Practical information about visiting Scotland


This page provides a quick overview of some key information on visiting Edinburgh. It will be of particular to those new to Edinburgh and particularly those travelling to the UK for the first time who may want to know a bit more about what to expect, under the following headings: GovernmentPopulationCurrencyBankingElectricityEmergency ServicesTax and Climate. The information here complements the Travel and Location pages.

Scotland is part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and plays a full part in its parliamentary democracy. The Scottish Government is based in Edinburgh, with authority over education, health, law, transport and some social services within the country. The United Kingdom (UK) is a member of the European Union.


  • UK: 58,789,194
  • Scotland: 5,194,000 (2009)
  • Edinburgh: 477,660 (2009)

The currency in Scotland, as in the rest of the UK, is Pound Sterling (usually listed as GBP in currency conversions). See for a useful international currency converter. As a rough guide we have included conversions to dollars and euros across the OR2012 website where prices are given. As an indication £1.00 is around $1.60 or around €1.20.

It is worth noting that Scottish banks issue their own bank notes but, although they can look quite different, they have exactly the same value as those issued by the Bank of England and they are legal tender in all parts of mainland UK.

Different banks have different opening hours but the majority are open Monday (9am-5pm) to Saturday (often morning only).

Most cash machines in Edinburgh use the LINK network which means that most bank cards can be used in most cash machines and there should not be a charge for using the machine. There are some cash machines which charge for withdrawals but these tend to only be found in one or two tourist locations and will usually indicate that they charge for transactions. It is also worth being aware that if you are withdrawing cash from an account outside of the UK your own bank may charge you for use of cash machines or, more frequently, may charge you a conversion fee for withdrawals in another currency.

UK Plus Socket (Image from Wikipedia)

Typical UK Plus Socket (Image courtesy of Wikipedia/Wikipedia user Deucharman)

British electrical standards are 50Hz 230 volts, so some North American and European electrical devices may require converters. All will require plug adapters (see image, right, for an image of a typical UK Plug Socket).

Emergency Services
The telephone number for emergency services in the UK is 999. This number can be dialled from any UK phone, including mobile phones, for free. The same number is used to access Police, Ambulance or Fire services.

The Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, a large general teaching hospital, is 15 minutes from the city centre.

Smoking in Public Places
Since April 2006, there has been a ban on smoking in all enclosed public places (including bars, cafes and structures such as bus shelters) throughout Scotland. The restriction on smoking in public places also extends to the conference accommodation provided by Edinburgh First and to the public areas of all hotels and B&Bs in Edinburgh as well as all conference venues.

Value Added Tax (VAT) is charged on all purchases in shops, hotels, and restaurants at a rate of 20%.

People travelling to Scotland on business may be entitled to reclaim the 20% tax charged on event expenses as well as accommodation, business entertaining, meals, transport and much more. Tax Back International can assist with this.

Edinburgh enjoys a moderate year-round climate, summer temperatures are mild and compare favourably with other European cities and annual rainfall is less than Frankfurt, New York and Rome. In July the average Edinburgh temperatures are Min 11ºc and Max 18ºc with a fantastic 17.01 hours of daylight. A perfect Edinburgh summers day dawns with a clear blue sky and stays warm and pleasant well into the evening.

July is usually fairly dry but this year has been relatively damp and humid. Edinburgh can also be windy so it is always worth packing some warmer clothing and shoes (particularly if you plan an evening walk in Holyrood Park) and perhaps a light rainproof jacket – just in case! For up to date weather forecasts we would recommend looking at the UK Met Office forecast site for Edinburgh.

Useful Websites