Bitcoin, bitcoin, bitcoin. All anyone is talking about these days is bitcoin.
OK, so maybe not everyone is talking about bitcoin, but having had its breakout year in 2013 (rising 6,000% in value) bitcoin, and by extension the dozens of other cryptocurrencies which have sprung up in the last 12 months, are now the topic of conversation around dinner tables, in pubs and at the water cooler.
I've heard lots of people say they were going to buy bitcoin, while the more knowledgeable were already planning on getting into litecoin, dogecoin, vertcoin, sexcoin or whatever the cryptocurrency-of-the-week was - but most people never took the plunge and actually bought some.
The problem is that actually getting on the cryptocurrency ladder is not that easy.
There are no bitcoin notes you can go to a bank and swap for your pounds, euro or dollars, so how do you go about getting your virtual hands on some?
You can of course mine some bitcoin - a process we have covered in detail here - but unless you are willing to spend thousands on a mining rig, it'll take too long to mine enough bitcoin to do anything with it.
Most other cryptocurrencies are easier to mine, but if you really don't want to get into mining, then you can swap cold hard cash for bitcoins without too much hassle, and from there the cryptocurrency world is your oyster.
Bitcoin - the gateway drug
While it is possible to buy other cryptocurrencies like dogecoin or litecoin using real world currencies, for those of us in Europe, it is not that easy.
If you are looking to get into cryptocurrencies to make a quick profit, then bitcoin probably isn't the one to start with, but in order to explore the nether regions of cryptocurrency land, then the first step has to be to buy some bitcoin.
But bitcoin is too expensive
Don't worry that a single bitcoin currently costs over £500, you don't have to buy a whole one, you can buy fractions of a bitcoin through online exchanges to match the amount of real money you want to invest.
Using an exchange
There are two ways of buying bitcoin in the UK. One is straightforward, the other is not.
The not-so-straightforward method involves registering with a cryptocurrency exchange - the most well-known of which is probably Mt. Gox. While these exchanges operated for years without needing to know your identity, they now do and the process is both tedious (scanning, emailing and verifying identity documents) and time consuming.
Only some of these exchanges are accessible to UK residents and your bank will charge you a fee (up to £10) for wire transfers, meaning this is really only an option for those getting seriously into the cryptocurrency business
The straightforward way of getting on the bitcoin ladder is by using one of a growing number of UK-based services which allow you to pay using a bank transfer, Barclay's PingIt service or Natwest's Instant payment service.