Great Britain


Great Britain / Practical guidelines


General Information

The Capital

Great Britain is the union of England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. The capital is London, but each of these countries also has its own capital. In England it is London, in Wales it is Cardiff, in Scotland it is Edinburgh and Northern Ireland Belfast.

Consulates

U.S. Embassy London
33 Nine Elms Lane
London, SW11 7US
United Kingdom
Phone: [44] (0)20 7499-9000

Edinburgh Consulate
U.S. Consulate Edinburgh, Scotland
3 Regent Terrace
Edinburgh EH7 5BW
Telephone, Fax & Email
Phone [44] (0)131 556 8315
Fax [44] (0)131 557 6023
Email: Edinburgh-Info@state.gov

Belfast Consulate
U.S. Consulate General Belfast, Northern Ireland
Danesfort House
223 Stranmillis Road
Belfast BT9 5GR
Phone: [44] (0)28 9038 6100 (not for visa information)
Fax: [44] (0)28 9068 1301

Climate

The UK is known for its lousy weather, which is also a common topic of conversation among the locals. In reality, many regions have a climate that is similar to continental Europe. Spring and early summer are the best times to travel, although late September and early October can also be quite pleasant. In any case, travelers should always have rain gear handy. Temperatures can also vary significantly between the cooler northern parts of the island (Scotland) and southern England.

Time Zone

Britain is located in the Western European Time Zone. Summer Time is used between the end of March and the end of October, meaning clocks are moved forward an hour during that period.

Time differences:
Central Europe: + 1 hour
Canada/USA
East coast: - 5 hours
West coast: - 8 hours.

Electricity and Water

Outlets in Britain are 220 volt. Most appliances will require adapters, which can be purchased at airports and locally.

Weights and Measures

Distances: 
Inch = 2.54 cm
Foot = 30.48 cm
Yard = 91.44 cm
Mile = 1.609 km

Liquids:
Pint = 0.57 l
Gallon = 4.55 l

Weight: 
Pound = 454 g
Ounce = 28.35 g

Postal Service

Stamps are not only available at post offices, but also in smaller shops or at kiosks that carry the sticker with the red stamp booklet.

Phone Calls

Most public phones require coins or a credit card.

Country codes for calls placed from Britain:
USA/Canada: 00 1 + phone number

Country codes for placing calls to Britain:
USA/Canada: 011 44 + phone number

Important Numbers:
Emergency (free): 999 or 112
Information: 118500
International information: 118505 or 118500

To be paid locally

Fuel costs, costs for fuel service (if applicable), costs for rental cars (see rental car conditions, e.g. one-way rental, permits, child seats, snow chains etc.), tolls, food, costs for excursions booked locally by yourself, private expenses (e.g. costs for souvenirs, medication, etc.), tips, entrance fees (if applicable), transport costs (e.g. taxi, bus, train, ferry), tourism levy (if applicable), parking fees (if applicable).

Arrival and Departure

Getting There

The central hub for air travel is London with its 5 airports: Heathrow, Gatwick, Stanstead, Luton and City, but also Edinburgh, Glasgow and Belfast provide good connections to the US. The Eurostar connects England to the mainland by train: Direct trains are running on a regular basis between London St. Pancras and Paris or Brussels. 

Travel Documents and Formalities

US citizenzs:
Your passport must be valid for the duration of your stay in the United Kingdom (At least six months remaining validity is required for onward travel to many other countries)
No tourist visa is required for stays under 90 days.

Driving

(International) Driving License

An international driving permit is not required if you have a driving license printed in English that has been valid for at least one year.

Car Hire

Driving and parking in cities like London or Edinburgh is extremely expensive. We therefore always recommend a city stay without a car. One should ideally pick up a rental car when leaveing the city, or hand it in on the day of arrival in the city.

Road Code

In Britain cars drive on the left and pass on the right. In this respect, please note the following:
- When turning left make sure you watch for traffic from the right, which normally has the right-of-way.
- Cars move clockwise in roundabouts. Always yield to vehicles already in the roundabout.
- Front and rear seat belts are obligatory in the UK. It is illegal to talk on a hand-held mobile phone while operating a motor vehicle.
- Be careful about drinking and driving: A driver whose blood alcohol level exceeds 0.8 will be considered legally intoxicated. Alcohol consumption is generally allowed from age 18.
- It is illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving in the UK.

Speed Limits

In towns: 30 mph
On 4-lane motorways: 70 mph
On 2-lane highways: 62 mph

Parking

A red line painted on the side of the road means no parking. A yellow line means parking for a limited time only. Vehicles blocking traffic are often towed away. Otherwise, a wheel clamp may be applied. Very little free parking is available in downtown areas. Parking along the street often requires feeding a parking meter, which may be located some distance from the car. After you’ve deposited the required fee, the meter will produce a ticket that must be placed in the front windshield. 

