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UK / United Kingdom Country Information
The United Kingdom is made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the geography sweeps from mountainous highlands, to green and pleasant rolling countryside and vibrant cities. The country is jam-packed with two millennia of heritage, making visits of any length of time feel too short.

London is the UK's biggest city, a fantastic and frenetic metropolis teeming with people of all races, creeds and walks of life. Here the old contrasts spectacularly with the new, offering some of the world's most famous sights and an unrivalled nightlife. Travelling through the country will reveal its diversity, from quiet country lanes and inland waterways to majestic stately homes and castles. Thatched cottages in the Cotswolds paint a picture-postcard quaintness, where life appears to revolve around the village pub.

The medieval cathedral cities of York and Durham reveal a rich history of a bygone age, while the industrial cities of Liverpool and Newcastle both harbour an exciting nightlife. The beauty of the Lake District remains almost untouched, and Edinburgh's International Arts Festival draws talent from around the world.

The Basics
Time: Local time is GMT (GMT +1 from last Sunday in March to Saturday before last Sunday in October).

Electricity: 230 volts, 50Hz. Flat three-pin plugs are standard.

Money: The currency is the pound (GBP), which is divided into 100 pence. ATMs are available in all towns and Visa, MasterCard and American Express are widely accepted; visitors with other cards should check with their credit card companies in advance. Foreign currency can be exchanged at bureaux de change and large hotels, however better exchange rates are likely to be found at banks. Travellers cheques are accepted in all areas frequented by tourists; they are best taken in Pounds Sterling to avoid additional charges.

Language: English is the official language, though visitors will be astonished by the variety of regional accents.

Travel Health: There are no specific health risks associated with travel to the UK and food and water can be considered safe. The British National Health Service is excellent; emergency treatment is free to visitors, but charges are made for routine medical care. A number of countries have reciprocal health agreements with the UK including Australia, New Zealand and EU countries. Visitors from other countries (including Canada, South Africa and the US) are advised to take out good medical insurance.

Tipping: Tips of 10 to 15% are expected in restaurants and upmarket hotels if a service charge hasn't been included. Hotel service staff receive an optional amount. Taxi drivers are usually given 10 to 15% of the fare. Other services are discretionary.

Safety Information: It is generally safe to travel throughout the UK, although travellers are advised to take special care of their personal belongings in central London, where pick-pocketing is often reported. There is a risk of international terrorism, as demonstrated by the deadly terrorist bomb attacks in central London on three tubes and a bus in July 2005 that killed over 50 people and injured about 700. Later that same month four attempted bomb attacks on three underground tube stations and a bus mirrored the earlier attacks, but no injuries were reported. Security at all UK airports has been tightened and restrictions on hand luggage introduced; security has been increased at transport hubs throughout the country.

Local Customs: Handshaking is customary when introduced to someone new. Smoking is banned in all enclosed public spaces, including pubs and restaurants, and on public transport. The ban is also in effect in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. There is a strict etiquette on escalators - stand on the right, walk on the left. Visitors will find Londoners more rushed and less friendly than Brits in other parts of the country, particularly on London transport where tourists are generally the only people who talk.

Business: The four countries of the United Kingdom, although culturally and historically different, generally keep to the same practices in business. Politeness and punctuality are key to good business relations, and initial meetings are often conducted formally and impersonally, becoming more open and social as things progress. Business cards are exchanged at introductions. Dress is formal, with dark suits preferred. Business hours are generally 8am to 5pm Monday to Friday with an hour taken at lunch.

Communications: The international country dialling code for UK is +44. The outgoing code is 00, or 048 for Northern Ireland, followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 001 for the United States). There are a wide range of city/area codes in use. Mobile phones work throughout the country; the network operators use GSM 1800 networks, which may not be compatible with some dual-band US cell phones. Internet cafes are available in major towns and cities, train stations and airports.

Duty Free: When arriving from a non-EU country, travellers can bring the following goods into the UK tax or duty free: 200 cigarettes, 100 cigarillos, 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco, 4 litres of still table wine, 16 litres of beer, 1 litre of spirits or strong liqueurs or 2 litres of fortified wine, sparkling wine or other alcoholic beverages of less than 22 per cent volume, £340 worth of all other goods including perfume and souvenirs. When travelling from another EU country to the UK visitors do not have to pay tax or duty on goods purchased in said EU country provided tax was included in the purchase price, the items are for personal use and have been transported to the UK by the visitor, and do not exceed 3200 cigarettes, 400 cigarillos, 200 cigars, 3 kg of smoking tobacco, 110 litres of beer, 10 litres of spirits, 90 litres of wine and 20 litres of fortified wine. Note: Visitors arriving from Estonia may carry 200 cigarettes or 250g of smoking tobacco and those travelling from Bulgaria, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia may bring 200 cigarettes.

