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United Kingdom - Passports and Visas, Currency, Electrical, Airports and City guide

United Kingdom sightseeing, attractions and online travel guide

Before You Go

British Entry Requirements for US Citizens: Passport required. No tourist visa for stays of up to 6 months. Contact: Embassy of UK, 19 Observatory Circle, Washington, DC. 20008. 202-986-0205, or consulate in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Houston, LAX, Miami, NYC, SFO or Seattle. Warning to resident Brits: All British passport renewals in USA centralized in Washington. Passports usually issued within 5 working days. However, serious backlog exists and it can take several weeks.

Health: Good care widely available. US medical insurance not always valid outside USA. Supplemental medical insurance with specific overseas coverage has proved useful. However, visitors are eligible for free emergency treatment in Accident & Emergency departments of National Health Service hospitals. If admitted to a private hospital, you will have to pay.

Crime& Security: Generally low crime rates. Incidents of violent crime minimal. Pickpocketing & theft of unattended bags common in cities. Thieves sometimes target unattended cars at tourist sites. Visitors, not expected to produce passports for police checks or other purposes, should store in hotels etc. In Northern Ireland, passports or similar photograph identification should be carried at all times. Need to carry passport to cash travellers checks is also minimized by many ATMs able to access US banks.

 28/11/02, UK nationals worldwide should be aware of the risk of indiscriminate attacks

Money: Pound Sterling (GBP) at approx. $1.50-$1.60 to GBP. Euro. 1 Euro = aprox. 60p. Each pound has 100 pence. Coins heavy & confusing include pound coin, 50p, 20p, 10p, 2p, 1p. Watch out for 2-pound coin. Check < style='font-size:10.0pt; color:blue'>Universal Currency Converter for current exchange rate. Major credit cards widely accepted with retailers allowed to charge extra fee. ATM links to US banks widely available. Banking hours generally 9.30 a.m. - 4.30 p.m. Mon thru Fri. Few banks open Sats. Some Scottish banks close for lunch!

Weather: British weather is justly famous. But if you are expecting heavy, swirling fog - you have been watching too many Sherlock Holmes movies. Coldest month: Jan/Feb average low 36F (2C). Warmest month, Jul/Aug - average high 71F (22C).

Advice & Tips for Britain:

Road Safety: Roads excellent, but often-congested in urban areas. Penalties for drunk driving stiff. Visitors uncomfortable with prospect of left-sided driving can use extensive rail and air transport networks. Pedestrians should look both ways prior to stepping off curbs, as flow of traffic from opposite direction.

Tipping  in UK is not straightforward. Most hotel bills include service charge for accommodation - but not necessarily for hotel restaurants. Restaurant policy varies: check your bill and/or ask! Porters/bellboys - give 50-75p per bag. Hairdressers GBP 2.

Electricity & Voltage: 240 volts AC, 50Hz. Square 3-pin plugs standard and visitor unlikely to come across older round 3-pin type. To use US electric equipment, bring converter and adapter. Telephone jack adapters for computer modems available from major electrical stores. If buying a video, check if NTSC or PAL.

Weights and Measures: Slowly falling in line with EU standards. Distance still signposted in miles, not kms. Petrol/gas in litters; food weights in Kilograms (1 kilo = 2.205 lbs). Beer still served in pints, aprox. 0.66 litre.

Public Holidays: Jan 1; Apr 10; Apr 13; May 4; May 25; Aug 31; Dec 25-26; Dec 28.

Accompanying Pets: The rules have recently been relaxed for all pets entering UK.  Contact: Min. of Agriculture, Government Buildings, Toby Jug Site, Hook Rise South Tolworth, Surbiton, Surrey KT6 7NF. (0181) 330-4411. Moves are afoot to change this old law.


LHR - London, Heathrow Airport

Location: 12 miles west of central London. Airport Map

By Taxi: To/from airport & central London approx. ride time 45-60 mins. Fare GBP40.

By Car: West from central London on Cromwell Road, over Hammersmith Fly-Over to M4 motorway. Note different exit for Terminal 4. Ride time 40-50 mins.

By Underground (Tube or subway): Piccadilly Line. 45-60 mins to central London. Trains every 5-10 mins. Fare GBP 4.20. Piccadilly Line (dark blue on 'tube' maps).

Paddington Station: Passengers with hand baggage only can check-in at Paddington Station (North of Hyde Park) & travel to LHR on new Heathrow Express rail link. Check-in desks by platforms 6 & 7.  1st train at 5.07 a.m.

From Scotland, North of England or Midlands, Virgin Trains bus link service from Watford Junction railway station to Heathrow Airport. Service runs hourly from approx. 7am to 11pm, seven days a week. Transfer time of less than 1 hr & competitive fares. Visit the Virgin Trains website.

