UK Travel Guide: All the best places to visit in the UK

Traditional red English phoneboxes shown lining the street in the UK

The United Kingdom, which comprises England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Island, is an ever-popular destination for Aussie travellers, and it’s easy to see why. Green landscapes, historic sites, pub grub and a similar culture to our own – what’s not to love?

UK facts:

  • The UK is the home of Greenwich Mean Time
  • The population is 64 million
  • The main religion is Christian
  • 87% of the population are Caucasian
  • At its peak, the British Empire occupised over a quarter of the Earth's land mass

Practical travel tips

Visas in the UK
If you aren’t intending to work, Australians can stay in the UK for up to six months without a visa.

Currency
The British Pound. On average, one Australian dollar can be exchanged for 54 British pence.

Tipping in the UK
With the exception of restaurants with table service, tipping isn't necessary. However, some people choose to tip taxi drivers, waiters and bar staff with loose change or by rounding up the bill.

Thames and Houses of Parliament in Westminster - best places to visit in London

Top UK travel experiences

Top UK cities

  • London: You can’t visit the UK without going to the capital. The largest city in the UK, London has something for everyone – food, theatre, history, pubs, parks and more.
  • Manchester: Home to the famous premier league football team, Manchester also has a proud history in science, politics, music, arts and sport.
  • Edinburgh: Edinburgh, in Scotland, is renowned for the 12th century castle that dominates the city’s skyline on Castle Rock. Blending the old and new, from the medieval old town to The Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Edinburgh is a city that delights.
  • Glasgow: Glasgow is Scotland’s largest city – a centre for manufacturing and trade as well as a multicultural centre for museums, culture, museums, galleries, and festivals.
  • Cardiff: Cardiff is the capital city of Wales, offering historical attractions, entertainment and shopping, while juxtaposing cutting-edge architecture against historic buildings. The city is home to Cardiff Castle, and also has a new waterfront at Cardiff Bay.
  • Belfast: Dubbed the Lonely Planet’s best place to visit in 2018, Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland. With fantastic eateries, cool pubs and plenty of shopping, you’ll never run out of things to do.

Castles and palaces

Most people will stop by Buckingham Palace in London, Queen Elizabeth II’s main residence, but what about the other castles throughout England, Scotland and Wales? There are hundreds of castles and fortifications across the countryside – ranging from ruins to stately homes with manicured gardens – some of which date back to the Iron Age.

Just some to visit include:

  • Windsor Castle: On the fringe of London, Windsor Castle is 900 years old and includes a royal palace as well as several homes and a church.
  • Edinburgh Castle: On the peak of Castle Rock, Edinburgh Castle defines the city’s skyline and houses the Scottish crown jewels.
  • Dover Castle: Dover Castle rests of the White Cliffs of Dover, facing the English Channel, and was the first sign of England historical visitors saw as they crossed from the continent.
  • The Tower of London: The Tower is over 1,000 years old and has a bloody history, including 1381 Peasants’ Revolt and the execution of Anne Boleyn. It’s also home to the English crown jewels.
  • Warwick Castle: Experience the days of William the Conqueror, the Wars of the Roses and the Civil War with Horrible History stalls.
  • Caernarvon Castle: In the centre of the Welsh town of Caernarvon, this 13th century castle is the same size as the town that surrounds it.

British delicacies

Britain is home to a number of traditional foods that everyone should try once, including:

  • Cornish pasties: Short-crust pastry filled with meat and vegetables that is then baked – the perfect portable meal, and originally from Cornwall.
  • Haggis: Haggis is a savoury pudding from Scotland made from sheep’s heart, liver, lungs and other ingredients.
  • Black Pudding: Another Scotland treat, black pudding is a type of blood sausage that features pig’s blood.
  • Bacon Butty: This is an English Bacon sandwich laced with tomato ketchup or HP brown sauce.
  • Lamb Cawl: This is a traditional Welsh lamb stew.
  • Dulse: From Ireland, this dried seaweed can be used as a snack or seasoning, and has now found its place as a superfood.

Check out a sports game

Many in the UK are football (or soccer) crazy, with the Premier League being England’s number one football league. There are 20 Premier League football grounds in England and you can sample a game at one of the stadiums located throughout England.

If soccer isn’t your thing, other options include a tennis match at Wimbledon, a golf tournament at St Andrews, a rugby game at Twickenham, or a cricket game at Lords in London. Just make sure you cheer on the Aussies!

Go to a rock festival in the UK

The UK is home to a range of famous music, rock and pop festivals, including Glastonbury, Bestival, and the Isle of Wight Festival. These usually take place from June to September and draw in all demographics.

If you can’t make it to a festival, take a look at The Beatles Museum in Liverpool, or the home of Oasis (Manchester) or Radiohead (Abingdon).

Take a Monopoly tour of London

What do Trafalgar Square, Elephant and Castle, Fenchurch Street and Park Lane have in common? Not only are they all locations in London, but they also appear on the Monopoly board. If you’re keen to roam London by food, mark the 22 street and four train stations from the famous game and start walking – who knows what else you might discover?

Ride in a London taxi

The drivers of London black cabs are considered to be the best in the world, having to pass a test called The Knowledge, which involves memorising every street and important building in central London. This means that when you hop into a taxi, you can just say the name of your destination, and they will do the rest.

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Staying safe in the United Kingdom

The UK is generally a safe destination for Aussie travellers, particularly since we don’t have the language barrier. However, it does pay to be prepared, and the best way to prepare for your journey is to organise travel insurance before you go.

Staying safe in your hotel

Most UK hotels will provide information to ensure your safety as a guest – either in the room or on their website. This might include information on fire escapes, the location of smoke detectors, how to use the safe and more.

Staying safe when you’re out on the town

As on any trip, don’t leave bags, cameras, smartphones or any other valuables unattended, particularly in tourist areas. Beyond the risks of petty theft, unattended baggage can trigger security alerts as the UK is very vigilant to threats of terrorism. You can check terrorism alert levels at smarttravller.gov.au before you travel to the UK.

Be careful when using ATMs and make sure no one is watching you enter your PIN. If you suspect that an ATM has been tampered with, use another one instead.

At night, stay in well-lit areas and avoid waiting alone at bus stops or train stations. Better yet, pre-book a minicab or private hire vehicle that is run by a licensed operator.

Sports hooliganism in the UK

UK sports fans have a reputation for extreme behaviour at matches, particularly football matches. For this reason, some venues and cities have restrictions on wearing team colours because it incites over the top behaviour, so do your research before you go.

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