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Families
Family Logo, 2K If you are travelling with a family, it is important to plan your holiday carefully. Facilities for children vary enormously in the UK so it is important that you enquire about the facilities offered before you book anything.

For example, some accommodation establishments have a strict no-children policy, whilst others just accept children over a certain age. And even those that do welcome children often only provide limited facilities.

Nevertheless, there are places to stay that have excellent facilities for children, including babysitting services and baby-listening devices. So if you shop around carefully and check what facilities are offered you should find some suitable accommodation.

When it comes to other costs, you should find that many places that charge admission fees offer discounts for children, and some sell special family tickets. This is true of most of the UK's popular tourist sites, which usually have excellent facilities for children.

In addition many forms of public transport offer discounts for children when accompanied by an adult. For example on trains children under 5 years can usually travel free, whilst children between the ages of 5 and 15 can usually travel at half the adult fare.

In pubs children under 14 are not allowed in the bar area, whilst for older children who can enter the bar area it is illegal to buy or consume alcohol under the age of 18. Some pubs however do allow accompanied children of any age in specially assigned 'family areas' or in the gardens. Policy varies from pub to pub but establishments that welcome children will usually clearly advertise the fact.

When it comes to eating out, lots of restaurants and cafes welcome children and offer special menus of smaller portions. But do check first because not all restaurants, particularly the top of the range restaurants, are happy to cater for children.

If you are travelling with a baby, many public conveniences have baby changing facilities, although unfortunately these are often only located in the ladies. And whilst breast feeding a baby in public is by no means illegal, but you may find that in some places it is still disapproved of.



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Senior Citizens
There are lots of discounts available to senior citizens in the UK, for example at restaurants, for accommodation, at car rental companies and at most places which charge an entrance fee. And it is worth noting that even if a discount is not clearly advertised it is sometimes worth checking to see if one is available.

However, you may sometimes find that senior citizens' discounts are limited in some way, for example they may only be available on certain days or during a certain time of day.
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In addition, in order to qualify for some senior citizen discounts you might need to mention your status in advance, for example as you are being seated in a restaurant rather than when you are paying the bill. So although the discounts are there to be taken, it may take a little bit of planning.

When it comes to public transport the discounts available can be variable. If you are travelling by rail, anyone over the age of 60 can apply for a Senior Citizens Rail card, but on some local bus services only senior citizens who hold a UK pension book are entitled to a reduced fare.




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Women
Women Logo, 1K Obviously safety is the biggest issue for women travellers, especially for those travelling alone. Generally you shouldn't come across too many problems in the UK, but common sense and caution are still advisable, especially at night. Above all trust your instincts - if you feel uncomfortable in a place or situation try to move away from it.

Hitching is a big risk and should really be avoided by women, even in daylight hours. And if you are travelling on other forms of public transport use common sense. On trains try to pick a compartment with other women and couples already in it (do not choose an empty carriage), and on buses try to sit near the driver or conductor.

It is no longer unusual to see women in pubs, although in some areas a lone woman in a pub might attract some unwanted attention. Groups of women should have fewer problems, although do try to stick to 'nicer' establishments.

When it comes to health, there are some excellent facilities available for women. For example, for general health issues many larger towns and cities will have a Well Women Clinic which can offer advice, although sometimes these only operate for one or two days a week.

The contraceptive pill and the 'morning after' pill are only available on prescription from a doctor. Condoms, however are widely available from chemists, supermarkets and service stations, and from some women's public conveniences.

Violent crime is still relatively low in the UK, but if you do have the misfortune to be the victim of an assault contact the local police immediately (the emergency number is 999). Many forces now have specially trained female officers who can offer counselling. There are also several Rape Crisis Centres around the UK who can offer support and advice after an attack.



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Disabled
In recent years facilities for disabled people have improved dramatically in the UK. Many public buildings and accommodation facilities now provide disabled access and facilities. And you should find that many of the major tourist sites cater particularly well for disabled people.

Unfortunately, due to the ages of the buildings, heritage and historical sites can often be the exception to this, with only limited accessibility available.
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Many accommodation places have some facilities for disabled customers, but the extent of these can vary enormously. A good way to choose suitable accommodation is to look out for a Tourist Board grading. Gradings range from Category 1 which means suitable for wheelchair users who can walk short distances, to Category 3 which means suitable for wheelchair users travelling alone. Be sure to enquire about the exact nature of facilities offered so that you can be sure that the accommodation will suit your needs.

If you plan to travel around the UK, you should find that most transport companies do have facilities for disabled people. However places can be limited so it is best to book ahead. In addition the service you receive is often better if you inform the transport company in advance, as they will often make sure that staff are on hand to help you.