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Visa and Entry Information

  • Entry requirements for Americans: US travellers must hold a valid passport; a visa is not required. UK Immigration officials will decide on length of stay up to six months depending on reason for travel.
  • Entry requirements for Canadians: Canadian nationals must hold a valid passport; a visa is not required. UK Immigration officials will decide on length of stay up to six months depending on reason for travel.
  • Entry requirements for Australians: Australian nationals must hold a valid passport; a visa is not required. UK Immigration officials will decide on length of stay up to six months depending on reason for travel.
  • Entry requirements for South Africans: South Africans require a valid passport and a visa for entry or transit through the UK. The visiting visa will cost £65 while a transit visa will cost £45. South Africans may no longer travel to the UK on a temporary passport.
  • Entry requirements for New Zealanders: New Zealand nationals must hold a valid passport, but no visa is required. UK Immigration officials will decide on length of stay up to six months depending on reason for travel.
  • Entry requirements for Irish nationals: Irish nationals need a valid passport but do not require a visa to enter the UK.

Passport/Visa Note: If a visa is not required, travellers should hold a return or onward ticket, or proof of funds for the duration of stay. Passports must be valid for the period of intended stay in the UK; nationals of the EU require a passport valid on arrival.

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UK Weather and Climate
The United Kingdom climate can be erratic and highly changeable. The climate tends to be reasonably temperate, with the rain spread through most of the year. March to June is the driest part of the year (and therefore the best time to travel), and September to January experiences the most rain. Cold and wet winters occasionally bring snow too, particularly in areas at higher altitudes, whereas summers tend to be warm and pleasant, with frequent rain showers. London temperatures tend to range, on average, between 55°F and 72°F (13°C and 22°C) in July, and 36°F to 43°F (2°C to 6°C) in January.

The weather is very changeable and unpredictable throughout the United Kingdom. Winters are cold and wet with occasional snow, especially in the high-lying areas. Summers are generally warm with frequent showers.

Attractions in United Kingdom

  • Tower of London - The Tower of London is perhaps as famous for its traditions as its imposing structure. It is guarded by a special band of Yeoman Warders, known as Beefeaters, and dotted with several large, black birds – the Ravens. Legend has it that if the Ravens ever leave the Tower, a great tragedy will befall England, and to this day the birds are protected by Royal decree.
  • British Museum - With more than 6,000 historical objects from all around the globe, the British Museum houses one of the world’s greatest collections of antiquities, including the Parthenon Frieze or Elgin Marbles, the Rosetta Stone and the Roman Portland Vase dating from the 1st century AD.
  • Buckingham Palace and the Queen’s Gallery - No visit to London would be complete without experiencing the pomp and ceremony of the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, but now visitors can actually get a peek inside during the annual summer opening of the State Rooms, and see some of the Queen’s private art collection at the newly opened Queen’s Gallery.
  • London Dungeon - Take a trip through London’s dark and gruesome history, meet Jack the Ripper and see what became of his victims, or see the chaos and destruction caused by the great fire of London.
  • Piccadilly Circus - One of London's best known, but most overrated sights, Picadilly Circus is at the junction of Picadilly, Regent Street and Shaftesbury Avenue and is surrounded by neon advertising and fast-food restaurants.
  • Stonehenge - No other site in England presents the viewer with such grandeur and mystery, nor sparks the imagination so much as this circle of stones in Wiltshire. Writers, adventurers, historians and conquerors have all tried to answer the question, 'Who built Stonehenge?' resulting in tales and fables of Druids, Merlin and King Arthur, ancient giants roaming the countryside and a highly evolved prehistoric race of men.
  • Edinburgh Castle - The imposing castle that stands on the craggy mound of an extinct volcano in the heart of Edinburgh is the city's top attraction, a proud symbol of the Scots nation.
  • Loch Ness - Loch Ness is situated in the Great Glen that links Inverness on the East coast to Fort William in the West. The most famous lake is 24 miles (39km) long, half a mile (1km) wide and 700ft (213m) deep and is home to the legendary monster which many claim to have glimpsed from the shore.
  • Edinburgh Festival Theatre - The Edinburgh Festival Theatre is used primarily for musical events and touring groups and it is one of the main venues for the annual summer Edinburgh International Festival, as well as being the year-round venue for the Scottish Opera and the Scottish Ballet.
  • Madame Tussauds - Madame Tussauds is the most famous wax museum gallery in the world, with more than 400 life-sized models of stars, famous politicians, royals and sportsmen, as well as the most infamous criminals the world has known.
  • London Eye - At 443ft (135m) tall, and weighing more than 250 double-decker buses, the London Eye is the most spectacular new addition to London’s skyline.
  • Buckingham Palace and the Queen’s Gallery - No visit to London would be complete without experiencing the pomp and ceremony of the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, but now visitors can actually get a peek inside during the annual summer opening of the State Rooms, and see some of the Queen’s private art collection at the newly opened Queen’s Gallery.

