The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (the United Kingdom or the UK) is a constitutional monarchy comprising most of the British and Irish Isles, and one of the world's wealthiest nations.The Union comprises four constituent nations: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. It occupies all of the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern portion of the island of Ireland and most of the remaining British Isles. It counts... Read more...
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The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (the United Kingdom or the UK) is a constitutional monarchy comprising most of the British and Irish Isles, and one of the world's wealthiest nations.
The Union comprises four constituent nations: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. It occupies all of the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern portion of the island of Ireland and most of the remaining British Isles. It counts Ireland, France, Belgium and Netherlands as its nearest neighbours. The Isle of Man and the various Channel Islands are "crown dependencies", possessing their own legislative bodies with the assent of the Crown. They are not part of the United Kingdom, nor of the EU, but are not sovereign nations in their own right either.
The 'Great' in Great Britain (Grande-Bretagne in French) is to distinguish it from the other, smaller "Britain": Brittany (Bretagne) in northwestern France.
The UK today is a diverse patchwork of native and immigrant cultures, possessing a fascinating history and dynamic modern culture, both of which remain hugely influential in the wider world. Although Britannia no longer rules the waves, the UK is still a popular destination for many travellers. The capital and largest city of the United Kingdom is London.
The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy with a king or queen as the head of state and a prime minister as the democratically elected head of government. The Prime Minister ("PM") is not elected directly but is the leader of the largest party or coalition of elected Members of Parliament (MPs) in the House of Commons. After a general election, it is this leader is then invited by the monarch to form a government. MPs are elected in 646 electoral districts (constituencies) from throughout the UK. The upper house of Parliament is the House of Lords. The lords gain their seats either by inheritance of a title (hereditary peers), appointment for life (life peers) or being one of the twenty-six most senior bishops in the Church of England (spiritual peers).
In response to movements in Scotland and Wales for self-determination, both countries have recently formed their own democratic bodies, the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly, with varying degrees of power, mostly concerning with taxation and eduction, while still sending MPs to the UK parliament to London, which remains responsible for all other matters, including international relations. England has no national government of its own, and is directly governed by Westminster; recent years have seen growing concern about this amongst the English, especially since many unpopular laws have recently been imposed on England by Westminster against the vote of English MPs, due mostly to Scottish Labour MPs voting with the government. Northern Ireland was long self-governed in the same manner that Scotland and Wales are today but rising political tensions led to this being dissolved in 1973. Self-government was returned to the province in 2007 as part of the Northern Ireland Act of 1998.
London Heathrow Airport is the world's busiest international airport and argueably one of the worst. Situated 15 miles west of Central London, Heathrow offers a large choice of international destinations, with direct flights to most countries in the world. British Airways has its hub at Heathrow and offers a wide range of international flights to Europe, North America, Asia, Africa and Australia. There are fewer direct flights to South America, although many South American airlines connect to London via Spain. Other large airlines operating at Heathrow include bmi (formerly British Midland) http:///flybmi.com, Virgin Atlantic and the main national airlines of most countries. London Gatwick Airport, 30 miles south of London in Sussex, is the second largest airport, and also offers a wide range of international flights. London Stansted Airport in Essex, and London Luton Airport are hubs for the budget airlines Ryanair and easyJet who offer direct flights to a wide range of European destinations. London City Airport is the most central airport in London, situated 7 miles east of Central London, but mainly serves business passengers to the main financial centres in Europe.
Outside London, many of the regional airports offer a wide range of direct links to European and some long haul destinations. Manchester International Airport in the North of England, is the UK's third largest airport serving many European and long haul destinations. Liverpool John Lennon Airport is the UK's fastest growing airport which is taking on more and more flights-located in North West England. Jet2.com is based at Leeds Bradford with many cheap flights to Europe and beyond. Cardiff International http://www.cwlfly.com is the main international airport in Wales, it is a major hub of bmibaby. Meanwhile easyjet, FlyBe, Ryanair and bmibaby maintain hubs at other regional airports. Other large airports in the regions include Birmingham International http://www.bhx.co.uk/, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Bournemouth, Bristol, Southampton, East Midlands, Leeds/Bradford, Newcastle and Teesside/Durham Tees Valley. In Northern Ireland, Belfast International Airport is the major airport with international flights, although some transfer flights may take you to Belfast City Airport. City of Derry Airport also offers a limited number of international and domestic flights.
