United Kingdom Travel Guide

By Admin | Last Updated August 31, 2019

Four countries just off the coast of mainland Europe make up the United Kingdom. They are England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. London with a population of 8,825,000 as per 2017 census is the largest city. Neighboring countries across the sea include, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Iceland, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Denmark, Norway and the Faroe Islands. The Republic of Ireland became independent from the UK in 1937 and shares an open land border with the country.

United Kingdom is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. In fact, United Kingdom was ranked the 7th most popular sovereign state in the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) list with 37.7 million tourists in 2017. This is expected to cross 41.7 million in 2018. Tourism contributes 213.8 billion GBP to the economy of the UK.

Tourists visit the UK throughout the year. From happening cities to the charming countryside, sports mania to high fashion, music to history and culture… the UK has a lot to offer.

The Union Jack is the flag of the United Kingdom. The flags of St. Andrew of Scotland, St. George of England and the cross of St. Patrick of Ireland combined together makes up the Union Jack.

London, the capital city of the UK, is a multicultural hub with people from over 270 countries living and working here. London is well connected to every other major city in the world. The UK is an island with a land area of just about 242,295 square kilometers. So the distances between places to visit are small. You should be able to cover more in a day.

United Kingdom – Quick Facts

  1. Official Language: English. Welsh, Scots, Scottish Gaelic and Irish are also spoken 
  2. Capital City: London
  3. Currency: Pound Sterling
  4. ISD Telephone Code: +44
  5. Major Religions: Christianity. Other practiced religions include Islamism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Jewish faith. 
  6. Constituent regions: England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland
  7. Government: Constitutional Monarchy, the reigning sovereign is Queen Elizabeth II. Prime Minister: Theresa May
  8. London is the largest city by size followed by Birmingham and Manchester
  9. The UK has a number of overseas territories, the largest of these being in Antarctica.
  10. The Ben Nevis Mountains in Scotland have the nation’s highest mountain peak at 1345 metres above sea level.
  11. The oldest subway system in the world is in London. It is also the fourth longest tube transport system.
  12. London’s Heathrow airport was the 7th busiest airport in the world as of 2017.
  13. The UKs main exports include machinery, pharmaceuticals, paper etc.
  14. The country has temperate maritime climate with annual temperatures ranging from 0 to 32degree Celsius.
  15. Traditional UK food includes roast beef, fish and chips and pudding.

UK Climate By Month

Weather in the UK is temperamental, at best. Cloudy drizzling mornings can give way to sunny afternoons which turn into chilly nights within the course of a single day. Having an idea about the climate and rainfall can help in better travel planning.

Month Average Daily Temp (in °Celsius) Average Rainfall (in mms)
January 4.3 76.4
February 6.2 93.9
March 8.5 98.1
April 9 33.6
May 13 57.3
June 15.9 110.6
July 16.5 101.7
August 15.6 102.8
September 13.5 117.8
October 12.3 102.5
November 7 108.2
December 5.1 121.5

 

UK Tourist Visa

Citizens of 56 countries including United States of America, Australia, Singapore, Japan, Malaysia and some others do not need a visa for stays up to 6 months. A Standard tourist visa is required for a holiday to the UK for tourists of other nationalities.

The Standard Visa is also for those who are visiting the country to take part in sports competitions, business purposes (only those mentioned in Visitor Rules), study purposes (up to 30 days only), for an exchange program or educational visit (for those under 18 years), to attend a conference or passing through the UK in transit.

  • Proof of inbound and outbound travel from the UK is required
  • Proof of reason of visit. In case of educational or business activities certain rules will apply.
  • Sufficient funds to support self and dependants for the duration of the stay
  • For multiple entry Standard Visa reason for multiple visits needs to be produced
  • Proof that the individual/group will leave the UK after each visit 
  • In case of insufficient proof the visa may be cancelled
  • If an individual/group or family is found living in the UK for long periods a long term ban may be imposed
  • Passport must be valid for the entire duration of stay in the UK

Until 2021, EU citizens living in the UK will have no change in status or rights. After June 2021, EU citizens may apply for ‘settled status’ to continue living in the UK.