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UK Events

  • Chelsea Flower Show - The Chelsea Flower Show is an annual event organised by the Royal Horticultural Society and since its inception in 1913, has been recognised as the foremost show of its kind in the world.
  • Wimbledon Tennis Championships - The Wimbledon Championships are the highlight of the year's tennis calendar, bringing together the world's leading tennis professionals in a battle for glory.
  • Edinburgh Festival - Widely hailed to be one of the most important celebrations of the arts in the world, the Edinburgh International Festival is now more than 50 years old, and is held every year during the summer months.
  • Birmingham International Carnival - A huge festival in the spirit of the Caribbean, the Birmingham International Carnival attracts thousands of revellers each year for a day of non-stop, music, fun and dancing, where all are welcome to celebrate Birmingham's diverse community.
  • Glastonbury Festival - The largest festival of music in the United Kingdom sees over 100,000 in attendance each year. The biggest names in music attract weekenders and day visitors to the muddy fields outside the town of Glastonbury.
  • Aberdeen Highland Games - The beautiful Hazelhead Park comes alive with kilt-wearing, burly Scotsmen and women participating in a number of traditional Highland Games such as Caber Tossing and Hammer Throwing.

UK Airports ( England)

Birmingham International Airport (BHX)
Location: The airport is situated eight miles (12km) south east of Birmingham.
Time: GMT (GMT +1 between the last Sunday in March and the Saturday before the last Sunday in October).
Contacts: Tel: (0)8707 335 511.
Departure Tax: None.

Bristol International Airport (BRS)

Location: The airport is situated seven miles (11km) south west of Bristol.
Time: GMT (GMT +1 between the last Sunday in March and the Saturday before the last Sunday in October).
Contacts: Tel: +44 (0)871 334 4444.
Departure Tax: None.

Leeds Bradford International Airport (LBA)

Location: The airport is situated nine miles (14km) northwest of Leeds.
Time: GMT (GMT +1 between the last Sunday in March and the Saturday before the last Sunday in October).
Contacts: Tel: +44 (0)113 250 9696.
Departure Tax: None.

Liverpool John Lennon Airport (LPL)
Location: The airport is situated seven miles (11km) southeast of Liverpool.
Time: GMT (GMT +1 between the last Sunday in March and the Saturday before the last Sunday in October).
Contacts: Tel: +44 (0)870 129 8484.
Departure Tax: None.

London City Airport (LCY)
Location: The airport is situated at the Royal Docks, 10 miles (16km) from the West End.
Time: GMT (GMT +1 from last Sunday in March to Saturday before last Sunday in October).
Contacts: Tel: +44 (0)20 7646 0088.
Departure Tax: None.

London Gatwick Airport (LGW)
Location: The airport is situated 28 miles (45km) south of London.
Time: GMT (GMT +1 from last Sunday in March to Saturday before last Sunday in October).
Contacts: Tel: +44 (0)870 000 2468.
Departure Tax: None.

London Heathrow Airport (LHR)
Location: The airport is situated 15 miles (24km) west of London.
Time: GMT (GMT +1 from last Sunday in March to Saturday before last Sunday in October).
Contacts: Tel: +44 (0)8700 000 123.
Departure Tax: None.

London Luton Airport (LTN)
Location: The airport is situated 32 miles (52km) northwest of London.
Time: GMT (GMT +1 from last Sunday in March to Saturday before last Sunday in October).
Contacts: Tel: +44 (0)1582 405 100.
Departure Tax: None.

London Stansted Airport (STN)
Location: The airport is situated 34 miles (55km) northeast of London.
Time: GMT (GMT +1 from last Sunday in March to Saturday before last Sunday in October).
Contacts: Tel: +44 (0)870 0000 303.

Manchester Airport (MAN)
Location: The airport is situated 10 miles (17km) southwest of Manchester city centre.
Time: GMT (GMT +1 from last Sunday in March to Saturday before last Sunday in October).
Contacts: Tel: +44 (0)161 489 8000.
Departure Tax: None.