Due to an increase in airport security and aviation security in general, long delays are possible when checking in for a flight. Additionally a passport or valid photo ID (such as photo drivers license, national ID card etc.) is required for internal flights although no visas or travel permits are required.
Airport tax is applied to both international and internal flights (£20 on international flights, £14 on internal flights) so check if it is included in any quoted air fares.
From Belgium and FranceEurostar services run between London (St Pancras International), Ebbsfleet Valley Ebbsfleet and Ashford (England) Ashford and Paris (Gare du Nord), Lille and Brussels through the Channel Tunnel. Journey times average two hours fifteen minutes from Paris. A second class return from Paris to London costs between €85 and €230, although it can be cheaper to fly from London to Paris using a low-cost airline (but bear in mind that the journeys to the airports will cost an extra €40-60). There are a limited number of direct services from other destinations in France also.
The main benefit of using the Eurostar is that it runs between the central zones of its destination cities, removing the necessity of accessing the relevant airports on the outskirts of cities (potentially very time-consuming!), and of undergoing several uncomfortable modal changes.
From The NetherlandsStena Line (Hook of Holland to Harwich)Combined train and ferry tickets are available to travellers from stations in the Netherlands to Train Stations in East Anglia, Essex and East London. This service may be more useful alternative to Eurostar for travellers from Northern Europe, or for those wishing to travel to East Anglia. The interchange between the ferry terminal and the train station at both ports is very simple and user friendly. Express Trains from Harwich International, are timed to meet the ferry and allows a simple transfer to London Liverpool Street. The Dutch Flyer website http://www.dutchflyer.co.uk/whatisthe_dutchflyer.asponly gives prices for tickets purchased in Great Britain, it does however give timetable information. Stena's Dutch language website allows booking of tickets for journies starting from the Netherlands. http://www.stenaline.nl/stenaline/home-_netherlands/nl/londen.html.
An extensive national public transport journey planner for the UK is available on the Traveline website http://www.traveline.org.uk/index.htm.
Transport Direct also operate a website for all modes of transport, including planes, cars, and allows comparisons to be made with public transport options http://www.transportdirect.info
Given the short distances involved it may be more practical and cheaper to use other forms of transport than internal flights. The main domestic hubs are London, Birmingham (England) Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh. The arrival of budget airlines Ryanair http://www.ryanair.com and easyJet http://www.easyjet.com at London's Gatwick, Luton and Stansted Airports saw a boom in domestic UK air travel, and have forced the cost down considerably. In Scotland, Loganair operate a British Airways franchise serving remote destinations in the Scottish Highlands and Islands from Glasgow and Edinburgh Airports (flights are booked through the British Airways website).
To get the best fare, it is advisable to book as far in advance as possible. It is worth noting that most UK regional airports are not connected to the national rail network, with connections to the nearest cities served by expensive buses.
Photo ID is required before boarding domestic flights in the UK.
