England is the largest and, with 55 million inhabitants, by far the most populous of the United Kingdom's constituent countries. A 'green and pleasant land', England is home to much more than this famous description implies. From urban bustle to rural idylls via spectacular coastline and dramatic natural scenery, England has an incredible variety of landscapes and attractions to experience. Historical sites and cultural attractions abound here, whilst modern architecture and exciting technological innovations litter England's largest cities, many of which have seen successive programmes of regeneration from the mid-19th century (or earlier). A diverse and culturally-rich country, with immigrants from the world over, visitors to England can seldom help being entranced by its charm, character, and unique culture.
England can be divided most generally into three sections, with deep historical and linguistic roots for each of them. These can be further divided into regions, which in turn consist of counties, most of which also have long histories.
Southern England is roughly the area south of The Wash and the Bristol Channel.
A vast and diverse metropolitan region in itself, the capital city of both England and the United Kingdom, a global capital of finance, fashion, and culture.
|South East England |
Broadly speaking, the area around and south of London, including the territory along the English Channel.
|West Country |
The often-rugged peninsula extending southwest into the Atlantic and adjoining counties. Cornwall is sometimes considered a distinctive entity.
|East of England |
A low-lying territory northeast of London, mostly rural.
The English Midlands are roughly the area east of Wales and across to the North Sea.
|West Midlands |
The birthplace of William Shakespeare, Rugby and the Industrial Revolution, the historic West Midlands span from the eastern border of Wales to the centre of England. Alongside its large industrial urban conurbations, the region is the home to five Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
|East Midlands |
From the geographic centre of England and the rugged peak district to the traditional coastal resorts on the North Sea. The East Midlands boast both rich historical legend, in the form of Robin Hood, and industrial and scientific heritage. The region is primarily covered by agricultural land and is famed for its culinary produce.
Northern England is anywhere north of Staffordshire in the west and roughly north of the River Trent in the east, up to the Scottish border.
Regarded as one of the most scenic, varied and interesting of all the traditional counties.
|North West England |
Major industrial cities and breathtaking scenery between Wales and Scotland.
|North East England |
The urbanised areas of Teesside and Tyne and Wear plus the largely rural large county of Northumberland with its sparsely populated borders with Scotland and beautiful countryside and coastline.
England has many large cities. Listed below are nine of the most popular:
- 1 London — the largest metropolitan area in Western Europe, with a range of attractions so rich, varied and – well – bloody enormous, you won't know where to start
- 2 Birmingham — England's second largest city in the country's heartland; "workshop of the world" it was, now boasts super shopping
- 3 Brighton — Regency seaside resort and university town with quirky shopping, good eating, rich culture and eclectic gay nightlife
- 4 Bristol — vibrant music scene, lovely historic buildings and an attractive waterfront, with many festivals to enjoy in the summer
- 5 Liverpool — booming cosmopolitan city, famous for its grand landmarks, world-changing music heritage and footie-mad population
- 6 Manchester — the north's cultural, sporting, entertainment, shopping and media hub is often viewed as Birmingham's main rival to second-city status
- 7 Newcastle upon Tyne — seriously good nightlife and "Geordie" inhabitants warm enough to offset the north-eastern chill
- 8 Nottingham — the "Queen of the Midlands" is home to Robin Hood, Sherwood Forest and Nottingham Castle
- 9 York — ancient capital of Yorkshire, with Roman, Viking and Medieval architecture
England has many outstanding landmarks and sites of interest. Listed below are nine of the most notable:
- 1 Hadrian's Wall — the Romans built this 87-mile wall to protect their province of Britannia from northern raiders.
- 2 Isles of Scilly — scenic archipelago of tiny islands off the south western coast of Cornwall.
- 3 Lake District National Park — glorious mountains, lakes and woodlands; the land of Wordsworth.
- 4 New Forest National Park — one of the few remnants of the great oak and hornbeam woodland that once covered southern England.
- 5 North York Moors National Park — with heather-clad hills, woodlands, impressive sea cliffs and secluded beaches, this area is one of the true English gems.
- 6 Peak District National Park — rugged moors and hills in the north, secluded dales and limestone escarpments in the south.
- 7 South Downs National Park — the gentle rolling chalk downs of southern England, which culminate at the coast in massive white cliffs.
- 8 Stonehenge — the iconic Neolithic and Bronze Age monument; as mysterious as it is famous.
- 9 Yorkshire Dales National Park — charming, picture postcard villages set in some of the finest landscapes anywhere in Britain.
Don't confuse "England" with the larger "Britain" or "United Kingdom"; see the United Kingdom article for details. Within the island of Great Britain, Scotland sits to the north of England and Wales is to the west. Northern Ireland (also part of the UK) and the Republic of Ireland lie across the Irish Sea to the west of England (and Wales). France and the Channel Islands are across the English Channel to the south, and to the east is the North Sea.
England has been stereotyped as being cold, grey and rainy since the ancient Romans wrote home, but this is not an entirely accurate picture. Temperatures rarely get very cold or very hot, and while the country certainly gets rain, it's really not as wet as rumour has it. London alone has lower annual rainfall than Paris, New York and Sydney, and it's not uncommon for parts of the country to go without rain for weeks. Parts of southern England often have summer water restrictions due to a lack of adequate rainfall during the previous winter. All the same, make sure you've got a raincoat.
Northern and western parts are usually wetter than the rest of England due to the prevailing wind from the north west bringing down cold moist air from the North Atlantic, and the sunniest and warmest areas are in the far south and south east.
Winter and autumn are usually the wettest seasons where the weather is often very changeable and at times quite windy, especially in the north and west, where cold Arctic winds arrive. Spring conditions are very changeable: a day of hot sunshine is likely as not to be followed by a week of cold wind and rain; and vice-versa. Occasional snow even as late as May is not unheard of in northern England, but it will melt quickly. Snow is particularly rare in the south east. Summer is generally warm in the south with average highs usually ranging from 18-23°C, but be prepared for unsettled weather at any time of the year and make sure to check a weather forecast if you plan to be outdoors.
Hot spells of weather can occur from May to September where temperatures may reach (and occasionally exceed) 30°C in the warmest areas of England, typically London and parts of the South East. Central Europe has very hot summers and very cold winters, but England is both less extreme (surrounded by water) and milder in the winter (influenced by the warmth of the North Atlantic Drift). If it were not for the North Atlantic Drift, England would be much much colder.
Heavy, prolonged, snow is rare and temperatures are rarely below freezing for more than a few days. Some years there will be a few days of road and rail disruption from snow - even the slightest amount of snow often causes delays on public transport, especially rail. Very severe weather conditions are rare and remedial action is usually taken promptly. Flooding and droughts are unlikely to affect the traveller. High winds occasionally disrupt travel, most often outside summer.
English people are said to have a passion for debating the weather: actually this is usually just an opening gambit to start a conversation with a stranger. Often, these conversation openers are heard among the elderly members of society. Most discussions that do involve weather usually include criticisms of it - including (though perhaps not at the same time) both that it's "too cold" and it's "too hot". Well-known conversational gambits (with due acknowledgement to Peter Kay) : "It's too cold for snow"; "It's that fine rain that soaks you through".