Newcastle International Airport (NCL)
Location: The airport is situated six miles (10km) from Newcastle city centre.
Time: GMT (GMT +1 from last Sunday in March to Saturday before last Sunday in October).
Contacts: Tel: +44 (0)871 882 1121.
Departure Tax: None.

East Midlands Airport (EMA)
Location: The airport is situated 11 miles (18km) from Derby. It is in easy reach of Nottingham, Leicester and Derby by road and public transport.
Time: GMT (GMT +1 from last Sunday in March to Saturday before last Sunday in October).
Contacts: Tel: +44 (0)871 919 9000.
Departure Tax: None.

Norwich International Airport (NWI)
Time: GMT (GMT +1 between the last Sunday in March and the last Sunday in October).
Contacts: Tel: +44 (0)844 748 0112.

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Scotland Airport

Aberdeen Airport (ABZ)
Location: The airport is situated seven miles (11km) northwest of Aberdeen.
Time: GMT (GMT +1 between last Sunday in March and Saturday before last Sunday in October).
Contacts: Tel: +44 (0)870 040 0006.
Departure Tax: None.

Edinburgh International Airport (EDI)
Location: The airport is eight miles (13km) west of Edinburgh.
Time: GMT (GMT +1 from last Sunday in March to Saturday before last Sunday in October).
Contacts: Tel: +44 (0)870 040 0007.
Departure Tax: None.

Glasgow Airport (GLA)
Location: The airport is located eight miles (13km) west of Glasgow, off junction 28 of the M8 motorway.
Time: GMT (GMT +1 from last Sunday in March to Saturday before last Sunday in October).
Contacts: Tel: +44 (0)870 040 0008.
Departure Tax: None.

Stornoway Airport (SYY)
Location: 2.3 miles (3.7 km) east of Stornoway, on the Isle of Lewis
Time: GMT (GMT +1 between last Sunday in March and last Sunday in October).
Contacts: Tel: +44 (0)1851 702256.


Wales Airport

Cardiff International Airport (CWL)
Location: The airport is located 12 miles (19km) southwest of Cardiff city centre.
Time: GMT (GMT +1 from last Sunday in March to Saturday before last Sunday in October).
Contacts: Tel: +44 (0)1446 711 111.
Parking: Both short- and long-term parking is available. Long-term parking may be pre-booked online at the airport's website.

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Driving Information

Drinking and driving:
The maximum permitted level of alcohol in the blood is 0.08 per cent. The police can ask a driver suspected of having committed an offence to undergo a breath test. Penalty up to £5,000 and/or 6 months’ imprisonment and 12 months withdrawal of driving licence if first time.

The police may also carry out tests to detect a driver who may be under the influence of narcotics.

Driving licence:
A visitor may use his national driving licence only if he has reached the minimum age to drive a vehicle in the United Kingdom: Motorcycle with or without sidecar up to 25 kW and a power to weight ratio not exceeding 0.16 kW/kg 17 years, motorcycle with or without a sidecar above 25kw 21 years, a temporarily imported car 17 years.

A provisional (learner’s) driving licence issued abroad is not valid for use in the United Kingdom.

Fines:
Drivers without a satisfactory UK address who commit traffic offences will have to pay a financial penalty deposit equal to the amount of the fixed penalty or £300 as a deposit in respect of a potential court fine. The deposit has to be paid on the spot. Those who can provide a satisfactory UK address will be issued with a fixed penalty which has to be paid within 28 working days.

The Police and examiners from the Vehicle Operator and Services Agency (VOSA) can collect on-the- spot payments. Vehicles illegally parked are liable to a fine and may also be wheel-clamped or removed.

Driving Distances:

From
To
Time
KMS
London Cardiff
2hrs 43mins
243km
London Edinburgh
6hrs 57mins
649km
London Birmingham
2hrs 11mins
190km
London Oxford
1hrs 15mins
95km
London Bath
2hrs 9mins
185km
London Paris
4hrs 55mins
405km
London Nice
13hrs 2mins
1347km
London Frankfurt
7hrs 46mins
711km
London Berlin 10hrs 55mins 1045km
London Amsterdam 8hrs 27mins 217km
London Milan 12hrs 32mins 1205km
London Venice 15hrs 22mins 1469km
London Rome 17hrs 47mins 1792km
London Barcelona 14hrs 13mins 1433km
London Madrid 17hrs 3mins 1654km

Please click here http://www.viamichelin.com/ for more driving distances

Fuel:
Unleaded 95 octane petrol is sold as 'premium unleaded' and unleaded 97-octane petrol as 'super unleaded'. All UK petrol and diesel contains 10ppm or less Sulphur.