The following carriers offer domestic flights within the United Kingdom:
British Airways-Aberdeen, Barra, Benbecula, Campbeltown, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Islay, Isle Of Man, Jersey, Kirkwall, London City, London Gatwick, London Heathrow, Londonderry, Manchester, Newcastle, Newquay, Shetland Islands (Sumburgh), Stornoway, Tiree, Wick airports.FlyBE-Aberdeen, Belfast City, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Doncaster-Sheffield, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Guernsey, Inverness, Isle Of Man, Jersey, Leeds/Bradford, Liverpool, London Gatwick, Manchester, Newcastle, Newquay, Norwich, Southampton, Southend airports.Eastern Airways-Aberdeen, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Durham, Humberside, Inverness, Isle Of Man, Leeds/Bradford, Manchester, Newcastle, Norwich, Nottingham East Midlands, Southampton, Stornoway, Wick airports.bmi-Aberdeen, Belfast City, Durham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Jersey, Leeds/Bradford, London Heathrow, Manchester, Norwich, Southampton airports.easyJet-Aberdeen, Belfast International, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Liverpool, London Gatwick, London Luton, London Stansted, Newcastle airports.bmibaby-Aberdeen, Belfast International, Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Jersey, Manchester, Newquay, Nottingham East Midlands airports.Ryanair-Aberdeen, Bournemouth, Glasgow-Prestwick, Inverness, Liverpool, London Stansted, Londonderry, Newquay, Nottingham East Midlands airports.Air Southwest-Bristol, Cardiff, Jersey, Leeds/Bradford, London Gatwick, Manchester, Newquay, Plymouth airports.Aurigny Air Services-Alderney, Bristol, Guernsey, Jersey, London Gatwick, London Stansted, Manchester, Southampton airports.Blue Islands-Alderney, Bournemouth, Brighton, Cardiff, Guernsey, Isle Of Man, Jersey, Southampton airports.Loganair-Eday, Kirkwall, North Ronaldsay, Papa Westray, Sanday, Stronsay, Westray airports.Euromanx-Belfast City, Isle Of Man, Liverpool, London City, Manchester airports.Isles Of Scilly Skybus-Bristol, Exeter, Isles Of Scilly (St. Mary's), Newquay, Southampton airports.Jet2-Belfast International, Blackpool, Leeds/Bradford, London Gatwick, Newcastle airports.Thomsonfly-Cardiff, Coventry, Doncaster-Sheffield, Jersey, London Luton airports.VLM Airlines-Isle Of Man, Jersey, Liverpool, London City, Manchester airports.Air Berlin-Belfast City, Glasgow, London Stansted, Manchester airports.Highland Airways-Anglesey, Benbecula, Cardiff, Inverness, Shetland Islands (Sumburgh), Stornoway airports.XL Airways-Brize Norton (RAF Station), Glasgow, London Gatwick, London Stansted airports.British International-Isles Of Scilly (St. Mary's), Isles Of Scilly (Tresco), Penzance airports.flyWhoosh-Belfast International, Birmingham, Dundee airports.Go One Airways-Coventry, Gloucestershire, Oxford airports.ScotAirways-Dundee, Edinburgh, London City airports.Air France-Belfast City and London City airports.Atlantic Airways Faroe Islands-Stansted and Shetland Islands (Sumburgh) airports.Flyglobespan-Durham Tees Valley and Jersey airports.MyTravel Airways-Belfast International and Glasgow airports.Zoom Airlines-Cardiff, Glasgow, Manchester airports.
in the North of Scotland. There is a huge multitude of different train tickets available, which can often make travelling by train in the UK fairly complicated. Generally, if you book 7 to 14 days in advance the journey is often cheaper. Avoid travel during peak times (6-9.30am, 4-7pm Monday to Friday) as trains are often crowded, and in the former (and on some routes in the latter as well) tickets prices are extremely high. Visitors from outside of the United Kingdom may also purchase multi-day passes which allow for unlimited rail travel on nearly all rail lines. These are available for the area around London, the entirety of England, the entirety of the United Kingdom and even a pass that includes the Republic of Ireland. These can be purchased in four, eight, and fifteen day increments (and either successive day or flexi which allows the days of uses to be spread out). These are available through independent providers and must be purchased before arrival in the United Kingdom. (There is a rail pass available for travel within Great Britain for seven and fourteen consecutive days, which can be bought within Great Britain and by residents as well as visitors. This costs about twice as much as the pass available to tourists from outside the United Kingdom, and cannot be used on the London Underground or on Heathrow Express (or on Heathrow Connect west of Hayes & Harlington ).)
Train services seldom match their high-speed counterparts in France or Germany (the UK does have high-speed rail links up to 125mph, however these are no match for the TGV in France and the ICE train in Germany), but nonetheless are often faster than driving a car. Train frequencies are generally very good, although punctuality varies with operating company-some have dipped to 60-70% in recent years (arriving within 10 minutes of the advertised time). Delays of 30 minutes are not uncommon, so if you need to be somewhere urgently, get an earlier train.
Be aware that many popular tourist corridors have no rail service, or only an extremely indirect (and consequently slow and expensive) rail service. For example, there is no rail service to St. Andrews, and the rail routes between Carlisle and Stranraer (for ferries to Northern Ireland ), between Cambridge (England) Cambridge and Milton Keynes or Oxford and between Kyle of Lochalsh and Mallaig are particularly indirect, lengthy and expensive.
