Whether it’s the red double-decker buses of London, the rugged Scottish coastline, the beauty of Wales’s Mount Snowden or the magical landscape of Northern Ireland’s Giant’s Causeway that attracts you, the United Kingdom is a diverse land and landscape that has much to offer the curious traveler. The tips below can get you started on planning your first trip there.
Know Your Geography
Let’s get one thing out of the way first before you insult any locals in that the United Kingdom is a country made up of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Scottish, Welsh, and Irish people don’t consider themselves English, and the Republic of Ireland, the southern half of that island, is a separate sovereign nation. Understanding the local culture is one of the best travel hacks to learn because you always want to be informed and respectful when visiting other countries. Fortunately, the people of the U.K. are generally understanding of tourist confusion, but you’ll have a richer experience if you understand that each part of the country has its own proud history.
Knowing your budget early on will give you a good idea of what kind of a trip you can take and for how long. If your current access to funds is thin, one option is to take out a personal loan to pay for it. The process of applying and finding out your eligibility is usually a quick one, and you can almost always get a better payment plan than you would through your credit cards.
You can’t do it all, so choose a focus. Maybe it’s cities. You could land in London and explore it for a few days, take an overnight train to Edinburgh and then train and ferry it over to Belfast. Maybe you want to tour the whisky breweries of Scotland, or maybe the national parks of Wales are calling to you. You could also choose a base and take day trips from it. From the beautiful old city of York, you could visit the moors, the memorable seaside town Whitby and the home of the Bronte sisters, Haworth. Choose carefully, and don’t underestimate the size of the U.K. It can take time to travel from one place to another, and you don’t want to spend all your time in airports or railway stations.
Transportation and Accommodation
Be smart about your planning. It might be cheaper to fly into a certain airport, but how much will you then spend getting to the place you want to be? Keep in mind as well that train tickets in the U.K. can be costly, and the earlier you can book them the cheaper they will be. Another option is renting a car although most are manuals, you will drive on the other side of the road and gas is significantly more expensive than it is in the U.S. If you plan to stay primarily in London, you can easily get around via bus, the underground, or taxis. Your choice of accommodations ranges from hostels to five-star hotels. Bed and breakfasts can be a popular mid-range choice. Research all of your options thoroughly, checking out their reviews and going online to ask others about their experiences.