The official language in UK is British English. In Scotland, English is most spoken but Gaelic is still spoken in the north-west Highlands and the Hebrides.
Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland, which is one of the countries which makes up the United Kingdom of Great Britain and the Northern Island (UK or Great Britain, in short). Edinburgh forms the City of Edinburgh council area, which includes urban Edinburgh and a 30 sq mile (78 sq km) rural area.
Edinburgh is located on Greenwich Time Zone (GMT) and during the summer it observes Daylight Savings Time (British Summer Time which is GMT+1).
Counting and numbers
Dates in UK are written with the day first, then the month and the year. A common way to write a date would be: 11 February 2008.
With written numbers, commas and decimal points are exactly the same as in US, but swapped from what you are used to in Europe. So £5.10 means 5 Sterling Pounds and 10 pence.
UK uses both the metric and imperial systems for measurements and Celsius for temperatures. Although the European Union Commission set the deadline for 2010 for UK to complete the full transition to Metric, Britain is still allowed to use several imperial measurements (i.e. Pints, Pounds and Miles) but many stores already started using only the metric system for measurements.
You can find a conversion tool here.
Electricity and plugs
The standard electrical voltage is 230 V / 50HZ, so you will need an adaptor unless you come from another European country (where the same system is used). The commonly used plug has three rectangular prongs forming a triangle. If you need an adaptor and/or converter, you can buy one as soon as you enter Edinburgh. Make sure to read the instructions on your electronic device before plugging it anywhere.
UK’s currency is Pound Sterling (GBP or £) subdivided in 100 pence (singular: penny). Denominations include 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, £1, £2 coins, the rarely used £5 coin and £1 (used in Scotland only), £5, £10, £20 banknotes and the rarely used £50 and £100 (only in Scotland and Northern Island) banknotes.
In less formal contexts, British pound is also used, although it’s not the official name, while a common slang term is “quid”.
Did you know? After the adoption of Euro by several European Countries, the Pound Sterling became the world’s oldest currency still in use.
Check this conversion rate tool before planning your vacation.
Banks and ATMs
Currency exchanges are available in the airport, at the rail station, at exchange bureaus and at any bank. Banks are generally open from 9 AM to 5 PM from Monday to Friday. Depending on the bank there might be some exceptions as the banks can open later or close earlier.
It’s a good idea to exchange some money before you arrive in Edinburgh in order to avoid the lines at the ATMs located in the airport. ATMs are sometimes referred to as “cash machines” or “cash points”. Look at the back of your card to see what network you are part of so that you will avoid the high fees for withdrawing money abroad. Also make sure you know what your daily withdrawal limit is.
Credit cards can be used in Edinburgh, with a preference for Master Card and Visa. American Express cards are allowed less frequently. In the last years, Scotland imposed the “Chip and PIN” rule which means that all credit cards have a computer chip and the owner must know the PIN. Actually the PIN has more or less replaced the signature on the credit card purchases.
When using the ATM or paying with the credit card make sure to keep all the recipes for up to six months after the date of your vacation.
Traveler’s checks are less used because ATMs offer 24 hours access to cash. However they can be exchanged and the commission ranges between 1% and 4%.
Using the telephone
The country code for UK is 44 and the local area (city code) for Edinburgh is 131. To call Edinburgh from US first you need to dial out of US and then into Edinburgh, so that’s 011+44+131+local phone number. To call an Edinburgh number from within the city, just dial the number you were given. To call US from Edinburgh, first dial 00 to dial outside UK, then 1 to enter the US followed by the area code and the local number, so that’s 00+1+area code + local number.
There are three types of public phones in Edinburgh; those that accept coins, those that accept phone cards and those that accept only British Telecom phone cards and credit cards. When using the coin phones, insert the coin before dialing (10p minimum).
A very good option is to ask your cell carrier what network to log onto while in Edinburgh and use the roaming feature.
Useful telephone numbers
Ambulance, Police, Fire, Mountain Rescue and Coast Guard: 112 or 999
European Economic Area Citizens, which include all European Union countries and Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Switzerland, do not need a visa to enter UK. Nationals of the following 10 countries need a visa when staying in the UK longer than six months: Australia, Canada, Hong Kong SAR, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea and the USA.
On the Foreign Office page you can check what kind of visa you need to enter UK.