The people of England, like their language, are a mixed bunch who have regularly been infused with new blood - from the Romans nearly 2000 years ago taking control of the ancient British in the region, to the later influences of Angles, Saxons and others from Europe after which created the original idea of the English, to the Vikings and then the Normans about a thousand years ago. Since then, there have been Huguenots, Chinese, Jews fleeing pogroms, people from former British colonies in the Caribbean in the 1950s and 60s, Indians expelled from newly independent former African colonies, workers from new EU member states such as Poland, not to mention people from other UK nations and the Republic of Ireland. The full list is very long, but England has long been used to outsiders making it their home - even before England existed! It is true to say that not all English people welcome foreigners and some distastefully racist political organisations exist, but it's a very small fraction of the population who subscribe to such views and are looked down on with disgust by the overwhelming majority of the country. The English are well used to foreign visitors and you can expect them to be friendly and polite; almost everyone will treat you well if you are polite and make an effort to fit in. Smile, be polite, don't be pushy if you can help it: that's how to get on with the English.
One thing to bear in mind is that many (mostly elderly) English people are terrified of causing offence and dislike lying, and so will try to avoid potential pitfalls by sticking to safe (often boring) topics of conversation. They will occasionally attempt to avoid offence by evading a question which worries them, while also trying not to offend you by point blank refusing you an answer. This sort of thing generally wears off as people get to know you. The younger generation are often more open with their opinions and emotions, but you can still expect them to be polite.
Big cities and even some rural areas, as in any country, have their social problems, but England is predominantly an affluent country with little visible poverty. Rough areas see their fair share of petty and semi-serious crime: muggings, car theft, and other street crime are unhappily common in some districts of many towns and cities, but England is by and large a very safe country as long as you use common sense. Unless you are in a very touristy area (such as Covent Garden in London), you the traveller are no more likely to be targeted by criminals than is anyone else. However in places that are very popular with visitors, less careful tourists can sometimes be victims of scams and crimes such as pickpocketing. Don't be one of them!
In tourist destinations you will meet mostly friendly people who will take the time to answer a stranger's question, and who may speak English in a colourful or accented way but will usually be willing to standardise and simplify their speech if you make it clear that you're struggling to understand. Some say that there is a north-south divide with regard to friendliness of people, with people in the North seen as more friendly and approachable, while those in the South (particularly in urban areas such as London) tending to be less willing to stop and speak to strangers. Remember not to take offence, however; most people you see on the streets will usually be rushing to get to somewhere (e.g. work) and simply don't have the time to talk. However in rural areas, particularly East Anglia and the West Country, people can be more inclined to spare their time to have a chat with strangers. You should bear in mind that these are generalisations and do not apply to all people in the areas mentioned. In any case, you will usually find that if you are polite and friendly, you'll get the same in return from anybody you speak to.
London is a very international city where you may meet a variety of nationalities, depending on what part of the city you are in. England's other cities are also home to significant immigrant communities from the former British Empire.
|“||All the shop ladies called me "love" and most of the men called me "mate". I hadn't been here twelve hours and already they loved me.||”|
Unsurprisingly, English is the main language in England, though it is spoken with many different accents throughout the country. Generally, English accents can be broadly divided into Northern and Southern accents. However, within these two main 'regions', accents can vary widely between different counties, towns and cities. For example, natives of Liverpool (called 'Liverpudlians' or more informally 'Scousers') have a distinctive accent that is easily distinguishable from that of someone from nearby Manchester (called 'Mancunians') and even from the surrounding countryside. Some cities even have multiple accents depending on the area of the city and the social class of the speaker. For example, working class 'Cockneys' of the East End of London sound very different to more well-heeled denizens of west London. England is generally considered to have the greatest variety of accents in the English-speaking world, even when compared to a much larger country like the United States.
In Cornwall, a very small number of people speak Cornish, a Celtic language similar to Welsh and completely separate from English. However, with fewer than a couple of hundred speakers of the language, any experience of Cornish you get is likely to be confined to road signs or information boards.
No other languages are widely spoken, but with widespread immigration to England from other Commonwealth and European countries in the past few decades, you might also hear other languages spoken in the big cities. You may hear (and even see signs in) Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi, Gujarati, Polish, Italian, Greek, Turkish and varieties of Arabic. Largely because of links with Hong Kong and the overseas Chinese community in Malaysia, many Chinese Cantonese speaking people live here; London, Manchester and Sheffield in particular have thriving communities.
The English are not known for being particularly fond of learning foreign languages, and often rely solely on English when they travel abroad. French (and to a lesser extent Spanish, Italian and German) is usually taught in schools, but is no longer compulsory. Few English people are fluent in a foreign language but they may remember enough to be willing to help a stranger in difficulties (if they can get over the embarrassment of being seen to "show off"). For this reason, you should be prepared to have to use English to make yourself understood.
There are some peculiar words and phrases that even a native speaker of another variant of English may not understand. For example, when an English person says "Meet me at half five", they mean "Meet me at 5:30". If the directions say "go to the top of the road", that means the end of the road. Some words mean one thing to Americans and something else entirely to English people. When an English man says he shared a "fag" with his "mate" that means only that he smoked a cigarette with a friend. If he adds that they also had a "gorgeous" meal, it means it was followed by a nice dinner. Then there are the words unique to British English; a sneaker or tennis shoe, for instance, is called a "trainer." The expression "cheers!" is used both when drinking with somebody and as a substitute for "thank you."
Another English peculiarity is the use of terms of endearment for strangers such as "darling", "pet", "love", "hun", "duck", "bab", "mate", "sweetheart", "flower", "queen" and a few others. Don't worry, it is not meant in a sexual or romantic manner. Instead it's an act of kindness. It can be confusing, or perhaps even embarrassing, for somebody who is not accustomed to this to be called "darling" by a total stranger and it can also contrast quite sharply with the popular image of English people as being very reserved. However, this is something which is nowadays mainly used by the older generation and found less in the younger generation except for between friends, although some younger males may call a woman "Darlin". This is usually either as a form of cat calling (and can often be followed by derogatory demands or language but is often harmless) or directed towards a female friend.
You will hear English people say "sorry". This is not down to guilt or self-consciousness but simply because it is synonymous with "excuse me", and is used to get somebody's attention. Alternatively it can be synonymous with "pardon". Any comments along the lines of "What are you sorry about?" are pointless and likely to be received with blank looks.
As London is one of the world's most multicultural cities, you will be hard-pressed to find a major world language that is not spoken by someone there.
Accents and dialects
The diverse history of England, and the constant influx of various cultures and peoples over the centuries (e.g. Vikings, Normans, Romans, Celtic peoples, all the way up to recent immigration from Commonwealth and EU countries), have produced a wide range of accents, and there are still traces of regional dialects (vocabulary and grammar). It is best not to imitate the accents, as you will most likely be seen as mocking.
An accent will usually reveal where someone was brought up — sometimes to within quite a small area (there exists an urban legend of criminals being caught because their accents on recorded phone calls were traceable to a single neighbourhood). Today, even well-educated professionals are happy to keep their regional accent: the unhappy days when people from outside the South East felt that they had to hide their accent to "get on" have gone. It is now only people who go to public (i.e. private, fee-paying) schools who learn to speak in a "geography-free" way (the "upper-class accent" of colonial rulers, well-known from old British films, or modern parodies). Differences in accent are very real: a visitor who is expecting a particular accent they are familiar with from the cinema or television (perhaps "Dick van Dyke Cockney" or "Hugh Grant Silly Ass Upper Crust") will usually have to wait a day or two to get really accustomed to the real accents they hear around them. Even English people, familiar with other accents from TV or by knowing neighbours or colleagues who have moved from other areas, can still struggle when far from home. "Geordie", the accent/dialect of Tyneside, is a famously strong accent when spoken quickly among a group of people who do not know that a stranger is trying to tune in. Most people are happy to tone down (or slow down) their accent when a stranger is in difficulty. When encountering a broad Geordie accent it can be quite difficult for someone who is not accustomed to it to understand it, and there are still various dialectic words in common use such as hyem = home, gan/gannin = going, wor = our, divvint = don't and howay = come on. Many of these regional terms are similar to words in modern Scandinavian languages due to the Viking influence on the area.