The railways in England, Wales and Scotland were originally built and operated by numerous private companies, mostly in the 19th century. After nearly 150 years of independence (and successive amalgamations which consolidated them into four large companies by 1923) they were nationalised as 'British Rail' in 1947, but they were privatised again in the 1990s. The track has recently reverted to state control as 'Network Rail', but the trains are run by a number of different private operators referred to as the 'Train Operating Companies'.
Privatisation has resulted in a huge range of quality and price of rail services. While some connections and companies have poor standards of speed, reliability and cleanliness others offer excellent service and value for money. However tickets can be bought from any station for travel to and from anywhere on the network and it is perfectly normal to get a connection changing from one company to another.
Probably the best place to find all train times and fares as well as buy fares for collection from a machine at the station can be found on the National Rail website (run by the train operating companies) or by calling 08457 484950 from anywhere in the UK. Tickets can also be booked online through various private agents such as National Express. Fares vary widely depending on when you travel and when you book.
A second class return ticket from London to Manchester can cost anything from one to 219 pounds, depending on how, when and where the ticket is booked. As a general rule, tickets should be booked as early as possible. Also bear in mind that it is sometimes cheaper to buy a return ticket than a single so check the price of both. If there are 3 or 4 of you, ask if you can get groupsave tickets. Most routes, off peak, allow a group of 3 or 4 to travel for the price of 2.
International guests have the opportunity to pre-purchase rail passes that are not available in the UK. These BritRail passes give access to the complete network for a set number of days. The passes also allow travellers to hop on and off trains at any station. These passes can be bought online though BritRail.com. Inter Rail tickets may be used in Britain but not Eurail tickets.
The main cross country services are:The West Coast Main line, operated by Virgin Trains, running north-south between London's Euston Station, and up the west coast of England, with stops at Rugby, Crewe, Manchester, Liverpool, Preston, the Lake District, Carlisle, and on to Scotland, with stops at Motherwell and Glasgow 's Central Station.
The East Coast Main line, operated by National Express, runs between London's King Cross Station and north up the east coast of England with stops at Peterborough, Doncaster, Leeds, York, Darlington, Durham (England) Durham, Newcastle upon Tyne Newcastle and onwards to Scotland with stops at Edinburgh and Glasgow. Some services continue further north to Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness.
The West of England and South Wales main line, operated largely by First Great Western, running west from London's Paddington station to Penzance, near Land's End in Cornwall and Swansea in Wales. The line runs through Slough and Maidenhead to Reading (England) Reading and then divides. One route goes through Swindon, Chippenham and Bath (England) Bath to Bristol (Temple Meads Station) and then on to Taunton, where it rejoins the other route direct from Reading (England) Reading via Newbury and Thatcham and Westbury. From Taunton, the line continues through Exeter to Plymouth (England) Plymouth and finally to Penzance. The South Wales route diverges from the Bristol line after Swindon, making stops at Bristol Parkway (a station in the north of the city with extra parking), and then in Wales at Newport (Wales) Newport, Cardiff, a few minor stops, and finally Swansea. Some trains do go onto Carmarthen and in the Summer to Tenby and Pembroke Dock, but generally passengers traveling further west need to change in Swansea.
East Midlands Main Line, operated by East Midlands Trains, running from London St Pancras International to Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield with stops at Luton, Bedford, Wellingborough, Leicester (amongst others) with some services continuing on to Leeds.
CrossCountry, operated by Arriva Trains, serves most British cities using its fleet of Voyager diesel trains. CrossCountry's hub is Birmingham New Street station, from where it runs services to Manchester, Preston, Leeds, several Wales Welsh destinations, Scotland and many others.
The Great Eastern line, operated by National Express, running from London Liverpool Street to Norwich, with main stops at Ipswich (England) Ipswich, Chelmsford (England) Chemlsford and Colchester (Essex) Colchester. Some trains continue on to Harwich (England) Harwich.
