United Kingdom Travel Guide
Best Time to Visit the UK
Spring is a perfect time for a UK city visit, with prices at their best and the warmer weather starting to give blue skies and the odd t-shirt day.
Summer is best for good weather, but major cities will be rammed and if there’s a heat-wave, you probably won’t have air-con in your hotel. Prices will shoot up in summer too.
Fall (or autumn as the Brits say) is great for catching the last of the summer’s warmth in quieter cities, and you’ll find good offers on hotels and flights.
Winters tend to be cold and wet, with Scottish cities usually getting some snow (although it’s been known in London too!). But, you’ll find fantastic deals and emptier streets.
- Pack layers to be ready for the changeable British weather.
- Make sure to bring a waterproof jacket, or showerproof top in summer.
- Pack an umbrella – if you don’t own one, you’ll be able to buy one!
UK City Destinations
English is the main language in the United Kingdom. You may come across Welsh being spoken in Wales, and you’ll see signs in both languages. You will also come across strong regional accents if you visit cities such as Liverpool, Glasgow and Newcastle.
UTC +0 GMT
UTC +1 British Summer Time
The UK has reciprocal healthcare agreements with the EU and with some non-EU countries, you can find a list here. We recommend travel and medical insurance to cover you should repatriation to your home country be required.
The currency in the UK is the pound sterling £ and pence.
ATM’s are usually called cash points in the UK. They are widely available at supermarkets, garages and outside all banks.
Credit cards are widely accepted, with Visa and Mastercard being the most common.
The UK operates on 230v electricity, the standard frequency is 50Hz and uses three pin plugs. We recommend using a universal adapter with surge protection.
Save money and use the free wifi that is often available in restaurants, cafes and public places. 4g is available in all towns and cities, with 5g being rolled out in major cities. Rent a travel hotspot with built in SIM for your trip and stay connected wherever you travel in UK.
Tipping in the UK is welcomed, but not required. In restaurants and larger cafes aim to give around 10% if you’ve received good service. Sometimes a service charge will be added to your bill, in which case you should not leave a tip. It is common to tip taxi drivers by rounding up to the nearest pound, but not waiting staff, although there may be a tip jar.
The UK is a very safe country in which to travel. With a low violent crime rate and lower petty theft rate than many European cities, you should still be vigilant in crowds where pickpockets tend to operate. In an emergency, the number for police, fire and ambulance is 999.
Intro to the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom is one of the most historic countries in the world. Once a global superpower on which the sun never set, the British Empire stretched around the world. Today it is a modern and forward-thinking country loved by millions of overseas visitors every year. The four countries of the United Kingdom are home to vibrant and lively cities where medieval and contemporary architecture co-exist, world-class museums and attractions showcase the UK’s art and culture, and friendly locals offer a warm welcome.
The United Kingdom, or UK, is made up of four member countries – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – which are situated on the British Isles, a collection of islands in Northern Europe. Great Britain, or GB for short, is the largest of these islands, and is home to England, Scotland and Wales. When Northern Ireland is added, together they become the United Kingdom.
Citizens of the UK are known as the British or Brits but each of the member countries has its own distinct identity. Calling a Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish person ‘English’ may not be received well!
Things to Know About the Four Countries of the UK
England is the largest and most populated of the UK member countries, and home to the thriving and historic capital city of London. Other large cities are Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool, each renowned for the part they have played in shaping the UK through ancient and modern history. England is also home to many national parks with the Lake District, the New Forest and the Peak District being among the most famous – if you have time during your trip, they make fabulous days out give you an opportunity to enjoy the glorious English countryside.
Scotland makes up the top third of the UK geographically. The capital of Scotland is medieval Edinburgh, although Glasgow has a much larger population and is known for its rich cultural offering. Scotland is also home to the Highlands, a remote and wild area in the north of the country. People from Scotland are called Scottish or Scots, never Scotch!
Wales is the third smallest country in the UK and lies in the south-west of Great Britain’s landmass. Cardiff is Wales’ lively capital city, bursting with Celtic charm, with Swansea being the second largest city. Wales is home to Snowdonia, which boasts the highest mountain in England and Wales, Snowdon.
