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ENGLAND TRAVEL GUIDE
Hello, my name is Gwen, and here is my England travel guide for solo travel over 40, including budget, safety/female and eco-travel tips, photographs and interesting posts for your England travel planning.
WELCOME TO ENGLAND!
England – “Land of the Angles” – is part of the United Kingdom with Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and is home to Big Ben, tea, fish and chips, beer (or bitter), Pimms, bobbies, the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Elton John (and countless other amazing bands and musicians), over 1500 castles including Windsor Castle, cricket, William Shakespeare, J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K Rowling, an average of 106 days of rain a year, black cabs and red double-decker buses, cheese rolling, Sir Isaac Newton, Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, Stonehenge, Palace of Westminster, Canterbury Cathedral, Hadrian’s Wall, the Cliffs of Dover, over 53,000 pubs, driving on the left side of the road, and a world class city and capital, London.
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LANGUAGES IN ENGLAND
The official language is English (of course).
England is a western society shaped from its long-standing contribution in historical events. Hailing from the Anglo-Saxons since the 5thcentury, the Kingdom of England was not established until 1707 when it merged with the Kingdom of Scotland. England’s monarchs have reigned since the 9thcentury but today England has a constitutional monarchy with the monarch as head of state and a democratically-elected Parliament overseeing government and all political decisions.
Today’s English are well diversified among conservative and liberal views. Overall, the government believes in teaching its children “British values”, which consist of, “democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs”.
British children, and in all of the U.K., are legally required to attend primary and secondary education or until the age of 16. Higher education, known as “university” (or “uni” for short), only takes 3 years to obtain a bachelor’s degree, of which approximately 30% of Brits hold.
The British have much pride in their global contributions in the fields of architecture, art, literature, law, medicine, science, philosophy, theater, cinema, and music.The British enjoy a state-funded health care system (National Health Service or NHS), which is free – paid through payroll taxes – and guarantees health care for all.
Brought by the Roman Empire, Christianity has been the main religion in England since the 7thcentury. The Church of England (Protestant) was established in 1536 with the split from the Roman Catholic Church. Today, however, more than half of British people do not claim to be religious and the government has recently been cutting public funding to churches.
England’s metropolitan areas host a diverse set of immigrants who have helped diversify the cuisine available. Still, traditional English meals are found aplenty, which include roast meats and gravy, cottage and Shepherd’s pie, fish and chips, toad in the hole (sausages baked in batter), bangers and mash, Cornish pasties, and Yorkshire pudding. Fried chicken has made a recent rise in popularity. A typical English breakfast is served bacon, sausages, egg, baked beans, black pudding, fried toast, hash browns, mushrooms and egg.
And don’t forget tea time! A “cuppa” is traditionally observed as a meal time between 2 – 4pm), and typically served with sandwiches, mini cakes, and Cream Tea (scone, strawberry jam and clotted cream). The British also love to partake in a pint of beer (“bitter” and lagers), or drink cider, Pimms, gin, and ginger beer, to name a few. If you like beer, try out some of England’s microbrews.
POPULAR ENGLISH ACTIVITIES
The Brits love their sport, not to mention are responsible for helping establish the standardization for many games like cricket, field hockey, lawn tennis, rugby, table tennis, football (soccer), badminton and thoroughbred horse racing. It’s football and cricket, however, that originated in England – both worldwide sports. Football was first established in 1857 making England having the world’s oldest football club in the world. In addition to sports, the British also enjoy relaxing or socializing by watching TV, listening to music or the radio, shopping, hobbies, going to live music shows or the cinema, gardening, reading, dining out or going to the pubs. Weekends are mostly devoted to spending time with family.
England uses the Pound sterling (GBP or £) – exchange rates are usually not favorable for U.S. citizens. Check throughout your travel planning phase on any exchange rate changes.
England has all modern forms of transportation, including Uber (research in advance if they are in your destination area), and other regional ridesharing services and apps, so getting around and booking transportation in advance or working on the fly, is no problem.
TIPPING IN ENGLAND
Traveling in a new country is easier when you know the country’s tipping etiquette in advance as each country has its own rules. That said, country rules and norms can shift, so here is an international tipping resource for over 70 countries to use as a general guideline that I have found is constantly updated.
What’s not on there is how to tip a concierge, beauty salons or spas, travel or tour guides, etc. For these extras, it is acceptable to tip 10% at minimum. Remember, tipping is for good service only.
Additionally, you should always tip in the local currency (if tipping in cash), and do not be offended if your tip is refused as it may not be the norm. I feel it’s always better to offer a tip for good service than not, unless I know it will be considered offensive, like in Japan.
