Great Tourist Tips –

UK Money

The UK currency is pounds sterling (£). There are 100 pence in £1. Pennies (pence) come in 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p and 50p pieces. There is also a £1 and £2 coin. All sterling coins feature a portrait of the Queen’s head on one side.Bank notes come in £5, £10, £20 and £50. They are legal tender in England and Wales but are generally accepted throughout the UK, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.Scotland issues its own bank notes in £5, £10, £20, £50 and £100. They look very different to the English notes but are still in sterling. Most people in England will accept Scottish notes although some people may refuse them as they look different.

Cash is accepted everywhere in the UK. Credit and debit cards can be used in nearly all shops but tend not to be accepted by mobile retailers like markets, ice cream vans and roadside vendors. Small businesses like B&Bs, that are not retails shops may also not accept cards.

Entering the country with cash

If you are coming to the UK from a country that is not in the European Union then you are required to declare any cash that amounts to 10,000 Euros worth of currency or more (or the equivalent in another currency).

There are no restrictions within EU countries. For more information on this, go to the UK Customs website

Changing foreign money

Foreign currency can be easily changed into sterling at Banks, Post Offices, Travel agents and Bureau de changes. All towns will have at least one facility where you will be able to exchange your money. It is worth shopping around for exchange rates as they can vary and also ask if they charge commission. A lot of Bureau de Changes now offer 0% commission. Exchange rates for the most popular currencies will be displayed on a board and travel agents tend to have this board on display in their shop window.


    There are several banks on Britain’s high streets which include Barclays, the Co-operative, Natwest, HSBC and Lloyds. Banks are usually open from 9am to 5pm from Monday to Friday. A lot of banks now open on a Saturday and times vary from branch to branch and from bank to bank. It is quite common for them to be open on a Saturday morning. Banks are not open on bank holidays.
    If you need to exchange money when the banks are closed, you can try a high street travel agent, large hotel or Bureau de change at a large train station or airport.

Cash Machines/ATMs

    ATMs, known as ‘Cash Machines’ or ‘Cash Points’ in Britain, can be found almost everywhere in populated areas of the UK. Typically they are attached to the side of a bank or building society but can now be found in shopping centres, petrol stations and supermarkets.
    International credit or debit cards can be used in an ATM as long as they have a four digit pin encoded. Most ATMs will accept Visa, Mastercard or Cirrus. To see if your card is accepted at an ATM simple look at the logos displayed on the machine and match them to the logo on your card.

Credit cards

    Visa, Mastercard and American Express are widely accepted in the UK. American Express cardholders should be aware that smaller retailers may not accept this card as the retailer is charged a fee for each transaction.
    The UK now uses a chip and pin system whereby you put your card into a machine at the checkout and enter your 4 digit pin number instead of signing a piece of paper. If your card does not have chip and pin then you will still be asked to sign a piece of paper.
    If you are putting your card into a chip and pin machine make sure that the machine is kept in view. One type of fraud, known as skimming, occurs when your card is swiped into a different machine and your card details are then stolen.

UK Weather

British people love to make conversation about the weather because it can be so variable and unpredictable. Visitors to the UK should be prepared for all weathers.The seasons are far from predictable and it is therefore advisable to bring at least a sweater or fleece in the summer and definitely pack a waterproof for any time of the year! You will also find it becomes useful to watch the weather forecasts on television, radio or the newspapers. There are some excellent websites too, including;

The UK has a temperate climate, with lows in the winter of up to -10°C and highs of up to 30°C in the summer. Although the UK is not large, the weather does differ slightly between the north, south, east and west. Scotland and Northern England tend to have slightly cooler temperatures and are quite likely to see some heavy snow in the winter months. In contrast, the south of England experiences warmer temperatures and is unlikely to see more than a few flakes of snow in the winter. The west of England and Wales tends to see slightly higher rainfall than the east.

The UK rarely sees extreme weather although there have been incidents of storms and gales in autumn and more recently a problem with flooding.

The only place where severe conditions arise suddenly is on mountains or higher ground. Conditions can be very different to that at lower levels, so walkers and climbers should be well prepared or they may end up with frostbite or worse. A useful book for walkers and mountaineers is Mountain Weather: A Practical Guide for Hillwalkers and Climbers in the British Isles available on

The average temperatures listed below are based on those from England.


Early spring is unpredictable and can bring either snow or warm weather. Temperatures for March (in England) average 9.3°C and rainfall averages 66.5mm. By the end of spring in May, the temperature average is 15.4°C. The amount of daylight increases at the end of March when British summertime officially starts. The clocks are put forward for one hour, giving darker mornings but longer daylight in the evenings.


