Time: Local time is GMT (GMT +1 from last Sunday in March to Saturday before last Sunday in October)
Electricity: 240 volts, 50Hz. Flat three-pin plugs are standard
Money: The currency is the pound (GBP), which is divided into 100 pence. ATMs are available in all towns and Visa, MasterCard and American Express are widely accepted; visitors with other cards should check with their credit card companies in advance. Foreign currency can be exchanged at bureaux de change and large hotels, however better exchange rates are likely to be found at banks. Travellers cheques are accepted in all areas frequented by tourists; they are best taken in Pounds Sterling to avoid additional charges.
Language: English is the official language, though visitors will be astonished by the variety of regional accents.
Health: There are no specific health risks associated with travel to the UK and food and water can be considered safe. The British National Health Service is excellent; emergency treatment is free to visitors, but charges are made for routine medical care. A number of countries have reciprocal health agreements with the UK including Australia, New Zealand and EU countries. Visitors from other countries (including Canada, South Africa and the US) are advised to take out good medical insurance.
Tipping: Tips of 10 to 15% are expected in restaurants and upmarket hotels if a service charge hasn’t been included. Hotel service staff receive an optional amount. Taxi drivers are usually given 10 to 15% of the fare. Other services are discretionary.
Safety: It is generally safe to travel throughout the UK. Security at all UK airports has been tightened and restrictions on hand luggage introduced; security has been increased at transport hubs throughout the country.
Customs: Handshaking is customary when introduced to someone new. Smoking is banned in all enclosed public spaces, including pubs and restaurants, and on public transport.
Business: The four countries of the United Kingdom, although culturally and historically different, generally keep to the same practices in business. Politeness and punctuality are key to good business relations, and initial meetings are often conducted formally and impersonally, becoming more open and social as things progress. Business cards are exchanged at introductions. Business hours are generally 8am to 5pm Monday to Friday with an hour taken at lunch.
Communications: The international country dialling code for UK is +44. The outgoing code is 00, followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 001 for the United States). There is a wide range of city/area codes in use. Mobile phones work throughout the country; the network operators use GSM 1800 networks, which may not be compatible with some dual-band US cell phones. Internet cafes are available in major towns and cities, train stations and airports.
Duty free: Travellers to the United Kingdom over 16 years with goods purchased in the EU for personal consumption do not have to pay duty on these goods provided they are for personal use or are gifts for family and friends. This does not apply to large quantities of alcohol or tobacco if the amounts exceed the following limits: 3,200 cigarettes, 400 cigarillos (up to 3g each), 200 cigars, and 3kg pipe or cigarette tobacco; 10 litres spirits with alcohol content higher than 22%, 20 litres alcohol less than 22% alcohol volume, 90 litres of wine (with no more than 60 litres sparkling wine) and 110 litres beer. Travellers to the United Kingdom over 17 years arriving from non-EU countries (including the Channel Islands and Gibraltar) do not have to pay duty on the following items: 200 cigarettes, or 100 cigarillos (up to 3g each), or 50 cigars, or 250g tobacco; 1 litre spirits with alcohol content higher than 22%, or 2 litres dessert wine not exceeding 22% alcohol volume and sparkling wine, and 2 litres of table wine; perfume up to 60cc or 250ml eau de toilette; and goods such as souvenirs to the value of ₤145. The import of firearms must be accompanied by an appropriate license or certificate. All handguns are restricted under UK law and are only allowed on a BA aircraft with prior permission obtained from the Security Duty Manager. Prohibited items include indecent or obscene books, films or videos.