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Country Guides for Europe

United Kingdom

United Kingdom

Whether your pleasure is a tramp through the lush, green countryside, a visit to a centuries-old castle or cathedral, a look at the Crown Jewels and Tower of London, or a lager in a neighborhood pub, the UK has something for everyone. From the narrow, twisting streets of coastal Cornwall that smugglers and pirates once called home, the quiet beauty of the Lake District where Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter found their inspiration, and the Scottish Highlands where sheep always have the right-of-way, to the vibrant night-life of London and Manchester, there is much to see and do.

Language: English, Welsh (about 26% of the population of Wales), Scottish form of Gaelic (about 60,000 in Scotland),

Major International Airports Include:

City

Airport
Airport
Code
Distance
From City
BelfastBelfast Int'lBFS18 miles NW
BirminghamBirmingham Int'lBHX8 miles SE
GlasgowGlasgow Int'lGLA9 miles W
LondonGatwick Int'lLGW28 miles S
LondonHeathrow Int'lLHR15 miles W

The preventive measures you need to take while traveling in Western Europe depend on the areas you visit and the length of time you stay. For most areas of this region, you should observe health precautions similar to those that would apply while traveling in the United States.

Travelers' diarrhea, the number one illness in travelers, can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites, which can contaminate food or water. Infections may cause diarrhea and vomiting (E.coli, Salmonella, cholera, and parasites), fever (typhoid fever and toxoplasmosis), or liver damage (hepatitis). Make sure your food and drinking water are safe.

The CDC recommends the following vaccines as appropriate for age (See your doctor at least 4-6 weeks before your trip to allow time for shots to take effect):

  • Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG). You are not at increased risk in Northern, Western, and Southern Europe, including the Mediterranean regions of Italy and Greece.
  • Hepatitis B, if you might be exposed to blood (for example, health-care workers), have sexual contact with the local population, stay longer than 6 months in Southern Europe, or be exposed through medical treatment.
  • As needed, booster doses for tetanus-diphtheria.
  • Hepatitis B vaccine is now recommended for all infants and for children ages 11-12 years who did not complete the series as infants.

All travelers should take the following precautions, no matter the destination:

  • Wash hands often with soap and water.
  • Because motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of injury among travelers, walk and drive defensively. Avoid travel at night if possible and always use seat belts.
  • Always use latex condoms to reduce the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Don't eat or drink dairy products unless you know they have been pasteurized.
  • Don't share needles with anyone.
  • Eat only thoroughly cooked food or fruits and vegetables you have peeled yourself. Remember: boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it.
  • Never eat undercooked ground beef and poultry, raw eggs, and unpasteurized dairy products. Raw shellfish is particularly dangerous to persons who have liver disease or compromised immune systems.


Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

There is a fairly low risk of contracting Lyme disease transmitted by ticks in the United Kingdom. Travelers should use topical insect repellent and wear insecticide-treated clothing in heavily wooded, rural areas.

Download Magellan's Chart of Insect Protection and Water Purification Needs by CountryDownload Magellan's Chart of Insect Protection and Water Purification Needs by Country

The municipal water supplies in the United Kingdom are considered safe for drinking.

Download Magellan's Chart of Insect Protection and Water Purification Needs by CountryDownload Magellan's Chart of Insect Protection and Water Purification Needs by Country

The United Kingdom is politically stable, with a modern infrastructure, but shares with the rest of the world an increased threat of terrorist incidents of international origin, as well as the potential for occasional and isolated violence related to the political situation in Northern Ireland (a part of the United Kingdom). Americans are reminded to remain vigilant with regard to their personal security and to exercise caution. In the past year, several arrests have been made in the UK in connection with various possible international Islamic extremist terrorist plots. The British Home Secretary has urged UK citizens to be alert and vigilant by, for example, keeping an eye out for suspect packages or people acting suspiciously at subway and train stations and airports and reporting anything suspicious to the appropriate authorities by contacting the free confidential anti-terrorist telephone hotline at 0800-789-321.

From time to time during periods of heightened threat of terrorism, the UK government deems it necessary to raise levels of security activity. Heightened activity may include the use of military personnel in support of the police and law enforcement officers. The use of troops, who remain at all times under the control of the police, is part of long-standing contingency plans. Military personnel and equipment may be deployed at airports and other transportation links, or other public locations. For more information about UK public safety initiatives, consult the UK Civil Contingencies Secretariat website at http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/ukresilience.aspx.

Political demonstrations are well policed and generally orderly. Although the political situation in Northern Ireland has dramatically improved since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, incidents of terrorist violence have, nevertheless, occurred in the past few years. Early in 2001, two explosive devices were detonated in London suburbs, injuring eight people and damaging buildings. Within Northern Ireland, flash-points for sectarian confrontations still exist; but they are generally removed from areas where tourists congregate. Though recent events have come off without violence, the potential remains for sporadic incidents of street violence in Northern Ireland during the summer marching season (April to August), with tensions heightened during the month of July, especially around the July 12th public holiday. As a result, American citizens traveling in Northern Ireland could experience delays and disruption.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State's pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.