Customs

For non-EU visitors to the UK –

  • A maximum of 200 cigarettes/50 cigars/250gms of tobacco are allowed
  • Not more than 16litres of beer/4 liters of wine/1litre of spirits are allowed
  • Allowance for other goods worth up to 390£ only
  • Import of meat and dairy products is banned 

The customs checking in the UK for visitors from non EU countries is strict and prosecution is severe. Please go through this information from the UK visa rules and regulations page.

Airport Tax

A departure tax of between 13£ to 194£ is levied on all passengers departing by air from the UK. The amount varies based on distance travelled and class of travel. This is included in the air ticket.

Vaccines and Immunizations

Routine vaccines including measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP) vaccine, chickenpox vaccine, polio vaccine etc. are to be complete for all tourists travelling to the UK from non EU countries.

UK Photo Gallery

UK - Attractions By Region

The United Kingdom is a storehouse of both exciting and laidback activities.

  • England
  • Scotland
  • Wales
  • Northern Ireland

From the scenic countryside to action-packed cities, from castles and towers to pubs and stadiums, there is a wealth of things to see and do within the UK.

Top 8 Places To Visit In England

  1. London – Museums, city life, pubs, London Eye, Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace – the Queen’s residence, Houses of Parliament, Hyde Park, shopping at Oxford Street, Piccadilly Circus and more
  2. Stonehenge – Prehistoric monument located near Salisbury, nature, history, heritage, culture.
  3. Bath – Roman Baths, Hot water springs, Jane Austen Museum, old English town, culture, heritage, history
  4. Yorkshire – Roman and Viking history, castles, abbeys, the cities of Leeds and York, National Parks, nature
  5. Windsor – Castle is the1000 year old family home to British royalty, gardens, audio tours, heritage
  6. Oxford – Home to the prestigious Oxford University, literature, old buildings, art, history, culture, small town English charm
  7. Canterbury – Located in Kent, most famous cathedral in England, World Heritage Site and seat of the Church of England.
  8. The Cotswolds – Nature, architecture, walks, English countryside, picturesque setting

Top 7 Places To Visit In Scotland

  1. Lake District – Lakes, scenic beauty, nature, National Parks, coastal village towns, literary inspirations, countryside
  2. Isle of Skye – Island joined to mainland by bridge, castles, nature, landscapes, scenery, and wildlife
  3. Edinburgh – Capital of Scotland, palaces, castles, Old Town, Royal Mile, Royal Yacht Britannica, Princes Street, famous for Scotch whiskey. Read our Edinburgh travel guide Edinburgh Travel Guide here.
  4. Glasgow – Galleries, museums, city life, vibrant music scene, cathedral, shopping centre
  5. Inverness – Scenic beauty, old town charm, Victorian Market, theatre, cathedral, gallery, museum
  6. Stirling – Historical town, Stirling Castle, monuments, Abbey Craig hill, churches 
  7. Oban – Idyllic resort town, tower, monument, church, scenic beauty, whiskey tours at distillery, castle, museum.

Top 5 Places To Visit In Wales

  1. Snowdonia – Mountains, trekking, climbing, walks, nature, beaches, train journey, picturesque natural views
  2. Conwy – Walled market town, 13rh century castle, harbour, suspension bridge, old town houses, history and heritage
  3. Caernarfon Castle – Royal town, port, history, castle, scenic beauty, old world charm
  4. Pembrokeshire – Coastline, Pembroke castle, national park, landscape, scenic views, natural beauty
  5. Devil’s Bridge and Hafod Estate – Architectural marvel, waterfalls, scenic beauty, nature, wildlife, scenic beauty

