England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have claims to be different and distinct. Taken as a whole the United Kingdom contains more heritage, per square mile, than any other nation, tracts of stunningly beautiful countryside, a coastline to die for and some of the most vibrant, multicultural cities on the planet.
Travelling in the UK
You can visit the UK at any time of the year, but avoiding the wet and cold months makes for a better experience (unless you’re a winter sports enthusiast!). The best time to go is from May to September (all of the UK is in summer). Like the rest of Europe, you will need a variety of clothes to suit all weather conditions when you visit the UK. No matter the season, make sure to pack a few of both types of clothing to be prepared for both rain and sun, and always pack things that you can layer if you’re cold.
The UK has relatively strict laws controlling which goods can and cannot be brought into the country. Selective customs checks are run by UKBF at arrival ports. Particularly stringent laws apply to the movement of animals. The British Isles are rabies-free, and the government (and the people) want to keep it that way. Also tapeworms should be kept at bay. Signs in several languages are displayed prominently at even the smallest of boat landings all around the coast. The EU animal passport system makes taking a pet with you easier, providing proof of vaccination against rabies.
England is known for its festivals, so if you can plan your travels around some of the biggest such as the Glastonbury Festival, then you’ll be in for a treat. If you love music while drinking beer and traipsing around a muddy field in your wellies, then you need to experience a true British festival in all its glory.
Accommodation can be quite expensive in the UK, especially if it’s last minute, but there are plenty of options to choose from. From couch surfing and camping all over to hostels, BnBs, hotels and Airbnbs, you will always be able to find a place to stay whether in the city or countryside.
Whether you’re based in the city or the countryside you’ll be able to travel to most places quickly and see a lot during your time in the UK – and Eurostar, international coaches and great flight connections mean that the whole of Europe is also on your doorstep.
Modes of Transportation
There are many options for transport in UK. You can choose to travel by bus, ferry, train, taxi, airplane or even drive on your own. The British transport network is one of the most advanced in the world, boasting in a large number of paved roads, modern railways, airports and so on.
Buses come in all shapes and sizes in the UK. They include double-deckers, single-deckers, and in London, new Routemaster double-deckers, which have doors at the front, centre and rear.
If you want to experience the original open-backed London bus (called a ‘Routemaster’), hop on London bus heritage route 15. It follows the best route for London sightseeing, taking in highlights such as the Tower of London, Trafalgar Square and St Paul’s Cathedral.
Remember that you cannot pay with cash on any London bus; instead you must use a contactless credit or debit card or you can a Visitor Oyster Card, which you top-up with credit. When you get on the bus touch your Oyster card against the reader and the cost of your trip will be deducted from the card.
Taxis and Chauffeur Services
Taxis are readily available: found at taxi ranks and train stations in towns and cities, or you can phone for a taxi. The famous London black cabs are as much of an institution as big red buses and it’s worth experiencing a ride in one. They are very safe and reliable to use as all drivers have to undergo strict tests.
If you want to step it up a notch, and get a taste of classy and classic England, skip the traditional taxi and go with a chauffeur service. If you’re a tourist from the United States, you probably won’t have a true idea of how popular, and common, chauffeur services are in the United Kingdom. Chauffeurs have always been popular in the UK, and they still are. While such a service can be hired for rides to and from anywhere, they’re most popular for airport taxi transfers.
Take the city of Leicester in central England, for example. Since it was founded in the second century BC, Leicester has been a Saxon stronghold, a Roman garrison, and the city that supplied the coal that fired the Industrial Revolution. Today, it’s a top tourist destination known for its sports teams, its friendly locals, and the National Space Centre. While a popular tourist destination, it has no major airport of its own. East Midlands (EMA) and Birmingham (BHX) airports are the closest, with both about an hours drive from Leicester. London Heathrow (LHR) is about a two hour drive. Instead of a boring, traditional taxi, a chauffeur airport taxi transfer from a service such as Cars Exec to or from Leicester provides an opportunity to ride in comfort and class, with a knowledgeable and friendly chauffeur who will be quick to point out sites and attractions along the way.
The UK has a large train network connecting cities and towns around the country – for example, it takes just over two hours to travel by train from London to Cardiff, and just over four hours from London to Edinburgh.
Full-time students and anyone aged 16-25 can apply for a ‘16-25 railcard‘ that allows you to save a third on rail travel throughout the UK. You can also get big discounts if you book in advance or with some group or season tickets.
Cycling Around Towns and Cities
Cycling is of course one of the greenest ways of getting around Britain’s towns and cities. Even smaller towns have somewhere you can hire bikes (see tfl.gov.uk for London). Many city roads have cycle lanes and their own traffic lights. You can also take your bike on trains.
Cycling is very popular in the UK and a great way to get around your town or city, save money and keep fit. Many universities have cycling clubs or cycle buddy schemes and run workshops on bike safety and maintenance. Some UK cities such as London , Liverpool and Belfast have city cycle hire schemes. These allow you to pick up a bike from a docking station for a small cost and return it to a docking station elsewhere in the city within 24 hours.