Dialects exist, but to the traveller this should be a matter of interest, not confusion. People across England would expect to understand anyone from anywhere else in England, because the few everyday dialect words are usually well known from TV. Some examples from the north of England: "ey up" ("Hello"), "aye" ("yes", as in Scotland and the North of England); "tha" ("you", as in thee and thou, still common in Yorkshire). Real differences are subtle and of little consequence these days: for instance, people growing up in Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield use "jennel", "jinnel", and "ginnel" respectively as the word for a particular type of narrow alley between houses. Other common words are "wee", "bonnie", "lass" (small, beautiful and girl, respectively in the north east, as well as over the border in Scotland).
A few useful words which may help you understand the English (particularly in the Midlands and North): "ta" = thank you, "ta ra/ta ta" = goodbye, "summat/summit/summink" = something, "nowt" = nothing, "owt" = "anything", "dunna/dunno" = don't know, "canna/cannit = cannot.
- See the United Kingdom article for information on immigration and visa requirements.
From outside Great Britain
Since England is on an island, it is not possible to drive directly into England from outside Great Britain. Motorists have two choices to enter England from outside Great Britain, by various car ferry routes, or the Channel Tunnel.
- From mainland Europe. - there are a wide variety of routes and operators from various countries. Ferry routes to British Mainland
- From the Channel Islands. Services connect Jersey and Guernsey with the south of England.
- From the Isle of Man. Services connect Douglas, Isle of Man with the north west of England
- From Ireland. There are only limited car ferry services connecting Ireland directly with England. Alternatively it is possible to take a ferry from Ireland to Wales or Scotland and then continue the journey by road to England.
See "by boat" for further details.
- From France. Eurotunnel run a frequent train service from Calais, France, to Folkestone which carries vehicles and their passengers.
From elsewhere in Great Britain
A number of roads cross England's borders with its British neighbours. These roads range from the simple country lanes to motorways. There are no border controls with Scotland or Wales; indeed, on smaller roads the border may not be noticed at all.
The most important road connections into and out of England are.
- A1 from Edinburgh and Eastern Scotland
- M4 from South Wales
- M74/A74/M6 from Western Scotland
- A55 from North Wales.
Most people flying to England from outside Europe are likely to land in London Heathrow, London Gatwick or Manchester. Those flying from inside Europe have a great many options with low cost carriers connecting large European cities with many regional airports within England. Flying to England from Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland is popular, although there are no flight connections from Wales.
London and the South East
- London Heathrow (LHR IATA) - By far the largest airport in UK, it is also the third busiest in the world.
- London Gatwick (LGW IATA) - London's second most important airport
- London Stansted (STN IATA) - Important low cost carrier airport near Cambridge
- London Luton (LTN IATA) - Smaller airport to the north west of London
- London City (LCY IATA) - Small airport in the centre of London, mostly targeting business travellers who want to get into the city's financial districts quickly
The East: Norwich
- See also Rail travel in Great Britain
Eurostar operates regular high-speed trains to London (St Pancras International), Ebbsfleet and Ashford through the Channel Tunnel from Amsterdam (Centraal), Avignon (TGV), Brussels (Zuid-Midi), Calais (Fréthun), Lille (Europe), Lyon (Part-Dieu), Marseille (Saint Charles), Paris (Gare du Nord) and Rotterdam (Centraal). Book as early as possible as fares can be considerably more expensive if trying to book at the last minute.
The rail system with Wales and Scotland is fully integrated, with regular services crossing the borders into England. In addition to regular daytime trains, sleeper trains link Scotland and England. As the franchising contract runs to 2030, they are unlikely to be withdrawn.
BritRail Passes are available to non-UK citizens which allow the traveller unlimited rail travel in England on one ticket.
- See also: Ferry routes to Great Britain
With so much coastline and so many ports, England has extensive shipping links with many countries worldwide. Major ports are Dover, Folkestone, Harwich, Hull, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Southampton, Liverpool, Ipswich and Newcastle.
Several companies offer London-Paris (via the Chunnel) international service, including French ouibus, British Megabus or German Flixbus. While travel times are usually a lot longer than by plane or train, the prices tend to be rather low and fares below €20 are not unheard of.
England is well serviced by domestic air, land and sea routes.
There are taxi firms everywhere (many are by booking only—find the phone number of the local company and phone ahead), and every town has a bus service. 'Black cabs' are also common in cities and can be hailed from the side of the road. Sometimes in city centres, usually just after the nightclubs have closed, there will be queue for taxis which will sometimes be monitored by marshals or police.
To be safe, make sure you take a registered taxi or black cab; despite government action, many unlawful unregistered private taxi drivers exist—these do have a reputation for being unsafe, particularly if you are a woman.
England has one of the highest densities of railway lines per square mile in the world. Delays and cancellations occasionally occur. Overcrowding can be a problem in large cities, especially at 'rush-hour' times (7AM–9AM and 5PM–7PM, Monday to Friday) so it is best to avoid these times when tickets can be expensive. See also Rail travel in the United Kingdom.
Buses are numerous, frequent and reliable in most of the larger towns and cities and an ideal way of getting around. Rural areas are less well served and hiring a car is often the best option to explore the countryside and villages.
The roads are of generally excellent quality (although can deteriorate in rural areas) and the signs and markings are clear. The main problem with driving in England is the sheer volume of traffic. Unfortunately this is not only limited to rush-hours and large cities, and even cross-country motorways can slow to a stop as they pass urban areas. Prepare for travel times being longer than you'd normally anticipate in relation to the mileage. The speed limit, unless otherwise stated, is 30 or 40 mph in built-up areas, 50 or 60 mph (approx 95 km/h) elsewhere and 70 mph (approx. 110 km/h) on motorways and other controlled-access roads. Many small communities and burbs are adopting 20 mph limits. Speed cameras and traffic police are numerous so caution is advised. The traditional British 'reserve' and politeness may occasionally dissolve under the stress of congestion on the major routes, especially with the traffic problems in some of England's larger cities, but generally driving around Britain is an enjoyable experience and it is polite to acknowledge the courtesy of another driver with a nod or the raising of the hand as a form of thank you. Drivers will often flash their headlights to indicate that you are clear to pull out, or otherwise to give way to you, and it is considered polite to say thank you by giving a wave or a quick flash of your headlights.
Flashing your hazards (i.e., both indicators at the same time) is only used as an indication of danger. Usually it's used to indicate that the car has broken down or to warn other drivers that there's a hazard up ahead. But flashing your hazards a couple of times is another way of saying thank you.
Brown road signs with white text indicate nearby tourist attractions, and the blue i sign denotes Tourist Information.
Road closed! - it's not uncommon on major highways at night, as traffic density is so great that roadworks are only feasible overnight. Trust the signs, and don't panic - they're pretty systematic about signposting the diversion, which by-and-by will bring you back on course with only 10 minutes lost. Don't go haring across country on what looks like a short cut, and above all don't concoct a work-around with Satnav, which you should know by now disguises the name "Satan".