Top 4 Places To Visit In Northern Ireland

  1. Belfast – Titanic Museum, Irish history, architectural masterpieces, museum, city life, botanical gardens
  2. Antrim – Castles, towers, Church of Ireland, picturesque town situated by a river, parks and gardens
  3. Londonderry – Town of Irish history, bridge, museum, guildhall, cathedral
  4. Ballycastle – Coastal town, beach, castle, outstanding natural beauty

Highlights Of The UK

London – The bustling capital city and one of the world’s most popular cities, with a scintillating art and culture scene has something in it for everyone. It has the world’s best museums, a vibrant food scene, high-street fashion, art and culture, music for all tastes, world class education and business facilities. Not to forget that sports enthusiasts can enjoy soccer, cricket, horse racing, cycling and various other sports. Read our detailed London travel guide here.

Royal Heritage – The Royal family of England is the most famous in the whole world. Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth II has been holding the title of Crown Monarch for the past 67 years. She and her family live in Buckingham Palace and various other palaces and castles around the United Kingdom. Tourists to London mark Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle on their must-see places to visit.

Historical Castles – The UK is rich in its history and has an abundance of castles dotted all over. It is said that England itself has over 4000 castles, some still standing proud and others in various stages of disrepair. Travel enthusiasts definitely visit the famous castles as a trip to the UK remains incomplete without it. The most famous castles are: Windsor Castle, Warwick Castle, Dover Castle, Caernarfon Castle, Alnwick Castle, Edinburgh Castle and many more.

The Countryside  – The Enid Blyton books of our childhood are full of romantic descriptions of the English countryside, full of flowers and birds and tall trees. Truth be told, various places in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland have charming villages, sleepy hamlets and picturesque towns set amidst stunning natural beauty. The Cotswolds in Southern England, the North Welsh coastal resorts, the Lake District in Scotland all have amazing views where tourists can enjoy the countryside in all its glory.

Museums and Galleries – Britain had colonized many countries in the past and was a world superpower to be reckoned with. For those who are interested in the history and culture of a place, the UK is a veritable treasure trove of museums and art galleries. The British Museum, National Gallery, Victoria and Albert Museum, Natural History Museum, Tate Modern etc. contain spellbinding artifacts from the past.

Beaches and Coastal Flavor – The UK is an island nation that has over 31 thousand kilometers of coastline. The beaches of the UK are very diverse. In the south from Cornwall to Brighton the beaches on the English Channel are gorgeous in their own right. The famous white cliffs of Dover, across from the Channel to France have been mentioned in many a literary work. In the north, the North Sea beaches in Scotland have a different rugged beauty. The UK coastline is a feast for the eyes.

World Heritage Sites – The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has marked several noteworthy places as World Heritage Sites in the UK. From the Castles and Town walls built by King Edward in Gwynedd, to the City of Bath in Somerset England and the magnificent Neolithic structures of Stonehenge – there are numerous sites that are awe-inspiring and mesmerizing.

National Parks – The 15 designated National Parks in the UK capture different flora, fauna, natural surroundings and have a lot to offer for any wildlife or nature enthusiast. The highland parks of Loch Lomond and Trossachs National park are distinctly different from the Welsh countryside where the Brecon Beacon Park is located. The Pembrokeshire coast, The North York Moors, Snowdonia and South Downs national park are all stunning in terms of natural beauty.

UK Travel Tips On A Budget

The UK is notoriously expensive given that the pound sterling is one of the most expensive currencies. The cost of living is high, things to buy are expensive and there is an ever-rising inflation trend. But you can travel to the UK on a budget as well if you plan well.

