What’s not to love about the UK (United Kingdom)! It might be a small island, but it is packed with so much to see, do and learn. Most tourists head straight to London, and we can understand why! It’s just an incredible city to visit, but the UK isn’t just about the capital. The UK offers wide coastlines to explore, ancient ruins, castles, great hikes, national parks, just to name a few. But before you head off to this great place that’s called the United Kingdom, there’s just some things you need to know before you go, and we cover them all in this Travel Guide to the UK.
Before any trip, you should always research the country, including how to stay safe, the currency, the language and so much more. In our ultimate travel guide to the UK, we help you have the best holiday, by providing details on when to travel, visa requirements, how to stay safe, staying on budget and more.
Travel guide to the UK
We cover everything you would need to know before travelling to the UK, in this travel guide:
When to travel
In this ultimate travel guide to the UK, you’ll need to know when the best time will be to go. The UK weather is seasonable, so choosing the right time to go is key.
During the winter, the weather is cold and wet, but will be the quietest time to travel.
We would always recommend travelling in the shoulder months of March to May or September to October. The weather is getting warmer, with sun and rainy downpours, yet tourism is quieter.
Summer months in the UK are the best for weather, with warm days, with the occasional downpour, but is the busiest and most expensive time to travel.
You do not require any jabs or vaccinations before travelling to the UK. However, we might recommend that you are up to date with your booster jabs.
Health care is readily available, should you require medical treatment. Standard over the counter medical supplies such as painkillers, cold and flu remedies etc., can be purchased in pharmacies.
We would recommend purchasing travel insurance before you travel to the UK. Travel insurance will protect you should you require any emergency medical treatment. Not only will travel insurance protect you should you need treatment, which can get costly depending on the condition. But will cover you for cancellations, lost luggage, and more.
Want to find out more about travel insurance? Then check out our post on Should I get Travel Insurance?
The UK has now formally left the European Union (EU). Therefore, there are some new changes surrounding visa requirements even for EU, and EEA (European Economic Area) nationals.
For EU, EEA nationals on a short stay or holiday do not require a visa, however you will need to provide your passport at immigration. Any EU, EEA national that would normally use the EU National ID card can no longer use it from 1 October 2021. There are some exceptions to this rule, which you can find on the local government website.
All non-EU, EEA citizens will require a visa before entering the UK. To find out more about visa’s and if you require a visa, head over to your local British Embassy website.
There are some partnerships between the UK and countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, USA and other countries where a visa is not required for travel up to 6 months, but you are not eligible to work. Working holiday visas are available to certain nationalities.
The currency used in the UK is the £ (GBP).
We would recommend purchasing the currency before travelling to the UK and always make sure you have enough for your trip, and in the event of an emergency. Please check with your bank prior to departure about using a debit/credit card and if any charges apply.
Packing is essential when going on holiday, but you have to be smart about what to pack.
Depending on the time of year, you’ll need the right clothes, such as summer, you’ll want nice cool clothing, but in winter, you’ll need warm if not thermal underlayers.
It isn’t just the clothing you need to consider; you’ll need to pack the correct documents such as passport and visa if this is required.
Why not head over to our post on What to Pack for UK. In this, we provide an extensive list of all the important things to pack. You can also download, a check list to help you pack the right things and never miss an item.
The local British language is formed of four main languages. The most common used is English or British English, some may say they speak the Queens English. But you may find pockets of Scottish, Gaelic and Welsh spoken in Scotland, England and Wales.
Before any trip to the UK, you will need to set a budget. This is so you do not overspend, you can keep control of your finances and don’t return home with a hefty bill to pay back.
In our experience, we found that the UK is relatively expensive especially in the south, but the northern regions will be marginally cheaper.
Hostels are the best places to stay on a budget, and are very reasonable in our experience. It’s also a great way to meet new friends along the way.
If hostels are not your favoured place, then staying in a mid-range place will be a little more expensive, so you must budget for this expense.
To get a better idea on budgeting costs, we have included a table to help you to budget.United Kingdom Travel Costs
Staying safe in UK
Overall, the UK is a safe place to visit. But it would be wise to continue vigilance at all times. If you maintain these following tips on how to stay safe in the UK, you should have an amazing holiday:
Always make sure that you keep in contact with a family member or a friend throughout your trip and provide them with your itinerary. If something happens to you whilst you are travelling and they don’t hear from you, then your family member or friend can raise the alarm with the authorities.
