UNITED KINGDOM FAST FACTS
Currency: Pound Sterling
Drives On: Left
Phone Code: +44
National Day: April 23
Internet Domain: .uk
Electrical Outlets: Type G
UK World Heritage Sites: 29
The United Kingdom is a sovereign state in Europe comprising several other regions namely England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Oftentimes, United Kingdom is referred to simply as Britain although the official name of the UK is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The name is used to refer to the union of four separate nations although only the northern part of Ireland belongs to the UK and the rest of Ireland is independent. When you travel to the United Kingdom, the most popular destination is the capital city of London.
Ireland gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1922 via the Irish Free State. However, Northern Ireland remained part of the UK. The UK was formed in 1801 and consists majority of the British Isles. The UK flag (also known as Union Jack) itself symbolizes the union of the three different countries as the flag unifies the three different flags from the countries.
Travel to the United Kingdom offers endless opportunities to explore since there are many attractions worth visiting. The majority of your travel will be spent in England as it accounts for more than half of the UK’s total land area. Depending on where you are in the UK, the geographical landscape will vary considerably.
The temperate climate makes travel to the United Kingdom ideal all year round. Therefore, the summer is warm with the help of winds blowing from the Gulf Stream while the winters are mostly mild.
As for the economy in the UK, it is a partially regulated market economy. It is the fifth-largest economy in the world and second only to Germany in Europe (based on market exchange rates). The service sector is the biggest source of GDP in the UK. It joins New York as the largest financial center in the world. Meanwhile, tourism is also a large economic contributor. Travel to the United Kingdom is popular all throughout the year; there is an average of 27 million tourists that travel to the United Kingdom. The country ranks worldwide as the sixth major tourist destination.
History of the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom comprises England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. This region in Europe has a long and storied past. The earliest record of human settlement in the UK is around the Ice Age, or about 35,000 to 10,000 years ago. During this time, the lower sea levels meant that the UK was connected to mainland Europe by land. It was during this time (according to archaeologists) that Stonehenge was built.
The arrival of the Celtics to the UK allowed them to co-exist with the indigenous tribes. They built a new culture that was known as the Bronze Age. Over the years, the Romans arrived in the UK and formed their own empire. They took control of what is known today as Wales and England, along with several other cities in the UK. In fact, it is notable how many of the cities and towns in the UK today come with the suffix -cester. It was the Romans that introduced this name as the suffix was derived from the Roman word ‘castrum’ that means ‘fortification’. The Romans ruled for 5 centuries before the Vikings arrived. After the Vikings, the rule of the UK changed hands to the Normans.
Today, the economy and political power of the United Kingdom is one of the top in the world.
United Kingdom Travel Basics
Connectivity: Access to wireless internet is becoming more prevalent in the UK. You can find free Wi-Fi access in most hotels, restaurants, and cafes. There are also several access points, paid or free. A cheap option to get connected when you travel to the United Kingdom is to buy a local SIM card. The best thing about buying a sim card is that you can get texts and calls, as well as up to 12GB of high-speed 4G data. In the UK, you can choose from any of the top four telco providers: Three, Vodafone, Three, EE, and O2.
International Airport/s: The London Heathrow Airport is the main international airport for flights that fly to the United Kingdom. In fact, it has the highest volume of international passengers than any other airport in the world. Other notable international airports in the UK are as follows:
- London City Airport
- Gatwick Airport
- London Stansted Airport
- London Southend Airport
Visa Required: The visa requirements for travel to the UK varies according to your nationality. Visit this page to learn more about visa requirements for travel to Britain: https://www.gov.uk/browse/visas-immigration
International Driver’s License Accepted? You can use a foreign-issued driver’s license (without the need for an international driving permit or license) in the UK for one year.
Crime: The level of crime in the UK is moderate. Crimes involving corruption, bribery or assault (especially towards tourists) are very low. Even recent police figures show an increase in the crime rate in the UK, it is still generally a peaceful place. The increasing threat of terrorism in the bigger cities like London has prompted the police force to ask locals and tourists to remain vigilant at all times.
Electrical Adapters: In the UK, the standard voltage is 230 volts at 50 Hertz.
Rail Travel: Travel by train is one of the best and most efficient ways to travel within the UK. However, they are also notorious for being quite expensive. You can try purchasing passes in order to save on your train travel within the UK.
Car Travel: Driving in the UK is a smooth and pleasurable experience. In fact, renting a car is recommended if you want to explore the diverse landscapes and see beyond the most popular tourist attractions. The roads are well-built and maintained so your safety is never an issue.
Trivia: The people in the UK consume 165 million cups of tea! In comparison to an average American, they consume 20 times more tea!
- As of 2011, the total population in the UK is at 63.2 million. Of the over 63 million, 53 million of that is from England.
- Christianity dominates the religious sector in the UK. Next to Christianity, other religions observed in the UK are Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Judaism, and Buddhism.
- London is the most populous city in the United Kingdom, followed by Birmingham, Leeds, Glasgow, and Sheffield.
- The total land area of the UK is slightly smaller than Oregon (US State) and under half the size of France.
