Mobile/cell phone and internet access
Most mobile phones will pick up reception from UK networks while in the UK. However, mobile/cell phone reception in rural areas can be poor even for UK mobile phones so there may be times when you are without reception.
Calls made from your mobile/cell phones while you are in a foreign country usually attract a very high tariff (although there are now stricter limits on this for calls between EU countries). If you are planning to make a lot of calls using your mobile phone while you are in Britain, we suggest buying a UK pay-as-you-go sim card, which can be obtained very cheaply.
However, we recommend Skype as a cheaper alternative to using your mobile or cell phone if you want to call home, providing that you have internet access.
The vast majority of our hotels and other accommodation provide free wifi access for its guests. Free wifi is also available in many cafes, restaurants and pubs.
Internet cafes are widely available in large cities but less so in towns and rural areas. However, the need for them is reducing due to the widespread availability of wifi.
Britain has a unique three-pin plug that is not used elsewhere in the world. You will therefore need an adaptor to use any electronic items brought from abroad. Adaptors should be readily available at both your departure airport and the airport you arrive into in the UK.
Distances and measurements
Technically, Britain has a metric system. However, it is still common practice for shops to sell produce in both kilos and lbs. All distances on road signs are in miles and most people continue to measure themselves in feet and inches and weigh themselves in stones and lbs.
The time in Britain
Between late October and late March, Britain is on Greenwich Meantime (GMT). This is 5 hours ahead of New York, 8 hours ahead of California, and 10 hours behind Sydney.
From late March until late October, Britain uses British Summer Time, which is one hour ahead of GMT.
The first language throughout Britain is English. There are some areas of Wales where Welsh is usually spoken between locals, but English will be understood.
Some other areas of Britain speak a local language or dialect but, again, English will always be understood. However, be aware that there are strong regional accents in some areas of Britain. These can take a bit of getting used to, even if English is your first language!
Unlike in some countries, it is not standard for hotel or restaurant staff to speak a second language. Menus in restaurants or cafes very rarely have any translation into another language. If you do not speak fluent English, we suggest bringing a phrase book to help with translations.
In many popular tourist areas and at popular tourist attractions it is possible to arrange guided tours in a number of different languages.
The Smoking Ban
There is a general ban on smoking in enclosed public places. This includes all hotels, cafes, restaurants, bars and pubs as well as other attractions such as museums and public transport (which also includes hire cars).
Most places will have a designated outside space that people can use should they wish to smoke.
Smoking in outdoor public spaces (including the street) is permitted.