Always research the safe and unsafe areas of the UK. You don’t want to be walking through a gang related area risking your life (unless you’re up for an adventure).
Make sure you keep all your personal belongings safe, including your passport, money, important documents, etc., A bum bag is a valuable bit of equipment while travelling! You can keep your belongings in your bum bag, around your waist and beneath your clothing, which will prevent them from being stolen.
Be careful when it comes to pickpockets, tourist scams and tourist traps. Do research on any scams or traps that could put you out of pocket or put you in danger.
Drink responsibly! Yes, that’s right, a holiday is a time to have fun and party on a night out. But you don’t want to get so drunk that you can’t make your way home and compromise your safety. Make sure you watch your drink being made and don’t leave your drink unattended, it is still possible to have your drink spiked.
If you are getting a taxi, make sure you book the taxi in advance and make sure a friend or family member has the date and time, including contact details for the taxi firm.
If travelling by tube or train at night, get into a carriage with other people. A single person in a carriage on their own will only draw attention to themselves.
The list really could go on, when it comes to staying safe while travelling to the UK. Using a common-sense approach, while travelling to the UK, will help you to stay safe, but critically you’ll have so much fun.
In our opinion the best way to get around the UK is via car on a road trip. Since we live in the UK, we are familiar with the road systems and find it very easy to get around and navigate. But driving isn’t for everyone! Here are some other methods of getting around the UK:
The two largest and most popular airports that tourists will arrive at are, London Heathrow and London Gatwick Airport. But there’s other airports dotted around the outskirts of London, and other areas of the UK.
London Heathrow airport, is a short tube or national rail journey from the centre of London and is the busiest airport in the UK. Most international flights will arrive and depart from here. London Gatwick Airport on the other hand is about 30 miles south west of London, and the second busiest airport, providing international connections.
The smaller airports on the outskirts of London and airports at other major cities around the country provide budget friendly European flights.
We would highly recommend either purchasing a car while in the UK (if you’re staying for at least one year) or hiring a vehicle. Having a vehicle is more convenient, and saves on trying to get around on public transport.
In some areas of the country, a car is a necessity as public transport is either not available, or very limited. If you’re intending to drive around the large cities in the UK especially London, then you may find parking a little more challenging.
We drive on the left in the UK, for drivers who come from a country who drive on the right, will have to adjust their driving position, and be careful especially if you are not familiar with driving on the left.
You will need an international driver permit, if you intend to drive or hire a vehicle, if your driving licence is not issued in the UK, EU or EEA.
Travelling around Great Britain via train is a great alternative to driving. Most cities will be connected with smaller towns and cities in the countryside, and connecting from one large city to another is relatively easy.
Taking a train can take you through some of the most beautiful countryside, or along lovely coast routes. Train travel is relatively convenient with most journey’s taking a couple of hours to get to and from London.
There are good bus connections with many large cities and villages around the country. It’s always a good idea to plan and research your trip, especially if you intend to travel via public transport. There are some small villages that may not be connected by bus, or other public transport. So, please make sure you take this into account if your main mode of transport is via bus.
There are some good bus tours. These tours are from London to other cities in the UK, such as London to Oxford, or London, Oxford, Bath and the Cotswolds.
Walking has to be our favourite way to get around. It is so much better for the environment, our health, and is a great way to explore a city.
The UK have some incredible hiking routes along the coastline, and in national parks. Ideal for getting out of the large cities and into the open air and countryside.
There are ferry services between the UK and Europe, including foot passengers and vehicles. If you intend to travel to other countries around Europe, then taking the ferry could be a great alternative, especially if you are doing a road trip around Europe.
The Eurostar connects tourists and passengers with other cities in Europe. Services between London St Pancras and Paris Gare Du Nord takes about two and a half hours. Making this an ideal connection with Europe.
Top places to visit and why
There are so many wonderful places to visit in the UK, and you’ll want to visit some of these best places, which is why it is important we include these in our ultimate travel guide to the UK: Things to know before you go. Here are just a few of our favourite places to visit:
We have always loved London, just as much as the many other thousands of tourists that pass here every year. Of course, there’s the standard tourist attractions, but there’s also undiscovered or less known places to visit.
