Difference between revisions of "England"
Revision as of 15:02, 6 August 2020
England (Cornish:Pow Sows) is the largest of the four "home nations" that make up the United Kingdom. It is also the most populous of the four with almost 52 million inhabitants (roughly 84% of the total population of the UK). On 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 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 is a beautiful country well known for its dramatic scenery of countryside, rolling hills, green fields and forests, and rugged coastline. Historic country manor houses and and elegant landscape gardens are dotted around the country. Gothic cathedrals and university colleges stand tall after thousands of years. The Houses of Parliament and Palace of Westminster is referred to as the Mother of all Parliaments.
In geological terms, the Pennines, known as the "backbone of England", are the oldest range of mountains in the country, originating from the end of the Paleozoic Era around 300 million years ago. Most of England's landscape consists of low hills and plains, with upland and mountainous terrain in the north and west of the country. The northern uplands include the Pennines, a chain of uplands dividing east and west, the Lake District mountains in Cumbria, and the Cheviot Hills, straddling the border between England and Scotland. The highest point in England, at 978 metres (3,209 ft), is Scafell Pike in the Lake District. Their geological composition includes, among others, sandstone and limestone, and also coal. There are karst landscapes in calcite areas such as parts of Yorkshire and Derbyshire. The Pennine landscape is high moorland in upland areas, indented by fertile valleys of the region's rivers. They contain two national parks, the Yorkshire Dales and the Peak District. In the West Country, Dartmoor and Exmoor of the Southwest Peninsula include upland moorland supported by granite, and enjoy a mild climate; both are national parks.
The English Lowlands are in the central and southern regions of the country, consisting of green rolling hills, including the Cotswold Hills, Chiltern Hills, North and South Downs; where they meet the sea they form white rock exposures such as the cliffs of Dover. This also includes relatively flat plains such as the Salisbury Plain, Somerset Levels, South Coast Plain and The Fens.
The country has many outstanding areas of natural beauty and vibrant historic and modern cities rich in history and culture. Many of the world's most celebrated scientists, thinkers, inventors, writers, intellects and artists were born in England. The English have played and continue to play an important role in the development of science and engineering. England's rich landscape has witnessed periods of great change and evolution; the Industrial Revolution began in England throughout the 18th and 19th centuries and English entrepreneurship influenced much of the modern world.
England is a country that can be divided most generally into three sections, with deep historical and linguistic roots for each of them. These can be further divided into counties, which in turn consist of cities (most of which also have long histories, but have been revised in many cases for administrative reasons).
Northern England (the North) is anywhere north of Staffordshire in the west and roughly north of the Humber river, in the east, up to the Scottish border.
London is already the most touristy city in the whole world, however there are other cities to visit rich in culture and history. Listed below are nine of the most popular:
England has many outstanding landmarks and sites of interest. Listed below are nine of the most notable:
Don't confuse "England" with the the larger "Britain" or "United Kingdom"; see the United Kingdom article for details.
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. There is some scope for leaving your raincoat at home, but make sure you have one.
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 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 colder.
Heavy, prolonged snow is rare and temperatures are rarely below freezing for more than a few days. in 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. Typically, these conversation openers are now heard only 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. Then the Vikings, and 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 it was called England!
As in any country, you will get people who are unfriendly to foreign visitors, but England is noted as being one of the most tolerant countries in Europe, and racism is very low when compared with other nations. English people are polite and appreciate good manners. 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.
The English are well used to foreign tourists. One thing to bear in mind is that many mostly elderly English people don't wish to give offence and dislike lying, and so will try to avoid potential pitfalls by sticking to safe (often dull) topics of conversation, and occasionally doing the tricky job of avoiding 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 quite different as far as giving offence is concerned.
Big cities and even some rural areas, like those anywhere, have their social problems, but England is predominantly an affluent country with little visible poverty. Rough areas contain rough people in England, as in any country: muggings, car theft and other street crimes are common, unfortunately, in some districts of many towns and cities, but England is by and large a safe country as long as you use common sense.
