This page is divided into to sections. The first section contains general information about Uk and the second part contains information about some of the cities I have been to.
General information about UK
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a constitutional monarchy. The Union is more than 200 years old and comprises four constituent nations: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. It occupies all of the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern portion of the island of Ireland and most of the remaining British Isles. The Republic of Ireland is a completely separate country to the United Kingdom, gaining its independence in 1922. England is just one of the constituent parts of the United Kingdom, alongside Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Treating "England" and "The United Kingdom" as synonyms is a mistake commonly made by visitors, which can annoy the Welsh, Scottish & Irish. Similarly, "British" and "English" are not the same.
The Isle of Man and the various Channel Islands are "crown dependencies", possessing their own legislative bodies with the assent of the Crown. They are not part of the United Kingdom, nor of the EU, but are not sovereign nations in their own right either. The UK has Ireland, France, Belgium and Netherlands as its nearest neighbors. The 'Great' in Great Britain (Britannia Major in Roman times; Grande-Bretagne in French) is to distinguish it from the other, smaller "Britain": Brittany (Britannia Minor; Bretagne) in northwestern France. The UK today is a diverse patchwork of native and immigrant cultures, possessing a fascinating history and dynamic modern culture, both of which remain hugely influential in the wider world. Although Britannia no longer rules the waves, the UK is still a popular destination for many travellers. The capital and largest city of the United Kingdom is London.
The electricity supply runs at 230V, 50Hz AC. Visitors from countries such as the US and Canada, where the voltage supply runs at 120V 60Hz, may need a voltage converter (which can be picked up in most specialist electronic shops). Many appliances needed whilst travelling (such as laptop chargers, shavers and the like) are designed to run off both voltages, however check on the label before setting off. Anguilla's electricity is 110V, 60Hz, the Cayman Islands electricity is 120V, 60Hz, and Gibraltar and the Isle of Man's electricity is 240V, 50Hz.
British plugs have three flat, rectangular pins which form a triangle. These sockets are the same used in Ireland, Cyprus, Malta and several other former British colonies. Both Anguilla and the Cayman Islands use the U.S. plug. Gibraltar, Isle of Man, and the Channel Islands uses the Europlug, along with the Type G plug.
Travel to UK
London (all airports IATA code: LON) is served by a total of six airports (Heathrow, Gatwick, City, Stansted, Luton, Southend). Travelling between the city and the airports is made relatively easy by the large number of public transport links that have been put in place over recent years. In addition to London's five official airports (of which only two are located within Greater London), there are a number of other regional UK airports conveniently accessible from London. Since they offer a growing number of budget flights, choosing those airports can be cheaper (or even faster, depending on where in London your destination is).
Almost all passengers travelling to the UK from outside Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man go through systematic passport/identity card and selective customs checks carried out on arrival in the UK. However, those travelling by Eurostar from Paris Gare du Nord, Lille Europe, Calais-Fréthun and Brussels Zuid-Midi stations and by ferry from Calais and Dunkirk undergo UK passport/identity card checks in France/Belgium before embarkation and selective customs checks on arrival in the UK. Those entering the UK by Eurotunnel from France go through both UK passport/identity card and UK customs checks in Coquelles before boarding the train. You can read more about the visa requirements on this page.
Travelling within UK
Like most other places European things are not really long apart in the UK so it is inconvenient to travel by airplane. Exceptions are if you want to travel from southern England to Scotland or when a sea crossing is involved. It is very easy to find train stations in the UK, as National Rail uses the historic British Rail double-arrow logo which is displayed prominently at all stations, and on road signs. Pedestrian signs in cities and towns will also usually have the logo on display. In Great Britain, the National Rail network covers some 34,000km (21,000 miles) covering most of England, Scotland and Wales and including over 2,600 stations. Train travel is very popular in Britain, with many services busy and passenger numbers rising steadily every year. In Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Railways (NIR) operates, which is separate from National Rail and uses a different track gauge (the Irish gauge).
Differing from most of Europe, the UK drives on the left. Most cars in the UK are manual ("stick-shift") transmission, and car rental companies will allocate you a manual transmission car unless you specifically ask for an automatic when you make a reservation. A car will get you pretty much anywhere in the UK. Parking is a problem in large cities and can be very expensive.
Local bus services (a categorization which also includes many medium-haul inter-urban services) cover the entire country, but are of variable quality and cost. Rural bus services are in general better than in France and the USA, but not so good as in Italy or Germany. Services range from deep-rural village services operating once a week or less, to intensive urban routes operating every few minutes. All communities except the very smallest villages have some kind of bus service. Coach travel tends to be slower than train travel, as well as less frequent, although they are still comfortable and are, for the most part, substantially cheaper. Coaches, like trains, will also generally take you right to the center of town.
