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WALES – GENERAL INFORMATION

   
                      Fig.1 – Wales Flag

GEOGRAPHY

Wales is part of the United Kingdom, with Cardiff as its capital and largest city. To the east is England, the Irish Sea to its north and west, and the Bristol Channel to its south. The coastline is about 1680 miles (2704 km) in length. The western part of the coast is like the countryside of England. Mid-Wales includes farming valleys, sandy bays, and rolling hills. Inland you will find the mountainous region of Snowdonia – it covers an area of 822 sq miles (2130 sq km), extending from the north and western coasts of Wales.  Snowdon is the second highest peak in Britain, after Scotland’s Ben Nevis, standing at 3560 ft (1085m) above sea level. Further south, the Brecon Beacons is another mountain range running from Hay Wye in the east to Llandeiolo in the west, covering519 sq miles (1344 sq km). The highest peak in the range is Peny Y Fan at 2907 ft (886m).

HISTORY

Credit: Central Intelligence Agency

Thousands of years ago Neanderthals, or Cymru to the Welsh people, lived in what is now Wales. During the Iron Age, the region was inhabited by the Celtic Britons and the Brittonic language was spoken. In 43 AD the Romans began their conquest of Britain gaining total control of the region with their defeat of the Ordovices (Celtic tribe in mid-Wales). After the Romans left Britain in the 5thcentury the Anglo-Saxon invasion began.

The death of Welsh prince Llywelyn ap Gruffud (known as Llywelyn the last) in 1282 led to the conquest of the Principality of Wales by King Edward I of England. In 1707 Wales became part of the Kingdom of Great Britain and then the United Kingdom in 1801. However, the Welsh retained their language and culture despite English dominance.

In the 19th century, Southeast Wales experienced rapid industrialization and a rise in population because of the coal and iron industries. In the 20th century, the population declined with the end of the British Empire following the Second World War. The Labour Party replaced the Liberal Party as the dominant political force in the 1920s. Wales played a considerable role during World War II along with the rest of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Allies, and its cities were bombed extensively during the Nazi Blitz. The nationalist party Plaid Cymru gained momentum from the 1960s. In 1997, Welsh voters approved the devolution of governmental responsibility to a National Assembly for Wales (now known as the Senedd or Welsh Parliament), which first met in 1999.

THE PEOPLE

The Welsh people are a Celtic nation and ethnic group native to Wales. It applies to people from Wales and people from Welsh ancestry perceiving themselves or being perceived as sharing a cultural heritage and shared ancestral origins. Wales is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom.  The majority of people living in Wales are British citizens.

SOCIAL CONVENTIONS

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.

LANGUAGES

English and Welsh are the official languages. Welsh is taught in all schools, and at least one-fifth of the population speaks it.

GOVERNMENT

Constitutional monarchy, with some powers devolved to the National Assembly for Wales.

TIME ZONE

UTC 0 (UTC+1 in summer).

ELECTRICITY

230 volts, frequency 50Hz. Power plugs and sockets are of type G.

 CLIMATE

Wales tends to be wetter than England, with slightly less sunshine.  Temperatures in the coastal areas, however, can be warm in summer ranging from 59°F (15°C) to rare highs of around 77°F (25°C).  Conditions in upland areas such as the peaks of Snowdonia or the Brecon Beacons can change at all times of the year.  Be prepared for sudden downpours in summer as well as winter.  The summer months of June to August are the warmest.  May and September can also have pleasant days.

 Clothes to Wear:

Bring a rain jacket or water-resistant hooded coat, boots during the winter and summer seasons. For travel in the upland areas, warm clothing such as thermals and fleece are suggested. During summer, shorts, sandals, and t-shirts are fine but bring extra layers as weather can change.

LOGISTICAL

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.

Visitors traveling to the United Kingdom to get married, even if they do not plan to reside there, must obtain a visa in advance. Please visit the UK Visas and Immigration website https://www.gov.uk/browse/visas-immigration for more information.

There are specific categories of visas visitors must obtain prior to arrival. Visit the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) website to determine if you need a visa to enter the United Kingdom. We cannot intervene on your behalf when you apply for a UK visa, nor can we advocate for your admission into the UK if you are denied entry.

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of the United Kingdom.