In tourist destinations, you will mostly meet 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 be willing to standardise and simplify their speech if you're struggling. Some would say there is a north-south divide, with people in the North more friendly and approachable (Liverpool, for instance, was voted the fourth friendliest city in the world by travel magazine Rough Guide in 2014), while the South (mostly just London, though) is a more closed culture with people less willing to stop and speak. However, don't take offence; remember that most Londoners you see on the streets will usually be rushing to get to somewhere (eg. work) and simply don't have the time to talk. If anything, the South of England is split between the "overheated" and overcrowded South-East, and the more rural, amiable South-West/West Country where a more relaxed, friendlier atmosphere beckons. The North/South divide is also somewhat confused by the fact that Bristol (the largest city in the South West) has a very laid-back, left field and mellow atmosphere that is completely different. And then there is the relentless, hedonistic atmosphere of the likes of Brighton and Bournemouth, and the conservatism of many cities in Southern England. In rural areas of the south, East Anglia and the West Country, people are generally much more laid-back and enjoy taking the time to have a chat with strangers. In most of England you will usually find that if you are polite and friendly, you'll get the same in return.
London itself is a very international city where you may meet a variety of nationalities, depending on what part of the city you are in.
England has a long and colourful political history and has contributed greatly to political philosophy. England does not have a devolved Parliament like Scotland or Wales, but London's Palace of Westminster on the River Thames has been England's Parliament for centuries.
The English are somewhat both liberal and conservative in the British traditions. English people may value social liberalism, but enjoy preserving traditions such as the monarchy.
The ruling Conservative Party represent modern British paternalistic conservatism; enterprise, entrepreneurship, technology and innovation, markets and values, environmental stewardship, law and human rights, etc.
Conservative Party, Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, and the Green Party are considered England's main political parties; all representing the British traditions of conservatism, liberalism, and socialism.
The national flag of England, known as St. George's Cross, has been the national flag since the 13th century. Originally the flag was used by the maritime state the Republic of Genoa. The English monarch paid a tribute to the Doge of Genoa from 1190 onwards, so that English ships could fly the flag as a means of protection when entering the Mediterranean. A red cross acted as a symbol for many Crusaders in the 12th and 13th centuries. It became associated with Saint George, along with countries and cities, which claimed him as their patron saint and used his cross as a banner. Since 1606 the St George's Cross has formed part of the design of the Union Flag, a Pan-British flag designed by King James I.
There are numerous other symbols and symbolic artefacts, both official and unofficial, including the Tudor rose, the nation's floral emblem, and the Three Lions featured on the Royal Arms of England. The Tudor rose was adopted as a national emblem of England around the time of the Wars of the Roses as a symbol of peace. The oak tree is a symbol of England, representing strength and endurance. The Royal Oak symbol and Oak Apple Day commemorate the escape of King Charles II from the grasp of the parliamentarians after his father's execution: he hid in an oak tree to avoid detection before safely reaching exile.
Unsurprisingly, English is the main language in England, though it is spoken with many different accents throughout the country. England has rich and diverse accents; sometimes unusual for a small island. An accent can change in every town and city. Generally, English accents can be broadly divided into Northern and Southern accents, with natives of Liverpool having a very distinctive accent that is easily distinguishable from that of someone from neighbouring Manchester.
No other languages are widely spoken, but with widespread immigration to England in the past few decades, you might also hear other languages such as Polish, Chinese, German, various South Asian languages or even various African languages being spoken in their respective communities. Cornish is spoken in Cornwall.
When an English person says "Meet me at half five", they mean "Meet me at 17:30". 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 British folks. 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. If they had a "shag" it means they had sex afterwards. See our English language varieties article for more insights.
Then there are the words unique to British English; a sneaker or tennis shoe, for instance, is called a "trainer."
Moreover, the diverse history of the country, and the influx of various cultures over the centuries (e.g. Vikings, Normans, Romans, Celtic peoples), have produced a very wide range of accents, and there are still traces of regional dialects (vocabulary and grammar). Do not imitate the accents, you will be perceived as mocking.
An accent will usually reveal where someone was brought up — sometimes to within quite a small area (a criminal was recently caught because his accent on a recorded phone call was 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 amongst 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. England is a diverse country, and asking about someone's accent is often a good way to start a conversation.
Dialects exist, but as 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. Differences are interesting, but not critical. 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 South Yorkshire). Real differences are of little consequence these days: for instance, people growing up in Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield use "jennel", "jinnel", and "ginnel" 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 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.
Be prepared to have to use English to make yourself understood. Few people here speak a second language fluently. However, most people were taught one second or third language (usually French, German, Italian, Spanish) at school, and 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").
Because of immigration, especially from Commonwealth countries, many languages are spoken in the big cities. There are also smaller places where particular languages are common. Expect to hear (and even see signs in) Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi, Gujarati, Polish, Italian, Greek, Turkish and varieties of Arabic. Because of links with Hong Kong, many Chinese people live here (London and Manchester have thriving communities, and Liverpool has one of the oldest Chinese communities in Europe).
