A-Z of useful information:
If you want information on disabled access in cities, villages and places of interest in the UK, your local Tourist Information Centre can provide assistance for visitors with disabilities. Most transport options in Britain have easy access as well as a number of priority seating areas for the elderly and disabled.
In the event of a serious accident, fire or crime, call 999 from any phone or mobile, and specify to the operator whether you require the fire service, ambulance or police. Most British cities have a 24-hour casualty department for serious life-threatening injuries.
Britain uses 240v AC with a three-pin plug, so you may need an electrical adaptor to fit your electrical appliances.
Britain is served by many international airports that bring in millions of overseas visitors each year.
ATM's are widely available across the country in virtually all towns, cities and most villages. Look out for LINK self-service ATM's, which are free, with the exception of credit, charge and store cards, where you may need to pay a fee. Rates are typically around £1.25 - £1.75.
Britain enjoys plenty of facilities for baby changing in many public toilets in major cities, as well as major shopping centres, supermarkets and department stores. Many cafes, bars and restaurants also offer limited facilities, but it's always best to check with the venue first.
Bank holidays are public holidays in the UK, used to commemorate saint's days, religious festivals and other notable dates. Although employers are not obliged to give their employees the day off, many do. As suggested, most banks are closed on these days. Most tourist sites are open on bank holidays.
British banks are usually open from 09:30 - 16:30 Monday to Friday, and some limited opening times on Saturday mornings from 09:30 to 12:00. Major UK banks can typically be found on many high streets in towns and cities across the country.
British Summer Time (BST) starts on the last Sunday in March, and marks the time when clocks are moved forward one hour from Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). British Summer Time finishes on the last Sunday in October, when the clocks are moved backwards one hour.
Overseas visitors can exchange their currency for the British Sterling (£ - pound) at many Bureaux de Change facilities, located in town and city centres, banks, Post Offices, airports, train stations and travel agencies. Exchange rates can change daily, so always check the current rates before you travel, as it may be prudent to exchange your currency to sterling before you arrive in Britain.
Britain is well connected with a huge range of bus transport options that serve major cities, towns and even small villages across the country.
Car hire rates can be a very useful but sometimes expensive way of travelling around Britain. Expect to pay in the region of £200 - £350 per week to hire a small economical vehicle. Cheaper rates can be found at quieter seasonal times of the year.
As an island country, Britain's weather is determined by its surrounding sea. Atlantic weather moves from the West bringing wind and rain with low pressure, and fine, settled weather with high pressure. British winter can be a little cold, but snow is infrequent apart from northern Britain and Scotland in particular, and more widespread at higher altitudes. It is advisable to bring with you a selection of clothing, including rainwear, a lighweight waterproof jacket.
Credit cards are accepted at virtually all retailers in the UK, with Mastercard and Visa being the most popular. Credit cards can be used to withdraw cash from ATM's (also known as cashpoint machines), making them a useful way of avoiding the charges arising from cashing travellers cheques and exchanging foreign currencies. Should you lose your credit card, report the loss to your credit card provider immediately, and inform the police, who will issue you with a reference number for insurance purposes.
Luckily, Britain is a relatively safe country to visit, although as with all countries there may be certain areas to avoid in any area. The main risk for visitors to the UK is pickpocketing, especially in tourist areas, so keep your bags attended and close to you at all times and be on guard. Avoid areas that are unlit at night, and always use a reputable, licenced taxi company if you are travelling home late at night.
Britain uses the pound (£) as their currency, with paper money coming in £5, £10, £20, and £50 denominations. Try to avoid £50 notes as some retailers won't accept them due to the amount of fakes in circulation. Other currencies are not typically accepted apart from at a few major places in London which may accept Euros and US dollars.
All entrants into the UK must pass through customs. If you have 'nothing to declare' then pass through the green channel. If you have 'goods to declare' then make your way through the red channel. Visitors who arrive from other European Union countries should pass through the blue channel at customs.