Northern Ireland is the smallest of the UK’s countries, and lies in the north of the island of Ireland – the capital city is welcoming Belfast, with the ancient walled city of Derry-Londonderry being the second largest. Abbreviated to NI, this country has a complex recent history and what its people prefer to be called is often dictated by religion and political allegiance, but Northern Irish is the most accurate.
Getting to the UK
The UK acts as a European transport hub, even though it is no longer part of the EU! Heathrow is one of the largest airports in the world, with many international connections. Other London airports include Gatwick, Stanstead and Luton, with Gatwick having the most convenient and quickest access to central London. Smaller regional airports offer flights to and from all of the UK’s major cities.
Being an island, the UK is not so accessible by train. You can get the Eurostar from Paris or Brussels and be in central London in a few hours. Once in the UK, train travel is an excellent way to get around.
If you’re visiting from the continent, the UK is a short ferry away, or take your car on the train under the English Channel, known as the EuroTunnel. The quickest ferry route is from Calais in northern France, but there are also longer sailings from north-west France and the Netherlands. Once in the UK, it’s relatively easy to navigate from city to city as the UK is a small country, and perfect for road trips!
A former shipping powerhouse, Belfast has a troubled past. But in recent years, the city has become a hub for foodies, party lovers and of course, anyone on the Game of Thrones trail. The Titanic Quarter, where the doomed boat was built, is the jewel in Belfast’s crown, with a state-of-the-art multimedia museum that has become the city’s top attraction..
England’s second city, Birmingham is packed full of exciting attractions, from a state-of-the-art library to a world-class, architecturally renowned shopping centre. Foodies will love the different cuisines influenced by the diverse ethnicity of Birmingham’s population, and there’s even a real-life chocolate factory!
Cardiff serves up a unique blend of British culture, Welsh attributes and Celtic personality. Cardiff’s subtle charm lies in its independent stores, laneways of bars, a medieval castle smack-bang in the centre and an international stadium boasting world artists and the city’s passion for sport.
Officially known as Derry-Londonderry, Northern Ireland’s second city is one of the finest walled cities in Europe. Derry’s complex past is a strong part of its identity, and has become a large part of its growing tourism scene, where the peace bridge symbolises hope and murals tell the story of Derry’s recent history.
Known for its beauty, Edinburgh mixes old and new with aplomb. The medieval Old Town is full of twisting alleys straight from a Harry Potter film, and hidden corners where ghosts hang out, whilst the New Town is lofty with neoclassical Georgian elegance. Looming over the city are the ancient Edinburgh Castle, the imposing peak of Arthur’s Seat, and Calton Hill, topped with monuments and memorials.
The unofficial capital of beautiful Yorkshire, Leeds is a vibrant city bursting with life, cultural energy and breathtaking architecture. Leeds fosters a creative community which celebrates excellent national theatre and dance, a world-class arena, and a thriving independent food scene you won’t find anywhere else.
Home to the Beatles and Liverpool FC, the city engenders fierce loyalty from its own, knows as Scousers. With an impressive cultural heritage and a busy programme of urban regeneration, it’s no surprise that Liverpool’s historic Royal Albert Dock has been named on Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travel List.
The large and vibrant capital city, London is full of historic treasures and modern takes on life. World-class museums, unrivalled theatre, independent shops to suit all tastes, bustling neighbourhoods and charming green spaces make London one of the top European cities to visit.
The birthplace of the industrial revolution, Manchester has a proud history in science, politics, music, arts and sport. Today this inclusive city combines its heritage with an infectious self-confidence and bags of character, making Manchester a fun and exciting place to visit.
United by seven iconic bridges across the river Tyne, Newcastle is a diverse and lively city. Known as Geordies, Newcastle’s residents are some of the most welcoming in England, proud of their centuries old history and heritage. Known for its nightlife, a night out on the Toon is like no other!
Surrounded by glorious Welsh landscapes and close to the dramatic Gower Peninsula, Swansea is known as Wales’ waterfront city. Highlights include the excellent museum celebrating the industrial and shipping heritage of Wales, and numerous parks and gardens which flourish in the mild Gulf Stream climate.