A royal adventure
London; a city whose history has twisted and turned as much as the Thames that flows through its heart. Visited through time by plague, fire, and battle, London has also played host to countless royals, poets and intellectuals. Make sure your family joins the list, and plan your vacation to London right.
The public transport system in the UK
Public transport services in the UK vary from region to region and town to town. In some areas, services are excellent and good value for money, while in others they’re infrequent, slow and expensive.The UK has no unified general transport policy, particularly a long-term strategy that balances the needs of the public transport user against those of the motorist.
Top tips for cheap travel
Travelling around the world is now easier than ever, and with the choice of direct flights from London, Manchester, and Birmingham airports expanding all the time, UK expats are perfectly placed to set off on a new travel adventure.
Rowing, surfing and sailing in the UK
All watersports, including sailing, windsurfing, waterskiing, rowing, power-boating, canoeing, surfing and subaquatic sports are popular in the UK – which is hardly surprising considering it’s surrounded by water and has hundreds of inland lakes and rivers where such sports can be enjoyed.
Where to park in the UK
Parking in most cities and towns is often a problem, particularly on Saturdays when everyone’s doing their shopping. On-street parking is a particular problem and most roads without parking meters or bays have restricted or prohibited parking.
Major sports in the UK
Sports facilities are generally excellent throughout the UK, whether you’re a novice or an experienced competitor. Among the most popular sports are soccer (football), rugby (union and league rules), cricket, athletics, fishing, snooker, horse racing, motor racing, golf, archery, hiking, cycling, squash, badminton, tennis, swimming and skiing, an large number of which were British inventions.
Popular sports in the UK
The following is a selection of popular sports, which are served by private clubs with their own facilities or use those provided at public leisure centres.
How to attract British wildlife into your garden
There is nothing quite like looking out across your garden on a nice, sunny morning and seeing bees buzzing happily around your flowers, birds flying from one corner of your lawn to the other and everything from squirrels to hedgehogs making your property’s outdoor space their go-to place.
Expats need holidays too
Expats enjoy living and working abroad, but there’s still the urge to get away from time to time. It doesn’t matter how brilliant ‘home’ is, everyone needs a holiday. In fact, expats who fail to take holidays often end up feeling burnt out and disillusioned with their expat experience.
The right questions to ask when buying one
Buying a used car instead of one that has just entered the showroom has plenty of benefits. Of course, the vehicle will be available for a cheaper price tag than if you bought it new, while you won’t need to worry about any niggling issues that can occur on cars that have just left production line.
Rules and traffic signs in the UK
Every country has their own rules on the road, written or unwritten. It is important that you know and understand these rules before you go on the road in the UK.
Tips to get on paddling in the UK
Cycling isn’t as popular in the UK as on the continent and not much more than 2.3 per cent of journeys are made by bicycle in the UK compared to an average of 18 per cent in Denmark and 27 per cent in Holland. However, around 1.5 million cycles are sold each year (over a third bought to replace stolen machines!), which adds up to an awful lot of cyclists.
Buying and selling cars in the UK
After years of decline, the British car industry is now relatively profitable, although most major manufacturers are foreign-owned (American, French, German or Japanese). Most British cars exist in niche markets such as Aston Martin, Morgan and TVR. Cars are more expensive in the UK than in many other European countries, although you can obtain a discount off the list (book) price of most new cars.
Snooker, Billiard and Health Clubs
Snooker, Billiards, Fitness and more are all great ways to enjoy yourself indoors. In the rainy UK it is good to know where you can go.
Where to take your racket
There are excellent facilities for most racket sports, particularly badminton, squash, racketball and tennis. There are two main types of racket sport centres: public leisure centres and private clubs.
Going for a swim in the UK
There are public heated indoor and outdoor swimming pools in most towns, many located in leisure centres. You can also swim at numerous beaches. British beaches have for long had a doubtful reputation as far as cleanliness is concerned, but they’re definitely improving.