The UK isn't as cycle-friendly as some other European countries, but cycling is still a great way to get around. You'll see a lot more from a bicycle, have the freedom to stop wherever you want, no parking headaches and once you've got the bicycle there is nothing to pay. It is unquestionably the fastest way around London and other major cities–it does have its dangers but it's well worth the risk.
There are many lovely cycle paths where you can avoid the traffic and soak in the cityscape or countryside. Rough examples of journey times at moderate speed: Buckingham Palace to Tower Bridge: 20 minutes; Buckingham Palace to Windsor Castle: 2 hours; Central London to Oxford: 5 hours. A national online route planner can be found at Cycle Streets
You can hire a bicycle from some local bicycle shops, or purchase a decent one privately for less than £100 secondhand as the UK has a surplus of old bicycles. Make sure you get a helmet, particularly for city cycling, and lights, especially in winter as the days are very short. Helmets aren't compulsory but the police will fine you for not using lights when it's dark. A decent lock is also essential, particularly in the cities; bicycle theft is a common problem—do not leave your bicycle unattended, not even for a minute.
Most of the London underground trains and local buses do not accept cycles, but overground trains and long-distance coaches will normally let you on with a bicycle, as long as they're not too full. Arrive early for coaches so you get a space in the luggage hold.
And did those feet in ancient times?
Spoiler alert, no they didn't. But the hymn Jerusalem has become a romantic unofficial English anthem, and to this day it's sung at the opening of meetings of the Women's Institute, and often at Anglican (C of E) services such as funerals. It's become associated with the moorlands and industry of the north, though when Blake wrote it he was reacting to the "dark satanic mills" of Southwark in Victorian London. "Bring me my sword, oh clouds unfold, bring me my chariot of fire!"
England has several long-distance hiking trails. Best known is the Pennine Way, which roams for 268 miles / 431 km along the spine of northern England from Edale in Derbyshire to Kirk Yetholm in Scotland.
London is the start and finish point for most international tourists. It offers countless museums and historical attractions. To truly experience England, however, you must venture out of the hustle and bustle of the capital and see what the rest of England has to offer. You will find the rest of England very different to its capital city; indeed, if you only visit London, you haven't seen 'England'—you've seen one city that differs in many ways to the rest of the country.
If short on time, you may find it more convenient to base yourself in a regional city and take day trips to the National Parks, coast and smaller towns. If you have plenty of time, then you could base yourself in a B&B (Bed and Breakfast) in any of the above. You will find that public transport to and within cities and large towns is acceptable, but that in smaller places off the beaten track then you should research your journey carefully, or consider hiring a car.
If short on time, you can use larger cities as a base for day trips, either by train or coach. For example Leeds, the largest city in Yorkshire, makes a great base for day trips to the Yorkshire Dales, North Yorkshire Moors, York and Whitby, whilst offering its own selection of attractions such as the Royal Armouries, famed nightlife, theatre and designer shopping in stunning Victorian-era arcades.
England, together with the other parts of Britain, was the cradle of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th to 20th centuries. Though many industries were shut down in the late 20th century, there is still much to see of Industrial Britain; mines, factories, and heritage railways.
A number of 'umbrella' organisations are devoted to the preservation and public access of both natural and cultural heritage. Membership with them, even on a temporary basis, means priority free access to their properties thereafter—travellers to England seeking to see a large number of sights would do well to join one or more of them:
- English Heritage. English Heritage has an especially wide-ranging remit and manages more than 400 significant buildings and monuments in England. They also maintain a register of thousands of "listed" buildings, those considered of most importance to the historic and cultural heritage of the country.
- The National Trust (National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty). The National Trust manages over 350 properties and over 950sq miles of land. Many of the country's manor houses are under the trust's ownership and management.
- Football, meaning soccer, is the most popular sport in England. The English Premier League is one of Europe's premier domestic competitions, played Sept-April. The FA Cup is a simple knock-out contest and chance for unknown teams to shine; it's the oldest football tournament in the world. The women's game is also rapidly developing and in July 2022 England hosted and won the UEFA Women's Euro Finals, postponed from 2021. Their top club competition is the Women's Super League.
- Rugby football in England has two distinct codes. Rugby union (15 a side) is more popular in the south and played Sept-April, while rugby league (13 a side) is predominant in the north, and is played Feb-Aug. The RL World Cup Finals were played in England in 2022, postponed from 2021.
- Cricket is played May-Sept, with the professional game played between counties, and 8 cities in The Hundred short format. Over 5000 amateur teams play on timeless village pitches: ("Oh, good shot Sir!" as the ball disappears into the brambles.) In summer England hosts international or "Test" matches, the premier event being "The Ashes" series of five matches against Australia. In winter the England team tour abroad.
- Golf: there are over 1900 golf courses, every town is near one, and the cities may have a dozen around their fringes. Big-name big-money tournaments are often on "links" courses, sandy terrain near the coast, such as Lytham, Southport and Hoylake.
- Walking/hiking: England has many places for walking in the country, which may be called hillwalking or fellwalking in some areas. The Lake District and Peak District are some of the places for more serious walks—see also the itinerary Hikes in the Lake District. The Pennine Way (463 km), the Coast To Coast Walk (309 km), and the South West Coast Path (1010 km) are the best-known long-distance walks. There are public footpaths and public bridleways all over the country. People have the right to walk along these and local councils are obliged to maintain records of the routes and keep access open. Paths are usually signposted where they meet a road, but may not be marked across fields. The paths are shown on the Ordnance Survey Explorer (1:25,000) and Landranger (1:50,000) maps. Enquire locally for details of the best walks, and what kit (boots, waterproofs, etc.) you will need. Unlike Scotland and certain Scandinavian countries, England does not have a general right to roam. However most areas of heathland, upland and forest do have this designation.
- Beaches: Cornwall and Devon have some spectacular natural beaches that would rival those of Australia and California, although they are often much colder.
- Music: See Music in Britain and Ireland.
England has traditional dishes famous the world over from beef Wellington and steak and kidney pie to the humble sandwich. However, a modern English meal is just as likely to be lasagne or chicken tikka masala, with these international meals taking on a decidedly English flavour. The English are great adopters of other countries' food, and you will find a wide selection of restaurants serving cuisine from all over the world wherever you go.
England has for many decades held a reputation for bad food; this was due to the privations in and immediately after World War II. However, England's food scene has been revitalised and the bad food reputation can be considered a lazy meme. Nowadays you can generally expect pubs and restaurants to provide decent and well-presented meals. It is nonetheless advisable to 'do your research' before going out, visit establishments in person, and check out online reviews. If in doubt, ask the locals where's best to eat.
A meal out is the usual way to celebrate a special family or social event, and people expect the meal to live up to the occasion. Cooking programmes are now among the most popular on the television, supermarkets have turned many previously unknown foods into everyday items, and farm shops and farmers' markets have surprised all the commentators by becoming extremely popular weekend "leisure" destinations where people can buy excellent local meat, fruit, vegetables, cheeses, breads and other delicacies.
What to try
See also: English cheese
Here are some traditional meals which are usually referred to as "national dishes" and which you can reasonably expect to find anywhere in England.
- Fish and chips — deep-fried, battered cod, haddock or another white fish with chips. This is best bought from specialist fish and chip shops, known colloquially as "chippies", "fisheries" or "frieries" in different parts of England, where it is usually better than the fish and chips on a general restaurant or pub menu. Available throughout the country, but best eaten out of paper while overlooking the waves on a beach. The default fish is typically cod in the South, haddock in much of the North, and sometimes rock in Essex, but better quality chippies will usually offer a choice. In the north of England, gravy is extremely popular. Chips and gravy is sometimes referred to as their region wide choice often loaded with cheese and served with mushy peas and scraps on the side. In the south gravy on chips is not as popular but still sold. Sometimes in some southern chip shops mostly in London, gravy isn't even served.