You can read more about how to get around in the UK on this page at Wikitravel.org.
Places to sleep
In the UK you may sleep in castles. The UK offers a wide variety of hotels rated on a scale of stars, from 5-star luxury to 1-star basic. Budget chains like Premier Inn and Travelodge have excellent sales if you book in advance; rooms are usually non refundable but can be had for as little as £29. There are also a vast number of privately run bed and breakfast establishments (abbreviated as "B&B"), offering rooms with usually a fried 'full English breakfast'. Alternatively you can rent a private house which is let as a holiday home; many such holiday homes advertise on a wide variety of free websites or advertise on their own websites. In addition there are many types of tourist accommodation, ranging from hotels and pensions. You may use i.e. hotels.com, booking.com or hostelworld.com to find somewhere to sleep. If you want to rent a private home Airbnb.com is somewhere you could check out.
I have stayed a couple of times at Generator hostel London and liked it. The1st floor have areas for eating, a pub and other social places. Rest of the floors (there are 6 in total) have everything from private suits to family rooms and dorms.
Money and banking
The currency throughout the UK is the Pound (£) (more properly called the Pound Sterling, but this is not used in everyday speech), divided into 100 pence (p, pronounced 'pee').
Coins appear in 1p (small copper), 2p (large copper), 5p (very small silver), 10p (large silver), 20p (small heptagonal silver), 50p (large heptagonal silver), £1 (small, thick gold edge with silver center) and £2 (large, thick with silver center and gold edge) denominations, while Bank of England notes (bills) come in £5 (green/light blue), £10 (orange/brown), £20 (blue (newer design) purple (older design)) and £50 (red), and depict the Queen on one side and famous historical figures on the other. The size increases according to value. It's often best to avoid getting £50 notes. £50 notes are often refused by smaller establishments - they are unpopular because of the risk of forgery, and because of the amount of change one needs to give on receiving one. Banks are also unlikely to change them to smaller notes for you, though a post office or bookmaker might.
However, Scottish and Northern Irish banks issue their own notes in the above denominations, with their own designs. If in doubt, check what you are given for the words "Pounds Sterling". £100 notes are issued in Scotland. Bank of England notes circulate freely in the whole of the United Kingdom, and in Scotland and Northern Ireland it is quite common to receive change in a mixture of English and/or Scottish or Northern Irish notes (bank notes from the latter are technically promissory notes). Whilst Scottish or Northern Irish notes are practically supposed to be accepted in England and Wales as well; when in doubt, change them for English banknotes at an England-based bank. Welsh banks do not issue their own notes since its banking system is directly under the jurisdiction of the Bank of England.
Vaccine and health
The local emergency telephone number is 999; however, the EU-wide 112 can also be used. For advice on non-emergency medical problems, you can ring the 24-hour service on 111.
Emergencies can be dealt with under the NHS (National Health Service) at any hospital with a Casualty or AE (Accident & Emergency) department. At A&E be prepared to wait for up to 4 hours to be seen to if the medical complaint is not serious, depending on the time of day/night. The longest waiting times usually occur on Friday and Saturday nights. Emergencies will be dealt with immediately and before any question of remuneration is even contemplated. Walk-in centers also provide treatment for less urgent conditions on a first come first served basis. They are open to residents and foreign nationals.
All treatment at an NHS hospital or doctor is free to residents of the UK. All emergency treatment is free, regardless of citizenship or immigration status. As a result, an EHIC card is, in fact, not necessary (although advised for EU travel in general), as the UK is possibly one of the only countries to provide free emergency treatment without question or identity verification. This also applies to tourists, both from the EU and outside.
For advice on minor ailments and medicines, you can ask a pharmacist (there are many high-street chemists, and to practice legally all pharmacists must be registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) which involves a university degree and other exams and training). Notable pharmacy chains include Boots and Lloyds, and many supermarkets also have pharmacists. It is worth noting that the medicine trade is strictly controlled and many medicines available to purchase from a pharmacy in other countries eg: antibiotics can only be provided on production of a prescription written by an authorised medical professional.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD) are spreading between young people, so make sure you practise safe sex.
Tap water is safe to drink everywhere, unless otherwise stated.
If you live in another country that is member of the European Union be sure to bring your European Health Insurance Card.
England is nor a member of the Schengen Area or the European union. Because of this there is an "old fashion" control of passports at the border. You can read more about the visa requirements on this page.
