The United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, or more commonly the UK, is a constitutional monarchy with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, as head of state. In addition, the UK has a parliamentary government founded on strong democractic ideals. In fact, the Westminster system has been emulated around the world.
Made up of four constituent countries: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales; the UK is located on the coast of mainland Europe. It is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the North Sea, the English Channel and the Irish Sea. The entire UK has only one land border in Northern Ireland, which shares a land border with the Republic of Ireland. The largest island, Great Britain is linked to France by the Channel Tunnel (also the Chunnel or Eurotunnel), which began operation in 1994.
Planning a Trip
Are you planning a trip to Britain? Then you've stopped by the right place. We're not going to bombard you with special travel offers, just the facts.
The UK is a great place to visit with many stops along the way. Some suggestions of places to visit are Buckingham Palace, the Tower Bridge and one of the many castles still in existence. Browse through our "Famous Locations" section for more information on these attractions.
The United Kingdom is a stable country; however, as became brutally apparent with the terrorist attacks on the transportation system in London in 2005, it is not above dangers from international forces. It also faces an increased risk of violence from the political tension between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, although that risk has greatly diminished in recent years. This is not to suggest that you're going to be attacked while visiting the UK, but proper precautions and measures should be taken to ensure you have a safe and pleasurable traveling experience.
The UK utilizes a national threat level system to inform the general public of the current risk potential and to allow citizens and visitors to understand the increased security measures they may encounter while traveling. To view the current threat level, please visit the UK Home Office.
Also, if traveling to the UK by plane, please visit the UK Department for Transportation's updated Airport Security page for information about restrictions and security measures in place.
For further information please look up your local government's traveling abroad section for further details and advice on traveling. The page for citizens of the United States can be found at http://www.travel.state.gov/.
Driving in the UK
Unlike the United States and continental Europe where traffic moves on the right-hand side of the road, traffic will flow on the left-hand side of the road, with the exception of the territory of Gibraltar. Emergency call boxes are located at half-mile intervals along the motorway and are the best option for contacting authorities in the event of a breakdown or accident. The telephone boxes are orange and designated with an "SOS." White and blue poles are placed at 100-yard intervals to point travelers in the direction of the nearest call box.
Please keep in mind when renting a vehicle that driving a manual transmission may be more difficult as you are used to shifting with your right hand and must adjust to shifting with your left hand. You also will have to adjust to driving from the right front seat of the vehicle as opposed to the left front seat used in the United States and continental Europe.
Before driving in a foreign country take the time to familiarize yourself with their driving rules and regulations. Signs that signify where to park, speed limits, and general directions may not look the same as what you are familiar driving with. You will also run into roundabouts (called Traffic Circles in the US) which can be confusing at first. Take time to look at a map before you hit the road and know which exits you'll need to take before you wind up endlessly driving in circles trying to figure out where you need to go.
To look up rules and regulations for driving in the UK, please visit the UK Department for Transportation's Road Safety page.
In some cases it may not be feasible to rent a car, whether your just staying in the city, concerned about the cost of renting a vehicle or your intimidated by driving on the other side of the road; the public transportation system will get you were you need to go. There are many options for getting around in the UK, traveling by bus, train, coach, ferry or underground (the subway, also referred to as "the tubes").
For more information about public transportation please visit the UK Traveline website, operated by the UK government.
Where to Stay
Obviously, where you stay will depend on what part of Britain you plan to visit and how much you intend to spend. As we are not a travel agency, we won't bombard you with lists of hotels and prices. Instead we'll simply offer a few suggestions.
Scattered across Britain are many castles still in fantastic condition, which are not only great to visit as a tourist, but also make for romantic get-a-ways. You may also be interested in staying at a farm, on a house boat or enjoying the natural beauty of the land while camping. Naturally, you'll also have your choice in exquisite hotels and simple accommodations at hostels; after all it is your vacation, make it the way you want it to be!
There are a variety of travel accommodations sites, both in the United States and in the UK, for you to find the perfect place to stay.
- U.S. Department of State - travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1052.html
- UK Department for Transportation - dft.gov.uk