UK : Top Tips for visiting update 1.1 24/11/98

The UK (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) is one of the most interesting countries in the world to visit.  
  • countryside : it is an Island country there is a wide variation in a small space
  • history : it is an old world country and there are so many preserved buildings 
  • culture : people have always come from other countries so there is a wide diversity
 
Special Highlights * Before You Go* It`s Expensive !  NO, NO, NO * London Tips * Geography and History a very quick Lesson
 

My Special Highlights 

Try to get away from the main tourist places of London, Stratford, Oxford and Brighton. The rest of the country is very different from London  and there a lot of really special places and friendly people.  
  • Uffingham White Horse - a huge white horse carved onto the side of hill 3000 years ago and a nearby 3500 year old burial site, free about 20 Km south of Oxford. 
  • York a historic northern city with the city walls still in tact and Durham, a beautiful cathedral city
  • Hadrians Wall a 2000 year old Roman wall separating Scotland from England.
  • The Edinburgh Fringe Festival - the largest festival of performance in the world and so much to see for free (rooms tel Fiona 44 131 445 3917)
  • Lewes, Corfe, Arundel, Norwich, Lincoln, Nottingham, Dover... there are 100s of these old castle towns 
  • The National Museum of Film and Photography in Bradford - the best museum in the whole country ..make your own TV programme
  • The Centre For Alternative Technology in North Wales 
  • Blackpool - you might not like it ,but it`s a very traditional seaside town. 
  • Alton Towers ..the largest amusement park in Europe - the rides here are much faster  than at Disneyworld
  • The Giants Causeway and Bushmills Distillery - amazing rock formations and free whiskey in Northern Ireland
And special things to do... 
  • Drink : real ale, scrumpy or Guiness, tea with milk (and dunk your biscuits)
  • Eat - Fish and Chips from A Fish And Chip Shop, try other traditional food.. Toad In The Hole , Sheperds Pie, Cornish Pasty, or Yorkshire pudding with rasperry vinegar, try puddings like, spotted dick, treacle sponge, rice pudding  or Jam Roly Poly, try cakes .. parkin, plumbread, scones, jam  and cream, biscuits Jaffa cakes, chocolate hobknobs, other specialities like mince pies, Christmas cake, Christmas pudding
  • Go to an Indian Curry House,Travel on a canal barge, Go to a cricket match
  • Walk or Cycle  -  it is a small country, there a number of long distance walks you can do such as the Pennine Way or Ridge Way or The Pilgrim's Way
  • Work with other  volunteers on an enviromental holiday ..BTCV or WWOOFing  (UK) , 
  • Go To the seaside ..build sandcastles on the beach ,eat candyfloss and buy a stick of rock
 
 

Before You Go

Brazilian people do not need a tourist visa 

If you want to study it is no longer possible to change your status when you have entered the country you must arrange a school and a student visa before you leave Brazil. 

On arrival the immigration officers can be very tough (I know 2 good people who have been refused entry and put back on the plane by the police, one Venezuelan one USA). They are looking for people who might over stay, if you tell the truth and have firm plans like>   we will be in London for 1 week then go to Edinburgh for 3 days etc.. you should be OK. There are virtually no checks inside the country or when you leave by sea to mainland Europe. 

Get a Good guidebook , the ones with a lot of pictures aren`t very good, the best ones are those with a lot of information are. You could get one just for the UK or for one covering the whole of Europe. Try Lonely Planet, Let`s Go or The Rough Guides. (all available from www.amazon.com). Make sure you read it and plan before you go. 

Info via Internet try the newsgroups uk.soc.culture, rec.travel.uk available via dejanews  

To find out about the culture you could read some books before you go. Culture Shock Britain by Terry Tan or try contempary fiction like Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby or travel experiences. The Island by The Sea by Paul Theroux or Notes From A Small Island by Bill Bryson. 

Air Tickets may be cheaper when bought from companies in the UK by telephone (most companies aren`t allowed to do this) but try  
Journey (Tel 44- 181 747 3108) or SEA (Tel 44- 171 976 5511). I paid US$765 for a six month ticket to Brazil. 