The Caledonian Sleeper Services operated by First ScotRail, runs between London Euston and destinations in Scotland. There 2 services that leave every night (except Saturday), the Lowland Sleeper and the Highland Sleeper. The Lowland sleeper leaves Euston then picks up passengers at Carlisle and Carstairs it then splits. Half the train heads to Edinburgh and the other half goes on to Motherwell and Glasgow. The Highland Sleeper stops at Crewe and Preston to pick up more passengers before splitting up into 3 trains that terminate at Aberdeen, Fort William, and Inverness and stopping at many stations on route. There are 3 classes available, First, Standard and Seated Sleeper. First and Standard have cabins with full beds in. First Class gives you a private cabin, is higher quality, includes food and has other benefits. Standard class has a shared cabin with washbasin, includes a morning tea/coffee and a snack. Solo travellers are warned that they may have to share the cabin with a fellow passenger of the same sex. Seated Sleeper gives you and airline style reclining seat. There is a lounge car for use of First and Standard passengers, food and drink may be bought here either to be consumed the lounge car or in your cabin. Tickets, particularly for Standard and Seated Class are lower if booked 7 days in advance. Booking cannot be done though the normal National Rail booking system. It is best to book direct with First ScotRail online, by phone (08457 55 00 33) or at Euston or any of the main Scottish stations.
Other domestic rail services which are not part of the National Rail network include the Heathrow Express service between London Heathrow Airport and London Paddington, the London Underground system, and several smaller metro or light rail systems in other cities. For details of these see articles on the city in question.
Train services in Northern Ireland are operated by the state owned Translink, who also operate rural and urban buses within Northern Ireland. Train services in Northern Ireland are, however quite limited. The main line travels from Londonderry in the north west, hugging the north coast before it travels cross-country to Belfast. From Belfast, the cross-border Enterprise service operates with stops in Portadown, Drogheda, Dundalk and Dublin. Recent major investment has led to the vast majority of rolling stock in Northern Ireland being replaced. Train services in Northern Ireland are not part of the National Rail network. Train and bus times can be found on Translink's web site, or by calling 028-9066-6630 from anywhere in the UK or +44-28-9066-6630 from outside the UK.
All of the UK drives on the left-the opposite side from Europe and the USA, but the same as Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Africa. In general, driving in the UK could be a frustrating experience for visitors from countries that drive on the right-in one well-publicised incident, Hollywood actor Matthew Broderick was involved in an accident in Northern Ireland in which he ploughed head-on into another car because he was on the wrong side of the road.
On the brighter side, a car will get you pretty much anywhere in the UK. Parking can be a problem in large cities, and especially in London, can be very expensive. Petrol (gasoline) is heavily taxed and therefore expensive, currently at around £1.25 per litre (around €1.57 per litre, US$8.97 per US gallon). There are very few tolls (mainly on some large bridges/tunnels) but a levy (congestion charge) of £8 (€11.10, US$15.98) is payable for driving in central London. Traffic can be very heavy, especially during 'rush hour', when commuters are on their way to and from work-typically 7-10am and 4-7pm. The M25 London orbital motorway is particularly notorious (known to most Britons as London's car park because all the traffic comes to a standstill)-it is best avoided on Monday mornings and Friday afternoons, and only use it if you need to. School holidays can make a noticeable difference, however, particularly in the morning rush hour. Many cities operate a Park and Ride scheme, with car parks on the edge of the city and cheap buses into the city centre, and you should consider using them.
Speed limits for cars are 70mph (112 km/h) (on motorways and dual carriageways; 60mph (96 km/h) on single carriageway roads unless otherwise signposted; and 30mph (48 km/h) in built-up unless signs show otherwise. The use of 20mph (32 km/h) zones has become increasingly common to improve safety in areas such as those around schools. Enforcement cameras are widespread on all types of road, though more used in some areas than others ( North Yorkshire, for example, has a policy of using only mobile speed cameras operated by police). There are some variable mandatory speed limits on the M25 to the west of London, and the M42 near Birmingham-these are shown on overhead gantries inside a red circle; other temporary speed limits shown on matrix boards are recommended but not mandatory. Apart from these and around roadworks, the motorways are generally free of fixed speed cameras. Speeds on motorways are generally much higher than the stated speed limit (usually at least 80mph), and visitors are advised to be aware of this and stick to the inside lane. Driving at slower speeds in the outside (overtaking lane) may cause frustration to other drivers.