British cities and towns can be dangerous in some parts at night as you can find rowdy groups of drunk people on the street, usually in nightlife and clubbing areas. Drinking alcohol in public (except outside a bar or pub) is not permitted in some towns and areas of cities. Crime rates in areas such as homicide are broadly in line with the European average (though there can be significant variations between different parts of the UK) and crime in general have been falling in recent years.
The police have fairly wide ranging powers to fine or arrest people who are causing a disturbance, and although they can be heavier-handed in major cities they are generally tolerant. If you are stopped by the police, avoid arguing and be sure to appear respectful. Do not try to reason with them, and above all, do not swear, because although it has been ruled that swearing is not a crime, police will often arrest people who swear at them.
Be wary of wearing football shirts or otherwise showing support for a football team – particularly on match days. Hooliganism has almost entirely vanished but some footballing rivalries are still taken very seriously - arguably the most infamous and internationally known one being Glasgow's "Old Firm" (Rangers vs Celtic), which often descends into violence. Generally it shouldn't be a problem but use common sense: for example do not wear a Liverpool shirt in Manchester – doing so will definitely draw you some very dirty looks at the very least! For this reason you will find that many bars and restaurants in major towns and cities universally ban the wearing of football shirts - regardless of team.
Jay walking is not illegal except on motorways, but always try and cross at designated pedestrian crossings. Most operate a "Push the button and wait for the green man" system, but zebra crossings are also widespread, particularly outside of city centers – identified by white stripes on the road and yellow flashing spherical lights – pedestrians have right of way but it is advisable to make eye contact with the driver before stepping into the road. Unlike in many other countries British drivers tend to be very respectful of the laws around zebra crossings.
British cuisine and drink
Despite jokes and stereotypes, British food is actually very good and internationally oriented British cuisine has improved greatly over the past few decades, and the British remain extremely proud of their native dishes. Restaurants and supermarkets in the middle and upper range have consistently high standards, and the choice of international dishes is among the best in Europe. However, British eating culture is still in the middle of a transition phase. Unlike their continental neighbours, many Britons still eat to live rather than living to eat, and as a result, food quality is variable at the budget end of the market.
The United Kingdom can be an expensive place to eat out compared to, say, the more southern European countries, but relatively cheap in comparison with countries such as Switzerland and Norway.
Many restaurants in city centres tend to be a little more expensive than ones in the suburbs, and pubs do tend to be slightly more expensive in the countryside, but generally, a three-course meal without drinks will cost the traveller anywhere between £10 and £25. Chicken tikka masala with rice is sometimes claimed as the UK's most popular dish, though roast beef is a more traditional national dish.
If all else fails decent picnic foods such as sandwiches, cakes, crisps, fresh fruit, cheeses and drinks are readily available at supermarkets. Street markets are a good place to pick up fresh fruit and local cheeses at bargain prices. Bakeries (eg Greggs) and supermarkets ( eg Tesco, Sainsburys, Waitrose, Morrisons and Asda) usually sell a good selection of pre-packed sandwiches, pasties and cakes along with a range of soft drinks, juices and mineral waters. In addition, most chemists and newsagents will have a basic supply of pre-packaged sandwiches and bottled drinks. However, it is worth looking out for independent sandwich bars and bakers, as the quality of the food and value for money that they provide is often far superior to the pre-packaged food stocked by national chains, which is often bland and tasteless.
Many large shops, especially department stores, will have a coffee shop or restaurant. British tolerance for poor quality coffee has lowered significantly in recent years, and it is not hard to find good quality coffee these days.
Smoking is now banned in all restaurants, cafés, bars and pubs - there are no exceptions. However some establishments have provided 'smoking areas' and smoking is allowed in the gardens/terraces outside pubs and restaurants unless otherwise stated.
The British breakfast generally consists of either cereal and toast with preserves or a fried breakfast of egg, bacon, sausage, tomatoes, mushrooms and fried bread. The latter is known as a "full English/Scottish/Welsh breakfast", depending on where you are, or simply a "fry-up". In Northern Ireland it may be referred to as an "Ulster Fry". The Scottish variant may include haggis, and black or white pudding is sometimes included especially in the North.
Larger hotels may also offer croissants, pastries, porridge or kippers for breakfast. Some very large hotels will also provide an international selection including cold meat, cheese, boiled eggs and a variety of different kinds of bread.
Pubs are typically places where you can sample British cuisine. There are no such things as a British restaurant per se, so these will be your next best bet; even if you are against drinking alcohol, you will find a more traditional and full menu then a cafe or chippy.