Sports & Leisure Centres
Most towns have a community sports or leisure centre (also called recreation centres), usually run and financed by the local council. Some cities and towns also have modern commercial sports centres, which, although more expensive than municipal centres, offer unrivalled sports facilities (and some charge minimal membership fees).
Getting on the slopes in the UK
Skiing is a popular sport with the British, despite the fact that there are only a few ski resorts in the British Isles (in Scotland), and these could never hope to cater adequately for the country’s 2 million skiers.
Follow your favourite rugby teams in the UK
There are two separate codes of rugby (or rugby football) in the UK, rugby union and rugby league. The main difference between the codes is that rugby union (which used to be strictly amateur) is played with teams of 15 players and rugby league, which is played by amateurs and professionals, has 13 players to a team (two less to pay).
Where to go climbing in the UK
Those who find walking a bit tame might like to try abseiling, rock-climbing, mountaineering, caving or pot-holing (subterranean mountaineering). The UK has a distinguished record in international mountain climbing and few mountains in the world haven’t been climbed at some time by British mountaineers, often for the first time.
Information on racing in the UK
Motor racing has a huge following and embraces everything from Formula One (F1) grand prix to stock car racing. Among the many classifications of motor racing in the UK are Formulas One, Two and Three; Formula 3000; sports car and Formula Ford racing; rallying; hill-climbing; historic sports car racing; competitions among special one-make series (such as TVR, Renault 5, Mazda MX-5 and Honda CRX, to name but a few); autocross; go-karting; and bantam racing for kids.
Hiking options in the UK
Whether you call it walking, rambling, hiking or orienteering, getting from A to B for fun and pleasure (as opposed to not being able to afford a bus or train ticket) is extremely popular and is the most common form of exercise (what’s more it’s free!).www.britishorienteering.org.uk
What to know about British soccer
Soccer (or Association Football as it’s officially called) is the UK’s national spectator and participation sport. All major British cities have a professional or semi-professional soccer team and most towns and villages have a number of amateur clubs (well over 40,000 in total) catering for all ages and standards.
Golf clubs, fees and facilities
There are over three million golfers and around 2,000 courses, including private and practice courses, in the UK. Golf was the country’s fastest-growing sport in the ‘80s, but was over-developed as a consequence, and golf courses built during that period (around 600) have been struggling to survive.
Fishing places and licenses
Fishing (or angling) facilities are superb and fishing is the biggest participant sport in England, with over 4 million anglers (the numbers are rising each decade). There are a huge variety of well-stocked waters and some of the best salmon and trout (brown, sea and rainbow) fishing in the world.
The most typical English sport
Cricket is a peculiarly English sport which usually takes foreigners some time to understand. (Many British people don’t understand the finer points, including your author). If you don’t know the difference between a stump and a bail, or an over and a wicket, you may as well skip this bit, as any attempt to explain would take around 100 pages and almost certainly end in failure.
Flying, hang-gliding and other options
Most aerial sports in England have a wide following, particularly gliding, hang-gliding, paragliding, hot-air ballooning and microlighting. The main thing most aerial sports enthusiasts have in common is madness and money, both of which are usually required in abundance to fulfil man’s ultimate ambition, although there are a number of inexpensive options available.
Taking advantage of the British library system
The UK has one of the best public library services in the world (although it has suffered in the last decade, as local authorities have been forced to economise and reduce their budgets), and public libraries are found in all centres of any size.
Going out to dinner in the UK
The standard of restaurants varies widely, probably more so than anywhere else in the world. Most foreigners are familiar with the infamous (and previously well-deserved) image of a UK full of ‘greasy spoon’ establishments (specialising in fried food and overcooked vegetables), which are still lingering on in major cities and tourist areas. However, those who believe that time spent in the UK means bringing your own food supply or facing starvation (or food poisoning), are in for a pleasant surprise.
