Skip to Content

Visiting the UK? Start Here

Hi & Welcome to UK Travel Planning


Are you heading to the UK, and wondering what you need to know before you go?

This general guide will walk you through all you need to know before taking the trip of a lifetime to the UK.

Read on to discover:

  • UK entry requirements
  • Packing essentials
  • Public transport and driving
  • Weather
  • Planning your itinerary
  • Accommodation options
  • How to save money… 

…and a whole lot more!

Facebook Group

Why not join our free Facebook group to whet your appetite for your London trip? You can connect with us and other travellers, pick up tips, and even see other members’ photos!

Also, sign up for our newsletter, which is full of information and will keep you up to date with everything related to UK travel planning!

UK Travel Planning Podcasts

If you love to don a pair of headphones while running or relaxing, why not check out the UK Travel Planning podcast? Episodes are packed with practical tips and advice to help you make the most of your trip.

Popular pages

This UK travel site also offers a wealth of information to make your UK trip go like a dream. Some of our most popular pages are:

Passport or ID card

Your passport will be checked when you enter the UK. It should be valid for at least the entire duration of your stay. Alternatively, some people can use an Irish passport card or a national identity card to enter the UK, if this was issued by Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, or an EU country. Do check this carefully before travelling, as conditions apply.


Whether or not you need a visa depends on your nationality. If you do, this may be an electronic travel authorisation (ETA), Find out if you need a visa or ETA here.


No passenger locator forms or COVID-19 tests apply to those entering the UK, whether you’re vaccinated or not.

Conditions of entry

When entering the UK, you may be asked to show that:

  • You’re visiting as a tourist
  • You can fund your whole stay and onward journey
  • You have accommodation arranged
  • You plan to leave the UK

Greenwich Mean Time

The UK uses Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), as set for the whole world in London. This is also known as Western European Time, or UTC.

British Summer Time

Between spring and autumn, daylight saving is used. It’s known as British Summer Time (BST, or Western European Summer Time). BST is an hour ahead of GMT, and may be written as GMT+1.

Travel insurance

Never, ever travel without an insurance policy that covers your entire trip. Also make sure that it covers everything you want to do – such as any adventure activities. 

Emergency numbers

The number for ambulances, the fire service, and the police is 999. You can also use 112, which is the pan-European emergency number.

In life-threatening situations, hospital Accident and Emergency Departments are open 24 hours a day. Ask at your hotel – or a passer-by – to find the nearest. 

If you get sick but it isn’t an emergency, it’s best to call your travel insurance provider for advice on how to proceed.

Public Transport

The main public transport options for travelling between UK destinations are trains and coaches. Trains tend to be faster and more frequent. Coach tickets can be cheap, but journeys often take a lot longer. 

In addition to trains and buses, some major cities also have electric trams, or light rail systems. You can find these in Edinburgh, Manchester, Birmingham, Nottingham, Sheffield, and Newcastle, as well as London. The capital also offers Thames Uber boats.

Many towns and cities have bike and electric scooter hire schemes. 

Read more about train travel in the UK

Driving in the UK

We don’t recommend driving in London, due to a shortage of parking and the Congestion Charge.

 However, hiring a car elsewhere in the UK can be a good way to get around. Read our guide to car rental in the UK.

This gives you more flexibility and freedom than any other form of transport.

Check out our driving in the UK podcast to find out more.

UK Train Travel

Travelling around the UK by train is a fun, affordable, and stress-free way to see the country. 

We have a wealth of resources for those planning to travel by rail in the UK. These include one-on-one UK train travel consultations with our resident expert, Doug Collins.

Other useful info can be found in our intro to UK train travel podcast episode, lists of insider tips, two-week train itinerary, and guides to getting from London to other destinations by train.

Visit our UK train travel page to discover it all!

There are lots of helpful apps you can use before and during your trip to the UK.

These include transport apps, ticket and tour apps, food apps, accommodation apps, and even adventure apps. 
Discover the top travel and practical apps in this list of the best UK apps.

Also, we have a dedicated list of the best London apps which you can find here.