Despite the fact that the Traffic Police have now largely been replaced by speed cameras, driving standards still remain relatively well-maintained in the UK, with the road system being (statistically) among the safest in Europe. It has long been known by visitors (and an increasing number of British) that a foreign licence plate makes you largely immune from speed cameras, congestion charge cameras and Traffic (Parking) Wardens, but do not abuse this. You may just hit upon the one Camera Operator/Warden who can be bothered to take the trouble to track down your address from your home licensing authority. Note that the British authorities have access to vehicle registration databases from various other countries. Also, British hire car companies will charge speeding fines to your credit card, long after you have left the country. Police in some areas have begun to occasionally stop foreign-registered cars at random to simply confirm that the owners are not in fact British drivers evading UK road tax / insurance / annual vehicle inspections etc. Although it is quite rare to see a Traffic Police car nowadays, some do still prowl the motorways in un-marked cars. Any police officers, regardless of their normal duties, will pursue a vehicle seen driving dangerously.
Don't drink and drive in the UK. The maximum limit is 80 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood (0.08%) The police often patrol roads in cities and town centres on Friday and Saturday night, on the lookout for drink drivers. Police must have reason to suspect you have been drinking-they cannot randomly issue breath tests, however, the law is such that police may stop you for committing any moving traffic offence, for example, not having your seatbelt on or even failing to indicate at a junction. These minor traffic offences will give authority to police to conduct a breath test. The police may also stop you if they suspect the person to have been drinking alcohol or if you have been involved in a motor vehicle collision (Road Traffic Collision). Enforcement of drink driving laws are extremely strict and police will always take strict action on those failing a breath test or those refusing to do so. Do not abuse this as penalties are severe. Fines are up to £5000 (€7400, US$10, 256), minimum driving ban is 12 months for a first offence, and you may be imprisoned for up to 6 months. Note that a refusal to provide a breath test will result in penalties almost as severe as those for drink driving itself. Failing a breath test or refusing to give a sample of breath when requested by police will result in your immediate arrest and transport to a police custody suite where a police doctor will draw a sample of blood. A separate charge of failing to provide a specimen of breath will be added to your criminal charges. A conviction will triple your car insurance, the code will stay on your licence for 11 years, and can make it difficult to find employment.
Drivers from abroad should take note that many British drivers regard the flashing of headlights as a signal that they can proceed, rather than as a warning. This misunderstanding has led to a number of accidents. In a dangerous situation, where there is a risk of death or injury, sound your horn, even during the night (use of the horn is illegal between 23:00 and 07:30).
It is also an offence to use your mobile phone whilst driving, although provision is made for the use of handsfree kits which are exempt from the law. Police will stop you for using your mobile phone and a £60 Penalty will be issued on the spot. This fine will be accompanied with 3 points endorsed on your license. Also, it is a legal requirement that all persons in a vehicle to be wearing their seatbelt. Persons not wearing a seatbelt may receive a £30 fine, although this does not come with any points. If a child is not wearing a seatbelt, the parent or guardian, normally the driver, is responsible and a fine will be issued for that offence also. Children under 1.4 metres are also legally required to use a child booster seat for safety reasons. Use of fog lights where there is no fog is also an offence for which you may receive a £30 fine.
By bus and coach
Local bus services are of variable quality and cost. Rural bus services are in general better than in France and the USA, but not so good as in Italy or Germany. It is useful to note that many cities and large towns have day cards for there bus networks that can work out as good value. Locals and staff will be willing to help you if you are confused by timetables.
Coach travel tends to be slower (sometimes significantly slower) than train travel as well as less frequent although is comfortable and often much cheaper. Coaches, like trains will also generally take you right to the centre of town.
The largest coach companies in the UK are:
National Express is the largest long distance bus service in the UK, and services all major destinations on the mainland; they sell tickets online and at coach terminals.
CityLink services destinations in Scotland, they sell there tickets online, by text, or from the driver although it is always advised to book your tickets in advance.
Megabus is a relatively new service that goes between major destinations at cut-throat prices, as low as £1 (+50p booking charge) for some routes if booked well in advance. To get the cheapest fares you should book a week or two ahead. However fares are often still good value when booked with less time (sometimes £8 London-Manchester only booked 2 days in advance). Tickets must be bought online or using the booking line (0900 160 0900) and cannot be bought from the driver.
There are different types of taxi in the UK.
In London, strictly regulated Black Cabs (not always Black) can be easily recognised by the unique vehicle type. The drivers must pass a strict test on the geography of London, known as the knowledge. These types of vehicle are often found in other major cities, with similarly strict regulation.