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. It can be confusing, or perhaps even embarrassing, for somebody who is not accustomed to this to be called "darling" by a total stranger; however, this is something which is nowadays mainly used by the older generation and found less in the younger generation 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 even perceived as rude.
Modern and ancient languages are compulsory taught in schools from the ages of seven. Immigrant languages are widely spoken in some ethnic minority communities. These are mainly Arabic, South Asian languages, African languages, and Polish, Lithuanian, Russian.
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.
See "by boat" for further details.
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.
There are no tolls to cross into England; however, motorists need to be aware that crossing from England into Wales via the M4 and M48 Severn Bridges will need to pay a toll. Also, there is a M6 toll road to bypass the congestion of Birmingham (England's second largest city) on the main M6 motorway.
The most important road connections into and out of England are.
England has numerous airports:
London and the South East
The South West
Eurostar  links mainland Europe to England. Trains run from Paris, France and Brussels, Belgium (via Lille and Calais) crossing into England via the Channel Tunnel (and often stopping at either Ebbsfleet or Ashford) before continuing to St. Pancras Station in London. Occasional services run from other destinations in France. Book as early as possible as fares can be considerably more expensive if trying to book at the last minute.
From Wales and Scotland regular services cross the borders into England.
BritRail Passes are also available to non-UK citizens which allow the traveller unlimited rail travel in England on one ticket. Wikitravel has a guide to Rail travel in the United Kingdom.
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. See Ferry routes to British Mainland.
If you're visiting the Cardiff area in Wales during the summer, then there is the opportunity to sail to the West Somerset/ North Devon resorts such as Minehead, Ilfracombe, Bideford and Lundy Island across the Bristol Channel (the funnel shaped stretch of water that seperates the coasts of Wales and the West Country) via the paddle steamers the Waverly and Balmoral (usually Penarth just to the west of Cardiff). This is highly recommended for a few reasons - firstly, the M5, the main route into the West Country is a dreary, slow, lethargic and often congested and frustrating road that is very easily prone to snarl ups - sitting on a hot summers day in a car stuck in traffic on the M5 is frustrating to say the least. Secondly, the journey from Penarth to Ilfracombe on a warm summers day, you can get to see a sea-going perspective of Minehead, Porlock, the picture postcard villages of Lynton and Lynmouth, the wild and raw Valley of the Rocks and the majestic "Great Hangman", a 1043 feet hogback hill with a cliff face of 820 feet making it the highest cliff in Southern England. Heading west from Ilfracombe to Lundy Island is an opportunity to see the majestic Bay of Naples styled curve of Bideford Bay with the magnificent surf beaches of Woolacombe, Croyde, Staunton and Westward Ho! in all their glory.
England has a dense and modern transportation infrastructure. The Department for Transport is the government department responsible for the English transport network. The London Underground (commonly known as the Tube) is the oldest and longest rapid transit system in the world.
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. There has been much improvement and investment in recent years to the railway network and rolling stock but delays and cancellations do occasionally occur. It is very easy to find train stations in the UK, as National Rail uses the historic British Rail double-arrow logo which is displayed prominently at all stations, and on road signs. You can access a train easily from London to many British tourist sites and cities and see countryside scenery along the way (although England is a densely populated country, unlike Scotland and Wales, where those views are more common). Pedestrian signs in cities and towns will also usually have the logo on display.
The UK operates two rail networks for the two islands it inhabits. In Great Britain, the National Rail network covers some 34,000km (21,000 miles) covering most of England, Scotland and Wales, from Penzance in Cornwall to Thurso in the far north of Scotland and including over 2,600 stations. Train travel is very popular in Britain, with many services busy and passenger numbers rising steadily every year, with the UK having one of the safest railways in the world.
While there are issues such as overcrowding at peak times in small areas (likely due to England's high population for a small island), the train is a very effective and enjoyable way to explore England and the rest of Britain and get around places of interest. Train services are mostly very clean and safe. It is also by far the best option for inter-city travel, with most inter-city trains travelling at 200 km/h (125 mph) and stations in most cities and towns being in the city-centre. Regional services travel up to 160 km/h (100 mph). While this means that services are not as fast as the high-speed lines of France, Germany or Japan, there is a relatively high standard of service on both main and secondary routes.
In Great Britain, a mixed system is operated, with infrastructure being state-owned while commercial franchises operate trains, to a destination and service pattern specified by the government. This quasi-privatised structure of the rail network has been under constant criticism since its conception in the 1990s and continues to generate strong opinions amongst the British, with almost constant calls for its return to full state ownership. Not all of these criticisms are unfounded, but for the visitor however, it should be noted that most train companies offer good service and value for money, particularly on inter-city and mainline routes, if you book early in advance, and with railcard discounts for certain sectors of the public.
