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Planning a Trip to Britain

Having decided, for whatever reason, to head to Britain, you now find yourself in the position where you’ve got to pack as much of that storied isle into the few days or weeks you have. Britain isn’t a large country in terms of land mass but there are nearly 70 million people living here and thousands of years of history all around you.

Britain isn’t the kind of place you could understand in one trip, there is a richness and variety to the landscapes and peoples of Britain that make it impossible to take in all at once. So, you’ve got to decide on your priorities. What appeals to you about Britain? What do you actually know about the country?

Here are a few categories it’s worth considering. You could tour Britain taking in bits of each or go for a full-on one topic experience. It’s all possible.


Britain has an unparalleled music scene and has punched well above its weight in terms of influence in music. The cities of London, Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, Glasgow and Edinburgh have produced some of the world’s biggest bands and singers and there’s a reason why. They’re hotbeds for new music and any tour of Britain should take in at least one of the famous music venues or sites.


There are more free galleries and museums in Britain per capita than just about anywhere else on Earth. What is more, they’re some of the best collections on Earth. In London there’s the V&A, the National Portrait Gallery, the Tate Modern and Tate Britain, the Saatchi Gallery, the Royal Academy, the majority free to enter.

Elsewhere there is the Hepworths in Wakefield and St. Ives (which also has a Tate), the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, the Martin Tinney Gallery in Wales. Again, most of them are free!


The reputation of the British, and specifically the English, is that they cannot cook. This is not true! London is one of the best places in the world for food, largely due to the hundreds of different nationalities who live there and add their own unique culture to the mix. There’s cheap (for London) vegetarian and vegan food, 5* dining, Michelin starred restaurants, burger vans and fish and chips.

Outside of London the other cities are catching up! The Curry Mile in Manchester does some of the best curry outside the Indian subcontinent, Liverpool has fabulous Chinese food, Glasgow invented the tikka masala and the deep-fried Mars Bar (got to be tasted to be believed).
Fish and chips, haggis, Welsh rarebit and bangers and mash. All got to be tried if you’re here.

Oh, and Marmite.


For a nation that once had one of the biggest empires in the world, the British are a fairly cultured lot. Aside from the art galleries, there are free museums dotted around the country with astounding collections. The Royal Armouries in Leeds is a little boy’s dream museum, the Wallace Collection in London is eclectic and unique, the Wellcome Collection has just about everything and nothing is quite like Sir John Sloane’s Museum.

The city of Bath has Roman baths and spas you can wander around, Leeds has one of the world’s last gas-lit cinemas in the independent Hyde Park Picture House, the People’s Palace in Glasgow is a gem of Victorian architecture, and the Big Pit National Coal Museum is far more interesting than it sounds.

Perhaps the funniest place in the world, Scotland deserves special mention for its comedy clubs and general hilarity. If you’re in Edinburgh, Glasgow or any large town, look for the local comedy club and prepare to laugh until it hurts.

As a great deal of history happened in Britain – the industrial revolution, the Roman Empire, nuclear power, Stone Henge to name but a few, you can’t go very far without stumbling on a bit of pivotal human history. One way to do Britain is just to go and see where it takes you. It will be fascinating, that’s for sure.

Things to Do

In Britain, you’re never far from a party, or a good meal. There are loads of things for families – museums, galleries, adventure parks, beaches, woodland, extreme sports – so everybody should be able to get something good from their trip.


If you want to see Britain like it appears in the movies or in books, start in London and head north. The bustle and energy of London will be immediately familiar, then as the city fades away you’ll come to the rolling hills and plains of the midlands, before finding yourself in the moors of Yorkshire. The landscape changes quickly and surprisingly, and nothing is like the journey into the valleys of mid-Wales or up to the islands of northern Scotland. The coast can range from vast beaches to towering cliffs covered in seabirds.


We drive on the wrong side of the road. It will take some getting used to and cause a few scares, but British roads are amongst the safest in the world, so you’ll be OK.

The British…

…are a sarcastic, humorous bunch who will miss no opportunity to make fun or have a laugh. They won’t be laughing at you (most of the time), they’ll be laughing with you. Just go along with it, smile, offer to buy us a drink and you’ll be fine!

Driving in Britain

A trip to Britain is an unforgettable experience, the vast cities and beautiful countryside, culture, art and music make it one of the top ten holiday destinations in the world, ranking 6th overall. Not bad for a small island. Chances are, if you’re heading to Britain on holiday or for business, you’ll either be driving or will certainly find yourself being driven.

The British have a reputation as a law-abiding group of nations and this extends to our roads. The roads in Britain are highly regulated and amongst the safest in the world: Britain has an admirably low fatality rate on the roads, with only 28.1 deaths per million in 2016, when compared to 39 per million in Germany or 120 per million for the USA. The number of injuries from traffic accidents are accordingly low in comparison.

This should be reassuring to anyone who wants to spend any time on the island of Great Britain. However, as with any nation, there are laws that might be unfamiliar to foreign visitors and customs that might seem strange. This is a short guide to helping you on your way to safe, interesting and frustration free exploration of Britain’s roads.

What you need to drive in Britain

Bringing your Own Vehicle

If you choose to drive your own form of motor transport in Britain, you’ll need a few things required by law:

  • Vehicle documentation
  • A form of identification – a passport or internationally recognised ID card
  • Driver’s license – valid, in date and one that is permissible in Britain, these include EEA issued licences. Check with the government’s list for your license’s validity
  • Motor insurance certificates
  • European Accident Statement – the fastest way of getting claims processed
  • Breakdown and accident cover – check you have the right cover before you go

Also recommended are Green Insurance Cards, provided by insurers to help in case of an accident.

Make sure you have the documents or copies of them in your car at all times, making insurance claims can be very difficult without them.