Outside London, normal cars and minibuses can usually be licenced as taxis-it is up to the local council how they are distinguished, but they always carry additional plates, usually at the rear, giving details of their approval by the relevant local authority and number of passengers they can carry. Visual identification is almost always through an illuminated sign on the roof, and often through a distinctive colour paintwork.
Minicabs (known as private hire vehicles outside of London) are normal saloon (sedan) cars or vans/minibuses, and are available nationwide. They are similar to taxis, but must be pre-booked from a minicab office or over the phone. Minicabs may be 'metered' as taxis and charge by mileage/time, or 'off-meter' and charge a set rate for a set route. Properly regulated Minicabs will always have a local authority approval plate as with taxis. (connect2taxi is a national portal for minicab firms, by calling connect2taxi you will be automatically connected to a minicab firm close to you, using location technology call: 0871 750 0303)
Any other car or driver offering to take you anywhere may not be licensed or insured; some large cities have a problem with such drivers touting for business so take care, especially if you are female and travelling alone.
Ferries link the mainland to the many offshore islands including the Isle of Wight, Isle of Man, Orkneys and Shetland islands. There are also numerous car and passenger ferry routes between England and France and between Ireland and the UK.
Hitchhiking on Motorways and Motorway junctions is illegal, as well as on certain primary routes, where pedestrians are banned, however, aside from those exceptions, it is not illegal. The British are very aware of safety, and you may expect a long wait for a ride.
If you use signs, it's fairly customary to use the number of the road on them. In other words, from Birmingham to London you wouldn't use a sign LONDON, but rather M25. Two places where signs are quite useful are Land's End and John O'Groats, the two extremes of the country, especially if your sign says the other.
Note that traffic in more remote areas of Scotland and Wales can be quite scarce.
When to go
In some areas petty crime such as pickpocketing can be a nuisance more than a threat, but such crime is not very common in almost anywhere except city centres, etc. Some general points for the worried:
When out and about:Avoid looking like a rich target, don't flash wads of cash or wear massive amounts of jewellery.
Keep your eyes open, if the area is heavily vandalised and there are gangs hanging around, perhaps it's not the best place to stop.
Walking alone anywhere at night should be done with great caution, keep to well light main roads, dont walk through alleyways.
Try not to get too drunk. If you do then get a taxi home.
Like many Western countries, in recent years the UK has developed something of a yob culture : disaffected, and generally younger people adopt anti-social behaviour-usually fueled by binge drinking-and may intimidate others by shouting obscenities or acting tough. They are best ignored. Their language and behaviour can be threatening, but in crowded areas they are usually not dangerous. Be warned though, in deserted or suburban areas they are much more likely to cause trouble, and may even attack you a the slightest provocation, if this happens, dont try to fight them just run. It is not uncommon for youths to carry knives or even guns in some places.
If in doubt or feeling threatened-head towards the nearest obvious authority figure. This can be anyone from a police officer to the local pub landlord.
When using a private car:The UK has one of the highest car theft rates in the world, so be sure to lock the doors if you leaving your car, and its best to park it in a busy area.
Keep the boot (or trunk) locked-in some areas thieves open the boot and snatch bags at the traffic lights.
Keep mobile phones and valuables out of sight-this goes double when you park the car.
Park in well lit places with no cover around the car-if there are bushes, etc. thieves can work on the locks out of sight.
It's worth extending your insurance to cover all costs of window / windscreen replacement, it's not uncommon for thieves to just smash the glass to get in.
When on public transport:Buses and trains: Stay near the driver/conductor when getting on. Be carefull on buses and trains at night (especially in the cities).Taxis: Use licensed black cabs when hailing from the roadside, or alternatively private taxis (minicabs) can be pre-booked. Do Not hail a minicab from the street as this is technically illegal under licensing laws, and the driver will charge you as high a price as he sees fit. When using any taxi it's always worth checking for a licence number, this is displayed next to the number plate. It is not uncommon for second hand black cabs to be put back to work without a licence late on Friday or Saturday nights.
When in public:In some towns it is an offence to drink alcohol in public although this law is widely flouted.
Public nudity is very rare and while not strictly a criminal offence, you can be prosecuted if thought to be with the intention of shocking people.