If you are seriously injured you should dial the emergency services on 999 or 112 and ask for an ambulance. Alternatively go to your nearest accident and emergency department at a local hospital. Should you fall ill or require a doctor for medication you can make an appointment to see a doctor at a local surgery. Free 24-hour health advice can be obtained from NHS Direct, by calling 0845 4647, or visiting their website.
Motorists in the UK drive on the left hand side of the road. Driving in Britain is safe and easy, although built-up urban areas can be congested, especially at peak times (usually 8-10am and 4-6pm).
Public internet access in Britain is widespread, and most towns and cities provide excellent public wifi coverage. Most cafes, restaurants, bars and libraries (especially in larger towns and cities) provide free wireless internet access in return for a few details. Others provide access for a small hourly or daily rate. Larger towns also have internet cafes for those without a wifi-enabled device.
Britain is generally a very tolerant country for gay and lesbian travellers. Although there may be pockets of homophobia in some areas, many LGBT cultures are flourishing, and some cities including Brighton, London, Manchester have a large gay scene.
Should you lose any of your valuables you should contact your nearest police station to fill in a lost property form. Most airports, train stations and buses operate a lost property service, so get in touch with them if you have lost anything on public transport.
Britain uses the metric system in general, although some exceptions apply. In pubs, beer is sold in pints, with each pint being around 0.5 litres. Speed limits and distances are usually given in miles per hour and miles respectively. Food is generally sold in grams and kilograms, and fuel in litres.
Most towns and cities have plentiful car parking facilities, including those wishing to use short-stay and long-stay parking. Park and Ride facilities operate in many larger towns, enabling shoppers and visitors to park outside the town and ride into the centre on regular buses at very reasonable prices. Avoid parking on double yellow lines, which do not allow parking: traffic wardens operate in force, and you may receive a hefty fine or risk your car being clamped or towed away. Some cities operate red-lines on the road, which mean no stopping.
All foreign visitors to Britain must hold a passport valid for a minimum of six months before entering the country. Once you have cleared the point of immigration (ports, airports etc), you are free to travel across the UK (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) withough having to produce it, although many airports in the country will ask you to produce a valid passport, so always carry it with you if you are taking an internal flight. Should you lose your passport, contact your embassy, and ensure that you make a note of your passport number (a photocopy or scan is a great idea) in case of emergencies.
Shopmobility is a registered charity that allows people to hire electric scooters and wheelchairs to any disabled person who needs them to enjoy the range of shopping and attractions across the country. Anyone with a mobility problem, whether temporary or permanent, can hire a scooter or wheelchair to assist them. For more information about Shopmobility, and for a list of local providers, see the National Federation of Shopmobility, or your local tourist information centre.
Smoking has been banned in all enclosed public spaces, pubs, restaurants, clubs, cinemas and workplaces in Britain since 2007. However, many pubs, bars and restaurants offer outside smoking areas.
In Britain you're not obliged to tip for the service you have received, however there are places where it is recommended to leave a tip: restaurants - 10-15%, perhaps a little more if the service was particularly good or at top-end restaurants; taxis - 10% or rounded to the nearest £. It's not normally necessary to tip bar staff at pubs and bars, although in Liverpool there is a custom of tipping 50p - £1 when ordering a round of drinks.
Most public toilets in Britain are clean and well maintained, although there are always some that are the exception. In some cities public toilets are maintained by a small charge, usually 10-30 pence, although at major venues and train stations this may cost more. Most major department stores, shopping centres, supermarkets and motorway service stations have free toilet and baby-changing facilities. It is usually considered unacceptable for non-customers to use the toilets at pubs, restaurants and cafes. Disabled toilet facilities are available at most larger towns and cities. These can be accessed usuing a 'RADAR' key. Ask at your local tourist information centre for more information about the RADAR key.
Tourist information centres (TICs) allow visitors to access a wide range of information about the local area, including tours, attractions, accessibility options and advice about local accommodation and travel. All TICs offer free help and assistance by trained tourism experts, enabling you to access useful local knowledge and information.
You do not need to pay commission on sterling travellers cheques if you cash them at a bank affiliated with the issuing bank. Valid identification is required when cashing travellers cheques.