- The land in the UK is dominated by farming and agricultural land. The other is divided into forested areas and other land use.
- There are several popular sports in the UK such as football, cricket, rugby, and lawn tennis. The national sport is cricket but football is the most popular sport.
- The cost of living in the UK largely varies on which part of the UK you are in. However, London is the most expensive of all cities and it is cheaper to live in the northern part of England.
My Stories on the United Kingdom
- UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the United Kingdom
- Blaenavon Industrial Landscape
- Blenheim Palace
- Canterbury Cathedral, St Augustine’s Abbey, and St Martin’s Church
- Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd
- City of Bath
- Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape
- Dorset and East Devon Coast
- Frontiers of the Roman Empire
- Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast
- Historic Town of St George and Related Fortifications, Bermuda
- Liverpool – Maritime Mercantile City
- Maritime Greenwich
- New Lanark
- Old and New Towns of Edinburgh
- Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey including Saint Margaret’s Church
- Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal
- Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
- Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites
- Tower of London
Cuisine of the United Kingdom
British cuisine is officially referred to, is one of the most popular cuisines in the world. It has many popular dishes that are now enjoyed all over the world. It has many influences from the various regions that are encompassed within the United Kingdom territory. For example, there are some hints of influence from the Scottish, English, Welsh, Anglo-Indian, and Northern Irish cuisines.
Thus, you need to sample their local cuisine when you travel to the UK. Relish the heritage of the United Kingdom when you try the following dishes that the cuisine is best known for:
Fish and Chips: This is a classic choice and is one of the most popular takeaway food in the United Kingdom.
Sunday Roast: This is a typical British meal that is also one of the most popular dishes from the cuisine of the United Kingdom. It is a meat that is roasted and served with stuffing, roast potato, Yorkshire pudding, gravy, and some vegetables on the side.
Shepherd’s Pie: This traditional dish from the UK is essentially mashed potato that is formed into a crust containing meat on the inside.
Yorkshire Pudding: This is typically served as a side dish on British meals. It is a baked pudding wherein the batter is made with egg, milk (or water), and flour.
Cornish pasties: This is a baked pastry that originated in Cornwall (thus, the name). It is made with a pastry crust that is filled with meat and vegetables.
Welsh Cakes: This is a flat-bread baked recipe that is filled with dried fruit and sugar. It originated in Wales and became popular in the 19th century.
United Kingdom Attractions
When you travel to the United Kingdom, you need to visit the following attractions so you can see the best that the UK has to offer:
- Big Ben: It is a must to see Big Ben when you visit London. This 16th-century Gothic clock tower is located at the north end of Westminster in London.
- Tower of London: This is another icon when it comes to the list of tourist attractions to see in UK. It is a royal palace and fortress into one. It was built by William the Conqueror and is located at the northern bank of the River Thames.
- London Eye: This giant Ferris wheel dominates the cityscape of London. The wheel is situated at the southern bank of the River Thames. The structure was built in 1998 and cost 70 million GBP to build.
- Buckingham Palace: This is probably one of the most iconic palaces in the world. The Buckingham Palace serves as the official residence and administrative headquarters for the British monarchs. It also serves as a venue for important royal hospitality, such as weddings and for accommodating other world leaders and monarchs.
- Stonehenge: This group of megalithic structures and monuments is one of the most iconic tourist attractions for those who travel to the United Kingdom. In fact, many travels here just to see these megaliths. It is a ring of standing stones with each stone rising up to 13 feet high. It is also a UNESCO world heritage site.
- Tower Bridge: This is a combined bascule and suspension bridge that was built in London in 1886 and was completed in 1894. It crosses over the River Thames and has become an iconic symbol for London.
United Kingdom Guidebooks
- Lonely Planet Scotland (Travel Guide). Use this guide to explore and discover what Scotland has to offer. From historical, cultural, and culinary destinations, this guide has everything you need to explore Scotland.
- Kids’ Travel Guide – United Kingdom: The Fun Way to Discover the United Kingdom. Planning to travel to United Kingdom as a family? Use this guide to learn about the top sights and destinations that your kids will love in the UK,
- Fodor’s Essential Great Britain. Great Britain is a perennial favorite for those who travel to United Kingdom. Use this guide to uncover the most coveted travel destinations that would make you truly experience the best that Great Britain has to offer.
- Rick Steves’ Snapshot Northern Ireland. You can count on Rick Steves to tell you what you really need to know when traveling in Northern Ireland. This compact guide book is all you need to prepare for your travel to Northern Ireland and other parts of the region.
- Insight Guides Great Breaks Belfast. When visiting Northern Ireland or United Kingdom, Belfast is one destination that you need to visit! Use this guide to explore what you can’t afford to miss during your trip.
UK Podcasts and Videos
- England & Wales Travel Skills
- Wales, United Kingdom (UK) Travel – Caernarfon Castle in Wales
- Torquay Travel / Tourism. U.K. The Travel Channel
- Top 10 Best Cities to Visit in UK
- London (United Kingdom) Vacation Travel Video Guide
- England travel | Indie Travel Podcast