The UK is made up of 4 countries, England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland with England being the largest. The southern landscape is rolling green hills and farms. Flatter low lands are found in the northern and eastern sections of England. England’s coast varies from sand dunes to the White Cliffs of Dover.
In the north you will find valleys, lakes, forests, mountains, and moors. The country is surrounded by the North Sea to the east, the Channel to the south and the Celtic and Irish seas to the west.
The Celts migrated to Britain and are believed to be the ancient Britons. The Romans, under Claudius, invaded around 43 AD. Romans are credited with building cities, roads, and baths. The Romans left Britain in the 5th century and Anglo-Saxons and Vikings arrived. The Normans arrived with the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Over the years there were many royal houses that ruled. The most well-known were the Tudors in the 1500s. King Henry VIII started the Church of England when he split from Catholicism to marry Anne Boleyn. This break caused many wars and battles in England’s future.
In the 17th century, civil war broke out between Parliament and Royalist. In the end, King Charles I was executed and parliamentary democracy was put in place and remains so today. Under Queen Victoria, the British Empire became the largest in the world, with colonies across the globe. Britain changed with the wars of WWI and WWII. Many of their colonies were independent from the empire by the 1950s. Culturally, the British invasion of the 60s brought the music and new fashion to the United States.
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher spearheaded the efforts to fix Britain’s economy in the 1980s. Tony Blair’s Labour party came to power in the late 90s. In the early 2000s there was a shift in politics and economics. In 2016, the English voted to leave the European Union, known as “Brexit”.
The English people are descendants of two ethnic groups – Germanic Tribes (Angles, Saxons, Jutes, and Frisians known as the Anglo-Saxons) who migrated to southern Britain between 400-500AD, after Roman occupation ended, and Romanised Britons who were already living there. The Kingdom of England (emergence of the Anglo-Saxons) was founded in the 10th century after the invasion of the Danes in the late 9th century. In the 11th century William, Duke of Normandy, invaded England and defeated the Anglo-Saxon King at the Battle of Hastings. This was known as the Norman Conquest of England thus creating the Anglo-Norman settlement. In 1707 the Acts of the Union, between the Kingdoms of England and Scotland, merged and the Kingdom of Great Britain was born.
Today, England is the largest and most populous country of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Handshaking is customary when introduced to someone for the first time. Normal social courtesies should be observed when visiting someone’s home and a small present such as flowers or chocolates is appreciated. It is polite to wait until everyone has been served before eating. When dining, it is considered rude to slurp food, eat noisily, or make noise with cutlery.
In public places, topless sunbathing is allowed on certain beaches and tolerated in some parks. Smoking is banned in all enclosed public places, including stations, pubs, and restaurants.
English is the official language. Throughout the country there are many local dialects which are influenced by class, town, and country accents.
The government consists of a parliamentary constitutional monarchy, a Commonwealth realm.
UTC+0 (UTC+1 in summer).
230 volts, frequency 50Hz. Power plugs and sockets are of type G.
The weather in England is temperate with mild summers and winters, influenced by the Atlantic Ocean and the warm Gulf Stream. Rainfall is evenly spread throughout the year, though the west is wetter than the east.
Clothes to Wear:
England can be quite windy and wet. Bring a rain jacket or water-resistant hooded coat. We don’t usually recommend traveling long distance with an umbrella. If you need one buy it there. England has a great umbrella tradition and you will find high quality umbrellas. A warm hat and scarf are useful during the colder seasons. During summer, shorts, sandals, and t-shirts are fine but bring extra layers as weather can change.
Entry & Exit Requirements:
A valid passport is required for U.S. and Canadian citizens to enter the United Kingdom. We recommend a minimum of 6 months passport validity. Travelers transiting through the UK on their way to a continental European country should have a passport that is valid for 6 months as well.
Visas must be obtained prior to travel for specific categories of visitors. Visit the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) website to determine whether you need a visa to enter the United Kingdom. We cannot intervene on your behalf when applying for a visa, nor can we assist if you are denied entry into the United Kingdom.
U.S. Embassy London
33 Nine Elms Lane
London, SW11 7US
Telephone: + (44)(20) 7499-9000
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(44)(20) 7499-9000
Fax: +(44) (20) 7891-3845
London – High Commission of Canada
London, SW1Y 5BJ, England,
Telephone+44 (0) 207 004 6000
Fax+44 (0) 207 004 6053
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636) or via the CDC website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/topics/infectious_ diseases/en/. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
Banks & Currency:
Britain’s national currency is the pound sterling(symbol:£), which is sub-divided into 100 pence (symbol: p).