When it comes to driving around the UK, some national car hire companies can provide specially adapted hand-control vehicles, although do order this in advance as it may take some time to organise one. Most tourist sites will offer reserved parking spaces near the entrance for disabled customers. And you should find similar parking areas in most supermarket and town centre car parks.

If you are hearing impaired, look out for a symbol of a large ear, which indicates that a 'hearing loop' is in place in order to assist you. You should find hearing loops available in most banks, post offices, tourist sites and public transport ticket booths.

If you are sight impaired, some tourist sites have braille guides or special audio cassette guides available. You may also come across a few places with other initiatives specifically aimed at the sight impaired, for example scented gardens.

In the UK, guide dogs can travel on public transport for free and are allowed in most public areas. However if you are travelling to the UK from abroad it would be very difficult to bring a guide dog with you. There is a strict six-month quarantine period to take into account and you would also need an import licence which you need to apply for at least eight weeks in advance.

Before you leave for the UK, your national organisation should be able to offer you some helpful travel advice. And once in the UK, The Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation (RADAR) can offer lots of useful information and advice for disabled visitors.
RADAR contact tel: 0171 250 3222.



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Gay and Lesbian
Gay Logo, 2K If you read the UK's tabloid press, you would be forgiven for thinking that homosexuality was considered totally unacceptable in Britain. But in reality you will probably find attitudes are relatively tolerant.

In fact, the gay scene is very much alive and kicking, with the main centres for the gay community being London, Manchester and Brighton. In addition, most of the larger towns and cities in the UK have some form of gay scene from pubs and nightclubs to support and campaign groups.
There are also several national publications that cater for the gay community, for example the Gay Times and the Pink Papers. And for more local information the publication the London Scene covers both London and Brighton, whilst the publication the Northern Scene covers northern England. Publications such as these cater for both gay men and lesbians for the gay community is much more mixed in the UK than it is in many countries.

But it is important to note that despite the relative tolerance in the UK there are limits to it. For example hoteliers may be a bit shocked if you ask for a double room to share with your partner. And open displays of affection outside of recognised gay areas will probably raise eyebrows or even result in outright hostility, so to be on the safe side exercise some caution especially in small rural areas.

The legal age of consent for homosexual acts between males is 18, as opposed to 16 for heterosexual sex. Bizarrely the legal age of consent for lesbians is the same as that for heterosexuals - allegedly because when laws against homosexuality were first passed Queen Victoria did not believe that that sort of thing went on between women.



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Ethnic Minorities

The UK is a culturally diverse nation, with lots of ethnic communities around the country. Many of these are concentrated in the larger cities and London in particular has lots of ethnic communities - a recent estimate showed that over 200 languages are spoken in England's capital.

As a result racial tolerance is good in the UK, but racism certainly does exist. So in order to avoid any troubles you should exercise caution, for example avoid obviously rough looking areas of inner cities. Minority travellers should encounter few problems if they stick to popular tourist regions and affluent areas of the larger cities.

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In more remote areas the biggest problem is often reduced anonymity - you probably will not encounter outright hostility but you should expect to attract some attention. Generally though, wherever you go in Britain you should encounter few problems as the result of your ethnic origin.




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Students and Youths

Students Logo, 2K There are masses of discounts and concessions available to students and young people - whether it is food, accommodation, travel or entrance fees to tourist sites there are ways to save money.

Most places that offer student discounts will advertise the fact clearly, but even if there is no mention of one it is often worth asking anyone as there might be some sort of reduction available. It is also worth noting that there are a lot of forged student IDs in circulation in the UK so you may sometimes be asked to produce a second form of student identification.

If you are a full-time student over the age of 16 you can apply for an International Student Identity Card (ISIC). This card is widely accepted in Britain and it will get you discounts for all sorts of places and services. It can also entitle you to reduced insurance and provide access to a 24 hour ISIC helpline where you can get advice and assistance while you are travelling.

And if you are not a student but are under the age of 26, you can still save money. The Federation of International Youth Organisations can issue a discount card called the GO-25 card, which offers many of the same discounts you get with an ISIC card.

Both these cards cost around US$20 or equivalent and can be purchased before you enter the UK. They are generally available from university campuses or from student travel organisations and agencies.

Once you are in the UK you can save money on travelling around by purchasing a Young Persons Railcard for trains or a Young Persons Coach Card for buses. These are available to anyone under the age of 26 and can save you up to a third on fares. They are available from the relevant transport stations and cost around 20 and 10 respectively.



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