Once the capital of the British Empire, the United Kingdom is still a fantastic place to visit. With centuries of history, the U.K. is home to some of the best museums in the world including The British Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, The National Gallery and Churchill’s War Rooms. Stop into almost any hotel or cafe in the afternoon and sit down for tea, scones and sandwiches to experience a British tradition—teatime!
Jolly old England may be a bit rainy, but it's full of amazing sights and history galore. Or you can take a short jaunt up to Scotland for some bagpipes and highland games, or over to Wales where a complex language and culture that has endured for thousands of years.
- Currency: British Pound Sterling (GBP)
- Must-See Landmark: Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament
- Must-Try Food: Fish and Chips
- Most Common Languages English
- Emergency Services Telephone Number: 999
The United Kingdom includes England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The rest of Ireland is a separate country with different attractions and travel requirements.
Travel Insurance for the United Kingdom
With a wide range of plans on the market, it may be difficult to select a plan. To find the plan that's best for you, first assess the condition of your health then take a look at your travel plans. From there, you can compare plans side by side with our compare tool. For travelers with pre-existing conditions, senior travelers and those looking for more complete coverage, a comprehensive plan is the best option. If you are looking for basic coverage at an affordable price, a limited plan may be the way to go.
Visas and Documentation
If you are traveling to the United Kingdom for a stay of six months of fewer, you may not need a visa. You will not need a visa if you hold a passport from Australia, the United States, New Zealand, Canada or a European Union country. If you do need a visa for the U.K. you will need it to enter any of the countries that comprise the United Kingdom, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Also, please note that there are not border checkpoints between the countries of Ireland and Northern Ireland. If you are flying directly onto that island, please note that you may have to get a separate visa and go through customs again when traveling to the rest of the United Kingdom or the European Union.
You can use the United Kingdom's visa checking tool to see if you need a visa and, if so, which visa you will need.
With the United Kingdom potentially exiting the European Union, visa requirements and conditions may change in the future. Be sure to double-check with your local government's recommendations before purchasing a visa online.
Weather and What to Pack
The weather can change very quickly in Britain, so it's always a good idea to pack an umbrella and light raincoat. If you are planning to sightsee, consider getting a small fold-up umbrella for your purse or backpack in case you get caught in a rain shower.
Pack closed-toe shoes that are easy to walk in but if you don't want to stand out as a tourist, be sure that you're not wearing white or brightly colored sneakers. Stick with comfortable black or brown dress shoes to blend in with the locals. Coating your shoes with a waterproof spray is also a good idea due to frequent rainy days and puddles.
If you forget any essentials, don’t worry—you can always purchase them at your destination. However it is often more cost and time effective to simply bring your favorite supplies with you.
Etiquette and Cultural Norms
The British are generally very reserved. It is a good idea to be formal and polite until you get to know someone well. On public transportation, speak quietly and try not to bump into other passengers if you can avoid it.
The underground trains in London, known as the Tube, are very efficient but very crowded during rush hours. Make sure you have your ticket or Oyster card ready when you approach the entrance gates and tuck it into a pocket until you are able to step out of the way to put it back in your wallet, purse or bag.
- London: This world-class city is a must-see destination for any traveler. With iconic sights including The Houses of Parliament (including Elizabeth Tower and Big Ben), The London Eye, Westminster Abbey, Tower Bridge, The Tower of London and St. Paul's Cathedral, there is so much to do and see that it can easily overwhelm those who aren't prepared. The museums run by the city are free so you can see treasures from around the world including the Rosetta Stone, Parthenon Marbles and the Magna Carta.
- Bath: This quaint town sits atop a natural mineral spring that was home to a Roman bath town, buried in mud for hundreds of years before being reborn as a spa town in the 18th Century. Today it is full of quaint charm and tons of history. Be sure to check out the Pump Room and purchase a glass of the famous spa water.
- Edinburgh: As the capital of Scotland, this city is full of history, beauty and entertainment. Hike to the top of the hill to explore Edinburgh Castle or grab lunch at the Elephant House where famous authors, including J.K. Rowling, have written books over coffee and sandwiches.
- Cambridge: This university town can be seen in an unusual way, by boat! See this beautiful town by punting down the river. First-timers can book a gondolier-like guide to navigate the River Cam, or take a pole and attempt to pilot the small boats themselves! Take a walking tour of Cambridge University and the Fitzwilliam Museum.
- Cardiff: The country of Wales has its own language and culture and one of the best ways to experience it is in the Welsh capital of Cardiff. Explore the medieval Cardiff Castle, enjoy the waterfront arts complex or catch a rugby match at the Millennium Stadium.
Health & Safety Tips
The U.K. is fairly safe overall, but it's always a good idea to be cautious, especially in large cities.
Pickpocketing is the most common crime. If you are taking public transportation, be sure to keep your purse, backpack or bag closed and in your hands at all times. If you are wearing a backpack, take it off and hold it in front of you to avoid bumping other passengers and not being aware if someone attempts to open your bag. Phones, wallets and cameras are particularly at risk of being stolen.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) recommend the following vaccinations for the United Kingdom: hepatitis A, hepatitis B, rabies, meningitis, polio, MMR (measles, mumps and rubella), Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis), chickenpox, shingles, pneumonia and influenza.