Ah, the United Kingdom. Not just one country to explore, the UK consists of England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland, making it one of the top travel destinations on the planet, as well as one of the destinations that will give you countless places to find your next adventure.
Because the UK is so diverse and has so much to offer to travelers, those who have never been there before might find that planning a trip could become overwhelming. After all, with so many interesting places to see throughout these countries, where do you even begin? Well, whether you’re in search of historic castles or modern attractions, the guide below hones in on what you need to know before you go to the UK.
What are the best places to visit in the UK?
The United Kingdom is home to many UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which are definitely worth checking out. These include:
- The historic Tower of London is a must-see attraction, and it is popular for good reason. There, you can catch a glimpse of the Crown Jewels, as well as take a guided tour to learn all about this unique castle’s history.
- Westminster Abbey, which is also located in London. This is considered a Gothic masterpiece, and it also features the memorial sites and burial grounds for historic figures like Dickens, Chaucer, Blake, T.S. Eliot, Darwin, and others.
- The Kew Gardens of London is the city’s biggest World Heritage Site, and it is perfect for those who want to be surrounded by beautiful plants in a breathtaking botanic garden.
- Located in England, Stonehenge is one of the greatest mysteries of the world, so you won’t want to miss out on the chance to see it during your time in the UK. This megalithic monument dates back a whopping 50,000 years, leaving visitors in awe of its history.
- If you are heading into Scotland, be sure to spend some time in the country’s capital, Edinburgh. The oldest area of the city, filled with history, is appropriately called Old Town, where you will find the breathtaking Edinburgh Castle and cute cobbled streets. But equally interesting is New Town, which was constructed in stages from 1767 to 1850. It still boasts Georgian and neo-classical architecture for visitors to behold.
- Any fan of castles should certainly spend some time in Wales, where you can find a variety of impressive castles, like the Conwy, the Beaumaris, the Caernarfon, and the Harlech. Each has its own impressive history, beauty, and stories to tell.
- When in Northern Ireland, check out one of the country’s most popular attractions, the Giant’s Causeway. This is a natural rock formation that was created after a volcanic eruption in ancient times. It features an incredible 40,000 interlocking basalt columns that you have to see to believe.
What are the biggest tourist attractions in the UK?
In addition to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites discussed above, some of the many other popular tourist attractions in England include Warwick Castle, Chartwell, The Cotswolds, the Eden Project, Canterbury Cathedral, Lake District National Park, Cambridge University, Historic Yorkshire, Windsor Castle, and the City of Bath. Don’t forget that there’s also Big Ben, the London Eye, and, of course, Buckingham Palace.
When in Scotland, tourists flock to attractions that include The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews (fun fact: golf was invented in Scotland), Loch Lomond, the Isle of Arran, the Isle of Skye, the Northern Highlands, Loch Ness, and the Castle Trail.
Wales offers outdoor enthusiasts a chance to dive into some of the world’s most beautiful places, including Snowdonia, Devil’s Bridge and the Hafod Estate, the Pembrokeshire Coast, the Isle of Anglesey, Llandudno, and Brecon Beacons National Park.
Some of the best tourist attractions in Northern Ireland include The Glens of Antrim, Carrickfergus Castle, Londonderry (also known as Derry), the Ards Peninsula, and The Ulster Folk and Transport Museum.
Which UK beaches are the best?
There are quite a few beautiful beaches to choose from throughout the UK if you are hoping to have some fun in the sun and lounge on the sand to relax your cares away.
A few of the top rated beaches are below:
- When in England, check out Porthcressa Beach, with its golden sand and calm waters. This is a safe place where you can go swimming with your family, and because of the grassy area near the beach, you could also plan a fun little picnic too.
- If you are in Wales, make it a point to see Porth Dinllaen Beach. The beautiful coast isn’t overly developed, so you can feel as though you’re really a part of nature while you are there.
- When in Scotland, head over to Borve Beach, which is found on the western side of the Isle of Harris. There, you will find clear skies, white sand, and the blue Atlantic Ocean contrasted against red rocks. This is also the ideal spot for catching glimpses of wildlife, such as birds, seals, and even dolphins!
- If you are planning on staying in Northern Ireland, consider spending some time on Downhill Strand Beach, where you will be able to enjoy a view of the beautiful coastline, as well as take in views along the beach’s cliffs. Look for the waterfall and sand dunes, too!
What are the best ways to get around in the UK?
Many travelers decide to head into London when they travel to the UK, as this is a central place where you can begin exploring. Three airports—Heathrow, Stanstead, and Gatwick—serve London.
Once you have arrived and settled in, you can then use the vast train network to get just about anywhere in the United Kingdom. This is a form of public transportation that is easy to use, and taking a trip from London to Glasgow or to Bath will give you a chance to see the beautiful English countryside, which is definitely a plus.