- Full English breakfast — At its fullest, it might consist of fried bacon, fried eggs (the two basic elements essential to any "fry up"), fried sausages, fried bread, fried black pudding, fried bubble and squeak, hash browns, mushrooms, scrambled eggs, baked beans in tomato sauce, and toast and butter - washed down by a large amount of hot strong tea or coffee with milk. Served in less refined versions in truckers' stops, and posher versions in hotels, where there will often be a buffet of these items from which you can help yourself. The English now perceive the breakfast to be a weekend or holiday treat, or as a suitable meal to consume when hungover after a night of drinking. Any inexpensive "greasy spoon" café will have "all-day breakfast" on the menu, as do many more upmarket establishments. Vegetarian ones are now common.
- Lancashire hotpot — a hearty vegetable and lamb stew from Lancashire
- Roast dinner, also known as the "Sunday roast", due to the day it is traditionally consumed is considered by many the archetypal English meal. The dish consists of a roasted meat (usually chicken, turkey, beef, pork or lamb), served with roast potatoes, and between two and six other roasted, boiled, steamed or braised vegetables. This meal is inevitably more popular in the colder half of the year, and the exact components often depend on the season (turkey and less frequently the more historical goose are the traditional meats consumed around Christmas, while lamb is most popular in the spring, and each vegetable has its particular season). The roast is available on Sundays between lunchtime and early evening in virtually any English pub serving food. Quality can vary greatly depending on how freshly cooked the food is, with home cooked invariably being better.
- Sausages and mash, often called bangers and mash — hot sausages and creamy mashed potato, often served with vegetables and a slightly sweet onion gravy. There are many kinds of sausage available in England, from the peppery, spiral-shaped Cumberland, and fat, sagy Gloucester to the short, herby Lincolnshire, via beef and lamb varieties and pork mixed with almost anything you can think of (apples, leek, chives, chillies, paprika, nutmeg, ginger, Stilton cheese, breadcrumbs, ale, cider, chocolate, stinging nettles...), not forgetting the humble plain pork "banger" which is most common. The English take their sausages very seriously, maybe even more so than the Germans, and there are numerous national and regional contests where butchers and enthusiasts alike can enter to battle for the prestigious title of 'champion sausage' in various categories.
- Savoury pies — are meat and/or vegetables usually in a sauce or gravy served in a pastry case. Among the most popular varieties are steak and ale, steak and kidney, chicken and mushroom and meat and potato. Slightly different, but similar, is the Cornish pasty — beef and vegetables in a pastry case
- Toad in the hole — sausages in Yorkshire pudding batter
- Yorkshire pudding — a batter pudding served with a roast (usually beef); originally used instead of a plate and eaten with the meal. In Yorkshire and neighbouring parts of northern England, giant versions often appear on pub menus as a main meal item, with a filling, e.g. Giant Yorkshire Pudding filled with beef stew.
There are many other regional dishes and foodstuffs which are covered in the relevant region articles.
Where to eat
Pubs are a good place to get reasonably priced food, though most stop serving food at around 21:00-21:30. Others may stop serving food between lunch and dinner. Pub food has become quite sophisticated and, as well as serving the more traditional hearty English fare, more exotic dishes are now prepared in the majority of the larger pubs and specialist "gastropubs".
English food has undergone a revolution with many larger cities having award-winning restaurants run by the many famous TV chefs who have now become part of the English obsession with food. London has 60 Michelin-starred restaurants, almost as many as Paris' 77. Eating out at a high-quality restaurant can be an expensive experience: at the very top end (Michelin-star level) expect to pay £100 (at least) per head including wine. A decent three-course meal out at a respectable restaurant will normally cost around £30–40 per head including wine. It is possible to dine for cheaper than this, but the quality usually drops when the bill is below £20–25 per head.
If good-quality and cheaply priced food is more your choice, try one of the many ethnic restaurants such as Chinese, South Asian or Mexican. Eating a curry or balti in an Indian restaurant is tantamount to an English obsession. These restaurants are found everywhere—even the larger villages have them—and usually the food is of good quality and they will cater for most tastes. A good curry with side dishes can be had for around £10–15 per head, and some without liquor licences allow you to bring your own alcoholic beverages in. Eating a curry out is a social occasion and often you will find the men try to challenge their own taste buds to a duel, opting for spicier curries than they find comfortable! In the towns and cities these restaurants are usually open late (especially on a Friday and Saturday night) to cater for people eating after the pubs have closed. It is at this time that they can get very busy and lively, so if you want to avoid the crowds then visit the restaurants before the local pubs shut.
Unlike many other European countries, vegetarian (and to a lesser extent, vegan) food is widely available and appreciated in pubs and restaurants, with several dishes usually appearing on the menu alongside the more normal meat and fish options. However, vegetarians may still find the variety of dishes rather limited—particularly in pubs, where certain dishes such as "veggie" lasagne or mushroom stroganoff feature all too regularly. In the big cities and tourist areas, vegetarian and vegan diets are widespread. Even in rural areas there are a couple of vegetarian options on pub menus. If you're vegan and visiting rural areas, you better do lots of explaining of what you eat and don't eat to the bartender or waiter/waitress.
Tipping is generally expected in restaurants unless a service charge has been added to the bill, with a tip of around 10% considered to be the norm. Tipping in bars and cafes is less common.
The traditional drinking establishment is the "pub" (short for "public house"). These are normally named after local landmarks or events, and most will have a heraldic (or pseudo-heraldic) symbol on the sign outside; more recent establishments may poke fun of this tradition (e.g. "The Queen's Head" featuring a portrait of Freddie Mercury, lead singer for the rock band Queen). England seems to have an incredible number of pubs. While in a city you are usually not more than a 5-minute walk from a pub.
The pub is an English institution, though a declining one. Tastes are changing, smoking has been banned inside pubs, beer is ever cheaper in supermarkets, drink-driving is illegal and a social taboo, and pub landlords are often squeezed by sharp practice by the big firms that supply beers to and own many pub buildings.
There are many different kinds of pub. Some are traditional 'locals', and a real part of the community. In most neighbourhood pubs you will find all generations mingling together, which often gives patrons a feeling of community. It would not be uncommon to see three generations of one family congregating in a neighbourhood pub. Nevertheless, pubs can vary widely in character. Depending on the area, you can find a warm and friendly welcome, or drunken youths spoiling for a fight.
However, pubs are becoming more and more specialized. In city centres, many have been taken over by big chains; some are soulless, some are moderately pleasant. Some independent pubs have become wine bars or cocktail bars; perhaps the least pleasant are those pubs which pack in customers on their way to a nightclub, with loud music, no space, and super-cheap spirits to make sure their clients are as drunk as possible by 11PM.
However, many pubs are evolving in a more healthy direction. There are now many pubs that pride themselves on serving 'real ales'—beer brewed on a smaller scale to traditional English methods and recipes. Any visiting beer lover should track these down. Many pubs, both in the countryside and in cities, have moved towards serving good food. And while most pubs will serve food, it's in these 'gastropubs' that you'll find well-prepared food, generally a mixture of traditional English dishes and international influences. The prices will tend to match.