Our favourite London tourist attractions would have to be Buckingham Palace, wishing we could be queens living in such a grand palace. The Tower of London is certainly an interesting visit, it was once a palace, a jail, a castle, and now holds the Crown Jewels that’s on display for visitors to admire.
If you want to learn more about London’s history, then finding a few of the only remaining parts of the Roman London’s walls is a must. The Monument stands about 202 meters in height and is about 202 meters from the point the great fire of London started in the bakery on Pudding Lane. It is also the spot where the first church of St Margarets on New Fish lane was destroyed in 1666.
London is normally the first point for any tourist to pass through as they explore the UK, but don’t forget, there’s plenty of other incredible spots to visit in the UK.
This is our home town, which is why it is one of our tops spots of places to visit in the UK.
Hastings is a seaside town, located south of London, and takes about two hours to reach. Many Londoners looking to get out of the smoke head down to the many seaside towns on the south coast of the UK on a nice hot summers weekend. Why not follow the Londoners to Hastings to explore the history.
This historical town is most famously known for the great Battle of Hastings in 1066, although the battle took place about 6 miles north of Hastings.
You can see more on what to do in Hastings in our travel guide on things to do in Hastings.
Another great seaside town on the south coast of England, and one that we return to year on year. The highlight of Eastbourne would be the Victorian pier, wandering up the pier on a hot summer’s day.
If relaxing in the sun isn’t exciting enough, then what about an exhilarating hike over the Seven Sisters between Eastbourne and Seaford. A coastal hike will offer great views of the ocean and farmland, you can’t get better than that.
Want to get more inspiration on where to travel in Eastbourne. Then check out our post on Things to do in Eastbourne.
Many people will think, why do you just want to walk around a couple of rocks standing in the middle of nowhere. Well, it isn’t just that! It’s mysterious how these large bluestones came to be here, and why.
Many theories have surfaced about the reason these monolithic stones have been placed here, from sacrificial, to celestial timepiece, but no one really knows what its original purpose was, or why.
It’s a mystery!
Food and drink
Do you want to eat like a local? well here are just some of the dishes you could be eating on your trip around the UK.
This isn’t the healthiest of options, but it’s definitely friendly for budget travellers.
It is very plain and simple, consisting of bread, fried bacon, and either tomato or brown sauce depending on your fancy made into a sandwich.
Fish and Chips
If you are heading to one of the many stunning seaside locations in the UK, then you can’t miss having fish and chips.
Fish and chips are known to be better on the coast, and consists of the fish being dipped in batter before being fried, with a side of fried chips. We would recommend mushy peas and curry sauce with your fish and chips.
I am not sure if we could stomach Haggis (if you excuse the pun), but we would try this once.
Haggis originates in Scotland. It is made from sheep’s heart, liver and lungs chopped, mixed with oatmeal, onions and wrapped in a sheep’s stomach.
It certainly sounds an acquired taste.
This isn’t for everyone, but we don’t mind it with our full cooked breakfast.
Its large sausage made from ground meat, offal, fat and blood, and traditionally served with a full cooked breakfast.
It isn’t a dessert as it may suggest in its name, but is served with a Roast Dinner.
Yorkshire Pudding is made from eggs, flour, milk or water, made into a batter and baked/roasted in the oven.
I don’t like Yorkshire Pudding but Shams does! She will fill up her plate of them when eating a roast dinner.
Most British families will have a roast dinner or sometimes referred to as a Sunday roast, on a Sunday either for lunch or dinner (evening meal).
It can vary from household, but it is mostly roasted vegetables and a roast meat with a sauce such as mint, or cranberry sauce depending on the meat and Yorkshire pudding.
I don’t like roast dinners, I never have, but Shams will happily have this every Sunday for lunch.
The British are pretty accepting when it comes to LGBTQ+ issues. The big cities such as London has a big network of LGBTQ+ clubs, and bars. Brighton on the south coast of England has become the unofficial LGBTQ+ capital of the UK.
It is possible to find, a minority of people who are homophobic, but these tend to be a few and far between. Just be mindful of people around you, be respectful and you shouldn’t encounter any issues.
We haven’t encountered a lot of homophobic behaviour, or abuse, while we live, work and travel in the UK.
You will now have a good idea on how to stay safe, how to get around the UK, how you can budget for your trip and more with this ultimate travel guide to the UK: Things to know before you go. We hope you enjoy the UK as much as we do and it won’t be long before you’ll want to be visiting again soon.
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