How to keep up with British drinking habits
The UK is noted for its pubs (an abbreviation of public houses), which are a British tradition going back to Roman and Saxon times (drunkenness isn’t a new phenomenon – the British have been sots for millennia), when inns were established to meet the needs of travellers. A pub is one of the most welcoming places in the UK (particularly on a freezing winter’s night when many have inviting open log fires) and represents the heart of local communities.
How to get a taste of British Night-life
When staying for a night you can take advantage of the many possibilities in the UK. Whether you choose to relax or to dance, here is the information you will need.
Lottery, Football and other options
Gambling is one of the UK’s favourite pastimes (sometimes it’s an occupation) and embraces horse and greyhound racing; the football pools; sweepstakes; the National Lottery; bingo halls; casinos; slot machine (or amusement) arcades; card games; raffles; betting on the results of general elections, public appointments, football matches or other sports events; and forecasting the names of royal babies or ocean liners.
Movie classifications and costs
There has been a cinema renaissance in the last two decades, following a decline in the ‘60s and ’70s, when many cinemas were turned into shops, bingo halls and even places of worship. Today around 2,600 separate screens are in operation and cinemas are thriving.
Seeing some British history
The UK has numerous museums, gardens, stately homes, castles, theme parks, zoos, botanical gardens, national parks and art galleries, including housing some of the most important collections to be found anywhere in the world (the British have been looting and pillaging for centuries to fill them.)
Night time culture in the UK
The UK is world-renowned for the quality and variety of its theatre, opera and ballet companies, and London has the world’s most vibrant theatre scene with over 150 commercial and subsidised venues, including around 50 in the West End. Between five and ten new major productions open to the paying public each week on average, and a much greater number when smaller and fringe venues are taken into account.
Going back to basic in the UK
The UK has around 3,500 licensed caravan (trailer), chalet and camping parks, 2,600 of which are graded under a quality scheme operated by the British Holiday and Home Parks Association (www.bhhpa.com) and the National Caravan Council (www.nationalcaravan.co.uk) in co-operation with local tourist boards.
Get a taste of true British culture
Bed and breakfast (B&B) accommodation consists of a room in a private house, country pub, farmhouse or even on a university campus, and is found throughout the UK from cities to remote hamlets.
Perfect places while backpacking
For those travelling on a tight budget, one way to stretch limited financial resources is to stay in a youth hostel, which may vary from a castle to a cottage, a hunting lodge to a stately home. There are over 290 youth hostels in the UK, including around 60 in Scotland run by the Scottish Youth Hostel Association (SYHA).
Hotel grades and room rates
When you come to the UK for a trip, it is best not to try and do everything in one day but to take your time and take several days to be able to see more of the country. Here you can find information to help you with this.
Tourist information for the UK
Tourism is one of the UK’s largest and most profitable industries, employing over 2m people directly or indirectly and earning over £87 billion in 2006. The UK was the world’s seventh leading tourist destination and received over 32 million overseas visitors in the same year.
Facts for driving in the UK
British roads are among the most crowded in Europe. The south-east of England is the most congested region in Europe and, in Western Europe, only Italy has more vehicles per mile than the UK.
Rail network, train standards and tickets
The railway network in the UK is one of the most extensive in Europe with over 17,500km (11,000mi) of lines, some 2,500 stations and around 15,000 trains a day. The UK pioneered railways and the Stockton and Darlington Railway (1825) was the first public passenger railway in the world.
Long-distance, rural & city buses
In the UK, there are two main types of bus service: town and city services and long-distance, often referred to as coaches. Each region has its own local bus companies providing local town and country services. In large towns and cities, most bus services start and terminate at a central bus station and it can be confusing trying to find the right connection. If you need assistance, ask at the bus station information office.
British national motoring organisations
Motoring Organisations are always a great way to get better service. In the UK there are several of such organisations. Although the differences in the service provided are not very big, the costs of the membership vary.
Finding your way in the UK
The UK’s roads are designated by letters that define the type of road, followed by a route number. Motorways (coloured blue on maps) have the prefix ‘M’ followed by a low number such as M1, M2, M3 or M25.