CRIME: The United Kingdom and Gibraltar benefit from generally low crime rates; however crime, including violent crime, has increased over the last few years, especially in London. Incidents include pickpocketing; mugging; "snatch and grab" theft of mobile phones, watches and jewelry; and theft of unattended bags, especially at airports and from cars parked at restaurants, hotels and resorts.

Pickpockets target tourists, especially at historic sites, restaurants, on buses, trains and the London Underground (subway). Thieves often target unattended cars parked at tourist sites and roadside restaurants, looking for laptop computers and hand-held electronic equipment. Walking in isolated areas, including public parks, especially after dark, should also be avoided, as these provide advantageous venues for muggers and thieves. In London, travelers should use only licensed "black taxi cabs" or car services recommended by their hotel or tour operator. Unlicensed taxis or private cars posing as taxis may offer low fares, but are often uninsured and may have unlicensed drivers. In some instances, travelers have been robbed and raped while using these cars. Travelers should take care not to leave drinks unattended in bars and nightclubs. There have been some instances of drinks being spiked with illegal substances, leading to incidents of robbery and rape.

Due to the circumstances described above, visitors should take steps to ensure the safety of their U.S. passports. Visitors in England, Scotland, Wales and Gibraltar are not expected to produce identity documents for police authorities and thus may secure their passports in hotel safes or residences. In Northern Ireland, however, passports or other photographic I.D. should be carried at all times. The need to carry a passport to cash traveler's checks is also minimized by an abundance of ATMs able to access systems widely used in the U.S. and offering more favorable rates of exchange. While banks in the UK do not charge for the use of an ATM to withdraw funds, travelers should be aware that U.S. banks might charge a higher processing fee for withdrawals made at an overseas ATM. Common sense personal security measures utilized in the U.S. when using ATMs should also be followed in the UK. ATM fraud in the UK is becoming more sophisticated, incorporating technologies to surreptitiously record customer ATM card and PIN information. Travelers should avoid using ATMs located in isolated areas. In addition, the traveler should not use the ATM if there is anything stuck to the machine or if it looks unusual in any way. If the machine does not return the card, it should be reported to the issuing bank immediately.

INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.



Source: U.S. Department of State

The climate of the United Kingdom is moderated by the warm Gulf Stream currents, making it more temperate than other regions at the same latitude. The traveler can expect warm summers, mild winters, and rain year round. While the south is generally warmer and dryer than the north, even in the driest regions it typically rains more than 100 days a year. The Lake District and the Scottish Highlands, on average, receive the most precipitation.


City
Annual
Precip. Days
Annual
Precip. Totals
Exeter16630"
Glasgow20842"
London14524"
Manchester18532"

United Kingdom's electrical current is 220/50 (volts/hz) and uses the plug adaptors listed to the right under Related Items. Many North American appliances are designed to operate only within the 100-125 volt range. These appliances will suffer damage if plugged into 220-250 volts without the proper transformer or converter.

To determine which plug adaptors you'll need and if you'll require a transformer or converter, use our Electrical Connection Wizard.

For a detailed discussion of international electrical standards, see our related article on Electrical and Phone Adaptation.

Download Magellan's Guide to World Electrical ConnectionsDownload Magellan's Guide to World Electrical Connections

A passport is required. A visa is not required for tourist stays of up to six months in the United Kingdom (UK) or to enter Gibraltar. Those planning to stay in the United Kingdom for any purpose longer than six months must obtain a visa prior to entering. As of February 1, 2005, foreign visitors who wish to marry in the UK must obtain a visa as a fiancé/e or marriage visitor prior to entering, or obtain a UK Home Office certificate of approval or; be a person with settled status in the UK (e.g. indefinite leave to remain). Visitors wishing to remain longer than one month in Gibraltar should regularize their stay with Gibraltar immigration authorities. For further information on entry requirements for the United Kingdom and Gibraltar, travelers should visit the website of the British Embassy in the United States at http://www.britainusa.com/embassy, or contact the British Embassy at 3100 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. 20008; tel: (202) 588-7800. Inquiries may also be directed to the British consular offices in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Orlando, Puerto Rico, San Francisco and Seattle.



Source: U.S. Department of State

The time zone for United Kingdom is 0 hours offset from GMT, which means that if it is 12:00 noon in New York, the time in United Kingdom would be 5:00 pm

The unit of currency in United Kingdom is the British pound (GBP).

Look up the current exchange rate using XE.com's Universal Currency Converter

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Other Travelers' Experiences in United Kingdom

"You might point out that in Britain the shift from UTC (or Greenwich Mean Time) to British Summer Time (like our Daylight Saving)in the Spring generally happens a week before our shift in the US. The shift back in the Fall is the same as ours, but for that one week (from the last Sunday in March to the first Sunday in April) the time change will be off by one hour."
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"I loved my stay in the UK, but there is a LOT of walking. I'm going back next year, but did have to pare down some of my activities. However, I will be gone longer, go more places, and probably see & do more. I had no problems with B&B's & hotels (all reserved here), food, or getting into attractions. A BritRail pass was a must for me. I'm a solo traveler."