You don’t need to carry your bags around all day once you’ve checked out of your accommodation. There are lots of luggage storage places in London, and elsewhere in the UK.

You can use luggage storage companies, and find lockers and other storage facilities at museums, attractions, airports and train stations.

Check out our guide to leaving luggage in London as a starting point.

The duration of your stay, the season, where you’re going, and what you’ll be doing will largely influence your UK packing list. However, there are some essential items you shouldn’t leave home without!

Make sure you include these items in your suitcase or backpack:

  • Comfortable everyday shoes
  • Packable waterproof jacket
  • Cross-body, theft-proof bag
  • Electrical socket adapter
  • Portable power bank
  • Compact umbrella
  • Plenty of layers
  • Phone lanyard
  • Sunhat and sunglasses in summer…
  • …or hat, scarf, and gloves for winter

Find out more in our ultimate all-seasons UK packing list.


The UK has never used the Euro or the US dollar. UK currency is pounds sterling, denoted by the £ symbol. 

One pound consists of 100 pence (or “p”, as it’s often called). Banknotes come in £5, £10, £20, or £50 denominations, and you can get 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, £1, and £2 coins. 

Bank of England notes are now made from polymer. Older paper ones can be swapped at some post offices and banks in the UK. The Bank of England on Threadneedle Street in London will always exchange outdated money. 

Scottish bank notes look a little different. Technically, English banknotes aren’t legal tender in Scotland, and vice versa. But most places will accept payments in either when you’re somewhere like Edinburgh, where both are commonly used. Both are in pounds sterling, so they’re worth the same amount. 

Credit and debit cards

Debit and credit card payments are accepted across the UK. Mastercard and Visa are the most common. American Express isn’t unusual and is also accepted in many places.

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, more and more UK businesses only accept card payments, rather than cash. It’s therefore wise to ensure you have a debit or credit card with you when travelling. Tell your bank before you go, too, so they don’t suspect fraud and block your account. 

Charges often apply to foreign currency transactions. To avoid these, we can recommend the Wise debit card. We use this to save money on such fees. 

The chip and PIN system and contactless payments are used throughout the UK. The latter is generally accepted for transactions under £100. 


Carrying at least a small amount of cash for small purchases, tips, and technical failures is always a good idea. Occasionally, some very small businesses will only accept cash. 

The UK isn’t a cheap place to travel, particularly when it comes to public transport tickets and fuel prices. 

The good news, though, is that there are always deals to be had! 

Planning ahead can really help you budget and spend less in the UK. If you’re going to the capital, the London Pass and other London tourist passes can make activities and attractions much cheaper. 

There are lots of free places to visit in the UK. Spending time at places like parks, museums, galleries, and libraries costs nothing. Many UK galleries and museums charge no entry fees. 

Why not take a look at the recommended suppliers on our Travel Deals page, to see how you could save money? 

You can of course use your smartphone in the UK. Which is good news when you want to take pictures, keep in touch with family and friends, access apps, store tickets, and so on. 

You can use international roaming via the local network, or you could buy a SIM card for your UK trip. 

Phone networks make accessing international roaming very easy, and your phone is likely to connect to the local network as soon as you switch it on after landing in the UK. This can be a costly way to use your phone, though, so it’s best to check costs before you leave home. 

Purchasing a SIM card can therefore work out much cheaper. To discover more about this, read our complete guide to SIM cards and WiFi for UK travel.

You can use public transport, taxis, private transfers, or rental cars to get to and from UK airports. If you’re heading to London, we don’t recommend driving there. It’s very busy, there’s no parking, and the congestion charge is costly. 

Most international travellers to the UK arrive at London Heathrow. Here your options include the underground to central London, and the Heathrow Express. From Heathrow or other London airports to your accommodation, the simplest and most comfortable mode of transport is a private transfer. 

The cost per person is more affordable when several people are travelling. For all private London transfers, we thoroughly recommend Riz and XFA Cars. Take a look at our London airport transfers page to find out more. 