Steam trains and preserved railways are enjoyed for their own sake at least as much as they are used as a means of transport. Most areas will boast a volunteer-run railway using steam traction especially during the summer months. Famous full-gauge railways include the Bluebell Line in Sussex, the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway in Yorkshire, while the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway in Cumbria are few strong examples of narrow-gauge railways now primarily used for tourism.
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, with cheap materials often used to repair the roads. Potholes are a huge nuisance to locals, as it can takes weeks or months for them to be repaired, although done cheaply using a method called patching). Care should be taken on rural and minor roads, some of which are extremely narrow, winding and poorly marked, while many are two-way roads and only wide enough for one car, meaning a meeting situation can be unpleasant. The signs and markings on most roads are clear, though roundabouts make traffic slow to a crawl during "rush hour". The main problem with driving in England is the sheer volume of traffic on the roads. 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. 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. However, be prepared for drivers who do not agree with speed limits, especially newly created ones on roads where, for example, the limit has been lowered from 60 to 30 after campaigns from locals. Even if you are driving at the posted limit, there is a chance you will be overtaken, and this will be more frequent if you have a sticker in your back window stating that you'll be sticking to it. Drivers with this attitude often spend ages driving close behind you, as a means to make you increase speed, even if it means breaking the law. Ignore them and maintain your speed; you are in the right.
Flashing your hazards (ie, both indicators at the same time) is only used as an indication of danger. Usually it's used to indicate that the car is broken down, or to warn other drivers of a hazard up ahead. But flashing your hazards a couple of times is another way of saying thank you.
Brown and white road signs indicate nearby tourist attractions, and the blue i sign denotes Tourist Information.
The UK isn't as bicycle-friendly as some other European countries, but it's still a great way to get around. You'll see a lot more from a bicycle, have the freedom to stop wherever you want, with 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 between £0-100 second-hand, as the UK has a surplus of old bicycles. You must use lights if you plan to 'cycle after dark, and can be fined by the police for failing to do so. A front white light and red rear light are required. Flashing LED lights or bulb based bike lights both meet the legal requirements. Helmets aren't compulsory. A decent lock is also essential, particularly in the cities, where bicycle theft is a common problem.
Some of the London Underground trains and all London Overground accept bicycles outside peak hours. Local buses and trams do not accept them. Mainline and suburban trains allow bicycles but normally have restrictions during peak hours on busy services. Policies vary from compulsory reservation of bicycle space to no bicycle during peak hours - its best to check with each rail operator or on the national rail web site for restrictions that could impact your planned journey. Folding bikes may travel at any time, as long as they are collapsed completely. 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.
By bus tour operator
There are many tour operators in England, which can take you around the country with no stress. There are options from budget larger groups in coaches to smaller group tours in luxury mini-coaches. The guides may provide an insight into English history and culture that you may not be able to learn on your own.
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 bears few similarities with 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.
Popular places to visit include the counties of Yorkshire in the East, and Cornwall in the South West of England, the National Parks listed above, and the historic cities such as York, Bath and Lincoln.
If short on time, then it is possible to 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 Armories, famed nightlife, theatre and designer shopping in stunning Victorian Era arcades.
Similarly Liverpool, as well as being a popular city break destination in itself with its Beatles heritage and maritime attractions, is centrally located for day trips to the Lake District, North Wales, and Yorkshire.
Bristol, the West Country's largest city makes for a very enjoyable weekend break. Although until recently overlooked by other Southern English cities such as Oxford, Cambridge, Bath and Brighton, Bristol has come into its own thanks to its leftfield attitude, laid back easy going groove, the West Country's largest shopping complex, and above all its stunningly creative and brilliant music scene (a back catalogue containing the likes of Massive Attack, Portishead and Tricky). Although Bristol doesn't have any specific sights (apart from the Clifton Suspension Bridge), it's a city to just browse and glide through at your leisure and soak up the mellow, amiable vibe of Britain's most relaxed and laid back city.
If you want white sand beaches, turquoise sea, Arthurian atmosphere and a raw, misty eyed Celtic landscape head to the West Country coastline of Devon and Cornwall - particularly, the magnificent surf blasted beaches of North Devon's Bideford Bay and King Arthur's birthplace in North Cornwall's Atlantic coastline (Bude, Tintagel, Padstow, Polzeath etc).
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 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 which are considered of most importance to the historic and cultural heritage of the country.
