Travel to the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom is made up of Great Britain and Northern Ireland – a constitutional monarchy comprising of much of the British Isles. The four constituent United Kingdom countries include: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The UK attractions are spread throughout all four countries.

When talking about the UK, travelers are often just referring to England (and a lot of the time, just London). But Scotland, Wales and Northern Island are fine destinations in their own right, and deserve just as much attention. When traveling between these countries, you will notice the shared culture, though also the distinct local flavours in the different cuisines and small nuances of the people (the different English accents for one!).

This historic country is packed with history, culture, food, arts, and beautiful landscapes. While the city of London should be on every travelers bucket list, they shouldn’t overlook the other beautiful destinations in the UK. From the English Lake District to the glistening lakes and lush green valleys of Scotland and the quaint English countryside. There are countless small towns to visit throughout the UK along with beautiful lakes, rugged mountains and coastal districts, not to forget the several other big cities worth exploring. There are many great cities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

We hope that our UK travel guide provides a good start to your UK travel planning!

Travel tips for United Kingdom

Visa Requirements for the United Kingdom

EU citizens and citizens from non-EU member states of the EEA and OCT will generally not require a visa for the UK for stays up to six months. Most Asian and African citizens will have to apply for a UK visitor visa before arriving, and can stay in the country for a maximum of six months.

Use this website to check whether or not you will need a UK visitor visa. For all visitors planning on staying longer than the six months, you will need to apply for a study, work or another visa. Note that the UK is NOT part of the Schengen area.

Important Cultural Information

The UK today is a mix of diverse native and immigrant cultures, with a fascinating history and dynamic modern culture. Very much apart of the ‘Western world’, you will find yourself fitting into the UK culture quite easily.

While all four countries are housed under the UK, they each feel strongly about their own identity and are extremely passionate about their own country. Don’t go around confusing a Scot with a Brit – they don’t enjoy being compared 😉

Greeting with a handshake is customary when meeting someone for the first time. Friends may greet with one or two kisses on the cheek, or a hug.

Casual attire is acceptable in most places. Some nightclubs may not allow jeans and trainers, and corporate work attire is generally quite smart.

English is the main language spoken throughout the UK, so you shouldn’t have a problem with communicating if you can speak English. Just be warned that the different accents can make things a bit tricky to understand. Particularly the strong accents found in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Liverpool and the West Country. Welsh is spoken in parts of Wales and Gaelic in parts of Scotland.

The monarchy, while only symbolic politically, still holds high reform among the locals. Members of the Royal Family are admired, with their every move followed by the local press in both the UK and abroad.

Banking & Money

The currency used throughout the UK is the Pound (£). One Pound is 100 pence.

Scottish and Northern Irish banks issue their own notes, however the Bank of England notes circulate freely throughout these countries, and you will often receive a mix of notes when getting change in Scotland or Northern Ireland. While these notes are also supposed to be accepted in England, it’s best to exchange them at an England-based bank as some locals may have an issue with accepting them. Welsh banks do not issue their own notes since its banking system is directly under the jurisdiction of the Bank of England. Coins are uniform throughout the United Kingdom.

To exchange money, there are plenty of ATMs (often referred to as Cashpoints in the UK), where you can withdraw from your international account usually for a fee, depending on your own bank conditions. Credit cards, including Visa, Mastercard, Maestro and American Express are well accepted all over. But it’s always useful to have a few notes, especially when traveling to more rural areas.

You may hear a few slang words with regards to money in the UK. ‘Quid’ is a slang term for pounds – eg. three quid refers to three pounds. Then for penny (singular) or pence (plural), locals often just say ‘p’. The words ‘fiver’ and ‘tenner’ are common slang for a for £5 and £10, respectively.

Medical Emergency Information

The emergency police/ambulance number in the UK is 999 – for all life-threatening situations. You should use the NHS 111 service if you urgently need medical help or advice but it’s not a life-threatening situation.

Wi-Fi and Internet in the UK

Getting a SIM card in the UK is a fairly simple process. UK mobile operators include Orange, Vodafone, O2, T-Mobile, and 3 Store, among a few other smaller ones.