Breakdown and Accident

An emergency telephone number will be included in the documents you receive from the rental car company. Emergency phone calls can be made free of charge from any public telephone. Emergency phone numbers are 999 or 112 for police, a medical emergency or a fire. The AA can be contacted on 0800 02 89 018 

Country-specifics

Congestion Charge London
If you drive in central London between 7.00 am and 6.00 pm, Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays) you will have to pay the £10 per day congestion charge.
You can pay the congestion charge in a number of ways:
- Online: www.tfl.gov.uk/roadusers/congestioncharging/6743.aspx
- By Phone: UK: 0845 900 1234 - International: +44 207 649 9122
- At a shop: You can pay the charge in cash where you see the congestion charging sign or the epay logo.: http://ccshoplocator.tfl.gov.uk/resultepay.htm

In order to avoid a penalty you should pay the charge on the same day. 
Further information can be obtained at: www.tfl.gov.uk/roadusers/congestioncharging/6744.aspx

Directions and Maps

Although brief directions are included in your travel documents, we recommend buying a good road atlas.

Navigation System

The best solution is always a GPS. While rented units are often available, downloading an offline software for your smartphone is a good alternative. Free service is available from "HERE Maps". Although you won't be able to search by coordinates when offline, you can do so while connected to WIFI in your hotel and save places to favorites. The directions from HERE are not very detailed. If you prefer a more detailed navigation, other products are available from TomTom or Navigon at an annual fee. Should you already own a GPS unit you can download the relevant maps prior to departure.

Accommodations

Check-In

Normal check in times are between 4:30 and 6 pm unless you find different times in your travel documents. 
If you are planning to arrive late please contact your host.

Beds

Beds in Ireland are generally smaller than in the US, Canada, Australia or New Zealand.
There are the following sizes:
standard double (4.6 ft. - ca. 1,40 x 1,90 cm)
Queen size (5 ft. - ca. 1,52 x 1,98 cm) and
King size (6 ft. - ca. 1,83 x 1,98 cm)

Most rooms will have a standard double or a queen size bed. Should you need a kings please let us know at the time of booking. We will do our best to accommodate you, but please understand that that we cannot guarantee a particular size as most B&Bs or inns we use have a limited number of rooms and king size is the exception to the rule.

Dinner

Dinner can be ordered in advance at many B&Bs. Since the meal will be home cooked from fresh ingredients, the hosts need to be informed at least one day in advance if dinner is desired. The cost will be around GBP 25-30 for a meal consisting of several courses.

Private Bathroom

As a minimum standard we guarantee a private bathroom. However, this does not always mean that the bathroom is ensuite. Many of our B&Bs are converted houses, some of which are listed buildings. This means, among other things, that changes to the building structure are only permitted to a limited extent. Therefore it is not uncommon that some bedrooms do not have a directly adjacent bathroom, but that it can also be located in the hallway - but mostly in the immediate vicinity of the room. Even if we try to book mostly rooms with adjacent bathrooms, we cannot guarantee this in advance.

Money Matters

Currency

The UK is not part of the European Currency Union and continues to use pounds and pence. Some areas such as Scotland, the Isle of Man and then Channel Islands have their own currency that is tied to the value of the British pound. Since foreign banks and banks in England may not accept these currencies, it is best to exchange the money for British pounds before leaving the particular region.

ATMs

ATMs are widely available. All common international credit cards are accepted, but you will need to know your credit card PIN number.

Health

Medical Insurance

Check to make sure your health insurance covers travel abroad. If not, you would be wise to take out travel insurance.

Local Health Care

Names and addresses of NHS doctors can be found at: www.nhs.uk. Or you can call the 24-hour telephone service of the NHS in Great Britain and get tips or addresses of the nearest NHS doctor. Tel: 0845-4647. 
"Medical UK": here foreign visitors are advised and cared for by trained doctors. Home visits are also possible. Information in Great Britain under: 020-77519701 or www.doctorsdirect.co.uk.
In an emergency, dial 999 (free call) and ask for the ambulance.

Before you travel

What to wear

Bringing warm and weatherproof clothing makes sense at any time of the year. The temperature difference between Scotland and southern England is considerable.

Discount Cards

Great British Heritage Pass
Provides free admission to more than 550 castles in England, Scotland and Wales. Pass holders can often avoid long lines. Durations of 4, 7, 15 and 30 days are available.
Additional information:
https://www.visitbritainshop.com 

Historic Scotland Explorer Pass
Provides free admission to all "Historic Scotland" sites on 3 days within a 5 day period, or 7 days within a 14 day period.
Additional information:
https://www.visitbritainshop.com 

National Trust Touring Pass
The National Trust manages more than 630,000 acres of land, around 1,000 km of coastline and approx. 300 historical buildings and gardens in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The pass is valid for all National Trust sites for a period of 7 or 14 days.
Additional information:
https://www.visitbritainshop.com 

Homecoming Pass
Covers around 500 sites in Scotland for GBP 35 per person or GBP 85 per family. Can be used on 7 days within a 14 day period. Tickets can be purchased at National Trust sites and on the Internet. Travelers interested in visiting a large number of castles and other historical sites can save some money by acquiring a pass.
Additional information:
https://www.visitbritainshop.com 

Etiquette

Alcohol and Cigarettes

Smoking is banned bars and restaurants. Violators will be fined, so please observe no-smoking signs.

Tipping

Hotels: Tipping maids or service staff is not necessarily expected.
Restaurants: Service is normally included in the restaurant check. If not, a tip of 10-15% is appropriate.
Porters: A tip of 50-75 pence per suitcase carried.
Taxi: 10-15% of the fare.