Museums and galleries
Unlike other countries, most state-run museums and places of cultural interest are free of charge to visit. This is a popular policy in English society and is regularly taken advantaged of by tourists and school children alike. Museums and art galleries are an important aspect of English culture. Most cites and towns have a few museums and art galleries. Some of the most visited museums are:
World Heritage Sites
17 of the 25 United Kingdom UNESCO World Heritage Sites fall within England. Some of the best known of these include Hadrian's Wall, Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites, Tower of London, Jurassic Coast, Westminster, Roman Baths in Bath, Saltaire, Ironbridge Gorge, and Studley Royal Park. The northernmost point of the Roman Empire, Hadrian's Wall, is the largest Roman artefact anywhere: it runs a total of 73 miles in northern England.
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 the traditional Italian and Indian meals taking on a decidely English flavour. The English are great adopters of other countries' cuisines.
There are many low-quality establishments and mediocre chain restaurants, and the motorway services can often still manage to produce food that is barely edible, however, you can generally expect pubs and restaurants to provide interesting and well-presented meals.
"A meal out" is the usual way to celebrate a special family 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 English meat, fruit, and vegetables.
Typical/traditional English food:
Pubs are a good place to get reasonably priced food, though most stop serving food at around 9-9:30PM. Others may stop serving food between lunch and dinner. Pub food has become quite sophisticated in recent years 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 recently 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. Eating out at a high-quality restaurant can be an expensive experience: at the very top end (Michelin Star level) expect to pay £100 per head including wine. A decent three-course meal out at a respectable restaurant will normally cost around £30-£40 per head including wine.
If good quality and cheaply priced food is more your choice, try one of the many ethnic restaurants such as Chinese, 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.
The English take food hygiene very seriously; all pubs/restaurants receive regular hygiene inspections and are required by law to display their hygiene rating (1 to 5). 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 min walk from any 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 taboo, and pub landlords are often squeezed by sharp practice by the big firms which supply beers, and which also 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 which 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 anywhere near the "24 hour drinking" that is theoretically possible: 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 anytime from 2AM till 6AM, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. Also, at public holiday times, many pubs extend their closing times — especially New Year's Eve.
British people usually follow a kind of unwritten code of conduct when in pubs, though types of venue can vary dramatically, ranging from a 'local' pub, usually a quiet place consisting of one or two rooms, to a chain pub such as J.D. Wetherspoons which are very large rooms capable of holding hundreds of people.
England is home to a huge variety of alcoholic drinks. 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 amongst 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.
Bitter — The most common example of the English type of beer technically called "ale" (see below). 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. 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". Technically it simply means any beer other than lager (ie it is a beer brewed at cellar temperatures using floating yeast, ie 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. 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 (ie not be pasteurised or filtered to remove living yeast; be stored and served without additional gas (ie 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 (Somerset, Devon & Cornwall) but not exclusively so as Herefordshire is also another region famous for its 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 be 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 (but not always) 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. There are many popular brands (the most recognisable brands 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 often served in pubs and bars too.
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, the "french press" (cafetiere) has become the standard way to serve "real" ("ground") coffee: the customer can leave the coffee infusing until it as 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 coffeshops such as Starbucks, Costa's and Cafe Nero are very common in large towns and cities. These often serve a wide range of coffees, teas and hot chocolate.
England offers the usual Western assortment of sleeping options including
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 (see above) or continental. 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.
England has a rich broadcasting history. The main television channels include BBC, Itv, Channel 4, and Channel 5 as as well as other television channels specializing in entertainment, drama, culture, arts, crafts, science, travel, nature, sports, comedy, etc. However, hotels may offer only basic television packages.
Radio in the United Kingdom is dominated by the BBC, which operates radio stations both in the United Kingdom and abroad. The BBC World Service radio network is broadcast in 33 languages globally. Other radio broadcasters are Heart Radio, Classic FM, and Smooth Radio as well as other radio stations. The most popular radio station by number of listeners is BBC Radio 2, closely followed by BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 1.
Popular newspapers include Financial Times, The Guardian, The Times, The Independent, i, Metro, The Sun, and Daily Mail. The Economist is also a widely read magazine covering current affairs, international business, politics, science and technology.