The easiest way to get a new prepaid SIM card is to visit the operator’s store – these are generally found in main shopping streets or at international airports. UK mobile companies operate using the GSM standard, so your mobile will need to be GSM compatible in order for the UK prepaid SIM card to work. Note that if you are from the EU (with an EU mobile operator) you can roam for free in the UK.

Another option is to rent a mobile MiFi device, your own hotspot. There are services, which you can pick up at the airport or which gets delivered to the hotel you are staying at.

Wi-Fi is easily available at hotels, restaurants and many coffee shops. The City of London has free Wi-Fi covering 95% of the Square Mile. The London Underground stations also have free Wi-Fi – just make sure to use a VPN when accessing public Wi-Fi (we recommend ExpressVPN).

Coworking in the UK is also extremely popular, with major coworking spots in London along with many found in Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Arrival in the United Kingdom

When flying to the UK you are most likely to arrive at one of London’s five airports, although there are direct international flights to many other cities.

Heathrow London is the largest and busiest airport in the UK, with flights from all over the world. The other London airports include London Gatwick, London Stansted, London Luton and London City Airport.

Other major airports in the UK are Manchester, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Glasgow, Bristol, Belfast, Newcastle, Liverpool, East Midlands, Leeds and Aberdeen. Cardiff International is the only international airport in Wales. In Northern Ireland, Belfast International Airport and George Best City Airport are both located in Belfast.

Check out Expedia for available flights to the United Kingdom.

Then there is also the option to arrive by train, coming from neighboring countries. If coming from Belgium or France, Eurostar high-speed trains travel between London (St Pancras International), Ebbsfleet and Ashford through the Channel Tunnel to Paris (Gare du Nord), Lille (Europe), Calais (Fréthun) and Brussels (Zuid-Midi). There are also multiple daily connections from Dutch cities via Brussels on the Eurostar to London. There are also cross border trains and buses available between England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

You can also arrive via ferry, with routes from France to England. Eurolines offer daily bus services from Amsterdam, Paris and Brussels to London Victoria coach station. Daily overnight coaches and limited day coaches travel between the UK and Ireland.

You can of course also enter the UK by car using the Channel Tunnel from France. If traveling to the UK by car, check out Europcar for car hire. Car ferries also operate to many parts of the UK from other European countries.

Areas of the United Kingdom

The four United Kingdom countries include England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

 

England

England is the largest nation, both in terms of size and in population (by far). It is also the most well-known and visited among international tourists. England is packed with history, culture, arts, shopping, food, cosmopolitan cities, sleepy villages, and lush green landscapes.

 

The main regions within England include:

  • London
  • The southeast, home of Brighton
  • Hampshire, Dorset and Wiltshire
  • Oxfordshire, the Cotswolds and around
  • Bristol, Bath and Somerset
  • Devon and Cornwall
  • East Anglia, home of Norwich
  • The West Midlands and the Peak District
  • The East Midlands, home of Nottingham and Leicester
  • The Northwest, home of Liverpool and Manchester
  • Cumbria and the Lakes, home of Kendal and Carlisle
  • Yorkshire, home of Leeds and York
  • The Northeast, home of Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Scotland

Scotland is the second largest nation, occupying a third of Great Britain. The four archipelagos of Orkney, Shetland, and the Inner and Outer Hebrides are also part of Scotland. It’s a mix of idyllic beaches (though, rarely sunny), untamed wildlife (plus hairy cows!), and beautiful historic cities.

Despite its ‘wee’ size, there are many places to visit in Scotland. With the main regions in Scotland being:

  • Edinburgh and the Lothians
  • Southern Scotland, home of Ayr, Dumfries and Stranraer
  • Glasgow and the Clyde
  • Central Scotland, home of Stirling
  • Argyll, home of Oban
  • Northeast Scotland, home of Aberdeen and Dundee
  • The Highland region
  • Skye and the Western Isles
  • Orkney and Shetland

Wales

Wales is located within the mostly mountainous western part of Great Britain. Wales is best experienced by exploring the world-class beaches, historic castles and green valleys. Throw in a few small towns and a visit to the capital city, Cardiff, and you’ve got a great Wales itinerary.

