Saint Helena Pound - SHP

Saint Helena

Saint Helena uses their own version of the pound, a currency that is also used in Tristan da Cunha and Ascension Island.

What coins and notes are available for this currency?

You should be quite familiar with the Saint Helena pound if you live in the UK and use the British pound, because the two are for all intents and purposes very similar indeed. There are 100 pence in every pound to begin with, and most of the coins and banknotes are also identical. You will see the 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 pence coins for example, plus the £1 and £2 coins. In addition there are three banknotes and these are the £5, £10 and £20 notes.

From past to present – the history of the Saint Helenian pound

Before Saint Helena came up with its own version of the pound it actually used the British pound, back in the days before decimalisation. Then in 1976 it was decided that their own pound would come into use instead. To begin with the country only issued their own currency in banknotes and not in coins. Residents would have to wait another eight years before they could use coins as well.

In earlier times the South African pound was also used in Saint Helena, although this ceased to be the case in 1961.

How to get hold of the Saint Helenian pound

Firstly, this is not a currency you can get by ordering it to collect before you leave home. Instead you must wait until you get there. Furthermore this means you cannot exchange it back at home either, so you have to allow yourself enough time to do so prior to leaving Saint Helena.

The good news is you can take traveller’s cheques as these are relatively straightforward to exchange once you get there. The Bank of Saint Helena deals with this, as well as advancing cash on credit and/or debit cards, although there may well be charges for this. You can also exchange foreign currencies there. Typically any advances against a credit or debit card will need you to prove your identity with a photo ID, so your passport will come in handy here.

How to find out the latest exchange rate between your home currency and the Saint Helenian pound

This is very easy because the Saint Helena pound is pegged to the British pound. So if you happen to use the British pound as your own currency you won’t need to look for the value of the Saint Helena version. However if you use another currency because you live in another part of the world you can use a currency converter to work out the conversion rate. If you can’t find the Saint Helena pound on the converter, simply look for the British pound and convert to that instead. The rate will of course be the same.

To find out more about this British Overseas Territory it is a good idea to go to the official UK government website at

Travelling safely with the Saint Helenian pound

Really this is one of the few places in the world where keeping your cash safe is the least of your concerns. Saint Helena is not the easiest place in the world to get to, since you can only do it by sea. There are no airports on the island, although by all accounts this is set to change in 2016 when the very first airport on the island is set to be opened to the public.

Furthermore the only ship that goes there is one operated by Royal Mail! Needless to say this is not one of the most popular places to head for when it comes to booking a holiday, but at least it is quite safe and welcoming if you do ever decide to make the journey. The biggest concern you would have concerns the idea of actually losing or misplacing your money or traveller’s cheques more than anything else.

Where to spend your pounds in Saint Helena – and what to spend them on

Saint Helena may not be the easiest of places to get to, given its position in the South Atlantic. It is far out into the ocean to the west of Africa and to the east of South America.

We’ve already mentioned the reality of going out to Saint Helena on the Royal Mail ship. This is called RMS St Helena and while she carries cargo out to the island she is also responsible for making sure various passengers get there safely too. Many people say the journey is the beginning of the holiday, because there is no other experience quite like this one. You can choose anything from an economy berth right through to a superior one depending on your budget and what you are happy to sleep in. all the rooms have quite adequate accommodation and will serve you well on the journey. There are other facilities on board too, including a small pool and plenty of places to relax while you await your arrival in Saint Helena.

But what of Saint Helena itself? What can you expect from this island if you do decide to travel there?

Well, the island is thought to have been formed by a volcanic eruption many hundreds of years ago, which is one of the reasons for its small size. The whole of the island offers no more than 47 square miles to explore! However with this said it should not be assumed there is nothing there to appreciate. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The capital of the island is a town called Jamestown, which sits in a narrow valley in between two sets of cliffs. If viewed from the air it looks as though it has been built to size and simply plopped into the open space. The valley is called the James Valley, hence the appropriate name of the town. The town is also the port for the island, taking in supplies and other items as required. One must-have experience if you visit Jamestown is to climb Jacob’s Ladder. Ladder Hill Fort is situated on top of Ladder Hill above the town, and the ladder was built to allow access to it after the original cableway was got rid of. There are no fewer than 699 steps to the top and it is very steep, so it requires leg muscles of steel! Take your time if you do head up it and stop frequently for breaks. The reward at the top is a great view over Jamestown below, and a better appreciation of the long and thin nature of the town.

Elsewhere in the town you can go to Castle Gardens. This is a charming place and while you are not likely to get overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of the island, this is still a lovely place to sit back and relax. Many plants native to the island are present here. Be sure to see the museum in the town too, as this has plenty of information and insight into the history of the island.

One of Saint Helena’s claims to fame is the fact that none other than Napoleon was exiled here in the early 1800s. Indeed you can visit his tomb on the island in Sane Valley and several other properties there as well. Be advised however that you need to book a proper guided tour in order to see them, as visitors going there on their own are not allowed to enter. You only have to do this a day or so in advance so just make sure you’re prepared and there shouldn’t be a problem.

Plantation House is also well worth a visit, since this is where the Governor lives when on the island. It dates back over 200 years and has quite charming grounds surrounding it. You can visit the grounds whenever you like but you have to book to see inside by going to the island’s Tourist Office (the same place you can go to book the Napoleon-themed tours mentioned above).

Finally why not pay a visit to Diana’s Peak National Park while you are there? This is a lovely place to visit, not least because you can see the island’s tallest point up close, the aforementioned Diana’s Peak.


Saint Helena is essentially an island full of surprises, especially when you consider its relatively small size. There are many more attractions and places to go, not to mention lots more to do, than we have mentioned above. This gives you a good opportunity to explore online before booking a trip there, so you know what to expect when you arrive.

This will never be a hotspot for tourists, although with the arrival of its first airport in the near future it may well receive more tourists more easily than it has done before. If you want a different holiday experience altogether, Saint Helena may well be able to present it to you.




  1. Wow I never even heard of St Helena before, let alone realised how desolate it sounds! I can’t imagine living on an island like this, having read the information included here. It’s just not feasible for me I don’t think. Can you imagine how quiet and deserted it would be?

    Given the information here I don’t see the island carrying on into the future. What struck me was that you can’t even decide to visit it very easily. If they welcomed tourism it might be a different matter, so why don’t they open it up like that? It could give it a whole new lease on life. It would be a shame if they closed the doors and let the island falter for good.

    — Kate · Aug 31, 03:18 PM · #