Travel to the UK! If you are traveling to the UK for the first time you may be wondering what you need to know before you arrive. What things should you do (or not do) when you are visiting the country? To assist you in planning your first trip to UK, I have compiled 26 Things You Should Know before visiting UK to ensure you have a great time and avoid any blunders along the way.
The United Kingdom is a diverse country that is ideal for exploring at any time of year. The benefit of our erratic summers is that our winters aren’t particularly harsh, so there’s no ‘wrong’ time to visit the UK.
There are literally hundreds of cities and towns to visit, as well as a plethora of castles and a multitude of delicious cheeses (I’m not sure why my mind went to cheeses).
Wherever you intend to visit, it’s always a good idea to become acquainted with some of the local customs, traditions, and freaks that are ingrained in us Brits.
We’re a quirky bunch who enjoy roast dinners, a healthy dose of sarcasm, and lots of vinegar on our chips.
I wanted to share some of the most important things you should know before your next visit, and as you can imagine, one of them had to involve cheese (at this point, I’ve committed to my cheese distraction).
26 Things You Should Know Before Traveling To The UK
Here are 26 important things to know before visiting the UK:
Brits can be a funny lot. Although the country is small, you could spend a lifetime discovering its peculiarities and eccentricities. Regional pronunciation, strange road rules, and its renowned drinking culture can all be dangerous for first-time visitors. Here’s our survival guide for the United Kingdom.
1. There are three nations in Britain – Travel To The UK
First and foremost. The most important fact to remember is that Britain is home to three patriotic nations: England, Scotland, and Wales.
2. Understand the difference between the UK and Great Britain and England
England is a part of both the UK and Great Britain. Scotland and Wales are, too. They are all different countries.
Northern Ireland is a part of the UK but NOT of Great Britain. It is also a nation.
The UK is essentially a political union of the four nations.
Isn’t it complicated!!
3. Tea is central to the national psyche – Travel To The UK
Expect to be offered tea in any situation. Celebrations, commiserations, rainy days, sunny days, and everything in between all call for a good cup of tea. A heated debate rages over whether the milk or tea should be poured first.
4. Brits Rarely Say What They Mean – Travel To The UK
In all circumstances, unfailing politeness is observed. “Sorry” can mean anything from genuine apologies to a passive-aggressive warning that you’re about to be shoved out of the way.
5. A “swift half” will always end in the early hours
Don’t underestimate the English love of tea and tea breaks!
The pub, one of the greatest British traditions, has its own set of rules. Drinks are purchased in rounds, and you should stick to beer, ale, and wine – never shots or cocktails. If you’re invited out for a quick one, plan on crawling back home at the closing time having eaten nothing but half a pack of salt-and-vinegar crisps.
Although coffee is popular in England, tea still reigns supreme. If you work in England, you will notice that everyone takes turns making tea. It is improper to make a cup of coffee without first consulting the rest of your coworkers.
6. Compliments make people nervous
If you compliment a Brit, they’re likely to dismiss it or make a self-effacing remark, no matter how pleased they are. Don’t even start bragging. According to the BBC, “self-praise is known as “blowing your own trumpet” in the United Kingdom and is considered treason.
7. Don’t push in (or invade personal space)
Pushing in is a big no-no in England. We’ve mastered the art of patiently queuing and expect everyone to follow the rules. Que at the back of the line!
If you accidentally push in, no one will challenge you directly, but there will be a lot of tutting and staring!!
8. Avoid traveling during rush hour – Travel To The UK
If you can avoid traveling during peak times (in London or any major city), you will not only save money on fares, but you may also save your sanity.
If you must travel during peak hours, make sure you have a ticket (*an Oyster Card in London) and read point 13 below!
9. Don’t just stay in London – Travel To The UK
There are so many wonderful places to visit in the United Kingdom so please don’t stay in London for your entire holiday.
10. Brits really do talk about the weather – a lot
So be prepared to talk about the weather (a lot!)
When things change this frequently, there’s always something to say. And there is nothing more beautiful than the clear skies and gentle sun of a perfect British summer day.
The English are obsessed with the weather and will discuss it on a regular basis.
If the temperature rises above 16 degrees, expect to see people in T-shirts and shorts; above 23, it’s a heatwave, and people will complain about it a million times a day. Bring an umbrella. Most days, you will require it.
Also, be prepared for rapid changes in the weather. One minute it’s sunny, the next it’s snowing and blowing. And that’s just in the summer.
(*Please note that this is a joke – despite the fact that it is fairly obvious that it does not actually snow in the UK in winter, someone recently wrote to correct me lol!)
Therefore, whether you visit Scotland in the summer or London in the winter, be prepared for unpredictable weather!
11. There are some astonishingly strange place names
Bottom Flash, Cock Alley, Booty Lane, Nether Wallop, and Sandy Balls are all British locations. Yes, really. We made a quiz on the best odd place names because there are so many of them.