The summer months of June, July and August are the hottest but not necessarily the driest. The average August temperature is 69°C with an average rainfall of 66.7mm. There is more chance of seeing sunshine during the summer months due to Britain’s northerly latitude. In Scotland for example, there is sunlight for 18 hours on midsummers day.


September is the start of autumn, temperatures start to drop and rainfall increases. By the end of September the leaves are falling from the trees and the summer is well and truly over. In November, the maximum average temperature is 9.5°C with an average rainfall of 83.5mm.


Winter in England is generally mild with temperatures generally staying above freezing. Scotland and northern England get the coldest weather and sometimes heavy snow. The maximum average temperature in January is 1.1°C with an average rainfall of 84.2mm. Daily sunshine during winter averages 1 to 2 hours due to frequent fog and low cloud. Daylight hours are also reduced as the clocks go back 1 hour at the end of October. This results in the sun setting as early as 4pm.

Whatever time of year you visit, remember that it will probably rain. On the occasions when the sun does appear, don’t forget to use sunscreen. A strong breeze can make the sun seem cooler than it is and it’s very easy to get sunburnt.

Driving in the UK

Driving laws in the UK are strictly upheld. There are over 30 million cars in the UK driving on some of the most congested roads in Europe and safety is taken seriously. Failure to adhere to these laws can result in an on the spot fine, court or prison.The basic laws of driving in the UK are as follows:

  1. You must have a valid driving licence that covers the type of vehicle that you are driving.
  1. You must have appropriate insurance for the vehicle and it must have valid road tax.
  1. You must drive on the left hand side of the road and overtake on the right.
  1. You must wear a seat belt where one is fitted.
  1. You cannot use your mobile phone while driving.
  1. If you are riding a motorcycle or moped you must wear a crash helmet.
  1. Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is not allowed.
  1. You must observe the speed limits which can be 20, 30 or 40mph in built up areas. The speed limit on motorways is 70mph and all other roads have a limit of 60mph or 50mph.
  1. The minimum age at which you can drive a car or motorcycle is 17 years old.

The rules and laws of driving in the UK are printed in a booklet called the Highway code. You can purchase one of these from a high street book store or online at online at

The highway code can also be accessed on the internet.

Driving in the UK is fairly straightforward unless you have never been on a roundabout. A roundabout is a circular junction where all drivers give way to traffic on their right. There are online tutorials on how to use roundabouts such as

Everyone in the UK drives on the left hand side of the road. The roads have names beginning with a letter, followed by 1-3 numbers, for example ‘A34’. The classification of a road does not always relate to its width or quality of surface.

A Roads

An A road with one number after it (A1) is a main trunk road. Supplementary A roads can have 2 to 3 numbers after the letter and these routes are slightly less important.

B Roads

These are local routes which carry less traffic than an A road.

C, D and U Roads

These are roads and lanes which carry less traffic than a B road.


A motorway is a high capacity road with a minimum of two lanes in either direction. The M25 around London has up to six lanes in certain areas. A motorway is prefixed with an ‘M’ and the signs are blue. The speed limit on a dual carriageway or motorway is 70mph unless speed restriction signs say otherwise. Variable speed limits and traffic information are shown on large screens either over the road or to its left.

On a motorway carriage there are the main lanes (either 2 or 3). On the left of these lanes is a lane called the hard shoulder which is to be used for emergencies such as breakdowns. The edge of the motorway and the hard shoulder is marked by a solid white lane (yellow in Ireland). Some motorways use this lane during busy periods but this will be displayed on electronic signs. A central reservation with a barrier separates one carriageway from the other.

The lane on the left, next to the hard shoulder is used for slow and steady traffic with the other two lanes being used for overtaking. Motorists are expected to use the nearside most lane that is cleared. Motorists tend to get frustrated with drivers who stay in a faster lane but are not overtaking.

Seatbelt laws

You must wear a seat belt where one is fitted, including the back seats. There are very few exceptions.

All children must be restrained in a car. Children under 135cms in height must use an appropriate restraint such as a baby car seat/booster seat.

A child may use an adult seat belt when they reach 135cms or the age of 12.

Mobile phones

It is against the law to use a hand held mobile phone while driving a car. If you are stopped by the police for this reason then you can expect to pay a fine. Most drivers in the UK now use hands free devices in their cars to avoid this.