When taking the train, however, you should anticipate potentially cramped conditions and delays, which could be avoided by traveling during off-peak hours. It’s also recommended that you avoid the train system on Sundays, during which delays could be more common due to maintenance.
If you decide that you want more control over your ability to get around while you are staying in the UK, there are plenty of rental cars to choose from. Just remember to drive on the left side of the road if you come from a country where that isn’t the norm. It takes some getting used to, but you’ll get the hang of it in no time! Also, manual transmission is preferred in the UK, so be sure to ask for automatic transmission when renting a vehicle if you don’t know how to drive with a gear stick.
When is the best time to go to the UK?
You could book your trip to the UK at any time of year, really, as every season has something special to offer. If you want to head to the beach, book your trip for the summer between the months of June and September (just make sure you book far in advance to get your spot!). If you want to go skiing, an unforgettable winter getaway is definitely possible. And if you want to travel during a less busy season, consider September and October, or April and May. The UK climate, on the whole, can be difficult to accurately predict from one year to the next. Generally, however, the winters aren’t too cold and the summers don’t often get too hot either. Also, you can expect wetter conditions in the western part of the UK, and there will be more hours of daylight in the south. Also, the south tends to be wetter and milder during the winter when compared with northern regions.
What should you pack for a trip to the UK?
The weather in the UK can be unpredictable, and rain could happen when you least expect it. That’s why it is a good idea to pack an umbrella that you can easily take with you on your daily excursions.
In terms of clothing, you can get away with casual attire throughout the UK, unless you are planning on visiting a fancy restaurant or venue. You could pack some jeans, swimwear if you are going to be traveling during the summer, and a heavy coat, sweaters, gloves, and warm hats if you are going to be traveling in the winter between November and March.
Comfortable shoes, such as a good pair of sneakers, is a must for whenever you are exploring the great outdoors or making your way from one attraction to the next in big cities like London. And waterproof gear, such as boots and a coat, are great for hiking in the countryside, as the weather could change quickly.
Which electrical outlet adapter do you need in the UK?
Power sockets in the UK are type G, and the standard voltage will be 220-240 V, while the standard frequency will be 50 Hz. If you are heading to the UK from the United States, you will need to pack a power plug adapter and a voltage converter.
What is the currency in the UK?
The currency in the United Kingdom is the pound sterling. Since the Brexit vote, the pound has been quite volatile, so using a currency converter calculator will help you figure out how much your currency will be worth against the pound.
Even though the UK is still a part of the European Union until Brexit is complete, the euro was never adopted. However, some of the large retailers in cities like London might take the euro, and you might find that their products feature prices both in euros and pounds. Also, some of London’s large department stores, which are popular amongst tourists, may accept a variety of currencies, such as the US dollar, the Japanese yen, and the euro. Also, in England, Scottish notes aren’t considered official legal tender, but you might be able to use them in order to pay for things at various shops in the country. But if you are planning on using a currency other than the pound in the UK, be aware of exchange rates, especially in a post-Brexit world.
How can you save money while traveling throughout the UK?
One of the easiest ways to pay for things while you travel is by using your credit card. The problem, though, is that credit cards will likely charge you a foreign transaction fee because your currency will need to be converted into pounds. Thankfully, there are a few ways that you can avoid these fees. For example, you could start by applying for a fee-free credit card before your trip so that you can take it with you and pay for things without getting hit with fees in the process.
If you are planning on taking cash out of an ATM in the UK, make certain that it is within your bank’s network will also help you save money and avoid excess fees. Also, avoid converting your money at the airport while you travel, and have vendors put charges through on your credit card in the local currency. Or you could simply open an account with OFX to use bank-to-bank transfers to pay for things while avoiding high bank margins and fees.
Get ready to take in all that the UK has to offer!
With these tips, you can make the most of your time in the UK and really take in everything that this unique destination has to offer. Don’t forget to have some fish and chips for lunch, enjoy a cup of delicious tea every day, take a ride on a London bus, visit the Globe Theatre (especially if you’re a Shakespeare buff!), and have a beer while making new friends at a pub. With so many things to squeeze into your itinerary, you’ll never get bored, and you may find yourself spending a few extra days before heading back home!
IMPORTANT: The contents of this blog do not constitute financial advice and are provided for general information purposes only without taking into account the investment objectives, financial situation and particular needs of any particular person. UKForex Limited (trading as “OFX”) and its affiliates make no recommendation as to the merits of any financial strategy or product referred to in the blog. OFX makes no warranty, express or implied, concerning the suitability, completeness, quality or exactness of the information and models provided in this blog.