The main regions to explore in Wales include:

  • South Wales, home of Cardiff, Swansee and Newport, among others
  • Mid-Wales, home of Brecan, Cardigan, Fishguard and Newtown, among others
  • North Wales, home of Holyhead, Flint, Bangor and Llangollen, among others

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland (not be confused with the Republic of Ireland) is located on the north-eastern side of the island and consists of six of the nine counties of the ancient Irish province of Ulster. Northern Ireland was created in 1921 when the British government split Ireland into two autonomous territories.

The main areas of Northern Ireland include:

  • County Antrim, home of Belfast as well as the North Coast and Giant’s Causeway.
  • County Armagh, home of the Navan Fort.
  • County Derry, home of Londonderry.
  • County Down, home of Bangor and the Mourne Mountains.
  • County Fermanagh, famed for its numerous lakes.
  • County Tyrone, home to the Sperrin Mountains.

Channel Islands

The Channel Islands (Guernsey, Jersey, Alderney, Sark) and Isle of Man are technically not part of the UK, but are crown dependencies.

The Channel Islands consist of a number of small islands off the coast of France while Isle of Man is a small island in the Irish Sea between Britain and Ireland.

Oversea Territories

The United Kingdom is also comprised of several overseas territories, including Anguilla, Bermuda, British Antarctic Territory, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat and Saint Helena, among others.

The above listed territories are scattered around the Caribbean, Atlantic Ocean, Antarctica, Indian Ocean, Virgin Islands, Southern Europe, Mediterranean and South Atlantic.

Transportation in the United Kingdom

When traveling around major UK cities, public transportation is your best option. All major cities and towns will have a bus system – with the famous red buses in London. Note that London busses are cashless – you can pay via debit/credit card or by a travelcard in advance. You can’t buy tickets on board!

In London you will find the London Underground. Outside of London, Liverpool has the largest metro system (Merseyrail), as well as in Newcastle and Greater Manchester. Glasgow has a small underground rail system in the centre, along with local train network. London, Manchester, Birmingham, Sheffield, Nottingham, Blackpool and Edinburgh have trams covering parts of those cities.

When traveling in London, it’s best to get an Oyster card. This covers travel within the Greater London boundary on National Rail services (including the Underground, trains and busses).

Train travel is common and very popular in the UK. There are two rail networks in the UK: National Rail and Northern Ireland Railways. The National Rail covers most of England, Scotland and Wales (with 2,600 stations) and the Northern Ireland Railways operates in Northern Ireland. Both inner-city and regional trains run on the National Rail. Use the National Rail website to book train tickets in the UK.

Check out Eurail (for non-Europeans) or InterRail (for Europeans) passes for long distance train travel.

Another option for inter-city travel is a car – check out Europcar for car rental. A car will get you mostly anywhere in the UK. The main issue however is parking in major cities, it’s hard to find and can be very expensive. Note that in the UK, cars drive on the left side of the road.

Accommodation in the United Kingdom

Accommodation in the UK can be quite pricey, but there is plenty to choose from. You will find a range of hostels in all of the major cities along with hotels, B&B’s, apartments, self-catering resorts and guest houses. Other options available include couchsurfing and camping! Some of the countryside destinations will have some cute and cozy cottages for rent.

Some travellers to the UK decide on a campervan or caravan holiday, where you travel with your accommodation. Most parts of the country have a good range of camping and caravan parks available.

There is also some unique accommodation in Scotland with castle hotels in Scotland being among the favourites for travelers! We recommend booking your accommodation well in advance, especially if traveling in the peak seasons.

Booking.com

Food & Dining Guide for the UK

British food is warm, comforting and hearty! You’ll find food from all over the world in the UK, with an international influence from all over Asia, the rest of Europe, and the America’s. Traditional British food though, brings a whole new meaning to comfort eating – with classic Brit meals being typical pub grub-style dining.