Eating and Drinking

Long gone is Britain’s reputation for bad food because the British food revolution is well underway. Inspired by celebrity chefs, good food can now be found throughout the country. Today, Britain has some of the finest chefs, running award winning restaurants and producing innovative new menus.There are millions of good places to eat in the UK, ranging from 3 Michelin star restaurants to good old fashioned tea shops, cafes and pubs.

Typical food

The British diet is so varied and multi cultural that it is difficult to define a typical meal. Britain is quite famous for its fish and chips, which is cod or haddock deep fried in batter and served with chips (fries). Food served in pubs, ‘pub grub’, is also popular because it is cheap and is the most representative of what British people like to eat. In large cities and towns you can eat anything from Lebanese food to Sushi.


Cities and towns tend to have a wide variety of restaurants to choose from. It is a good idea to ask for a recommendation, either from the place where you are staying or from a local information source. Online reviews of restaurants can be found at (London only),, or


Good restaurants will usually be very busy on a Friday and Saturday night and booking a table is advised. The most popular time for bookings is between 8pm and 9pm. You can book either by visiting the restaurant in person or by telephone. All restaurants in the UK are now a non smoking area. If you are a smoker, you may want to enquire if there is anywhere to smoke after your meal.


Tipping is not a big custom in the UK but there are certain situations where it is regarded polite to do so. Restaurants are a prime example. Some restaurants will include a 12.5% service charge on the bill, so you need to check in order not to tip them twice. If they do not, then it is up to your discretion to decide how much to tip. A good guide is 10% to 15% but for a large party, a more generous tip is usually given.

Any establishment that offers waiter/waitress service, like a café or tea room would also be a suitable tipping situation. In this country though, we do not generally tip bar staff but if you feel you have been served well it is customary to buy them a drink.

Another service that receives tips is taxi drivers. Some people round it up to the nearest pound, other people add 10%, again it is at your own discretion.

Staff from larger hotels are also recipients of tips. People who carry your luggage, doormen or concierge are usually given tips. For bell boys it may be a £1 but if a concierge is very helpful during your stay you may want to leave more.


Most pubs now serve food as it brings more customers through their doors. Pub food varies in quality from fresh home made produce to re-heated, mass produced menus. Decent pub grub is extremely good value for money and some pubs offer meal deals such as two courses for £5 or children eat free. Some pubs offer food all day and others cater for lunch and dinnertime only.

A typical pub menu will offer a variety of choices such as fish and chips, lasagne, curry, shepherds pie, chicken pie, salads, pasta, jacket potatoes, steak and grill and baguettes and sandwiches. Nearly all of these will be accompanied by chips!

Pubs operate in different ways when it comes to ordering but you usually choose a table which will have a number on it. You then decide what you want to order and place the order at the bar. A waiter will then bring your food to the table.


British people love their curries and you will find Indian restaurants up and down the country. A typical curry house has a standard menu serving beef, lamb, chicken and vegetable curries. Recently, Indian restaurants have become far more upmarket, with modern décor and innovative menus. Unless the Indian restaurant is very popular, you can just turn up and get a table. The busiest times for a curry house are Friday and Saturday nights.

Cafes and tea shops

The good old British cup of tea with a slice of cake is one familiar stereotype, but the British do love their cups of tea. As a reflection of this, tourists can find some great cafes and tea shops serving mouth watering slabs of cake, washed down with gallons of tea. The menu will also offer baked potatoes, salads and sandwiches. Some of the best tea shops are found at tourist attractions such as Castles, Historic houses and landmarks.

Fast food

Our reputation as one of the fattest countries in the world has been aided by our love of fast food. Most town high streets will contain at least one fast food giant such as McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Kentucky fried chicken, Subway and Burger King. Fish and chips, kebabs and burgers from a mobile van are also popular fast food choices.


A quick and traditional British lunch will usually be a sandwich. There are lots of places selling sandwiches ranging from chains like Pret a Manger and Subway to independent traders. Sandwiches are quick, cheap and a healthier option than fast food.

Take away

A take away is food that you order either by phone or in the establishment and then collect or have delivered to your home. Chinese, Curries, Kebabs, and Pizzas are the most common form of take away in the UK.


Britain’s drinking culture is evident throughout the UK. Many young people like to go out in the towns and cities on a Friday and Saturday night and drink excessive amounts of alcohol. While the majority of people are responsible with their drinking, there are some that drink too much and end up in trouble.

The law in England states that you have to be 18 years old in order to buy alcohol from a pub, off licence, supermarket or other outlet. If you look under 18 years of age then you will be asked for some ID with your date of birth on it. Fake ID is common with under age drinkers but a passport is usually considered an acceptable form of ID. It is illegal to give alcohol to a child under the age of 5.