Almost all pubs (see below) serve food, although not all will do so during the whole of their opening hours. Prices of all these types vary enormously, and you should seek local advice if you have particular requirements or standards.
Fish & Chis is a classic dish that you should try visiting the UK.
The legal age to buy and consume alcohol is 18, but many teenagers younger than 18 have seemingly little problem in purchasing alcohol in smaller pubs and from off licences. Nevertheless, if you're over 18 but lucky enough to look younger, expect to be asked to prove your age when buying alcohol (also, in certain places if you look under 21 or 25, you have to prove you're over 18, known as "Challenge 21(25)"), especially in popular city spots. However, supermarkets tend to ask everyone regardless of looks. Some premises will require proof of age for all drinks after a certain time of night due to restrictions on the age of people who can be on the premises.
Cities I have been to in the UK
London is the largest city in England and the United Kingdom and it will take forever to see everything. It is also the largest city in Western Europe. Situated on the River Thames in South-East England, Greater London has an official population of a little over 8 million. However, London's urban area stretched to 9,787,426 in 2011, while the figure of 14 million for the city's wider metropolitan area more accurately reflects its size and importance. Considered one of the world's leading "global cities", London remains an international capital of culture, music, education, fashion, politics, finance and trade.
Greater London consists of 32 London boroughs and the City of London that, together with the office of the Mayor of London, form the basis for London's local government. The Mayor of London is elected by London residents and should not be confused with the Lord Mayor of the City of London.
London has one of the most comprehensive public transport systems in the world. Despite residents' constant, and sometimes justified, grumbling about unreliability, public transport is often the best option for getting anywhere for visitors and residents alike. The metro, also called the tube, is the best way to get around. you should get yourself an Oyster card, which you can use on any public transport in London.
The name London originally referred only to the once-walled "square mile" of the original Roman (and later medieval) city (confusingly called the "City of London" or just "The City"). Today, London has taken on a much larger meaning to include all of the vast central parts of the modern metropolis, with the city having absorbed numerous surrounding towns and villages over the centuries, including large portions of the surrounding "home counties", one of which - Middlesex - being completely consumed by the growing metropolis. The term "Central London" is widely used on both signs and by the media to describe the central core of the city, which encompasses The City, most of the City of Westminster, and some of the surrounding boroughs. The term "Greater London" embraces Central London together with all the outlying suburbs that lie in one continuous urban sprawl within the lower Thames valley. Though densely populated by New World standards, London retains large swathes of green parkland and open space, even within the city centre.
Londoners voted over best places in central London to take a dump and you can read about the census here. There is a channel on Instagram called bucketlistfinds that provide useful tips for what to explore in London. The site londonist.com hast lost of useful listing with what do do in London while visiting.
If you are like me and love walking tours you should check out London walks. They offer a vide array of walks and several topics / field of interests. Their walking tours usually take a couple of hours. The same goes for Sandemans new Europe. Instead of spending £40 on one of those red tour busses you can pay £1,65 and take buss #9 and buss #11 as they basically take you through the same places.
As the capital of the United Kingdom and the British empire there are lots of things to see and do. It is too much to see in London to cover everything in a weekend or a short holiday. One or several tours with the Hop on hop off bus tours is a great way to get to see the most important places in this huge city. If you have not seen that much in London you should start with Westminister, City of London and Soho as most of the most famous sights in London are within those areas.
London Dungeon, Tower bridge, Big Ben, Tower of Londonn, Trafalgar square and Piccadilly Circus, St Paul's Cathedral, London eye and The Westminster palace are some of the most famous places to visit in London. The royal observatory in Greenwich is a place you should visit as well. Oxford street is the main shopping street in London. If you are into theater Leicester square is packed with theaters. If you are a history buff you should check out the Imperial war museums and HMS Belfast.
The 'green lungs' of London are the many parks, great and small, scattered throughout the city including Hyde Park, St James Park and Regent's Park. Most of the larger parks have their origins in royal estates and hunting grounds and are still owned by the Crown, despite their public access.
There are lots of markets wort a visit in London. Portobello road marked is a huge marked were you can get everything from vintage stuff to food. Another great marked for food is Borough marked. Brick lane marked got everything from vintage stuff to "garbare" but it is possible to find some gems here as well. In Covent garden marked you can find virually everything. In Old spitafields marked you may find lots of different cool stalls. Camden marked is problaby the best known marked in London. It is a turistified place but they have lots of cool styff there. Harrods is problaby the most known department store in the UK.
If you are looking for party frenzy Soho, Covent Garden and Leicester square is there for you at nighttime.