 
 

It`s Expensive !  NO, NO, NO

People say oh England its so expensive! Usually what they mean is they found London expensive. Of course the number of tourists and the higher wages makes the city expensive if you try to live like you would in your home country.  

Firstly there is a big difference between London and the rest of the country.   In fact sometimes the number of people and competition can make shopping for specialist goods cheaper. If you look around you can find some real bargains such as leather jackets for $100 only 100m away from a shop selling them for $500. Secondly you have to live differently in the UK. 

No one can say that it is as cheap as India, but if you adapt it can be very affordable. When in Rome...  

expensive ...  

  • things that are  taxed cost a lot fuel (and therefore transport), alcohol, cigarettes (US$5 a packet), 
  • foods where the industry is protected ; especially meat
  • places where a lot of rich tourists go and tourist change places like Chequepoint.
  • hotels; companies pay their employees bills so most are expensive.
  • Labels, eg NIKE, Levi`s ... they know they can get more money from you
  • things that use a lot of labour ... e.g. restaurants AVOID THEM even MacDonalds
cheap ...  
  • things that are  popular, chips from the chipshop (less than $1 a meal), breakfast cereals, canned baked beans or canned spagetti ($0.15 a meal), bread, fresh fruit in season, international air tickets. 
  • things which are susidised e.g. All libraries and many museums and parks are free
  • family bed and breakfast (B & B) places are reasonable
Cheap holiday : walking in the countryside outside London, camping or staying at youth hostels or B & B, eating vegetarian food from the supermarket and chips and  visiting free museums or beauty spots. (US$15 a day) 

Expensive holiday : staying in London at a Hilton Hotel, eating steak in restaurants, smoking and drinking in pubs , visiting expensive tourist sites like Madame Tussauds, taking the train up to Edinburgh, Stratford and  Oxford.  (US$200 a day) 

I think the first option is best you would see the real culture. The other way you would see the tourist culture.  

More money saving tips - Small convenience stores are usually more expensive than big supermarkets. Kwik Save is normally the cheapest. Look for discount shelves at the back and white label goods which are usually the same as the big brands, but cheaper. Markets sell off the food really cheaply after 5pm. You can get very cheap used clothing from the many charity shops

 
 

London Tips

The new train from Heathrow Airport is a waste of money, it`better to take the Tube. Buy a day travelcard then you can use the entire network all day. 

As soon as you arrive get a copy of TNT Magazine free from boxes on the street in central London every week. It has some tourist information, lots of job listings and at the back all the contact numbers of the best value accomodation. The best place to change money is next door to American Express outside Victoria station.  
 
Accomodation
  • camping is the cheapest at Hackney Marshes or Stratford Cycle Track  are both OK £5
  • avoid the official Youth Hostels they are expensive, private ones are much cheaper and are good places for other tourists to exchange information. THE BEST - Dover Castle Hostel  £8, opposite Kenninton Tube, 1Km walk from the centre, Rayleigh Gardens Hotel £7,  Brixton Hill, each room has a kitchen and bathroom, A 1Km walk from Brixton Stations.
  • you can find private hotel or student rooms from £15 in the TNT magazine ,  (in 1997 I got a student room for £45 a week)
  • Loot Magazine is a good place to find long term accomodation
 
Sights
  • Walk around you can see a lot for free, old historic buildings, Tower Bridge, The Houses Of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and at Convent Garden you can usually see street performers. 
  • Despite being expensive £9 The Tower of London is the best thing in London
  • Many of the other museums are either free or free 1 hour before closing, The British Museum, the Science Museum and for Art The National Portrait Gallery and Tate Gallery
  • Timeout Magazine is a good place to find a listing of the days free events 
  • Avoid Madame Tussauds, The London Dungeon and other expensive commercial tourist traps.
  • Greenwich, Hampstead Heath, Windsor  or Hampton Court are interesting places to visit away from the centre
  • visit Petticoat Lane market near Liverpool St station on Sundays for real Bargains.
  • On Saturdays and Sundays Camden High St is turned into a huge hippy market
 