Young people aged 16 or 17 can drink beer, wine or cider with a meal if it is bought by an adult and an adult is accompanying them.

Some towns and cities have by laws that prevent people drinking in public spaces. If the police find you drinking under these circumstances then you may be given a fine or arrested.

Apart from pubs and wine bars, you can buy alcohol in shops called off licences, supermarkets and some local shops. The cheapest option for buying alcohol is in supermarkets.

Public Holidays

Bank holidays are a public holiday in the UK when most people have the day off work. There are currently eight permanent bank holidays in England and Wales and 10 in Northern Ireland. Public holidays tend to result in increased holiday activity, with many people going on a long weekend break.In Scotland some dates differ. There are statutory bank holidays across the whole of Scotland, but other public or local holidays are determined by local authorities, based on local tradition. Since 2007, St Andrew’s Day has been an alternative, voluntary public holiday, which can replace an existing local holiday. Not all businesses and schools are closed during Scottish bank holidays.Most high street shops and supermarkets remain open on bank holidays as do tourist businesses although their opening hours may be reduced.

Public holidays are on Christmas day, Boxing day and New years day. There is a spring and summer bank holiday plus several over the Easter period. As the Easter dates change each year, so do the public holidays. Visit the UK government website for an up to date list of public holidays.

If a public holiday date falls on a Saturday or Sunday then a ‘substitute’ day will be given because most people do not work on Saturdays or Sundays anyway.

Telephones & Mobile Phones

Phones are easily found throughout the UK. There are pay phones located in towns, cities and villages either on the streets or in supermarkets, pubs or large shops. Mobile phones have become part of British culture with everyone from teenagers to pensioners owning one.

Landline phones

A landline phone is one that is connected to a network by cables. UK telephone numbers are 10 or 11 digits long. The first part of a phone number is known as the area code, for example 0113 XXX XXX. 0113 is the area code for Leeds. Area codes range from 3 digits like London (020) to up to six digits like Brampton (016977).

When using a landline, if you are calling a number that has the same area code as the phone number you are calling from, then you do not need to dial the area code. With mobile phones you always need to dial the whole number including the area code.

There are several different phone operators in the UK all offering different tariffs and deals. In general though, there are different charges for peak calls and evenings and weekends. Be aware that one of the most expensive ways to make a call is from a hotel as they can apply their own tariffs.

When using a landline the most expensive time to call anywhere is during the daytime and with British Telecom this is from 6am to 6pm. A call to another landline during the day starts at just under 4 pence per minute. An evening call will cost just under 1.5 pence per minute.

Some operators offer free evening and weekend calls which with BT are from 6pm to 6am. The free evening and weekend calls are limited to one hour after which you will be charged pence per minute. If you want to talk for longer than an hour, hang up just before the hour time limit and dial again to continue your conversation.

If a number starts with 08 then it is a freephone or toll free number and you will not be charged. You may be charged if you call an 08 number from a mobile phone.

Numbers starting with 084 or 087 are charged at a local rate although some companies are now offering these calls for free. Different rates apply if you call these numbers from a mobile phone.

Any number starting with 09 will be charged at a premium rate. These rates are usually used by companies offering prizes and competitions or sexual entertainment services and can be very, very expensive. If you are going to dial an 09 number check the small print to see how much you are going to be charged. Prices can start at £1 a minute.

Useful and emergency numbers
To contact an emergency service such as ambulance, fire, police, mountain rescue or cave rescue you can dial 999 or the EU standard number which is 112. These calls are free of charge whether calling from a landline or mobile.

You can call the emergency numbers from a mobile phone without having to unlock the phone first or enter a pin number.

Dial 100

Directory enquiries
To help you find a number you can call directory enquiries. This number starts with 118 XXX and varies according to the service provider. British Telecoms number is 118 118. You will be charged for dialling a 118 number.

International Operator Assistance
Dial 155

International directory enquiries
Dial 152
This number is free of charge from a payphone but charges apply from other phones.

Calling the UK from abroad

To call the UK from abroad you first need to enter the international dialling code. From America this is 011. You then dial the country code for the United Kingdom which is 44. Then you dial the UK number but without the first 0.

To dial the UK number 01632 XXX XXX from America you would dial 011 44 1632 XXX XXX. Notice that you drop the 0 from the code.

Making International Calls

The international dialling code from the UK is 00. To call any international number you must put 00 first, then the international code for the country you require for example France is 33. So you would dial 00 33 XXX XXXX

To find your country code try British Telecoms online code finder and select international codes or

Cost of making international calls
There are no definitive costs for making calls abroad. Each operator offers different rates according to the time of day and the tariff package of the phone. Using a mobile phone is one of the most expensive ways to make an international call. For a list of current rates, you need to contact the phone service provider or check their rates online.