Embassy Locations

U.S. Embassy London
33 Nine Elms Lane
London, SW11 7US
United Kingdom
Telephone: + (44)(20) 7499-9000
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(44)(20) 7499-9000

Fax: +(44) (20) 7891-3845
Email: SCSLondon@state.gov

London – High Commission of Canada
Canada House,
Trafalgar Square,
London, SW1Y 5BJ, England,
United Kingdom
Telephone+44 (0) 207 004 6000
Fax+44 (0) 207 004 6053
ldn.consular@international.gc.ca
www.unitedkingdom.gc.ca
Wales – Consulate of Canada

Telephone+44 (0)165 6662 413

canadaconsul.wales@merthyrmawr.com

 HEALTH

Free medical care, under the National Health System (NHS), is applicable to UK residents, certain EU nationals, and some visa holders only.

An NHS surcharge is assessed on certain visa applicants at the time of application. Tourists and short-term visitors will not be assessed the surcharge, but will be charged 150 percent of the cost of any medical treatment they receive from the NHS. Unpaid balances of £1,000 or more can result in being barred from return to the United Kingdom.

The U.S. government does not pay medical bills, and U.S. Medicare is not valid overseas.

Medical Insurance: Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments.

We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation.

Carry prescription medication in its original packaging, along with your doctor’s prescription. Certain prescriptions available in the United States are classified as narcotics in the United Kingdom and are not available. Traveling with sufficient supplies to last the duration of your trip is recommended. Mailing prescriptions is prohibited and may be delayed or rejected by British customs.

Vaccinations: Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended for international travel by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the 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). You get notes in denominations of £50, £20, £10 and £5, and coins in £2, £1, 50p, 20p, 10p, 5p, 2p and 1p.

There are lots of places you can change money in Britain:

  • bureaux de change on high streets, in airports and major railway stations
  • banks
  • travel agents
  • Post Offices

It is worth shopping around to get the best deal and remember to ask how much commission is charged.

Credit Cards

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 common.

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.

COMMUNICATION
The United Kingdom 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.

ENTERTAINMENT

Food and Drink

The coastline provides a great variety of fresh fish and shellfish: mullet and brown shrimps are common on the Gower peninsula, as well as cockles, crab and smoked fish.  Farmers’ markets and food festivals have gained popularity.

Cockles: Usually served steamed.

Cheese: Look out for Caerphilly and local goats’ cheese.

Salt-marsh Lamb: Lamb raised on salt marshes to graze samphire and sorrel, usually served with rosemary.

Bara brith: Fruit loaf made with tea-soaked raisins and currants.

Laverbread: Bread made with seaweed and oatmeal.

Welsh cakes: Scone-like small flat sweet pancakes made with sultanas or currants.

Welsh oggie: A large pastie stuffed with meat and vegetables.

Welsh cawl: A meat and vegetable broth, usually with lamb and leeks.

Monkfish: Often served with laverbread.

Welsh rarebit: Cheese on toast.

Cider: Try Orchard Gold or the pear-based Perry Vale.

Brains: No, not actual brains, but a dark ale.

Nightlife

Welsh culture is steeped in music, and the inhabitants famously know how to party.  The major cities of Swansea and Cardiff are at the center of Welsh nightlife, offering clubs and pubs for late nighters.

For something distinctive to this land, listen to a Welsh choir.  These vary from small church choirs to massive male voice choirs on tour at the UK’s biggest music venues.  You might also find some ad hoc singing at one of Wale’s legendary rugby matches.

For opera buffs, the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff is the place to go, but music isn’t confined to the cities; the biggest music event of the year is the Eisteddfod, a celebration of Welsh music, which moves to a different destination every year.  Folk music fans should head to the Green Man Festival in Hay-on-Wye, while the Brecon annual festival promotes jazz.

Rural nightlife traditionally focuses around the old-fashioned village pub, with local beer and good hearty food.

Shopping 

In Wales there are many high street stores, with independent and boutique shops to choose from. Cardiff is known for its “City of Arcades” – seven historic Edwardian and Victorian Arcades housing over 100 independent shops where you can shop designer brands as well as local Welsh products.  On the Welsh border you’ll find Hay on Wye, known for its annual Festival of Literature from which it earned its nickname “The Town of Books”.

Shopping hours: Mon-Sat 10:00am-5:00pm; Sun (some shops) 11:00am-5:00pm.

BAGGAGE

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.

TIPPING

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

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.

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