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Getting to the UK

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Getting To the UK

If your journey isn't too great a distance, for example you are visiting from Europe, you might want to consider a variety of travel options. But if your journey is a long one, aeroplane fares are now so competitive that in terms of speed, comfort and cost you should probably just look at flights.
Plane, 2KFlying is the most obvious way to travel to the UK. Fares can vary dramatically so the best advice is to shop around and be flexible about dates and airlines. In particular students, young travellers and seniors should be able to get special deals and discounts.
Prices are generally a bit lower if you travel during the week. Peak season is from about May to October and this is when fares will be most pricey with the most expensive months from June to September. Fares will probably also be very high (and flights booked out in advance) over Christmas and New Year.

The busiest and most popular airports are Heathrow and Gatwick, both in London. But if you are not visiting London you might try some of the other airports in the UK which handle international flights, such as Birmingham, Manchester, and Glasgow.
You could always travel to the UK by ship, for example you could choose a transatlantic crossing on a big cruise ship. This would mean that you arrive in the UK in style and without the hassle of jet lag, but any long distance journey by ship will be very lengthy and, of course, very expensive compared to flying.Ship, 2K
Another way to get to the UK by water is to travel by ferry. Crossings are very extensive and are a great way to travel to the UK if you wish to bring your own car. Prices vary enormously as ferry fares can change according to time of year, time of day you want to travel and even the size of your car - so you will need to so some careful research to find a good price. And remember that during peak season you will need to book a place for your car in advance.

Bus, 1KIf you are not travelling from too far away, you might want to consider other options.

For example you can travel to the UK by bus from many European cities, which is a great low cost option if you won't be travelling too far. However, flights are now priced so competitively that if your journey is a long one by coach, you will probably want to choose the comfort and speed of flying.
If you wish to travel by car, your biggest problem will be crossing the English Channel. There are a variety of ways to do this, for example ferry, hovercraft and now the Channel Tunnel. All have regular services, normally with several crossings each day, so shop around and choose the one that suits you best..

There are also some hovercraft or SeaCat services that cross the Channel between Dover and Calais. These are very quick and can do the journey in less than an hour, cutting your travelling time considerably. They are also very competitively priced.

And of course, the Channel Tunnel now gives you even more options. Drivers can take Le Shuttle which is another very speedy way to cross the English Channel. It is also quite competitively priced, being comparable to ferry fares, and there are often discounts and special offers available.

Meanwhile, foot passengers can take Eurostar trains from Paris, Brussels or Lille to London. Again, prices can be very competitive with regular discounts and promotions.
Tunnel, 1K
Train, 2KPlease note: If you are travelling by train, the rail system in the UK is quite independent from the rest of Europe and so some continental rail passes, for example Eurail, are not valid in Britain.



Getting to the UK

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Visas and Documents

If you are travelling to the UK from another country you will need an up-to-date passport. Double check that this will be valid for the duration of your stay and, if you are extra cautious, for a few weeks after to take care of any unexpected problems. If it is about to expire, renew it well before you start your trip as in some countries it can take a few months to process a passport renewal.

If you are from Europe you will probably just need a passport to enter Britain, and you can generally stay for up to three months. The exceptions are Albania, Romania, Bulgaria and the former Soviet Union which require further documentation. And if you are from Australia, New Zealand, Canada or the USA, you can stay in Britain for up to six months with just a passport.

If you are from any other country you will need a visa, which you can get from the British Consular Office in your country. There are different types of visa available, for example tourist, business and work so make sure you get the one suitable to your requirements.

Even if you just need a passport, it is worth taking at least a second form of identification with you when you travel as some establishments, for example banks, may ask you for more than one form of identification. And as a safety precaution, make photocopies of all your documentation and do not carry all your identification and documents in the same place.

If you lose your passport while you are in the UK, you should contact the nearest embassy or consulate for your country who will be able to help you. If your passport is stolen, you should also notify the local police.

Work Permits: If you are a resident of an EU country you can work in the UK without needing a special permit. And if you are a commonwealth citizen with a parent or grandparent who was born in the UK, it will usually be quite easy for you to gain a permit allowing you to work in the UK

If you are a non-EU and non-commonwealth citizen it will be more difficult for you to gain permission to work in the UK. For example, you must obtain a work permit, which can be hard to obtain unless an employer backs you. Details should be available from your local British Consular Office.