Time of Travel Travel in the off-season to save money on tickets and accommodation. Late April to August, and then later in the year, early September to November are usually the peak seasons in the UK.
Getting There Always book your flight ticket early. Luckily, London is one of the most well-connected cities. Many airlines run promotions and offers (especially in the lean tourist season). So you can get cheap air tickets.
Accommodation Opt for hostels around the UK to save money. Go for self-catering apartments or bed-and-breakfast accommodations. Also remember, centre of town will always be more expensive. Look for places slightly away from the city center. But stay close to a mass-transport system so that you can reach the tourist attraction easily.
Food Meals at restaurants can be very expensive. In Central London, for example, it can cost 15£ minimum. Plan ahead and visit supermarkets for fresh cheap produce that can be whipped up into a meal at the hostel kitchen. You will find pocket-friendly meal deals at supermarkets too that will save both time and money. There are even Michelin star restaurant (for that one memorable meal) where you will find fixed-price affordable menus.
Sightseeing Find free things to see and do in the United Kingdom. It could be a photo-op in front of the Big Ben (free) or an interesting walk through a museum (many are open to the public for free). Don’t forget to check out walking tours in various parts of the UK. For a nominal tip you can find out history and fun facts about the places you visit, that too from a local.
Use a Pass Get the London Pass. It gives you free entry to 50 places in the city. Plus, you will also get many discount offers on food and entertainment. There is a similar pass even in Edinburgh, which also includes free bus travel. The Oyster Card is popular both with tourists and locals. It is the most affordable way to pay for intra-city travel in the UK.
Intercity Travel Take inter-city trains to save money. Interestingly, as the date of journey draws closer, even budget airlines can be cheaper than train tickets. A flight of 1hour 25minutes from London to Edinburgh may cost as less as 10£ if booked at the right time. This apart there are comfortable buses that offer cheap inter-city travel options allowing views of the countryside as you go.
Shopping Almost every town in the UK boasts high-street fashion labels. But you can still shop on a budget. There are brands where the merchandise is pretty fabulous for the prices. Primark, TopShop, Uniglo, TKMaxx, Forever 21 etc are some of these affordable shopping places.

 

Best Time To Visit The UK

Tourists visit the UK all through the year. For most visitors, there is no extreme weather that must be avoided. Each season has its own charm. The drier months are March-June and September to November. The flowers of spring (March-June) and the turning of the leaves (September to November) make these the prettiest time to visit the country. Summer months of June to August sees the maximum inflow of tourists. The UK is charming in its own right during the winter months of December and January.

Best Season To Visit The UK

Spring – After the harsh winter months, spring is a natural wonder. The UK with its abundant flora and fauna looks and feels beautiful at this time of year. The early days of March can still carry a nip in the air. A light coat or jacket is advised. Spring is the time when flowers bloom, frosts melt and greenery resurfaces. Sudden sharp showers characterize these months so an umbrella or waterproof clothing and shoes will help.

Summer – This is the busiest tourist season in the UK. There are long days of brilliant sunshine. In some years ‘heat waves’ have also been recorded during mid-summer. The occasional thunderstorm from June to August is not uncommon. British summers are rarely dry. On the days that are sunny and the weather is good, people can be seen outdoors celebrating the good weather. Any light clothing is good for this time of year as temperatures reach 30 degrees Celsius or slightly over. Having a waterproof jacket or umbrella handy works out well.

Autumn – This is the most temperamental season of all in the UK. The countryside is stunning with the turning of leaves. September and October can often have summery days followed by chilly nights. Snow in November is not uncommon. Rain occurs multiple times during the day in this period. Layering clothes works best in autumn. Even when just wearing a jeans and shirt/top it is advisable to carry a medium coat or jacket in preparation for changes in the weather.

Winter – The UK serves up an absolute treat when visited during the winter months. Contrary to popular belief, through November to February there are magical experiences to be had for travelers to the nation. However, temperatures fall below freezing on many winter nights. There is snow in most parts of the country. Travelers newly experiencing cold weather are warned of black ice and sleet. The winter months are also rainy and windy often causing the ground underfoot to be extremely slippery. Driving in such weather can also be a challenge. A heavy coat for the winter is a must with something lighter that can either be layered inside or worn on sunny winter mornings and afternoons. An umbrella goes a long way, even in the winters.