Leaded '4-star' petrol and lead replacement petrol (LRP) are no longer available. Drivers of older cars designed to use leaded petrol are advised to use lead-replacement additives available widely in filling stations and accessory stores.

Prices vary according to the region, fuel brand and type of outlet; supermarket prices may be lower.

LPG: There are approximately 1,300 filling stations which sell Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG).

If you are visiting the UK please be aware that UK filling stations use a bayonet type LPG pump attachment that requires an adaptor for use with other European LPG vehicle connectors. UK filling stations do not generally have adaptors available so you should make sure that you have a suitable adaptor before travelling. The following two companies can supply ‘European to UK’ LPG adaptors:

Autogas 2000 Ltd - http://www.autogasshop.co.uk/autogaslpg-filling-adapters-1-c.asp

Gasure LPG conversions and adapters. - http://www.gasure.co.uk/adaptors.htm

Lights:
Motorists must use sidelights between sunset and sunrise and headlights at night (between half an hour after sunset and half an hour before sunrise) on all roads without street lighting and on roads where the street lights are more than 185m apart or are not lit.

Motorists must use headlights or front and rear fog lights when visibility is seriously reduced, generally to less than 100m use dipped headlights at night in built-up areas unless the road is well lit use headlights at night on lit motorways and roads with a speed limit in excess of 30 mph.

Motorcycles:
It is compulsory for riders of motorcycles, scooters and mopeds to wear a safety helmet of an approved design. This also applies to passengers, except those in sidecars. The helmet must be manufactured to a standard similar to the British Standard. Use of headlights during the day recommended.

Motor Insurance:
It is prohibited to drive an imported vehicle in the United Kingdom without adequate motor insurance. If the importer does not hold an insurance certificate valid for the United Kingdom, arrangements should be made prior to travel.

Minimum third-party insurance, including trailers.

Passengers / Children in cars:
Children under three years must use a child restraint appropriate for their weight in any vehicle (including vans and other goods vehicles). The only exception is that a child under three may travel unrestrained in the rear of a taxi if the right child restraint is not available. Rear-facing baby seats must not be used in a seat protected by a frontal air-bag unless the air-bag has been deactivated manually or automatically. In vehicles where seat belts are fitted,
children 3 years to 12 years and under 135cms in height (approx 4ft 5ins) must use the appropriate child restraint.

These children may travel in the rear and use an adult belt:

  • in a taxi, if the right child restraint is not available
  • for a short distance in an unexpected necessity
  • where two occupied child seats in the rear prevent the fitting of a third

Drivers are responsible for non compliance of this law for children under 14 years with the fine varying between £30 and £500.

Seat belts:
Seat belts must be worn in front and rear of vehicles if fitted.

Speed limits:
Standard legal limits, which may be varied by signs, for private vehicles without trailers: In built up areas: up to 30 mph (48 km/h) unless otherwise indicated, outside built up areas: 60 mph (96 km/h), motorways and dual-carriageways up to 70 mph (112 km/h).

Motor caravans with an unladen weight exceeding 3.5t or motor vehicles adapted to carry more than eight passengers are banned from the outside lane of a motorway with three or more lanes.

Other rules / requirements:

While it is not compulsory, it is recommended that you carry a warning triangle, first-aid kit and fire extinguisher. Motorists must not use a warning triangle on a motorway.

It is an offence to use a hand-held phone or similar device when driving.

It is prohibited to use the horn when the vehicle is stationary, except at times of danger due to another vehicle in movement, or as an anti-theft device. The use of the horn is prohibited in built-up areas from 2330 to 0700 hours.

A toll (also called 'congestion charge') is payable when driving or parking in central London on weekdays (Monday to Friday excluding public holidays) between 0700 and 1800 hours. The entrances to the zone are indicated by the letter C in white on a red background. At present the standard charge for most vehicles is £8.00 if purchased on or before the date of travel,

More details about London congestion charge here

Tolls are payable when using certain motorways sections and bridges.

Visiting motorists driving left-hand drive vehicles should ensure that their headlights are adjusted for driving on the left, otherwise they risk being stopped by the police and subsequently fined up to£ 1,000.

At some intersections called ‘box junctions’, criss cross yellow lines are painted on the roadway. Traffic at these junctions must not enter ‘the box’ (i.e. the area of yellow lines) unless the exit road or lane is clear.

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