However, there are several schemes for working holidays available to you if you are aged between 17 and 27, for example voluntary work or au pair work. You will need a Working Holiday Entry Certificate which must be obtained before entering the UK - more details of which will be available from your British embassy or consulate.

Visa and other permit requirements are subject to revision so always check the current requirements before you travel. And bear in mind that it often takes weeks to process applications for official documents so make sure you sort out your necessary documentation well in advance.




Getting to the UK

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Customs

The customs laws when entering the UK can be quite difficult to understand as they differ depending where you travel from. In addition there is a clear distinction between duty-free and duty-paid goods.

  • If you are travelling to the UK from another EU country there are some limits to the amount of goods you can bring into the UK, but these limits are quite high and you do not have to make a declaration of goods to customs.
  • If you are travelling from a non-EU country there are stricter limits and you will have to declare any goods you are bringing with you.
  • You will be restricted on the amount of tax or duty-free goods you can bring with you, regardless of whether you are arriving from Europe or elsewhere.
  • There are universal restrictions on a variety of goods and substances. These range from drugs and firearms to hardcore pornography and animal products from endangered species.
Your travel agency should be able to clarify the customs regulations relevant to you, or at the very least they should advise you where to go to find out.



Pets
The UK is well known throughout the world for its harsh quarantine laws. Any animal that is brought into the UK, including animals such as guide dogs, must be kept in quarantine for a whole six months.

As a result bringing a pet to Britain with you is not really worth it unless you will be staying for a long time.

Pets, 1K



Getting to the UK

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Getting around the UK

As you would imagine with such a small country, it is very easy to get around the UK.

There are lots of options to choose from so here is a brief guide to some of them.
Trains Train, 2K
The UK rail system has recently been privatised so now there are a variety of rail companies operating. As a result, if you are going for a long journey across the country, you may find that you not only have to change trains as you travel, but rail companies as well. However, you should be able to buy all your tickets from any train station or from larger travel agents so you should not have to worry about searching out the relevant company's office.

Rail travel can be expensive, but there are various reduced fare options available. Make sure that when you book your ticket you ask for the cheapest option and bear in mind that if you book 7 days in advance you can make some substantial savings.

There are numerous ticket types available with different rules and restrictions for each. For example some tickets allow children aged 5-15 to travel at half price, but some require them to pay the full adult fare! So the best advice is to ask at the nearest train station.

There are lots of other good ways to save money on train tickets so here are some options you might want to consider: If you are visiting the UK from abroad and plan to do a lot of rail travel, you should consider a rail pass such as the BritRail pass. You need to buy this pass before you enter the UK or Europe so ask your travel agent for advice and costs.

Once you are in the UK, some other passes are available which give reduced fares - ask for details at any rail station. Examples are the Senior Citizens Rail Card for those over 60 years old, the Young Person's Railcard for 16-25 year olds and Family Railcards for those travelling with children.

It is advisable to reserve a seat in advance, especially for longer journeys, as many trains do get crowded. And if you are a smoker, check if there is a smoking carriage available as many trains do not allow smoking - at best there will probably only be one carriage set aside for smokers so seats get booked up quickly.

It is only fair to point out that the rail network has a dubious reputation in terms of reliability and efficiency - it is a standard joke that every autumn, leaves on the line disrupt whole networks! So if your journey is time critical (for example to an airport), make sure you allow plenty of extra time for delays.

But, despite the prices and the fact you might be delayed, rail travel is probably the most comfortable method of transport so it is definitely worth considering.

Underground, 1KApart from the national rail network, in London you will no doubt come across the Underground or 'Tube', as it is by far the quickest way to get around the city. Again, there are a variety of tickets available, but if you are planning to do a lot of travelling around London by tube, without doubt the cheapest option is a travelcard.