There are lots of places you can change money in Britain:
- bureaux de change on high streets, in airports and major railway stations
• travel agents
• Post Offices
It’s worth shopping around to get the best deal and remember to ask how much commission is charged.
Credit cards, debit cards and contactless payment types are widely used throughout Britain and are the easiest way to pay for things. Visa and Mastercard are the most common type of cards, while American Express and Diners Club cards are less commonly accepted but still facilitated.
Some small shops, guesthouses, markets and cafés may not accept cards or may have a minimum spend (usually around £5), so always check in advance of your purchase. Cards that are accepted are usually displayed in the windows so you can check before you enter.
Currency exchange fees may be assessed by your bank if you use an ATM to withdraw money. Please check with your bank for details prior to departure.
The United Kingdom including Scotland has a modern communications infrastructure lacking little. To call a telephone number in England from abroad, use your International dialing code plus the country code for UK (44). All UK telephone numbers begin with a “0” but for international calls, drop this leading zero. For example 0141 123 4567 becomes 011 44 141 123 4567.
Cell Phone Usage:
Please contact your cell phone provider to determine whether your contract includes coverage in the country you are visiting. Depending on your contract you may have to add international services and/or country specific services.
Food and Drink:
There are plenty of coffee shops selling US-style muffins and bagels. The British breakfast consists of eggs, bacon, sausage, toast, tomatoes, and white or black pudding served with tea and can be found in cafés called “greasy spoons” or in pubs that open in the morning (general pub hours Mon-Sat 11am-11pm; Sun 12N-10.30pm). Coffee is also common these days.
Lunch consists of bread (normally buttered), cheese, onion, and sometimes pickle. Minced meat and onion pie; fish and chips; Beef, kidneys, and gravy stew; Roast beef; Yorkshire pudding; roast potatoes, and vegetables are common.
Traditional roasts tend to be reserved for Sunday lunch or special occasions, but there are numerous recipes that fit less formal weekday suppers such as Lancashire Hotpot, Bangers and Mash, Shepherd’s Pie, Roast chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy, Toad in the Hole, Macaroni Cheese, Cheese Pudding, Fish pie, Steak and Kidney Pudding, Cottage Pie, and Toad in the Hole.
In major cities a wide variety of international foods and restaurants are available.
The UK offers plenty of theatrical pleasures. Most major cities have at least one theatre. London’s theatre district stretches from the South Bank to the West End and offers all sorts of plays and musicals. Cinema has made a comeback in the last five years and most cities have at least one multiplex and independent cinema. In London’s Leicester Square the red carpet is rolled out for star-studded film premieres. Northern cities including Manchester and Newcastle have big reputations for their clubbing scenes, while live major music venues can be found around the country including The Junction, Cambridge; MEN Manchester and London’s O2 Arena.
Shopping can range from tiny independent stores in small towns to giant shopping malls on the edges of cities.
Leeds is a major shopping center in the north of England, famous for its Harvey Nichols department store, while Manchester revels in cool and trendy clothes and music shops.
Shopping hours:Generally, Mon-Sat from 10:00am-5:30pm. Large cities may differ.
Baggage rules for international and domestic air travel have changed much in recent years, differ from carrier to carrier and these days even may cover your on-board bags. Checking luggage may cost a separate fee or may be free depending on your personal status with the carrier. We therefore encourage you to read your ticket’s small print and/or contact your carrier for exact rules.
About 10% is customary if you were satisfied with the service. Tour directors and coach drivers may be tipped based on $1.00 per person per day for the driver and $2.00 per person per day for the tour director (2020). If you travel on a private arrangement with a tour director performing well, you may want to tip a bit more.
Laundry service is available at most hotels in the main centers. Generally, you should allow about 24-hours before the item is returned to you, however, some have an emergency service available at an extra charge. Pack lightly and rather use such laundry services on a longer trip. It may in fact save you baggage fees with the airlines (see baggage).
PHOTOS & VIDEOS
In some countries you must refrain from photographing sites such as Military bases and industrial installations. Also be aware of cultural sensitivities when taking pictures of or near churches and other religious sites. It is always courteous to ask for permission before taking photographs of people.
USE OF DRONES
The use of drones is being legislated by many countries. In some cases, drones are already forbidden and their unauthorized use may carry severe penalties. If you plan to travel with a drone, please contact the embassy or consulate of the country you wish to visit.