The cheapest way to make international calls is to use one of the online call companies who offer rates from as little as 2 or 3 pence per minute. You dial an access number first and then the number that you require. Some of these companies require pre payment and others bill you through your service provider i.e BT.

Before using these discount phone companies make sure that you read and understand how they operate so that you do not incur additional charges.


Skype is software that allows you to make telephone calls over the internet. If you and your contact both have a computer with Skype, you can make free calls to one another. You will need speakers and a headphone to use Skype or you can buy a cheap headset from electronic retailers.

For more information visit

Mobile phones or cell phones

In Europe the mobile network used is called GSM and the UK uses two different frequencies. The network providers T-Mobile and Orange use GSM1800 and O2 and Vodaphone use GSM900. The main mobile phone providers in the UK are Orange, O2, Virgin, Vodafone and T-mobile.

You will need a 3G phone to use the 3G network in the UK. Three operate in Australia, Austria, Denmark, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Macau, and Sweden and their Three Like Home promotion allows Three’s customers to use other Three networks without any additional roaming charges.

US mobile phones
Most phones in the US use a CDMA network and are not compatible with the GSM or 3 network. However, AT&T and T-Mobile do use GSM and you would be able to use these phones in the UK. There are companies in the US that will rent you a phone to use in Europe.

If you have a GSM phone then it is likely that you will be able to use it in the UK using ‘roaming’. If your home operator does not offer coverage in another country you will still be able to make calls because your phone will roam into a host operator’s network. The process of roaming normally happens automatically when you switch your phone on in a foreign country.

Making and receiving calls while roaming can be costly because you will be charged by your own service provider plus charges from the host provider. You are also charged for receiving calls. The host operator passes on their billing information to your own phone provider and the costs will be shown on your next bill.

Before you visit the UK, check that can make calls abroad using your mobile phone. Your mobile phone service provider will tell you if you need to enable your phone to use international roaming. This can sometimes take several days, so don’t leave it to the last minute.

To check the prices for roaming before you leave, look at your phone provider’s website as some host networks may charge more than others. If this is the case, you will want to select the manual option for selecting a network which will allow you to choose the cheapest one rather than the default one.

Quick mobile checklist

  1. Check that you can use your phone in the UK.
  1. Call your phone provider to see if your mobile phone is enabled for roaming.
  1. Check with your provider to see which foreign networks are the cheapest to use.
  1. If you have a pay as you go phone, make sure that you have enough credit or that you can add more while you are away.
  1. Find the number for your embassy in the UK and add it to your address book.
  1. Don’t forget your charger or an adaptor plug.

SIM cards
If you are planning to make a lot of calls while in the UK one of the most economical solutions is to buy a travel sim card. You simply take your current sim card out and swap it for the new one and your call charges can be reduced.

One company that offers this service is Prices for a sim card start at £27.50 but there are many benefits like no charges for receiving calls or texts in certain countries.

Another global sim provider is which offers a similar deal to roameo.

Emergency Services

The three most commonly used emergency services in the UK are the police, fire service and emergency medical service. Other services available include mountain rescue, cave rescue, coastguard and lifeboat.You must only call the emergency services number in the case of a real emergency. You should not call them because you get locked out of your house or if you have a nose bleed for example.To contact the services in case of an emergency, you call 999 or 112. These calls can be made from any phone and are free of charge.


The police deal with the safety of the community and act to reduce crime towards people and property. As a tourist the most likely reason to contact the police would be if your purse was stolen.

Fire Service

The fire service deal with fire and rescue operations. They also attend other emergencies and it is quite common to see a fire engine at a car crash.

Emergency medical service

The emergency medical service provides ambulances and staff to deal with medical emergencies. An ambulance would usually be called if someone is hurt too badly to be taken to the ER by a friend.

Mountain rescue

Mountain rescue helps those who are lost or injured on Britain’s mountains, fell or moorland. Mobile phone signal is unreliable in these areas and it is recommended that if you get a signal that you stay in that location. Do not rely on your mobile phone to help you on mountains.

UK Tourist Information Centres

Below is a list of links to Tourist Information Offices and resources throughout the UK.

1st Choice Concierge –
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1 Response to Great Tourist Tips –

  1. Fantastic website. A lot of useful information here.

    I’m sending it to some buddies ans also sharing in delicious. And of course, thank you in your sweat!

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