Pubs have a little of their own etiquette. At any proper pub, service is always at the bar. It's polite to strike up a conversation with anyone else who is standing or sitting at the bar. And if someone buys you a drink, you will be expected to 'stand your round' later on, buying for whoever you're drinking with. If you're planning to leave promptly, or don't have enough money, then you should politely decline the offer.
Although traditional pub licensing laws severely restricted their hours of operation, laws enacted in 2005 allow pubs to request more flexible opening hours. Few pubs have requested the "24-hour drinking" that is permitted: as a general rule more traditional pubs will close at 11PM still. Some of the more trendy bars will close nearer to 1AM, filling a niche in the market between traditional pub and nightclub. However in most cities and many towns, centrally located pubs and bars will stay open any time from 2AM till 6AM, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. Also, at public holiday times, many pubs extend their closing times—especially on New Year's Eve.
If you abstain from alcohol, you need not worry; all pubs also serve non-alcoholic drinks.
England is home to a huge variety of alcoholic drinks; the drinking age in England is 18, and those that appear under 25 will theoretically (rarely implemented) be asked to provide ID such as a passport or driving licence. As well as wines and spirits (mainly imported, but some local), all pubs sell several beers and at least one cider. The main types of beer you will come across are lager, bitter and stout. Real ale is not a separate classification, it refers to beer made and served by traditional methods.
Lager — Predominantly the pilsner type: pale, fizzy and cold. Because of the popularity of this type of beer among the young, there are many mass-market national brands brewed in the UK (and widely advertised with "having fun" type ads) which may disappoint anyone wanting more than simply cold, fizzy, alcohol. Some national brands are much better, and often stronger, and may be sold in bottles as well as on draught. Purists often prefer imported European-brewed lagers. Some beer snobs condescendingly look down on lagers in preferences to darker, heavier beers which they perceive to be somehow 'superior'.
Bitter — The most common example of the English type of beer that is classified as "ale". They are typically darker than lagers—they are called bitter because they have more hops than "mild" (another less-common kind of ale). Again, there are well-advertised national brands for the mass market, usually less strong than lagers. Most are now not "real ales": they are not matured in the barrel; they are often called "smooth" or "cream" (which means that they are infused with nitrogen to give a small-bubbled head) and are often served very cold from a small tap on a tall, illuminated stand.
Stout — A dark, heavy, usually very bitter beer. Originally called Porter, Arthur Guinness decided he could do better and made Guinness which he branded a Stout Porter. Although the style is of English origin, Guinness is one world-famous Irish brand that is available almost everywhere in England, often in "normal" and "extra cold" versions.
All of the mass-market types above can be bought in cans—often with a "widget" that when the can is opened, forces nitrogen bubbles through the beer to simulate "draught" beer.
Ale — This is not simply another word for "bitter" or "beer". It is used to describe any beer other than lager (i.e. it is a beer brewed at cellar temperatures using floating yeast, i.e. bitters, milds and stouts). However, these days "ale" is often used a little self-consciously, usually either as a "matey" word for any type of beer ("Anyone fancy a few ales?") or in a consciously "traditional" way ("Try a pint of good old English ale"). To ask for "A pint of ale, please." would sound like a line from a period film. However "real ale" is an accepted term, so to ask "What real ales do you have on?" would be quite normal.
Real Ale — The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has been a very successful consumer campaign; its aims have been to ensure that mass-market beers do not completely force out beers made in the traditional way. However, one downside has been to foster the aforementioned snobbery towards lager. CAMRA created the term "Real Ale" to summarise the type of beer they wanted to keep alive: it must be allowed to continue maturing after it leaves the brewery (i.e. not be pasteurised or filtered to remove living yeast; be stored and served without additional gas (i.e. does not have carbon dioxide or nitrogen forced into the beer); and be served at the appropriate temperature for the style: traditional ales are not generally served warm, as many people believe, but at the temperature of the 'cool' cellar they have been maturing in for several days (ideally, 8–12°C). Most real ales are served from the distinctive "handpumps" which allow a pint to be "pulled" from the cellar by several full-length strokes requiring visible effort on the part of the server. Most "real ales" served in ordinary pubs are bitters, but these come in a wide range of strengths, colours, and bitterness. A majority of pubs now serve at least one or two national brands of real ale, and perhaps one or even two local ones.
"Real ale pubs" — At a pub which especially caters to lovers of real ale, or at a beer festival, there will be more local brands (and "guests" from some distance away) and a wider range of bitters, and even a good choice of other types. Expect to see summer ales, winter ales, exotic beers (containing ingredients such as heather, honey or ginger), light milds, dark milds, lagers, stouts and, increasingly, porters (like a stronger dark mild, or a lighter, sweeter stout). These will be served from a long row of handpumps or (even more traditionally) straight from barrels sitting on the bar or (especially at beer festivals) in racks. There will also be a wide range of "bottle-conditioned" beers ("real ale in a bottle") usually either versions of English bitters, often called "pale ales", or very strong beers from France or Belgium. There will also be several ciders and perries.
Cider — In England this means an alcoholic drink made from apples (often much stronger than beer). These are generally brewed in the West Country, Herefordshire and Suffolk. The West Country is more known for the traditional cloudy, still 'scrumpy' cider, whereas the other regions produce more clear, fizzy cider. The more commercial brands of cider, served from pressurised kegs and so available at any pub, are clear, fizzy and cold, and quite strong (they are usually moderately or very sweet, so the high alcohol content may go unnoticed by a novice). A real ale pub will usually sell at least one "real", unpressurised, cider, perhaps from a barrel sitting on the bar. This may may be clear or slightly cloudy, but will almost certainly be still, not too sweet, and very strong (7% alcohol is only average for this type of cider). The most traditional cider is called scrumpy and is usually very strong, very cloudy and possibly rather sour. Some commercial ciders have "scrumpy" in their name, but these are not quite the same as a gallon jug bought at the farmhouse door.
Perry — Similar to cider but made from pears (is sometimes called pear cider, especially if imported). Farmhouse perry was always difficult to get hold of outside the West Country, but this is improving, and there will nearly always be some available at a beer festival. Keen perry-spotters might notice the sweetish "undercover" commercial versions: advertised nationwide with a "girls night out" theme and sold in wine-shaped bottles with "inexpensive white wine"-type labels bearing the legend "Perry" in small letters.
Tea is widely drunk throughout the country, almost always hot, usually strong, usually with milk, and quite often with sugar. Unless specified, "tea" will be assumed to be an English Breakfast blend of black tea, although other teas and blends (green, chai, Earl Grey, lapsang souchong, etc) are usually available. There are many popular brands (the most recognisable are PG Tips and Tetley). Tea is usually drunk at home or at work or to accompany breakfast in inexpensive restaurants (where it will usually arrive with milk in a separate jug), or with afternoon tea (scones, cream, jam and cakes) at a "tea-room" (less frequently seen these days, except in expensive hotels or in holiday areas). It is often the cheapest drink in coffee shops. Tea is sometimes served in pubs and bars.
Coffee is as popular as tea. Instant coffee (made with hot water, hot milk, or "half and half") is much used at home and work, and in inexpensive restaurants. If it is made with just hot water, then it is "black coffee"; with added cold milk it becomes "white coffee". Percolators are little used, and machines with paper filters are less common than they once were: they often fill a restaurant with a coffee aroma, but a mediocre restaurant will often leave the made coffee heating for too long. Therefore, at dinner parties or good restaurants, cafetières are the most common way to serve "real" ("ground") coffee: the customer can leave the coffee infusing until it is as strong as they like, then press the filter down to stop the brew and restrain the grounds from getting into the cup. The drinker then adds their own milk (hot milk is often provided; cream less often) and sugar. Seattle-style coffee bars serve the usual types of espresso-based coffees (but with a less-bewildering choice of combinations of coffee, milk, sugar and flavourings). Decaffeinated coffee is available, but not standard. A pub may serve coffee, and indeed chains (especially Wetherspoons) invariably do, but "bar" type of pub (at a non-busy time of day) is a better option. International coffeeshop chains such as Starbucks, Costa's and Caffe Nero are very common in large towns and cities. These often serve a wide range of coffees, teas and hot chocolate. An independent coffee house may give a more satisfying experience, where the drinks are often better, and there are homemade cakes and pastries.