London's tube is divided up into zones (central London, for example, is zone 1) and travelcard prices vary according to how many zones you wish to travel in, as well as according to the length of time for which a ticket is valid. Most tourists will find that the best options will be One-day cards for zones 1 and 2 during the week, and Weekend cards for zones 1 and 2 at weekends.
Planes Plane, 2K
There are lots of internal flights available in the UK, but by and large these are not the preferred mode of transport for native Brits. This is primarily because the country is so small that it does not normally take an unreasonable amount of time to travel to your destination by other methods, especially when you take into account time spent waiting in airports. Additionally it is also usually much more economical to travel by bus or train. But if your preferred method of getting around is by air, most travel agents should be able to help you find an appropriate flight.

Cars Car, 1K
Car Rental
The Easiest Way To Get Around!

Cars are a very convenient way to get around the UK. Road networks are extensive and so travelling around by car opens up whole new areas to visitors. And it also gives you the freedom to go where you want, when you want. But getting around by car is not without its drawbacks.

The most obvious point to make is that in the UK you will have to drive on the left. This in itself puts many foreign visitors off driving as there will inevitably be some hair-raising moments during the initial adjustment period!

It is also worth noting that the UK is a car loving country and so the roads are often very busy with traffic jams on the major motorways fairly commonplace. As a result you will probably have a much more interesting and enjoyable journey if you venture off the motorways onto secondary roads.

In addition, many town and city centres are increasingly congested and so cars are often actively discouraged from entering city centres. Parking can be limited and very expensive and one-way systems are often incomprehensible.So if you see a Park-and-Ride scheme (where you park on the outskirts of town and then catch a bus into the town center) in operation - use it.

And a word of warning: if you are thinking about taking a car into London - DON'T! Even natives who have been driving in the UK for 20 years will avoid driving in London at all costs!

Car rental rates can be expensive so shop around and you might find a bargain. Sometimes you can get a good deal if you arrange car hire before you arrive in the UK, but generally it will be a pricey way of getting around. And note that most cars in the UK have gears (a stick shift) so if you need an automatic, book in advance.

Another drawback is that fuel can be quite expensive in comparison to many other countries which makes driving expensive in itself. As a general rule, motorway service stations are the most expensive for petrol so avoid these. Cheapest fuel prices are usually found at supermarkets or suburban petrol stations.

Despite the drawbacks, driving is still an excellent way of seeing the UK. You can tailor your holiday to your exact requirements and discover towns and areas of the UK that you never knew existed.

If you do wish to drive in the UK you need to have a current driving licence and insurance. Foreign visitors will also need an international driving permit. And anyone intending to drive should try to buy a copy of the highway code which clearly explains the rules of British roads.

Hitching

Thumb, 1KQuite simply, hitching is not a safe method of travel anywhere, especially for women travelling alone.
So the best advice is to try to find an alternative method of transport.


Buses Bus, 1K
Most larger towns and cities will have a good bus service available. Some bus companies do seem to make it difficult for you if you do not know which bus you need or where you need to get off, but bus drivers are normally quite helpful if you ask for advice. And at each bus stop you should find information about the route, together with times. If there is no information, or you are stuck, do not be afraid to ask someone to help you.

Rural bus services are also pretty extensive, but stops are often not marked, or are not very clear, and timetables can sometimes be hard to find out - so the best source of information is often a friendly local person. In addition, rural buses often stop running by late evening and sometimes do not run at all on Sundays. So you can't really rely on them as your only method of transport.

Long distance buses are more often called 'coaches' and National Express is the company you'll most likely come across. Over short distances regional buses are usually cheaper, so it is on longer journeys that coaches come into their own. Although often not the most comfortable way to travel, a coach is usually the cheapest way to get around the UK.

TaxisTaxi, 1K
Taxis can be a good option over short distances, especially if a group of people share the fare. In rural areas in particular, where public transport is less extensive or reliable, they can be the best way of getting around. However, for longer distances taxis will often work out a very expensive way to travel.

London in particular is famous for its 'black cab' taxis. When the yellow sign on top is lit up, the taxi is available and you can hail it from the street. But, although these are a great way to get around, and for many people are synonymous with London, they aren't particularly cheap.



Getting to the UK

Visas and Documents

Customs
Pets
 
Getting Around the UK
Travel Advice
Accommodation
Town Guides




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