Whether it’s the first trip you are planning to the UK or you are a seasoned traveller, we have put together a few useful bits of information that might help to make your visit more enjoyable. Do let us know if you think we’ve missed anything!

Climate

The climate of Britain is notoriously variable and changeable from day to day. Visitors to Britain are often surprised by the long summer days, which are a consequence of the northerly latitude. Conversely, winter days are short. The frequent changes of weather affect all parts of the country in very much the same way; there are no great differences from one part of the country to another. Visitors to Britain will rarely experience severe or unpleasant weather for long. They should be prepared for rapid changes of weather at all seasons, however, and recognise that there is good reason for weather being a major talking point in Britain. [1]

See the Met Office (www.metoffice.gov.uk) for the best up to date weather information.

Visa

No visa is required for US passport holders for a stay of up to 3 months in Britain.

Medical Insurance

You are strongly advised to take out adequate insurance before travelling to Britain. Your travel agent will be able to suggest a suitable policy.

Vaccinations

No inoculations are required for travellers to Britain.

Time Zone

Britain is the home of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), however we also have British Summer Time (BST) when the whole country is one hour ahead of GMT from late March to late October.

Telephone

To call home from Britain dial the international access code (00) followed by the country code (US is 1) and then the phone number.

Electricity

230-240 volts is used in Britain with three square prongs on the plugs for the outlets. Look at the plug on your device. If its voltage range is 100-240 volts, then a travel adapter plug is all you need. If it does not cover 230-240 volts you will need a transformer which can be bought from many stores.

Money

British money is based on the decimal system. Pounds sterling (£) and pence (there are one hundred pence to each pound) are still the accepted form of currency, although larger hotels, department stores and restaurants in London will accept Euros.

Coins have the values of 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, £1 and £2. Notes have the values of £5, £10, £20 and £50. Scottish £1 notes are still in circulation in Scotland. [2]Britain

Credit and debit cards are the most efficient and convenient way to get money. There are ATMs throughout Britain (they may be referred to as cashpoints or cash machines), and most places accept major credit cards. Before you leave, talk to your bank and make sure that you have the correct PIN and inform them that you will be traveling to Britain, so your account is not frozen after 1 transaction. Travellers Cheques and cash can be changed at banks and exchange offices. Department stores such as Marks & Spencer often give good rates of exchange without charging a handling fee.

Value Added Tax (VAT)

VAT is charged at 20%. Non-European Union (EU) and EU residents who leave the EU within three months after purchasing the item may request a reimbursement of VAT. This applies to purchases with a minimum value of £50.

Post/Mail

Hotel desks usually help regarding what you should pay to send a postcard. Stamps can be bought from most newsagents, supermarkets and Post Offices, but to send other items and packages by mail, you will most likely have to visit a Post Office. Most are open normal business hours Monday to Friday, some on Saturdays.

Tipping

Tipping rules are not written in stone, although there are some general rules you can follow. In quality restaurants, unless stated otherwise, you are expected to tip 10-15%, unless you were not happy with the service. The same rule applies for smarter cafés and tea shops. Taxis usually get the same in London or if it’s a longer journey.

If you pay for your food and drinks at the bar or counter (for example in a pub), you do not tip.

Tipping is not always appropriate in Britain. If you feel the service was good and you want to show your appreciation, here is a guide to customary practice[2]:

  • Hotels: Most hotel bills include a service charge, usually 10-12%. Where a service charge is not included in a hotel restaurant, it is customary to give 10-15% of the restaurant bill. For rooms, you can leave an optional amount to room staff.
  • Restaurants: Many restaurant bills include a service charge; make sure you check the bill to avoid tipping twice. Where a service charge is not included, it is customary to leave a tip of 10-15% of the bill. Some restaurants now include a suggested tip in the bill total.
  • Taxis: 10-15% of the fare
  • Porterage: discretionary

1 – Source: BBC Weather website
2 – Source: VisitBritain.com