like to suggest that you spend them before you get to the airport. Airport shops are multi-nationals. Yes, they employ folks from NI, but often the naff leprechaun keyrings, Guinness fridge magnets and other things you’ll be encouraged to buy as a souvenir for NI will be made overseas and the profit from selling it to you goes overseas. Note in the airport shops how few Northern Irish products there are. There’s nothing that shows your folks back home what Northern Ireland is like than a huge bar of triangle shaped Swiss chocolate!!

Our souvenirs section will give you a few ideas and the opportunity to buy direct. If not, give yourself a few extra minutes and stop off at one of the supermarkets in Holywood or Belfast before you go to City Airport, or the shops in Antrim, Ballymena or the Eurospar at Templepatrick which you pass on the way to the International Airport and pick up some local bits and pieces. Even better, nip in to our small shops on the Causeway Coast and take home some locally made jewellery, art, craft, food, drink.

Buying local means you’re paying for piano lessons and football boots for our children, not for a CEO’s second home.

Currency slang

“Fiver” – £5 note

“Tenner” – £10 note

“Twenty” i.e. “I’ve got a twenty” – £20 note

“Have you got anything smaller?” – you’ve given me a £50 to pay for something that is 55p, please don’t take all of my change! :O)

“One sec” – the best thing to say when the bill is £13.75 and you look at your bundle containing 8 different coloured notes looking for £10’s and £20’s and your world caves in…

“What’s that?” [usually following a dramatic double-take] – any shop-keeper in England when you pass them a Northern Irish note

ATM’s | cash dispenser in the wall / standing alone (you may have other names for these)

At the airports you’ll probably be issued English notes. The ATM’s attached to the banks will give you their own notes. Usual fees apply when using your card in these machines. Watch out for the non bank ATM’s, usually the ones that stand alone in supermarkets, shopping centres, cinemas etc (not in the wall itself) – they may charge extra. Legally they have to tell you this, so watch the screen. If you’re only talking out a small amount, be aware of the fees. We don’t have machines that will rip you off. Our banking system is very good and looks after you. It’s good practice anyway to hide your PIN at ATM’s, so continue to do that. But as you’ll see below, the chances of you being mugged whilst walking away from an ATM with cash are extremely low. Virtually zero in fact.

What’s crime like in Northern Ireland?

Well, for somewhere that has a reputation for its violent past – thankfully that’s all gone now – we’re one of the safest places in the UK and Europe. Fact – read our guide “How safe is Northern Ireland’ here. Genuinely. Which is why it’s a great destination. As with any big event it might attract it wrong-un’s along with it, but generally the everyday crime you see around the world – pick-pockets, car break ins, mugging – that kinda stuff doesn’t happen here in NI. Clearly be careful with your belongings. But come here with a sense that you’re not under threat. It’s a lovely feeling and one of the things that visitors love about NI. The irony is that in times gone by people would feel unsafe coming to Northern Ireland. Now it’s the other way round. We live in such a safe place we feel unsafe when we travel to other countries and are often too casual with leaving our valuables unguarded and not being vigilant in crowds.

We hope you’ve found this guide useful. Enjoy your time with us in NI!

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1 Comment

  1. Alistair

    Congratulations on your website Benjamin ‼️
    It might be of interest to visitors from GB returning home with Northern Ireland bank notes that all Sainsbury’s self check out tills are set up to accept them.
    This tip might also help Northern Irish folk who find themselves in GB with only local notes.

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