A few traditional dishes that you need to try while visiting the UK include:

  • Fish and chips – A staple Friday night dinner! Try it at a pub or take-away fish and chip shop.
  • Roast dinner – a long-standing Sunday afternoon tradition in many British households. If you don’t have a household to visit for a homemade roast dinner, then head to the many pubs and restaurants hosting these hearty meals on Sundays. Expect different meats, roasted vegetables and potatoes, yorkshire pudding and lots of gravy!
  • Full English breakfast – the whole shabang! A greasy plate of sausages, eggs, beans, toast, hash browns, tomatoes and more! If you’re in Scotland, your breakfast will also include some black pudding.
  • Pie and gravy – another pub-grub favourite. You will find lots of pubs offering pie specials – some coming with a cup of tea or a pint.
  • Bangers and mash – sausages in gravy served alongside creamy mashed potatoes.
  • Curry – Indian restaurants are amongst the most popular in the UK. Common Indian restaurant dishes include Chicken Tikka Masala, Prawn Biryani, spicy Vindaloo and Balit. Chicken Tikka Masala was apparently invented in Glasgow, this is a creamy Indian dish served with savory rice and naan bread. You’ll find it at every Indian take-away and pub.
  • Haggis – this is you’re visiting Scotland. Haggis is like a crumbly sausage, with a coarse oaty texture, generally made with lamb heart, lungs and often liver and/or trimmings mixed with onions, oatmeal and spices. Though, you can get vegan Haggis!

The UK can be an expensive place to eat out compared to the more southern European countries, but relatively cheap in comparison with countries such as Switzerland and Norway. If your budget doesn’t allow for eating out, you can get well-priced foods such as cakes, crisps, fruit and cheeses at supermarkets. Bakeries and supermarkets also have a good selection of ready-made sandwiches, meals and pasties. For reasonably priced fruits, look out for street markets.

In December, you’ll find many Christmas markets in London and other big UK cities. You’ll find many delicious, heart-warming foods to taste.

Visiting Cambridge – here are best restaurants in Cambridge from a locals perspective.

Attractions in the United Kingdom

There are plenty of UK attractions to explore – from the major cities to the small towns and coastal regions.

Cities in the UK

London is the most well-known tourist destination in the UK. London is the world-renowned capital of culture, history and finance. Home to Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Tower of London, Big Ben, London Eye, River Thames, countless museums and galleries, and a bustling restaurant scene.

Things to do & see in the United Kingdom

UK cycle routes

Some of the Best UK Cycle Routes

We’ve got hundreds of UK cycle routes to choose from but here are a few of our favourites in England, Wales and Norther Ireland.
Free things to do in Cardiff, Wales

Free Things to do in Cardiff, Wales

Traveling to Wales isn't cheap, especially in the cities. Here's a few free things to do in Cardiff for budget travelers in the UK.
The Taff Trail - Cycle Brecon to Cardiff

The Taff Trail – Cycle Brecon to Cardiff

If you’re looking to explore South Wales by bike, the Taff Trail is a 55-mile trail (88km) that takes you south from Brecon to the waterfront of Cardiff Bay.
Oxford University, UK

A Beautiful Weekend in Oxford, England

Thinking about spending a weekend in Oxford, UK? Here's the perfect weekend itinerary for visiting this beautiful city in England.
Giants Causeway in Ireland

Exploring Belfast and the Coast of Northern Ireland

Exploring the coast of Northern Ireland starting in Belfast, here's our guide of where to stay and what to do on your tour.
Hampton Court Palace In London

Historical Attractions in London: A Guide to All the Best Bits

The list of historical attractions in London is extensive. Here are some of the best places to dive into the history of London.

Other cities in England include Birmingham (famous for the ‘Balti Triangle’), Cambridge (here’s what to do in Cambridge), Bristol (historical city), Liverpool (famous for its music, sport and nightlife) and Manchester (a thriving bohemian music scene and LGBT community).

Belfast is the capital of Northern Island, Cardiff the capital of Wales and Edinburgh the capital of Scotland. Glasgow however is Scotland’s largest city, and is a new cultural hotspot – featuring a more grungy feel than Edinburgh. Other cities in Wales include Bangor, Gwynedd, Newport, Wales, St Davids, St Asaph and Swansea.