A large range of magazines are sold in the United Kingdom covering most interests and potential topics. English magazines and journals that have achieved worldwide circulation include Nature, New Scientist, The Spectator, Prospect, and the Radio Times. Apollo is a widely read fine arts magazine covering the arts of all periods from antiquity to the present. BBC History Magazine is also a widely read magazine devoted to history articles on both British and world history and are aimed at all levels of knowledge and interest. The National Trust and English Heritage have their own monthly membership magazines devoted to photography, heritage, nature, wildlife, landscapes, and arts. Other popular magazines include BBC Gardeners' World, BBC Good Food, Country Life, The World of Interiors, and Classic & Sports Car.
Currency is Pounds Sterling (GBP). Euros are generally not accepted, except in very rare circumstances. If you are travelling from continental Europe, you should change your Euros into Pound Sterling. Note that although Bank of England notes are accepted all over the United Kingdom, you may have trouble with 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 it. 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 to be used (including debit cards) over £5 or £10.
The UK has been a centre of learning for the past 1,000 years and possesses many ancient and distinguished universities. Many former polytechnics and other colleges have been promoted to university status over the past 25 years, and there are now over 120 degree-awarding institutions in England.
The two most famous (and oldest) universities are Oxford and Cambridge (often referred to as Oxbridge by many Britons), but England also has several other world-class institutions, including several in London (notably Imperial College, the London School of Economics, University College London and King's College London, all except Imperial are part of the University of London). Other top universities are located in Durham, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Exeter, Leeds, Sheffield, Bristol, York, Nottingham, Kent, Bath, Loughborough, Newcastle, Southampton and Warwick. Prominent people that have reached the apex in their respective fields have been products of British higher education.
England has many options for foreign students to study; from language, history, geography and cultural short courses to advanced degrees at internationally renowned universities. Most cities have at least one institute of higher learning.
Students from countries within the European Union/Switzerland do not require a visa to study in England. University fees have two tiers, a home fee for UK and EU students, presently capped at £9000 + inflation per year, and a higher tier for students from outside of the EU, from £9000 to £35,000 per year.
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 (Germany, France, Spain, etc) do not require a permit and are free to live and work in England, however, certain restrictions currently apply to certain new EU member states (such as Bulgaria, Romania, etc), so you will need to check this out on the Uk Border Agency website before travelling.
Visitors on a student visa can work up to 20 hour per week while in school and 40 hours per week while on break.
In any emergency call 999 or 112 (from a land-line if you can) 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 Ambulance and they will contact the relevant services themselves.
England by and large is a safe place to live and visit and English people take safety very seriously with violent crime against tourists and those who are different being rare, however you should always use general common sense to ensure you keep out of trouble. England's crime rate is moderate for European standards and is decreasing year by year.
Likewise for most countries, 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 particularly risky (by western standards) and should be avoided. Again, common sense is the best way to stay safe, and it is unlikely a visitor would 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), its usually fine to simply 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. Take care when driving on country lanes as they can become very narrow and the lesser travelled ones are often in poor condition.
It is worth taking extra care on public transport at night, as loutish 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. Many English drunks can all too often become aggressive, and outbreaks of unprovoked violence have happened, but again, common sense can help avoid problems with drunken people. 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 which cruise the street looking for fares have a reputation as dangerous for lone females and males; the most common incident is the passenger is driven to a secluded area, and then raped.
The age of both heterosexual and homosexual consent is 16 throughout the United Kingdom. British laws mostly support LGBT rights. You shouldn't be discriminated against in any area of the UK for your sexuality although that can occur and enforcement of the law is spotty. Some in British society are anti-gay, however, the UK and England regularly rank highly in gay rights in comparison to the rest of Europe. The British Parliament has some of the highest open LGBT Members of Parliament in the world. There are some areas where you may want to not be overtly showing your sexuality (very remote villages, 'tough' places such as football matches, Truro and the Cornwall area, Devon, Peterborough, and bad areas of cities). Be careful and follow others around you. If they don't show public affection, it probably isn't safe to do that.
British police officers are professional and polite, and are generally less aggressive than law enforcement agencies in other developed nations (however, this does not mean they are lenient). They are trained to be always helpful, professional and trustworthy. Most police officers in the United Kingdom do not carry guns while on patrol. There is a special group of police officers that carry guns if needed. The exception to this is Northern Ireland, where all police are armed. Most officers will only speak English and you will be made to speak to an interpreter over police radio or will do so at a police station if you cannot communicate in English. You have the legal right to remain silent during and after arrest – but police in England and Wales will warn you that "You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do or say may be given in evidence".
A typical UK police vehicle will have battenburg markings typically yellow and blue. All UK police law enforcement vehicles are blue emergency lighting. A marked police vehicle with a yellow dot in the front and rear is a armed response vehicle used by armed police.
