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England travel tips: 'Old Blighty' still a great destination

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Big Ben - London
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The clock tower at the Houses of Parliament in London is one of England's most recognizable symbols and popular attractions. (Courtesy photo)

Though its weather is still doing its worst to sully England's reputation, old Blighty remains a mightily appealing travel destination, especially for golfers.

England has something for every tourist, from dynamic, action-packed London to the charming university towns of Oxford and Cambridge, the beautiful northern countryside and some of Europe's most storied golf courses.

Planning an overseas trip can be daunting, though, especially if you've never traveled abroad. Here are some travel tips from WorldGolf.com to help smooth things out.

Traveling to England

Unless you've got a steamer trunk you've always been waiting to use, you'll be flying to England. Most major international airlines offer flights from North America; you'll most likely land at London's Gatwick or Heathrow airports, though some carriers offer service to Manchester or Birmingham. Check the Web sites of airlines such as Delta and British Airways for travel times and prices.

You'll need a valid U.S. passport to enter the United Kingdom. It's also a good idea to review the latest British travel restrictions before taking off.

Traveling in England

When to go: Between April and September is the best time to travel in England, unless you want to experience the infamous British weather. Of course, thousands of other tourists have the same plan, but you'll probably only feel truly cramped in July or August, the busiest months.

What to see: With its dynamic mix of restaurants, sites, museums and other cultural attractions, London is a terrific, and terrifically expensive, place to spend time. But England isn't just London.

In the north, you'll find a beautiful countryside of lakes, castles and national parks. Take a day trip to the medieval city of York, or check out Manchester, home of a world-famous soccer team and an almost-as-famous music scene.

The south has a more subdued landscape, with quiet country lanes and inland waterways. There you'll find Oxford, Cambridge and Stratford, Shakespeare's birthplace. The southern seashore is known for fun beach resorts like Brighton, and Cornwall in the southwest offers spectacular rocky coastline and wonderful surfing.

Getting around: The best way to see England is by train. BritRail offers passes ranging from two days to a full month to overseas visitors (you must buy before traveling). Consult the Visit Britain Direct Web site for more information.

If you're OK with driving on the left, England is served by the major car-rental players. The network of highways and major secondary roads is extensive and well-maintained, but rural byways in more remote areas like Cornwall and the Lake District are often narrow, twisting and hemmed in by walls. Exercise caution, especially at night and in bad weather.

Money: England's currency is the pound, and unfortunately at this writing it was worth nearly $2 U.S. You can exchange cash at airports and change bureaus, but watch out for high fees. Traveler's checks are another possibility.

A far better option than either is using your cards from home to get cash and pay bills. Credit cards are widely accepted in England, ATMs are plentiful and you'll get the best exchange (even with the small fee most U.S. card providers charge for foreign-currency transactions).

Crime and safety

Britain is a relatively safe country by international standards, with low rates of street crime and violence. Nevertheless, it can't hurt to review a few safety tips; a comprehensive list can be found at VisitBritain.com.

A few of the big ones:

• Avoid waiting alone at bus stops and on train platforms.

• Always use a licensed taxi.

• Remember: Cars drive on the left in Britain, so look twice before crossing the street.

• Try not to display cash or expensive items, especially on public transport.

It's also a good idea to take out travelers insurance before leaving. In case of emergency, 999 is the English equivalent of North America's 911 and can be dialed from any phone.

England Facts

Capital: London
Population: approximately 51 million
Time: EST +5 hours
Language: English
Currency: Pound sterling
Electricity: 240V 50HzHz (you'll a converter and an adapter for plug-in electronics)
Telephone country code: 44

 
Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Crime in UK

    Carl wrote on: Apr 23, 2008

    Your thoughts on crime in Britain are extremely wrong. The crime rates in the UK are much higher than back in the US. Violent crime is especially high. It is easy to find independent statistics on crime in the UK relative to the rest of the World. One of the best and most important recent studies show Britain has the highest crime rates in the developed World.
    It is easy to think of the UK as a place of tea and crumpets, men in bowler hats winking to Miss Poppins but the slightest research will show how far from the truth that is, I suggest, on such an important subject, you really should look into independent research instead of presumption.
    That said, the UK is still a wonderful place to visit and, if you use common sense and avoid areas in the same way as you would at home, it is extremely unlikely you will be a victim of any crime.
    Enjoy yourselves!

    Reply

      • RE: Crime in UK

        Martin wrote on: Aug 30, 2008

        My, what a distorted view of my country you seem to have. As a native of the UK and a frequent traveller to many parts of the world - including USA albeit the most popular tourist spots (New York and Florida) I have to say that whilst crime is a concern for most people in any country it is no worse in the UK than many other countries. Tourists just need to adopt the British way of dealing with these issues, Apologise when being mugged, apologise when being ripped off, aplogise when being rear ended by a drunken uninsured, under aged driver, in short whenever you are in doubt -apologise.

        Reply

      • RE: Crime in UK

        Carl wrote on: Apr 23, 2008

        I should have said. The US has much, much higher murder rates.

        Reply