Eating 
  • use the supermarkets and the cooking facilities at the hostels
  • There some reasonable restaurants nearby to expensive ones. Try Wan Chungs  a Chinese restaurant in  Leicster Square where the waiters are incredibly rude, Pasta Palace, All you can eat Pasta ($5 all you can eat) or another Chinese Restaurant ($5 all you can eat at lunchtime), 21 New Oxford St 
 
Nightlife
  • The weekend is the worst time to go out. It`s better to out during the week. It`s less crowded cheaper and more fun. See Timeout for listings. e.g. discos for £1 (drinks are always expensive inside a disco)
  • You will find pubs selling beer for £1 a half litre around the corner from those selling it for £2 
  • Bar Rumba on Shaftsbury avenue is a meeting place for Brazilians 
 

 
 

Geography and History a very quick Lesson 

On a world scale the UK is a pretty small insignificant place. But it does have a very interesting history. 

When people say Enland they don`t usually mean England they mean the whole country of the UK or Britain. England is just one of the 4 states. There are two big Islands > Great Britain and Ireland. There used to be lots of little kingdoms then about 1500 years ago, there was a King for the country of England and shortly after that he became king of Wales too. About 350 years ago the King Of England died; he didn`t have any children and his nearest relative was the King of Scotland. So he came down to be king of the whole country. At around the same time England had control of Ireland, but 100 years ago the south became a separate country. So that is why the country is called the United Kingdom Of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. 

Northern Ireland - About 450 years ago King Henry VIII couldn`t get a divorce from the Catholic Church so he created his own Anglo Protestant Church. Because Ireland joined the country later most of the people there were Catholic. But after a war with France the government couldn`t pay the soldiers so it gave them land in the north of Ireland. The Catholics in Ireland didn`t want to be governed from England so about 100 years ago terrorism started in Ireland with the creation of The Irish Republican Army IRA. The government gave in and had a referendum. The Protestants were a majority in the north and voted to stay with England so the country was divided; the south became a separate country called Eire.  
After the The 1945 war there was still a problem in Northern Ireland, because 30 % of the population were Catholic and they still faced a lot of discrimination; so the new Provisional IRA was formed. The Protestants in turn formed their own terrorist groups. The government could not give Northern Ireland to Eire because it would face more problems from the Protestant terrorists. It sent soldiers to keep the peace between the two groups. Over the last 30 years more than 2000 people have died due to the terrorism, but in spite of the drama created by TV,  Northern Ireland was always safer than American cities like Washington DC . Most people care about whether they have  a job or not more than about the name of the country.  
The situation is very complex, but over time things have changed; for the last 20 years it has been illegal to disciminate on grounds of sex, race or religion in the UK. (you can only advertise for a barperson, not for example for a black, catholic barmaid). So in 1998 both sides agreed to a long peace process which began with a parliament for Northern Ireland. There will be parliaments in Scotland and Wales in 1999, though there is no parliament for England  

The People Because the country was first invaded by so many groups of people it had a diverse culture. Then it went out and controlled lots of other countries and brought back lots of aspects of there cultures, some things like tea and words like bungalow. After The 1945 war a lot of immigrants came in from the old colonies to rebuild the economy. 95% of people say that they are white, 2 million people claim to be Muslim. Most ethnic groups live in cities like London. 

5000 years ago there weren`t many people in Europe then the Celts came from Asia. They usually had black hair. The Romans took control of most of the country 2000 years ago, but only for 250 years. Then the Vikings came across from Scandinavia, then the Saxons from Germany. There was a Saxon King of England called Harold, but William the conqueror came over from France and took control. He was the first Norman king, later came the Tudors, then the Stuarts and then The Windsors. The countries of most of the old colonies belong to a group called the Commonwealth and the Queen is still head of state of all of them.

Some links www.telegraph.co.uk, www.times.co.uk, www.bbc.co.uk

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