Hot Chocolate is usually made with cocoa powder (or occasionally chocolate syrup) and milk is also common.
Fruit juices are popular, particularly apple, and the ever-present orange. Smoothies are becoming big too, and you will find many varieties available.
England offers the usual Western assortment of sleeping options, including:
- Hostels Both private institutions and those part of a hosteling network (which may require membership so check ahead) usually offer dorm-style accommodation, sometimes with a simple breakfast included (think toast and tea). Many hostels in popular destination cities fill up during the busy summer season, so try to book ahead or at least call before you arrive.
- Bed and Breakfasts can range from a single room in a private home to large historical buildings with dozens of rooms.
- Hotels in cities and towns, and near motorway junctions, as well as some grand Country House Hotels. Budget hotel chains include 'Travelodge' and 'Premier Inn'; these are simple, yet clean and comfortable.
- Motels Mostly in the form of large chains such as Travel Inn and Travelodge, with hundreds across the country.
- Camping There is a widespread network in country locations of campsites that welcome tents, caravans, or motorhomes. Sites may welcome some or all of these. But don't expect to find many close to cities and major tourist attractions.
- Universities It has been possible to get accommodation in some Universities and Colleges out of term time for a while. However University Rooms is a bit better than most previous sites, in that it provides good information and tips about the places it covers, which include Oxford and Cambridge. However it does not cover all the places where accommodation is available.
While the rooms are generally comfortable, rooms at the lower end of the price scale may be small and usually come without air conditioning, cable TV, coffee machines, and other amenities. In very inexpensive accommodation, for example in dormitory-style hostels, towels and soap may not be provided. Most hotels that provide breakfast will offer a choice between a full English or continental style breakfast. The continental normally consists of bread rolls, croissant, cereal, pain au chocolat and cold meats such as ham and salami. Beverages such as fresh fruit juice, tea, coffee and hot chocolate are served too.
Currency is Pounds Sterling (GBP). Although Bank of England notes are accepted all over the United Kingdom, you may have trouble using Northern Irish and Scottish notes in England due to shop staff being unfamiliar with them.
Credit cards are accepted in most shops and restaurants. Visa and MasterCard are the most widely accepted, though debit cards with the Maestro logo are also taken. American Express cards are accepted in fewer establishments, but most restaurants will accept them. Credit cards with a chip and PIN have become nearly compulsory. Credit card agreements mostly require merchants to accept cards with a swipe and signature; however, it is wise to carry enough cash in case the retailer does not comply.
One thing to keep in mind is that due to credit card surcharges, some establishments and shops will only allow cards (including debit cards) to be used for purchases over £5 or £10. While others, notably smaller shops and convenience stores may charge around £0.40 below a certain amount or forbid them entirely. It's worth checking the sticker on the shop window to see what's permitted.
Most shops are open M-Sa from around 9AM to 5PM. Supermarkets, newsagents and corner shops often open earlier and stay open until 8PM or later most days. On Sundays, larger shops are only permitted to open for 6 hours, which is often 10AM to 4PM and sometimes open early for "browsing", when you can look but not buy.
England has many options for foreign students to study; from language, history, and cultural short courses to advanced degrees at internationally renowned universities. Most cities have at least one institute of higher learning.
Irish citizens may study in England without a visa. Students from other European Union countries, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland now require a visa to study in England.
University fees have two tiers: a home fee for UK students, which is capped at £9250 per year, and a higher tier for students from outside of the UK, from £10,000 to £18,000 per year.
- See also: United Kingdom#Work
Options for short-term employment include bar tending and waiting tables as well as more specialised work such as in the high tech/computer industry. Visitors from Commonwealth countries will have a much easier time getting a work permit, especially those under 30 as there are several programs.
Citizens of countries belonging to the European Union (except Ireland) now require a permit to start working in England. See Brexit for details.
Visitors on a student visa can work up to 20 hours per week while in full-time education and 40 hours per week while on break.
In any emergency call 999 or 112 and ask for "ambulance", "fire", "police" or "coast guard" when connected. If you need more than one service that includes an ambulance (e.g. a road collision) then ask for an ambulance and they will contact the relevant services themselves.
If you need to contact the police when an emergency response is not needed, call the 101 police non-emergency number (e.g. property or car has been damaged or stolen or to give the police information about crime or a general enquiry.
England by and large is a safe place to live and visit; violent crime against tourists is rare, but you should always use general common sense to ensure you keep out of trouble. In most of the major cities, you will find outlying suburban and inner city areas where poverty, crime and gang violence are common. These areas can be quite risky (by western standards) and should be avoided. Again, common sense is the best way to stay safe, and a visitor would be very unlikely to end up in such areas anyway. In a situation where you feel uncomfortable out on the street (for example, if a gang of youths block your path and are behaving in a rowdy manner), it's usually fine to cross the road and walk past and not to respond to them as they are not generally interested in harassing people as they may appear and will ignore you in most cases.
Crime rates are generally very low in rural areas, although some small poorer towns can be surprisingly rough. Having said that, caution is advisable when travelling alone in remote areas. You should always try to tell somebody you trust where you're going; even if they are not in England themselves, they can alert the UK police if you encounter problems.
Take care when driving on country lanes as they can become very narrow and the lesser travelled ones are often in poor condition. Country lanes may also feature tight corners with relatively little visibility, and may at times become essentially one-way roads. These roads mostly do not have street lights, and are typically not gritted in winter, so be careful at night and in snowy or icy conditions. If you are driving along a country lane and break down, it may take some considerable time for rescue vehicles to reach you.
It is worth taking care on some public transport at night, as rowdy drunks can be a problem. Also, in some cities, there have been incidents of street gangs carrying out robberies on buses and trains at night. Visitors should not be too concerned, however, as these are very rare occurrences.
Some town and city centres should be approached with caution during the later evening on Fridays and Saturdays in particular, as high levels of drunkenness can be rife. Some English people become aggressive when drunk, and outbreaks of unprovoked violence have happened. Common sense can help avoid problems with drunken people. Many drunk people will simply be loud and unconcerned with tourists. At night it is also recommended that you use licensed taxis or licensed mini cabs. Taxis are available at taxi ranks or by phone, while mini cabs are by phone booking only—asking at the bar will usually provide you with numbers. Unofficial/unlicensed mini cabs that cruise the street looking for fares have a reputation as dangerous for lone females (and in rare instances, males); the most common incident is the passenger is driven to a secluded area, and then raped. In any case, it is completely within the passenger's rights to ask to see a taxi driver's licence and to turn down the service if he or she cannot show it.
Take care on matchdays in football and rugby, particularly for teams known for their rivalry, or teams from the same town or city facing one another, known as a derby day. Some derbies like Liverpool vs Manchester United or Man City vs United can get violent if you wear the wrong team's kit in the wrong place, or if you mock the opposing team. Although hooliganism has died down in many places, if you use common sense you will be safe. Because of serious rivalry with some sporting teams, many pubs and bars ban wearing football or rugby shirts.