One of the real highlights of visiting the UK is your proximity to Europe. Flights to European cities are affordable, and available from airports all over the UK. 

You can also connect to the continent by Eurostar. Trains from France will then take you anywhere in Europe you’d like to go. Ferries also take cars from the UK to various European ports. 

If you’re thinking of venturing beyond the UK, it might be worth considering a Eurail Global Pass.

In London – and to a lesser extent other UK cities such as Edinburgh – our top tip is to book as central a hotel as you can afford. This will save you money on transport, as well as time. Being based centrally is really convenient, and means you don’t waste time travelling. 

Whether you’re heading to London, Bath, the Cotswolds, Devon and Cornwall, the Lake District, Liverpool, York, or elsewhere, take a look at our comprehensive England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland accommodation guide.

Where you want to go and what you want to do will be very personal to you. What you can actually fit in will also depend on your timeframe, and whether you have days, weeks, or months to spend in the UK.

 This site includes a number of suggested itineraries to help you on your way. These include UK itineraries by train or road, and destination-specific options covering places like Bath, Cornwall, Edinburgh, London, Liverpool, the Lake District, and more. Find our itineraries page here.

The UK is, in general, a safe place to be, though crime does of course exist. Big cities tend to be more risky than smaller places. Crowded areas like London of course have their fair share of opportunists such as pickpockets. 

To safeguard your stuff, you can wear a theft-proof, cross-body bag, and lock up valuable or important items in your hotel safe. Exercise common sense, and never leave cash or expensive items in a parked car. Least of all where they can be seen by would-be thieves! 

Stay in busy, well-lit areas if you’re venturing out alone after dark. Very few visitors to the UK become victims of crime, so don’t let yourself be one of them!

As with all countries, you can’t bring whatever you want into the UK – restrictions apply. The following items must be declared upon arrival.

  • Items you’re planning to sell on
  • Tax-free goods that exceed your personal allowance
  • More than EUR 10,000 in cash, unless you stay within the EU
  • Banned or restricted goods – this includes food


We get asked about bringing food into the UK a lot in our Facebook group! Some foods are classed as banned and restricted goods.

Meat and dairy products from most non-EU countries are banned, and as such will be seized by customs when you arrive. Other food and plants are also restricted. Any plants or food you bring should only be grown within the EU, for your own use, and free from pesticides or disease.

Read more about what you can and can’t bring to the UK here.

Tipping practices in the UK differ from the US. While tipping is not expected here is a quick guide if you would like to tip:

  • Restaurants: Many restaurants (particularly in London) add a 12.5% service charge to the bill*. If not leave a 10-15% tip for good service.
  • Pubs: Do not tip when ordering from the bar. For table service add an optional 10% to the bill (if not already added)
  • Taxis: Round up to the nearest pound or add 10-15%.
  • Hotels: Tip porters £1- £2 per bag and housekeepers £1-£2 per night.
  • Concierge: Tip £5-£10 for special services or arrangements.
  • Tour Guides: Tip £5-£10 per person for a half-day tour, and £10-£20 per person for a full-day tour.

*Always check your bill to see if a service charge is included before tipping.

Though the UK has a reputation for wet weather, extreme weather events are very rare, and therefore not something to worry about. With rare exceptions, you can be comfortable outdoors in the UK all year round.

Occasionally it can get very hot during summer, and temperatures can dip below zero in winter. Usually, though, the weather will be somewhere between the two. Warm, or cold, but not too hot or too chilly. 

The UK has a maritime climate, though, which means the weather can change quickly. The bottom line is – never trust the weather forecast!

Temperatures tend to be mild all year round, though it can get very cold in locations like the far north of Scotland. 

UK visitor numbers may also determine when you decide to visit. There are more tourists in the UK in the summer months of July and August, and during the Christmas period in December. 
Check out our When to Go page for general guidance on what to expect in the UK throughout the year.

If you’re wondering when you need to book your UK trip, check out our article on how far ahead to book for the UK.

This comprehensive guide covers flights, accommodation, car rental, train tickets, attractions, tours, and restaurants.