Best places to visit in the UK

Besides from the cities, some of the best places to visit in England:

  • Lake District National Park in Northern England
  • Cotswolds in south central England
  • Hadrian’s Wall in Northern England
  • Peak District National Park in central England
  • Stonehenge, a prehistoric monument in Wiltshire
  • Yorkshire Dales in Northern England
  • Yorkshire Moors, an upland area in North Yorkshire
  • Cornwall, Southampton and Portsmouth in Southern England
  • The south coast of England

If you’re sightseeing in London, here are a few places to visit near the Shard.

Scotland tourist attractions

Things to do in Wales

  • Giant’s Causeway in Belfast
  • Snowdonia National Park
  • Gower Peninsula in South Wales

Shopping in the United Kingdom

The UK is generally regarded as a world-class shopping destination, with all major international brands and large shopping malls/streets throughout the country.

London is a major shopping hub, with Oxford Street being one of the most famous London shopping streets, as well as being amongst the top UK attractions. It has over 300 outlets and stores ranging from local brands to international designer labels, including Britain’s famous Selfridges. Other major shopping areas in London include Knightsbridge, Bond Street, King’s Road, Carnaby Street, Covent Garden, Westfield London and Jermyn Street.

Leeds is another major shopping district in the UK, with its famous Harvey Nichols department store. Manchester is great for shopping for trendy clothes as well as its music stores. When in Edinburgh, you’ll find loads of shops along George Street as well along the quirky Grassmarket area.

Value added tax (VAT) is charged on purchases, such as meals at restaurants, shopping expenses, and hotel accommodations. If you are a resident of a non-European Union country, you can get a refund of this tax in certain participating shops. For more info on VAT refunds, click here.

Some areas also have limited shopping hours on Sundays, so always check the opening hours if looking to do a Sunday shop run! In England, Wales and Northern Ireland supermarkets are required by law to remain closed two days a year; Easter Sunday and Christmas Day. There are then massive sales on Boxing Day (the day after Christmas).

Nightlife

You will find a pub in almost every corner in the UK. There are reportedly over 10,000 pubs throughout the UK! Here you can spend a lively evening, sometimes with live music and always a few pints flowing.

All major cities will have at least one theatre, while London, Stratford-on-Avon and Edinburgh are famous for their theatrical arts. You must plan an evening at the theatre while in the UK!

London has a lively nightlife scene, with some of the best places to go out in London being Mayfair, Soho, East London, Camden and South Kensington. You will find loads of nightlife hotspots, from dingy underground bars to high-end nightclubs.

Manchester and Newcastle also have a budding reputation for clubbing and live music performances.

Safety Tips in the United Kingdom

It is generally quite safe to travel within the UK. The country has a low violent crime rate and lower petty theft rate than most other European countries. Though, we give the same advice as with traveling in all countries – be aware of your surroundings and always remain vigilant in crowds for pickpockets.

We recommend getting good travel insurance before traveling to any destination. Our recommendations are SafetyWing and WorldNomads.

Conclusion

Visiting London at least once in your life is an absolute must. It’s a city full of character, history, and an energy hard to explain. But, don’t stop there. The United Kingdom is so much more than London – so make sure to venture beyond Zone 6 and explore more of what’s on offer. The fairytale city of Edinburgh, the beautiful Lake District in Northern England the great Scottish Highlands are all major UK attractions that are not to be missed!

While you can visit the UK at any time of the year, avoiding the extremely wet and cold months may make for a better experience. The best time to visit the UK is therefore from May to September in the summer months. If you love the cold, then you’ll be fine visiting in the winter months. It should also be noted that the UK is absolutely magical during the Christime time, with so many lights, Christmas markets and such a lovely atmosphere. It is definitely worth braving the cold to experience Christmas in the UK – make sure to add London and Edinburgh at Christmas to your list.

When packing for the UK, make sure to include a variety of clothes for all weather conditions. No matter the season, make sure that you are prepared for everything – especially the rain!