There is no cost to any patient to be treated as an outpatient in hospital for accidents and emergencies that arise while you are in England. If you aren't a resident or covered by a reciprocal arrangement (for example have a European Health Insurance Card) you will be charged if you are admitted to hospital - so it is wise to have travel insurance.
In a medical emergency, dial 999. These numbers are free of charge from any telephone. For advice on non-emergency medical problems, you can ring the 24 hour NHS 111 service on 111 or check their website for advice. Response is prioritized on a clinical basis for so the operator may ask additional questions to provide appropriate resources.
Emergencies can be dealt with under the NHS (National Health Service) at any hospital with an A & E (Accident & Emergency) department (US: ER). At A&E departments, be prepared to wait during busy periods (waits of 4 hours are not uncommon) before being given treatment if your medical complaint is not too serious. A&E Departments, will triage and prioritize based on clinical need however, so serious ailments are usually treated more quickly, critical or life threatening injuries almost immediately. Evenings are normally busiest, particularly on Fridays and Saturdays and in city centres, with the winter months putting considerable pressure on A&E provision.
Walk-in centres also provide treatment for less urgent conditions on a first come first served basis. They often have longer opening hours than GP surgeries. Who you see and what treatments or advice you are given will depend on your condition. You may be seem by a nurse. See NHS Walk-in Centres for further details as to what services they can provide.
Many GP practices are under great pressure, there being more patients than GPs to cope with demand. Many practices have long appointment waiting times, some over 3 weeks. In more urgent cases most practices will make an effort to find an appointment or direct you to other treatment services. As of 2020 some practices have moved to telephone consultations for medical issues that do not need a physical examination.
Online private GP/doctor consultation services are available in the UK. These services use a Smartphone app and enable you to consult a medical professional online. Consultations are paid for through a subscription or on a one-off basis. As such services progress more providers are likely to enter the market and services will adapt depending on demands. For example, Babylon Health.
Dental care is mixed NHS and private. Many dental practices reserve a few appointments each day for urgent and emergency treatments. These appointments are normally made on a 1st come 1st served basis on the day to people who are in need of urgent treatment and often they will all be filled soon after the clinic opens. For emergency out-of-hours dental care (e.g. weekends), call the NHS Direct 111 number and they will check if your condition warrants emergency care and if it does give you the number of an emergency dentist (which may be some distance away).
To find nearby medical, walk-in, dental, pharmacy services use the NHS online service finder
For advice on minor ailments and non-prescription drugs, you can ask a pharmacist (there are many high-street chemists). These are increasingly using green signs similar to ones seen in Europe to identify them. Small pharmacies are also found inside many larger supermarkets. Major pharmacies are Boots and Lloyds: at least one of these can be found in any city or large town and quite often some smaller towns too. These two firms can issue drugs prescribed by a doctor as well as any over-the-counter drugs. Superdrug, Semi-Chem, Bodycare and Savers do sell some over-the-counter medication but are not to be considered as places to go for advice about minor ailments. A smaller range of medication can also be found in most supermarkets. ID is usually required when buying medication if you look under 25.
Smoking is prohibited in all public buildings, and the ban is almost universally enforced. All enclosed workplaces are lawfully required to be smoke free. Some restaurants provide separate outside areas for smokers and many pubs now have outdoor beer gardens where smoking is permitted, while many places will have a group of people standing outside the front door or off to one side to smoke.
- See also: the 'Respect' section of the main UK article
The English are in general very polite people, and it is considered bad manners not to say "please" or "thank you". A nod or a smile are also often the response. Sometimes, strangers and friends address each other by "mate", as they do in Australia. Thus it is common to hear "Cheers mate" or "Thanks mate" or "You all right, mate?", etc.
The English are said to be reserved, and this is often thought to mean that they are reluctant to communicate with strangers. This is a misconception. You will find that most people are happy to talk to strangers; it probably won't be a deep conversation, but mostly small talk about where you come from, if you're enjoying your visit, etc. The weather and football (more among men) are easy conversation starters.
Do not ask about someone's age, salary, political party, disability, sexuality, religion or medical condition (including weight) unless you're very close to them. It is extremely rude manners to ask a stranger or people with higher status, personal information.
Be careful in making assumptions about people in a given location, and do not make them based on perceived stereotypes.
It is said that the English invented queueing, and they become very annoyed if anyone jumps the line, such 'cutting in' can elicit strong reactions. The same applies in pubs even if there's no obvious 'line' at the bar. Such patient queuing also applies in traffic jams, as most people in England have grasped that 'aggressive' driving, use of lights/indicators or sounding of a vehicles horn doesn't make the traffic go any faster, and makes the driver doing it seem reckless, rude or impatient.
When you find yourself in a restaurant or being invited to someone's home for a meal, just general table manners apply. Normally when visiting a house, the host will say "shall I put the kettle on?" or "would you like a brew?" which means you are being offered a cup of tea, or another type of drink. Depending on the house you are visiting, manners can be either extremely important (you can be seen as a disrespectful person) or it can cause you to be looked well upon. Bring a small gift such as a bottle of wine or chocolates to show your appreciation, though this isn't mandatory when visiting an English household. In some cases, bad table manners can be seen as uncivilised and as indicative of a bad upbringing. Regardless, it is generally important to have good table manners in any situation. Remember also to let your host know if you are vegetarian or vegan, as most English people will invariably cook a meat dish unless told otherwise.
Once your plate has been served, it is customary to wait for your host to sit down and eat before you begin eating, unless otherwise indicated by the host themselves. It is considered rude to put your elbows on the table whilst eating, it is rude to speak whilst eating or eating with your mouth open (eat with your mouth closed). Always ask for an object on a table, do not reach over someone to grab it. Use both the knife and fork whilst eating, with the head of the fork facing down. The host may offer you a second plate of food (if in their home), and it is not necessarily considered rude to decline the offer as long as you express it in a polite manner (say something along the lines of "Thank you that was delicious but I'm full", then the host will not take offence as a satisfied guest is what they are aiming for). When leaving the table, always ask permission if you can leave; a simple phrase such as "May I be excused for a moment?" will suffice.
- See the 'Connect' section in the United Kingdom article for national information on telephone, internet and postal services.
In the United Kingdom, area codes are three, four, or, rarely, five digits long (after the initial zero). Regions with shorter area codes, typically large cities, permit the allocation of more telephone numbers as the local number portion has more digits. Local customer numbers are four to eight figures long. The total number of digits is ten, but in a very few areas the total may be nine digits (after the initial zero). The "area code" is also referred to as an 'STD (code)' (subscriber trunk dialling) or a 'dialling code' in the UK.
The initial digits of the area code provide information about the type of number and cost of the call. Area codes starting 01 and 02 are standard geographic numbers; those starting 03 are non-geographic numbers charged at the same rate as 01 and 02 numbers; those starting 07 are normally mobile numbers; those starting 08 are special services where the price can vary e.g. 0800 freephone numbers e.g. 0870 which are charged at higher rates; those starting 09 are premium rate services.
The code allocated to the largest population is (020) for London.
See 'Connect' sections under individual cities for local information.
- Wales — to the west of England, with its own language and culture
- Scotland — pristine nature and highlands to the north
- Isle of Man — picturesque island nation perfect for outdoor pursuits
- Ireland and Northern Ireland — fascinating history and cultures a short ferry ride away
- France, Belgium, and the Netherlands — all accessible by direct high-speed rail from London