Tips to get back on the road in the UK
Garages are generally open from 8am to 6.30pm and usually close for lunch between noon and 1pm. Servicing and repairs at main dealers are expensive (particularly in major towns) and the cost of labour is usually around £30 to £40 an hour. Smaller garages are usually cheaper, although the quality of work is variable and it’s best to choose one that has been personally recommended.
Take care of your car in the UK
Over 370,000 cars are stolen each year in the UK, which has the highest (per capita) number of stolen cars in Europe. Car crime is a huge and profitable business, costing billions of pounds a year and representing around a third of all reported crime. It’s estimated that some 70 per cent of stolen cars are broken up and sold for spares, while the rest are given a false identity and sold (many are exported to the Middle and Far East).
Tips in case of an accident in the UK
The UK has a lower accident rate than most other European countries, although the death toll is still unacceptably high. It’s generally recognised by the police and other experts that the majority of accidents could be avoided by improving driving standards (including less speed and less alcohol consumption by motorists), and the eradication of accident black spots through the redesign of roads and junctions.
Different rules for motorcycles in the UK
Motorcycling is popular in the UK, both as a means of transport and as a pastime (scooters and motorcycles have become fashionable again in recent years), with over one million motorcyclists. In recent years, motorcycle accidents have been greatly reduced by the compulsory wearing of helmets, better bikes and protective riding gear, better training and defensive riding by bikers. In general, laws that apply to cars also apply to motorcycles.
The police on the road in the UK
Police must have a reason to stop motorists in the UK, e.g. erratic driving or a defective bulb. Although they can usually find a pretext if they want to stop you.
Quality and costs of British roads
There are some 362,000km (225,000mi) of roads in the UK, including around 3,100km (1,950mi) of motorways. In general, the quality of British roads is excellent, although some main roads and motorways are in a poor condition through being constantly chewed up by juggernauts and the heavy volume of traffic.
Which car insurance is the best for you?
In the UK there are several types of car insurance. There are different options, from the least expensive minimum cover until the comprehensive one.
The London underground subway system
The London underground railway system (or ‘tube’, as it’s known locally) celebrated its centenary in 1990 and is internationally famous, ranking alongside the Paris metro and the New York subway. London’s tube network covers the largest area of any underground rail system, with 391km (242mi) of track, of which around 171km (106mi) is underground, and 267 stations.
Airports, fares and luggage
The airline business is extremely competitive in the UK and fares are now similar to North American and the lowest of any European country. In addition to the lowest scheduled fares, charter flights are available to most European destinations throughout the year for a fraction of scheduled airline fares.
Fares, booking and cross-channel services
Regular car and passenger ferry services operate all year round, within the British Isles and to continental ports in Belgium, France, Germany, Holland, Iceland, Spain and various Scandinavian countries. The proportion of passengers travelling to and from the UK by sea has reduced considerably since the early ‘60s, given the reduced cost of air travel and competition from Eurotunnel.
General information and useful tips
Taxis are usually plentiful except when it’s raining, you have lots of luggage or you’re late for an appointment. There are two kinds of taxis, licensed taxis or cabs and private hire cars or minicabs. All taxis must be licensed by the local municipal or borough council and have a registered licence number. Minicabs don’t always need to be licensed, although most are.
What you should know
All British public transport companies produce comprehensive national and local timetables, route maps and guides, although with the UK’s often chaotic road traffic conditions and the railways’ innumerable delays and cancellations, you would be wise to confirm times before travelling.
Options for expats
If you live in a more rural area of the UK having a car will be invaluable. For expats who are city-based, the freedom of having your own car will give you the chance to visit the many great sights around the UK at your convenience.
The prices in the UK
Fuel, priced in litres, varies considerably in cost, according to local competition, the state of the world oil market and whether war has broken out in the Middle East. After sharp tax increases in recent years, the UK now has the most expensive petrol in Europe.