Sex in public places is illegal.
The age of both heterosexual and homosexual consent is 16 (in Northern Ireland it is 17). However, the age of consent is still 18 where there is a relationship of trust (i.e. between teacher and pupil, counsellor and client etc).
Violent crime is generally perceived to be on the increase; statistics vary wildly from a drop of 10% in the past year to a rise of similar proportions. Much of this can be linked to drug or gang related tension in dangerous areas around the major cities, although tourists are unlikely to be anywhere near this areas. The main causes of concern for most travellers will be at night when pubs and clubs close, especially at taxi queues and in areas where football rivalries are present. Some smaller towns, particularly in the North can be rough. However the UK is not much more dangerous than most other European countries providing sensible precautions are taken.
The police in the UK are very tolerant, although new laws have given them significant power to deal with what they may consider 'yobbish' behaviour. Swearing excessively when speaking to a police officer or to another member of the public may result in a person being placed under arrest or attract an £80 fine, approximately $150, on the spot.
There are now 'Police Community Support Officers' that patrol many areas. They are generally on foot and wear very similar uniforms to that of full police constables though they are not armed with a baton or CS Spray or handcuffs. They are however, not full police officers, but do have some powers to detain a person and issue fines for certain offences. Their powers vary widely across the country.
Non-Caucasian visitors are unlikely to encounter blatant racism or racially-motivated violence. The UK is generally regarded by its own immigrant population as being amongst the more tolerant countries in Europe in this respect (especially when compared to the more obvious 'street racism' met in some Eastern European and Balkan states), but as in every country, you may meet somebody (usually part of a loud group-where alcohol may be a factor) who is the exception to the rule. If any person makes any racially motivated comment that you find offensive, call the police. Race crime is a high priority for police and police action will be virtually guaranteed. There is no serious racial strife at the moment (the only recent issue being a discussion about the wearing of the more conservative face-obscuring veils by some Muslim women-which some British people find a little unnerving). You are very unlikely to come under any threat in public or tourist areas. As above; if in doubt-head for the nearest obvious authority figure. Homosexuality is very much accepted throughout the whole country
Contrary to popular misconception, Northern Ireland is not a dangerous place for Roman Catholics.
The local emergency telephone number is 999, however the EU-wide 112 can also be used. For advice on non-emergency medical problems, you can ring the 24 hour NHS Direct service on 0845 4647 (NHS 24 in Scotland on 08454 242424)
Emergencies can be dealt with under the NHS (National Health Service) at any hospital with a Casualty or A & E (Accident & Emergency) department. At A&E be prepared to wait for up to 4 hours to be seen to if the medical complaint is not serious.
While all treatment by an NHS hospital or doctor is free to British citizens, people from outside the UK will, in many cases, be required to pay for treatment. However citizens of the EU and a small number of other countries can obtain certain treatment if they hold a European Health Insurance Card.
For advice on minor ailments and non-prescription drugs, you can ask a pharmacist (there are many high-street chemists, and all pharmacists must be Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB) registered to legally practice, which involves a university degree and other exams and training), notable pharmacist chains include Boots and Lloyds and many supermarkets also have pharmacists.
STI's are spreading between young people, so make sure you practise safe sex. There are around 50, 000 HIV victims living in Britain. However, HIV is very uncommon, but because of this, people have unprotective sex, getting the virus and not thinking they have it. So, like anywhere else in the world, safe sex is a must!
As a general rule, the further north you travel, the better quality the drinking water. However, tap water is safe to drink everywhere, unless otherwise stated.
Articles and Stories about United Kingdom
Quick Facts about United Kingdom
60,441,457 (July 2006 est.)
English, Welsh (about 26% of the population of Wales), Scottish form of Gaelic (about 60,000 in Scotland), some speakers of the Irish form of Gaelic in Northern Ireland
''summer'': UTC +1 ''winter'': UTC
Country Dialing Code
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In any emergency call 999 or 112 (from a land-line, including pay phones, if you can) and ask for Ambulance, Fire, Police or Coast Guard when connected. In almost all forces throughout the country, calls are graded by the urgency in which police attendance is required. Where there is a significant risk to life or property, police will attend immediately, although for less serious offences, police attendance may be slow if any at all.