Travel tips for the United Kingdom

Restaurants in Cambridge, UK

The Best Restaurants in Cambridge, UK: A Local’s Perspective

Looking for places to eat in Cambridge? We've got a list of the best restaurants in Cambridge to try out the varying cuisine in the city.
Green Weekend on the Jurassic Coast

A Green Weekend on the Jurassic Coast

We take the viewer on a tour around the most beautiful sites in the UK, exploring themes of sustainability, adventure and travel as education.
Visiting Isle of Arran in Scotland

Visiting Isle of Arran: Scotland in Miniature

Visiting Isle of Arran is a nice one day trip if you‘re in Glasgow and need an easy day out of the city. Here's what to expect when visiting.
Christmas Markets in London

Christmas Markets in London

A list of the best, not to miss Christmas Markets in London. Christmas markets start from November and run through to January.
Best places to visit in England other than London

Places to Visit in England Other Than London

There are so many beautiful places to visit in England other than London. Don't get stuck in the city, here are a few spots to visit.
Hampton Court Palace In London

Historical Attractions in London: A Guide to All the Best Bits

The list of historical attractions in London is extensive. Here are some of the best places to dive into the history of London.

What to do in Cambridge: Historical Attractions

What to do in Cambridge? Cambridge is famous for its historic attractions including Cambridge University and numerous colleges in the area.
Tours of the Scottish Highlands

Tours of the Scottish Highlands: What to Expect

You'll find many tours of the Scottish Highlands to join. Here's the itinerary and experience of one of the Highlands tours.
Scottish Road Trip Itinerary

Road Trip Through the Scottish Highlands

Ready for the ultimate Scottish road trip adventure? Here's our 3 day road trip in Scotland, exploring the Scottish Highlands.
Giants Causeway in Ireland

Exploring Belfast and the Coast of Northern Ireland

Exploring the coast of Northern Ireland starting in Belfast, here's our guide of where to stay and what to do on your tour.
Fishing in the UK

Top Spots for Saltwater Fishing in the UK

Fishing in the UK includes the option for sport fishing and angling. Here are a few top spots for saltwater fishing in the UK.
British Hotels - The Stag and Huntsman

British Hotels Offering Unbelievable Food

Here are a few great British hotels that serve delicious food. If you're staying at these hotels - you don't have to go to restaurants.
London on the cheap, United Kingdom

How to Experience London on the Cheap

Visiting London on a budget? It's possible with these expert tips on how to best experience London on the cheap, including where to eat.
Best parks in London

London Guide: The Best Parks in London

Experiencing the true London lifestyle is visiting the parks. Here's a list of the best parks in London, United Kingdom.
London, United Kingdom

Unusual Places to Visit in London

London is one of the most diverse and culturally exciting cities in the world. Here are some of the most unusual places to visit in London.
London on the cheap, United Kingdom

Summer in London: The Best Spots in the City

Summer in London is always a pleasurable time to visit. Here's the best spots to visit in the city during the warm sunny days.
Pork pies in Britain

A Guide to Regional British Food

From the sweetness of Scottish raspberries to simple crab sandwiches on a Devon quayside, fresh regional British food is back on the map.
Vegan Haggis in Edinburgh, Scotland

The Best Vegan Haggis in Edinburgh

Calling all vegan travelers! Find the best spots to enjoy vegan haggis in Edinburgh, along with other delicious vegan meals.
Best cornish pasties in Cornwall

How to Find the Best Pasties in Cornwall

Your ultimate guide to how to find the best authentic pasties in Cornwall, staring with what a traditional Cornish pasty is.
Budget train travel UK

Top Tips For Budget Travel UK

Looking to travel the UK on the cheap? We've got top tips for budget travel UK and how to get the cheapest transport tickets.
Free things to do in Cardiff, Wales

Free Things to do in Cardiff, Wales

Traveling to Wales isn't cheap, especially in the cities. Here's a few free things to do in Cardiff for budget travelers in the UK.
MAP - United Kingdom
View Larger Map

Check out & follow:

115,989FansLike
0FollowersFollow
19,463FollowersFollow
0FollowersFollow
1,660SubscribersSubscribe

Explorer Videos

More travel tips