By AirBus A1 or A2:  Fare GBP6 to/from central London. Ride time 60-90 mins. Every 30 mins 0610 - 2130 hrs.

Heathrow - Gatwick: 45 miles. Speedlink, Jetlink or National bus. Ride time 1 hour. Fare GBP10-15.

Info Tel #: Call Your Airline. Check times & terminal.

Terminal 1: UK Domestic flights.
Terminal 2:  European airlines to/from Europe.
Terminal 3:  Most Intercontinental airlines.
Terminal 4:  South of Runways. BA plus KL to Amsterdam, Air Malta, Olympic.

Inter-Terminal: Free bus service. Allow plenty of time to/from Terminal 4 in particular & other terminals or car rental pick-ups. 

Customs: Green & Red Channels available. Go thru Green Channel if "nothing to declare". Green channels subject to spot checks.

Luggage Carts free. Expensive Skycap service also available.

Smoking areas available.

Amenities: All the conveniences & inconveniences of a major international Airport. Plenty of shops - Terminal 4 looks more like a shopping mall than an airport.

Currency exchange & bank services at LHR guarantee availability of 50 currencies. Charges match or beat 4 UK clearing banks. BAA guarantees passengers at LHR will be able to buy up to £500 in 10 major currencies in each terminal at any time. If currency not available passengers receive balance or money & bonus payment of £500 in Sterling travellers checks.

Business Centre: 0181 759 2434.  Conference/Board rooms, individual workstations & lounge, all with catering, showers, telephones, fax, computer facilities, photocopying and mobile phone hire. Easy access for disabled. Situated in Queen's Building, access from walkway between Terminals 1 & 2.

Help Points for special needs in car parks, terminal forecourts & baggage reclaim halls. Request free assistance for travel between terminals by calling on grey phone from Help Points.  Skycap service FREE to those with disabilities, elderly people & those with children. Phones have induction loops for hard of hearing.  Help & advice provided by Travel Care, 0181 745 7495, independent social work agency offering information, advice & counselling at Queen's Building.  9.30-4.30pm Mon- Sat or contact Information Desks.

London, Gatwick Airport

Location: 45 kms (28 miles) south of London, directly linked to M23 motorway at junction 9 & to A23 London -Brighton road. M25 roadwork usually under heavy construction. 

See Access Map

By Rail: Station linked to South Terminal & station exit leads to check-in. If heading for North Terminal, follow signs from platforms & take transit.

Special needs Phone 01293 524167. 

Gatwick Expressto/from Victoria Station. Every 15 mins during day, 30 mins early morning & late evening, half hourly at night. Ride time: 30 mins non-stop. Recorded timetable 0990 30 15 30.

Thameslink: Trains to 5 London stations: Kings Cross Thameslink, Farringdon, City Thameslink, London Blackfriars & London Bridge.4 trains/hour during day, hourly services late evening. Ride time to London Bridge: 30 mins.

By Taxi & Car: Use rail links as slow drive thru south London suburbs.

By Bus: All buses stop at ground floor of South Terminal. Principal services also call at North Terminal. Passengers arriving at South Terminal, but requiring North Terminal, should take transit. Speedlink Airport Services operate bus & info desks in both terminals & in Coach Station. 0990 747777 (8 am - 8 pm). 

Info Tel #: Call Your Airline & check Terminal carefully!

London Check-In: If flying with following airlines check in baggage at airline offices at Victoria Station:- American. British Airways combining Air Zimbabwe, BA Express, GB Airways, Maersk Air, Royal Nepal Airlines & TAT. 

North Terminal: Including BA & some Delta.
South Terminal: Including AAL, British Midland, Continental, Northwest, TWA & Virgin Atlantic.

Inter-Terminal: Free transit bus.

Customs: Green & Red Channels available. Go thru Green Channel if "nothing to declare"- subject to spot checks.

Smoking? In specified smoking areas only. Convenient area near to arrival & departure gates of Virgin Atlantic.

ATMs: Barclaybank, Midland Bank & Nationwide Anglia Link cash dispensers in both terminals, Amex Link dispenser on rail concourse & Royal Bank of Scotland dispenser in South departure lounge.

For Deaf & Hard of Hearing. Desk in North Terminal has induction loop to assist those with hearing aids. South Terminal’s information desk equipped with ‘Minicom Supertel’ telephone for deaf and hard of hearing. Special assistance available to disabled & those with special needs . For wheelchairs, ramps and/or elevators wherever change of level. Reserved seating  in check-in areas & Intl Departure Lounges.

Airport Fax Locations: North Terminal: The Avenue, check-in concourse & international departure lounge. South Terminal: arrival concourse, The Village, Intl departure lounge & en route to some gates.