In the United Kingdom, there is no cost to a patient at point of service, due to the welfare state system. 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. However, hospitals are wary of health tourists and if obviously not from England, may ask where you are from and if within the EU, for your EHIC card (previously known as E111).
Emergencies can be dealt with under the NHS (National Health Service) at any hospital with an A & E (Accident & Emergency) department. At A&E departments, be prepared to wait for up to 4-5 hours during busy periods before being given treatment if your medical complaint is not too serious. Obviously, more serious ailments are usually treated immediately. Evenings are normally busiest, particularly on Fridays and Saturdays and in city centres.
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. All enclosed workplaces are lawfully required to be smoke free. Some restaurants provide separate rooms for smokers, and many pubs and cafés now have outdoor areas 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.
Tap water from restaurants, bars and homes is very safe to drink throughout England.
See the UK article for more information
The English are in general very polite, well-mannered people who value basic politeness and manners, and like most other places it is considered bad manners not to say "please", "thank you", "cheers" or "sorry". A nod or a smile are also often the response. The English are notorious for their overuse of apologising. Although many visitors regard this particular quality as annoying, it's infact a cornerstone of English culture. You should do the same even for the little things, and even when the other person is in the wrong. This is a very British quality, and despite the lack of sincerity in the apology, not saying 'sorry' is seen as rude, and can even lead to a minor confrontation. It isn't unusual to see a Brit apologise to an inanimate object after accidentally walking into it. The English do apologise a lot, whether it is their fault or not. You should do the same even for little things. Sometimes, strangers and friends address each other by "mate" informally, but this should not be used to people with higher status than you. As in any Western country, you may occasionally bump into rude people, but this is rare and generally frowned upon in English society, unless you have done something wrong.
If you travel to different regions in England, you will find a variety of English accents, such as Liverpool accent, a "Geordie" accent and even "cockney" accent in London. People from these regions might consider a very formal "Queen's English" accent to be somewhat posh, but will generally not mind if it's obvious you are a tourist. While it may be tempting to do, do not try to copy their regional accents when communicating with those people - you will probably do a bad job, and they might think that you are "taking the mick" or laughing at them. Don't be afraid to ask about someone's accent. England is a diverse country, and asking about someone's accent is often a good way to start a conversation.
When driving on rural roads, particularly where a driver has to pull in to allow you to pass, it is customary to wave a thanks to the other driver, by raising your hand from the steering wheel. This is particularly prevalent in rural areas where many drivers will automatically wave at everyone who drives past them. A polite hand wave (or even with just the index finger raised from the steering wheel) is customary and will be appreciated. When accepting gifts, a polite refusal (such as, "no really you shouldn't") is common after the first offer of the item. Usually, this is followed with an insistence that the gift or offer is accepted, at which point your answer is likely to become more recognized. However, some people can be very persuasive - this isn't meant to be over-bearing, just courteous. One thing which some visitors may find disconcerting is the response an English person may give to a "thank you". Most English people will respond with something along the lines of "It was nothing" or "not at all". This does not mean that they didn't try hard to please, but rather it is meant to suggest "I was happy to do it for you, so it was not any great difficulty" (even though it may have been!).
The English are said to be reserved and reluctant to communicate with strangers. This is not entirely true. You will find that most people are happy to help tourists with directions and practical advice but a general rule is that Northerners are more friendly and open to conversation with strangers than people from London and the South East of England. Entire carriages of people will sit in silence on the London underground so do not be surprised to be greeted with strange looks and annoyance if you strike up small talk with someone in the capital. Particularly if you are from northern England or Scotland, do not tell Southerners they are from London unless they are from the city. Not all Southerners are from London. Some people will be very offended and you might get dirty looks or comments. However, as in many other countries, it is best to avoid sensitive topics such as politics.
The British in general are neutral communicators. The British try to take careful measures to remain polite throughout discussion, but in close personal relationships, communication becomes more direct. As a country priding itself on etiquette and professionalism, the British will often make no hesitation in confronting someone for behaving or doing something inappropriately. While this may come across as assertive, and sometimes rude, some Brits may often engage in a confrontation for the silliest of reasons.
Always respect authority figures, including those older to you. If anyone in a position of authority (e.g. policeman, teacher, homestay) requests you to do something, you are expected to comply and do it. It's considered very rude manners to disobey figures of authority, and you may be met with some harsh words if you object to a request. If you're unsure about something, don't hesitate to ask.