A key activity to do in your early planning stage is to know, at minimum, the national holidays. I so suggest also looking into the local holidays. It’s a complete bummer to spend time and money to take the holiday of your lifetime and when you show up at one of your key attractions, it’s closed due to a holiday. It’s also not fun trying to travel and have a hard time accessing travel or other essential resources when no one is around because, yes, it’s a local holiday. So take just a few moments to look at England’s holidays.
ENGLAND ELECTRONIC ESSENTIALS
Besides money, required ID and your ticket, England voltage is 230V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz, so bring a Type G adapter (I recommend bringing 2!) for England outlets and research if your electronics require a voltage converter, if not already included in the adapter; or, you can bring electronics already adapted for England outlets or wait to purchase them there (I recommend just bringing the adapter with converter). Remember, most smart phones, tablets and laptops don’t require a converter, but double-check your device(s) before you leave home. If you are going to another country in addition to England on your trip, you can check the global adapters list to make sure you’re prepared. I have also provided suggested adapters below for your convenience!
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TRAVEL DOCUMENTS FOR ENGLAND
From the U.S., you will need a valid passport for the duration of your stay in the United Kingdom. Visas are not required if your stay is less than 6 months. Make sure your passport expiration date is greater than 3 months (6 months if traveling on to some countries) from your return to the U.S. The U.S. State Department always has their link up to date with pertinent information when traveling to England. It is advised to always check there during your planning stage and again before you leave. If you are not from the U.S., please check your government’s website.
VACCINATIONS FOR ENGLAND
There are normally no vaccinations required for England. The U.S. State Department always has their link up to date with pertinent information when traveling to England. It is advised to always check there during your planning stage and again before you leave. If you are not from the U.S., please check your government’s website.
SAFETY / FEMALE TRAVEL TIPS
ENGLAND TRAVEL SAFETY
Overall, England and other UK countries are considered a safe place to visit. London has, unfortunately, been subject to terrorist events and the U.S. State Department does note this on its site, so it is wise to keep informed for travel planning purposes. Larger cities, like London, may also have its instances of theft or pickpocketing, especially in popular tourist areas or particular neighborhoods, so be wise with your belongings while you’re out and about and taking pictures. In addition to a helpful site, SafeAround, here are my standard tips for female and solo travelers:
- always carry photo ID with you; if you don’t want your passport on you at all times, at least carry a copy of it.
- always be “street wise”.
- always be aware of your surroundings, especially if you feel the need to imbibe or feel the need to “let loose” – you’re on vacation so have fun!
- never leave your food or drink unattended.
- keep your belongs on your person, or at least in your view in close proximity, at all times.
- be open to meeting and talking with new people – that is where a lot of the travel experience lies – but be careful on how you divulge personal information.
- research places in advance, if possible, so you know what to expect (i.e., “have a familiar view” – I like to Google the street view of new addresses I’m going to first).
- if something, someone or someplace makes you feel uncomfortable, go with your gut – leave.
BUDGET TRAVEL TIPS
BEST TIME TO VISIT ENGLAND
Like other countries in Europe, England’s high tourist season, and most expensive time, is the summer (late June to August). Brits normally take their vacations in July and August, so the resorts are crowded during these months. London is pricier to visit than other cities in England, so consider traveling the countryside for less expensive travel. Crowds are not as heavy in England in the mid-season April to May and September to October, and prices in these months are lower than the summer season but considered best in September and October. The least expensive time to go to England would be November to March. For overall best weather and prices, try booking well in advance for September and October.
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SUSTAINABILITY / ECO TRAVEL TIPS
It is very easy to do your part for the planet and implement environmental sustainability into your travel. If you would like to learn more about how you can implement environmentally sustainable, or eco-friendly, travel measures into your travel, please see my 10 Easy Eco Travel Tips and suggested Eco Travel Resources.
Additionally, if you are flying to, or within, England consider purchasing carbon offsets through your airline or through a third party, like MyClimate.org, Carbonfund.org, or terrapass. Carbon offsetting allows you to buy a certificate to reduce carbon emissions, a major contributor to climate change, which in turn contribute community projects across countries to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. There are several ways to go about this to help reduce your impact to climate change through your travel. Check it out!
After meeting my mate from New Zealand, I’ve popped over to London to visit her while she had a work visa (lucky Kiwis!). While there I was fortunate enough to see Richie Havens for the first time when he played at the Jazz Café – that was nice! London has much history and I love to visit there (now if I can just find my pictures – for the life of me I don’t know where they are). Next on my list of trips for 2020 are to revisit London but also see more of the countryside: Kent, Cornwall, Devon, and Somerset counties, then northward to Yorkshire before heading into Scotland. Wales would be a bonus! England has some good music festivals happening, like the Glastonbury Festival and Isle of Wight Festival. Perhaps I’ll add one of these to my list for next year. Stay tuned!