Glasgow, Abbotsinch Airport

Location: M8 Motorway via Junction 28 gives easy access to/from airport. Ride time about 20 mins drive from Glasgow City Centre & about 2 mins from Paisley, nearest town. See Road Map

By Taxi:  24 hrs a day to any destination & any distance. Taxis meter entire journey & publish scale of charges. Longer distance prices negotiated with driver. Taxi rank at front of terminal building short walk from UK Arrivals. Contact Cab Fly, 0141 848 4588.

By Bus: From terminal forecourt. Frequent services to Glasgow City Centre operated by Scottish Citylink & Fairline Coaches with drop off points at various locations in city, including close to Glasgow Central, Queen Street railway stations & Buchanan Bus Station. Contact Scottish Citylink - 0990 50 50 50 & Fairline Coaches on 0141 553 1313. Scottish Citylink offers hourly service to Edinburgh & variety of services to other destinations.

Trains: Paisley Gilmour Street is nearest railway station just 2 miles from airport. Reached by taxi or by frequent local bus service from terminal forecourt. Direct trains from Paisley Gilmour Street to Ayr & Clyde coast & to Glasgow Central station. Glasgow’s Central & Queen Street stations offer variety of rail services to destinations throughout Scotland & England. Contact: 0345 48 49 50.

Info Tel #: Call Your Airline

Terminals: Main Building.  See Apt Map

Customs: Green & Red Channels available. Go thru Green Channel if "nothing to declare". Green channels subject to spot checks.

Business Facilities: Business Work Station on 1st floor of terminal building. Intended as quiet area for business traveller’s pre/post flight. Payfax, payphones & modems + desks & meeting table.

Children: 2 children’s play areas. One before passport control on 1st floor of terminal. The other, sponsored by Airtours in International Departures Lounge. 5 babies care rooms available; 2 in main concourse area, one in International Departures Lounge, one in international pier & one in international baggage reclaim. Many toilets have wall-mounted baby changing units.

Special Needs: Each airline makes own arrangements for care of special needs passengers. Advise airline. For assistance from car park to terminal, call 0141 848 4778 or faxing 0141 848 4354.  Wheelchair accessible toilets & phones available throughout terminal. Text phone outside John Menzies on 1st floor.

LuggageCarts: Free

Birmingham International Airport

Location: Approx. 8 miles south-east of town.

By Taxi: Taxi-rank operated by various independent taxi companies such as Bell Cabs & BB's, and available outside both Main Terminal & Eurohub terminal buildings. 

By Car: On A45 (Birmingham-Coventry) trunk road off Junction 6 of M42. Connections to M1, M5, M6 & M40. Clearly signposted on both motorways & major trunk roads.

By Bus: Various public bus services to town & surrounding area.

By Rail: Regular (half-hourly Mon - Fri) InterCity Shuttle services serve London Euston, with ride time of  90 mins. New Street Station in Birmingham City Centre only 10 mins away, offering interchange to/from all parts of UK. Train Info: 0121-643-2711.

AirRail Link:  Shuttle bus links directly to International Rail Station & National Exhibition Centre (NEC). Approx. every 10 mins & free.

Amenities: very user-friendly airport with all necessary services including restaurants, bars, duty free, shops etc.,

Smoking: In designated areas

Manchester, Ringway Airport

By Taxi: All taxis licensed by City Council. Drivers approved by Airport hold supplementary license Airport. Within City area, fare shown on meter, including extra charges. Outside Manchester area, fare subject to negotiation, but drivers holding licence offer max. Tariff, shown in leaflets available from drivers & on tariff boards.

By Car: 10 miles SW of downtown. Served directly by spur from Junction 5 off M56.

By Bus:To/from MAN. From downtown & Stockport, connections to all region. 10 services to/from MAN including connections to Manchester Piccadilly, Altrincham, Stockport & Wythenshawe.  #189/199 express link to Stockport & Buxton. # 500 from Bolton serves northern area & Salford, # X3 for Cheshire & Wirral. First services to MAN between 3.45 am from Ashton upon Mersey & 4 am from Stockport.

By Rail: Station at heart of MAN. Moving walkway links Terminal 1 & 2.  Open 24 hrs with services from/to No. England & So. Scotland.  Direct service to Crewe, connecting Midlands & So. Wales. 6 day trains p/hr to Manchester Piccadilly:  2 night trains p/hr. Ride 15 - 20 mins.

Arrival Info Tel #:0839 888 747

Terminals: Terminal 1 & 2.  Check Hot Link for Terminal.

Customs: Green & Red Channels available. Go thru Green Channel if "nothing to declare". Green channels subject to spot checks.

Children's Play Area: International Departure Lounge.

Conference & Banqueting facilities available.

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