Like all EU countries, Britain and the UK require third party insurance as a minimum. This is the law and is inescapable. The road networks in Britain are heavily monitored and if you use a motorway without insurance, you can expect that your license plate will be read and to receive a fine in the post of up to £300 and 6 points on your license.

In Britain, you insure the car you are going to drive, not yourself.

Americans especially can find it frustrating that they cannot legally drive any car, only the one they are registered with. Registering a car for dual licensing is easy and not particularly expensive, so a check with your insurer as to how it works is worth doing before heading to Britain.

International travel insurance can be added to your car liability insurance.

In the case of an accident, you must give your name, address and vehicle registration number to the police and/or insurance agent if they ask for them.

You must have the international travel insurance certificate with you when travelling on the road.

Seatbelts are compulsory by law, if there is one fitted, you have to wear it.

Car Hire

Britain has a large number of car hire companies that offer a huge range of vehicles for your travels. Hiring a car in Britain can be relatively expensive but the standard of vehicle you can obtain is very high. The minimum standards for safety are internationally recognised and provide the customer with a lot of legal backing should things go wrong.

When you hire a car in Britain, you can choose to be able to take the car anywhere within the EU, though be sure to ask the hire company before you take the car out of the country. A car hired in Britain will be able to go to Wales, Scotland, England and Northern Ireland without any change to your insurance.

Requirements for Hire Cars

Every hire car should have the following:

  • An in-date fire extinguisher
  • A first aid kit
  • A thermal blanket
  • Spare bulbs for front and back lights
  • Reflective clothing
  • A warning triangle

When you’re looking at the hire car, check all the lights are working, the tyres are pumped up and in a good condition, look for rust or damage, and that everything works as it should.

  • Take Photos

A few snaps of the car’s exterior and interior, emailed to the hire company before you sign the deal, will help your case if they decide to charge you for some damage you dispute.

  • Look for Deals

As the market for car hire is large, there is a lot of choice on offer. Shop around for the best deal, there are always deals available. If you are in Britain for business, your company might have a deal with a certain provider, so that is worth checking, as is whether the holiday company you have booked with has one.

  • Fuel

Depending on who you hired the car from it might be cheaper to refuel the car before bringing it back or to use all the fuel in the tank. Check the policy closely.

  • Use your Phone or Satnav

Hiring a satnav can be expensive, so it can be worth bringing your own or using your phone’s app. The roads in Britain are well covered and Google Street View is available for just about everywhere

  • Hidden Charges

There can be a lot of hidden charges when it comes to hiring a car, so make sure you go through the policy closely with the hiring company to ensure you know what you can and can’t do, what you’re liable for and what condition to bring the car back in.

Driving in Britain

Speed is measured in miles per hour in Britain and most cars built since the 1990’s will have both kilometres and miles on the speedometer.

Speed limits aren’t often displayed as there are generic rules for how fast you can travel in certain areas, depending on the weight of your car. The following are for vehicles under 3.05 tonnes. Check here for heavier vehicle rules

  • Single Carriageways – 60mph
  • Built-up Areas – 30mph
  • Motorways and Dual Carriageways – 70mph
  • Pedestrian or School Areas – 20mph
  • Sharp Bends – 50mph

In Britain, assume there is a speed camera watching you. If you are doing over 10% of the speed limit, you are liable for up to £2500 in fines and disqualification from driving. You can be arrested for driving under the speed limit.

Road Signage


Blue with white lettering. Motorways are labelled with a capital M (M1, M6 etc.)

A and B Roads

Green with white lettering. Slower and generally smaller roads.

Non-Primary A or B Roads

White with black lettering. Usually alternatives to primary routes.

Unfamiliar Road Signs

Some signs are uncommon to Europe or the rest of the world, familiarise yourself with them before driving in Britain.

Congestion Charges

London levies a toll on drivers in the city centre on weekdays between 7am and 6pm. Currently the charge is £11.50 a day and requires registering online.

Toll Roads and Bridges

There are few in Britain but keep £5.00 in change in the car in case you encounter one.

Alcohol Limits

In England, Northern Ireland and Wales the blood alcohol limit is 80mg/100ml, while in Scotland it is 50mg/100ml. The advice is not to have even one drink before driving. Drink drivers can be disqualified from driving and fined up to £5157.


It is a legal requirement to wear a seatbelt in a moving vehicle unless it is reversing. Fines of up to £440 can be imposed if you or your passengers are caught without


Parking space can be limited in Britain and fines start at £60, so get to know the signs and marks. Brief stopping on a single yellow line and no parking on double yellow.

We Drive on the Wrong Side of the Road!

In Britain we drive on the left-hand side of the road, not the right. Use the left-hand side of the motorway unless you are overtaking and watch out when using a junction or after refuelling, this is when most people forget.


Vehicles coming uphill are given priority


The British are notoriously horn averse and consider prolonged blasts extremely hostile. Only use when absolutely needed. Do not use in towns or cities at night.

Be Polite

Brits are forgiving if you wave, they hate you if you don’t. Let people out when you can and wave or blink your lights as a thank you. Don’t jump queues unless you want to be blocked at the next junction.


Even though a car accident is the last thing you want to think about you should be prepared if one occurs. You should stop if you are involved in an accident and report it to the emergency services. If you or anybody in the vehicle with you are injured you need to visit a local A&E or hospital. Where serious injuries might occur an ambulance should certainly be called.

You will also need to contact the car hire service or your insurance company to explain the situation. If the accident was caused by another driver the insurer may advise claiming compensation. In most scenarios you will have two options. One is to certainly get independent advice on car accidents and your right to compensation as they may be different if you’re not a UK citizen, and the other is to claim compensation through the insurance company.