12. Queue jumpers will not be treated kindly – Travel To The UK
The other national pastime, after tea drinking, is queuing. “Queue-barging is the worst solecism a foreigner can commit,” says Debretts, a pillar of traditional British values.
13. Don’t stand on the left side on escalators – Stand on the right
If you value your life, always stand to the right when using an escalator. Stick to the left if you want to walk up or down.
This is necessary if you don’t want to annoy the entire population of London. Keep to the right so that faster, younger, or later commuters can pass you at 100 mph.
Some of the stations are deep underground, with steep and long escalators. With rush hour chaos and hundreds of busy commuters, it pays to know exactly where to stand so you don’t get in the way.
Also, avoid making eye contact with anyone on the tube. If you’re traveling alone, bring a book or a free newspaper to avoid making unnecessary eye contact with your fellow passengers!
14. There are more strange traditions that you can count
From cheese rolling to bog snorkeling, Britain’s weird and wonderful festivals and traditions are endless. Eccentricity is one of the most celebrated British characteristics.
15. British food is world-class: Travel To The UK
British cuisine has overcome its poor reputation. From Cornwall to Edinburgh, you’ll find innovative fine dining, hearty roasts, posh pub grub, and exceptional Indian, Vietnamese, and Japanese cuisine, among other things. Britain now even has its own vineyards.
16. Don’t talk about money – Travel To The UK
The British are not particularly comfortable discussing money. When you share how much you earn/spend, it can come across as arrogant and showy.
And certainly not in the north of England. We don’t like it at all.
17. Tipping is generally voluntary (tip 10% for good service)
Tipping is optional in the majority of places in UK. If you want to leave a tip for good service in a restaurant, a 10% tip is usually sufficient. You may find that a 10% service fee has already been added. A tip will not be expected in this case.
If you’re taking a cab in London, simply round up the fare based on the length of your journey.
18. Don’t talk too loudly in restaurants – Travel To The UK
Just a tip, but visitors from certain countries have a reputation for being a little too LOUD. It’s best to keep your conversation with your friends/family/partner private and not share it with the rest of the restaurant.
Pubs, on the other hand, can be much more relaxed, with music, quizzes, and a more relaxed atmosphere.
19. In London, never make eye contact – Travel To The UK
Londoners will avoid eye contact at all costs, no matter how crowded the train or strange the situation. It’s almost unheard of to strike up a conversation with a stranger on public transportation.
20. Outside London, always make eye contact
Outside of London, Brits are generally a friendly bunch who enjoy a good conversation. Expect to be greeted with anything from “alright, pet” in Newcastle to “ey’up duck” in Derbyshire.
21. Don’t forget to drive on the left (or hop on a train) – Travel To The UK
If you decide to take a road trip around the United Kingdom, keep to the left! Most cars in the UK are manual rather than automatic, and roads can be narrow (Cornwall in summer can be interesting!) and highway driving is not for the faint of heart.
On the plus side, the UK’s public transportation system is quite good, and I would recommend taking the train if possible.
There are some fantastic train journeys in the UK, and even if you live in London, you can take day trips by train to many beautiful cities and sights.
22. Pronunciation is important – Travel To The UK
You’d better get familiar with “Worcestershire”, “Marylebone” and “Gloucester”. If you want to get ripped off by a London cabbie, ask to go to “Lie-ces-ter” Square rather than “Less-ter” Square.
23. Some English place names are not pronounced the way you may expect
Some of these places make me second-guess myself. You’ll probably hear a few giggles if you pronounce the names correctly. The list is lengthy, but here are the correct pronunciations for the following:
- Alnwick – Ann/ick
- Bicester – Bister
- Berwick – Ber/ick
- Cambois – Cam/iss
- Torquay – Tor/key
- Leamington Spa – Lemington Spa
- Loughborough – Luff/burrah
- Plymouth – Plim/uth
- Stroud – Strowd
- Morecombe – Mork/um
24. London is not the center of everything in Britain – Travel To The UK
Unless you’re talking to a Londoner, in which case Britain only exists within the M25 motorway.
25. Britain has some of the world’s most gorgeous countryside
The views in the Scottish Highlands, the Brecon Beacons, and the Lake District are among the best in the world. There are numerous places to go if you want to get away from it all.
26. A trip to UK is unforgettable – Travel To The UK
There’s a reason it’s one of the world’s most visited countries. For starters, check out our lists of must-see attractions in Scotland, England, and Wales.
The Rough Guide to Britain can help you see more of the country. Compare flights, book hostels, and hotels, and don’t forget to buy travel insurance before you leave.
Do you now feel more prepared for your UK adventure?
If you are planning a trip to England (the United Kingdom or Great Britain), hopefully, these suggestions will help you decide what to do and what not to do.
One thing to keep in mind is that most of us don’t know who the King is. In fact, I’ve never met him in person and have never been invited to the Palace for a cup of tea. In any case, not yet. Laughs!!!
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