One thing worth noticing is that the English value privacy a lot, probably more than any other countries. When meeting with them for the first few times, avoid asking personal questions. Age is an obvious one (same for most other countries), but also marital status or if they have a girlfriend/boyfriend. Some questions considered ordinary in other countries are considered "too personal" in England, such as where do you live and what is your job. It is not uncommon for an English person not to know what their neighbours' jobs are for many years. A good tip for foreigners is to use the mirroring rule - if they ask you a personal question, it is safe to ask the same question back (but answer their question first!).
It is said that the English invented queueing, and they become very annoyed if anyone jumps the line although this is probably the same for most countries. However, you don't usually see an obvious queue in bus stops and train platforms. This does not mean you could run over everyone there. You should always let people in the bus/trains get off first and then let the people in front of you get in first. Be sure to say thank you to the bus driver or any transport worker after you reach your destination. It's a strong English past-time and general politeness.
On buses and transport, seats are set aside for the disabled and pregnant women and women travelling with very small children. These seats are usually at the front of trains or buses. You can find pictures indicating which seats these are. It is permitted for anyone to sit in these seats, but the young, men, and the able-bodied are expected to give up their seats to the less able, pregnant women and the elderly, especially those seats clearly marked for such people.
It is very common to use "Sir" for a man and "Madam/Miss" for a woman, when communicating with a stranger. Use of the terms 'Sir/Madam/Miss' is seen as very polite.
Punctuality is highly valued. As in many places around Europe, it's considered rude to be late to a meeting or an appointment, and as such it's advisable to arrive 5-10 minutes early to something so as to not stand out like a sore thumb.
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.
When you find yourself in a pub or bar with your English friends, be aware that there is an unspoken convention of "buying rounds" from each person. This normally works ok if it is a small group. However if the group is large, the "round" could be costly and that could lead to "binge drinking". It is absolutely ok to have non-alcoholic drinks though. Even better, arrange to meet your friends in a restaurant or cafes (which have been increasing popular in England).
Women are treated with a degree of chivalry. Female travellers should not act indignant or surprised if their male English friends open every door in front of them, offer their jacket to them, offer their seat to them, or help them out with anything that they need. Male travellers should also note that this all will be expected by English women too.
When socialising, the English are quite laid back and happy to laugh at 'English' misdemeanors and faults. However, negative comments about the royal family (especially from a foreigner) should be avoided as some English people may be offended. Always show respect to English culture (history, literature, etc).
Avoid criticising any sports teams or wearing rival t-shirts. Sports of all kinds are taken very seriously in the United Kingdom, and you will find that many, including the younger generation, are ardently and fiercely supportive of all kinds of sports, including football, cricket, and rugby. It is wise to refrain from criticising any sports teams and wearing rival jerseys as it could lead to some confrontations depending on where you go. Wearing a rival football team jersey in a pub for instance, could lead to violence. If you do choose to wear a sports t-shirt, it's best to wear one of the national team of any sport.
It's advisable to err on the side of caution when discussing politics, and a safe bet would be to avoid discussing it all with strangers if you want to avoid the potential for an argument. If you are curious to hear the perspective of English people, most people will be happy to offer their opinion on the political situation in the country, though be aware that the country is currently quite divided on the issue of the UK's impending exit from the European Union ("Brexit") - requests for an opinion will go down well, unsolicited invitations to debate the issue will likely not.
See Contact entry under United Kingdom for national information on telephone, internet and postal services. When traveling to UK, even though it may seem best to carry your cell phone along, you should not dismiss the benefits of the calling cards to call the ones back home. Get yourself a UK calling card when packing for your trip.
Also consider buying a pay-as-you-go SIM card for your phone, you can pick one up from most local stores for about £0.99. This will be very useful if you're staying for more than 1-2 weeks and especially if you need mobile internet. Mobile signal is generally very good throughout England, apart from some countryside areas. Expect your signal to drop very frequently if travelling by train or car.
The main mobile networks are EE, Vodafone, Three and O2. However there are a host of MVNOs that use the infrastructure of these networks, these often offer plans tailored towards expat communities and tourist who wish to call abroad, the main players are LycaMobile, Lebara and giffgaff. Most of these sim cards can be picked up in local shops however giffgaff do not have shops and only post out sims to the UK - therefore if you'd like a giffgaff sim abroad you can order one here. If staying connected is a priority you may want to compare the data speeds of the networks, OpenSignal provide London coverage maps.
In the United Kingdom, area codes are two, 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 code allocated to the largest population is (020) for London. The code allocated to the largest area is (028) for all of Northern Ireland. The UK Numbering Plan also applies to three British Crown dependencies - Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man - even though they are not part of the UK itself.
See Contact entries under individual cities for local information.