How to get ready for your British vacation? Part 2

Welcome to part 2 of our guide on “How to get ready for your British vacation”! In our previous post, we’ve written a bit about passports, travel insurance, luggage limit, what clothes to bring and what sort of weather to expect when you’re here – basics you need to know before coming to the UK. You can read it by clicking here. In this post however, we would like to explain what to expect when it comes to finance and customs.

Money, money, money…

Whether in Wales, Scotland, England or Northern Ireland, the currency is the same – Great British Pounds Sterling (GBP£). You will notice however, that Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own design of notes and although they look different to the notes in England and Wales, they are still legal tender and can be used anywhere throughout the UK.

You can pay cash or card in shops, hotels, restaurants, pubs and other establishments. They will usually accept credit cards for transactions of £5 or over. Please be aware that although American Express cards are accepted in many establishments, they often carry an extra charge for use. Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted, and Discover cards are not used in the UK.

If you wish to pay cash, you will find ATMs (or cashpoints as we call them) on the street and at any bank. When withdrawing the money, you will be advised of the exchange rate.

Traveller’s Cheques are not widely accepted in shops and bars here in the UK and you will need to exchange them for cash in any high street bank, building society or Post Office. You may have to pay a commission on exchanging these. If your traveller’s cheques are not in GBP£ then the exchange rate will vary.

ADEO TIP: Withdraw larger amounts of money in fewer transactions. Although UK banks offer free withdrawals at their ATM machines, your home-nation bank will usually apply a small charge per transaction for using a foreign cash machine.

If you can’t find an ATM, many establishments offer a “cash-back” service where they will charge an amount to your card and give you the equivalent back in cash. They will only do this if you are purchasing something from them.

Some tips on tipping

Here in Britain we have a very different tipping culture compared with other countries (in particular North America). We have a legal national minimum wage which means that people in any profession (waiters, bar staff, receptionists etc.) get paid a fixed salary and are not reliant on tips as part of this wage. The thing to remember is that tipping is almost always optional and you should vary it according to the quality of the service you received – if you are not happy with the service you have received, do not leave a tip.

Etiquette in the UK suggests that you should leave between 10% and 20% for an evening meal in a good restaurant but less in a café or pub. For lunches in cafes, few pounds are sufficient for a tip. In pubs and bars, no tips are expected for a drinks-only order, though if you have a good barman and you want to leave a tip it is good practice to “offer a drink” in which case they will usually put a couple of pounds aside in a tip glass for them to take a drink after shift.

You’ve got the power!

Electricity in Britain is supplied at 230 Volts (50 cycles). Plugs are flat with three pins. An adapter is needed to convert from foreign plugs to the correct British plug size. A transformer is needed to convert American or European appliances (except for dual-voltage equipment which needs only an adapter).

ADEO TIP: Avoid bringing travel irons and hairdryers – most accommodations will provide these facilities, if not in each room, then please ask reception and they will help you arranging these.


When you want to phone home

Many overseas cell phones (or mobile phones as we say) will work in Britain however always check with your network provider for accessibility and tariffs. It is generally not cost effective to rent a mobile phone here in the UK, however if you have a tri-band phone then this will accept a British pay-as-you-go SIM card or chip. These are readily available at any High Street mobile phone retailer and cost between GBP£5 and GBP£20. You can top-up this SIM with credit as much as you like and although you will pay international rate calling to the US or Canada you will not have to pay to receive calls from home and you will have the peace of mind that you are always contactable on your vacation. If you are bringing your own cell-phone, don’t forget to bring the charger!

Hopefully, you found these tips and information helpful! If you would like to know even more, please expect a blog post about accommodation and food & drinks next month! Meanwhile, feel free to check some of our self-drive, rail or small group tours, and do not hesitate to enquire for your British vacation today!

Magdalena Glen

September 13, 2022

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