Essentials Guide to London - Practicalities
January 1 - New Year's Day
Mar/Apr - Good Friday
Mar/Apr - Easter Monday
First Monday in May - May Day Bank Holiday
Last Monday in May - Spring Bank Holiday
Last Monday in August - Summer Bank Holiday
Dec 25 - Christmas Day
Dec 26 - Boxing Day
Almost all attractions close on Christmas Day. On other holidays some attractions open, often with reduced hours.
National Holidays are called Bank Holidays. Find out the dates for this year
Find out about our National Days
Festivals and other Special Days
Pounds Sterling Find out more
The United Kingdom has not yet joined the Euro but some stores do accept it, and there is a large number of banks and bureau de change outlets in London where you can cash travellers cheques and change currency.
Cash points (ATMs) are widely available
You can ask for 'Cashback' when making purchases with a debit card at supermarkets. Visa and Access (Mastercard) widely accepted, other cards often accepted.
Banking hours officially 09:30-15:30, but most banks open usually till about 17:00. Changing Money
Most banks and major post offices will be able to change money for you. And in the larger cities you will find bureau de change offices, usually in places like train stations or travel agencies.
For cash withdrawals on a visa card, you will need to produce your passport.
Cheques accepted everywhere - though a valid cheque card must be produced.
Tourist cheques can be paid into British banks, but will be subject to a fee.
Commission rates and fees vary from one bureau de change to another. In major cities like London charges can often be extortionate. Check the rates and fees before you change your money, and remember that it may be worthwhile to shop around. Languages: English
English is spoken everywhere.
American English often differs from British English. Our list of often confused words is here.
Find out about our different accents
Why is American English different from British English?
Glossary of British words Weather:
England's weather remains the most frequent topic of conversation. Although England does have a reputation for wet weather all year round, it doesn't rain every day all year around. However it is impossible to guarantee good or bad weather in any given month - so be prepared for anything.
Find out more about our weather here. Best time to visit :
The summer months are when mosts Brits take their holidays, with schools breaking up for the whole of August. The summer months have the best weather but crowds at tourist attractions tend to peak around June-September. From March until May spring will have arrived, there is a good chance of fine weather. Some tourist attraction don't open until Easter weekend. June through to September is the peak summer period. Gardens will be in full bloom, the evenings long and the warm days just right for wandering around. October and November are the months when autumn sets in. The leaves on the trees change to all shades of brown and orange. December through to February is the winter period.
The British are said to be reserved in manners, dress and speech. We are famous for our politeness, self-discipline and especially for our sense of humour.
Find out more here
The traditional red phone boxes are now rare; instead kiosks come in a wide variety of designs and colours. Coin-operated phones take Most payphones accept 10p, 20p, 50p & £1 coins, but card-operated phones are often more convenient. British Telecom phone cards are available in most newsagents or grocers. Calls from hotels are expensive.
Dialling codes: The UK international dialling code is +44 and the area code for London is (0)20.
We now have Internet as well as normal telephone boxes in London. The photo above shows a blue internet phone box with a red 'normal' phone box behind.
How much does a phone call cost?
The minimum fee is 40p (forty pence). Local and National calls are charged at 40p for the first 20 minutes, then 10p for each subsequent 10 minutes or portion thereof.
Credit and Debit cards
To make a call using a Credit/Debit Card, swipe the card through the card reader on the phone and follow the instructions.
Call prices - 20p per minute. Minimum fee £1.20 (includes £1 connection charge) for Local and National calls.
International Calls and calls to phone mobiles
The minimum fee is £1.20 (includes £1 connection charge.
International Phone Cards
Pre-paid phone cards can be bought from selected newsagents, off licenses and convenience stores or internet cafes. They are sold in denominations of £5, £10, £15 and £20. The card will be pre-charged to the value shown on the card face. Posting a Letter
Post offices are open Mon-Fri 9-5:30, Sat 9-1. A first class letter posted by 18:00, should arrive the next morning within the UK - check the 'last posting times' on the red postboxes.
Stamps can be bought individually at post offices or in books of four or ten at newsagents, off-licences and groceries.
Find out more here Opening Hours:
General opening hours for shops are 09:00 - 05.30 (9am - 5:30pm) Monday-Saturday. However, in the larger towns you will probably find shops open late some evenings (usually Thursday or Friday).
On Sunday shops open from about 11:00-17:00 in the major shopping areas.
Find out more about Shops
Supermarkets tend to be open 7 days a week with longer opening hours - usually until 8pm or 10pm most evenings, with reduced hours of 10am - 4pm on a Sunday. Some in larger towns now open 24 hours, but it is worth checking first.
Offices run 09:30 to 17:30
Pubs open traditionally 11:00 to 15:00 and 17:00 to 23:00
Find out more about pubs Emergency services:
To contact the police, fire brigade or ambulance service in an emergency, you can dial 999 free of charge from any public or private phone. In case of accident, most major hospitals have 24 hour accident and emergency departments. Electricity:
The power supply in Britain is 230/240 volts. Sockets accept only three-(square)-pin plugs, so an adapter is needed for continental European and US appliances. A transformer is also needed for appliances operating on 110-120 volts.
The following is intended only as a guide to customary practice:
Most hotel bills include a service charge, usually 10-12%. Where a service charge is not included in a hotel restaurant, it is customary to give 10-15% of the restaurant bill and for rooms an optional amount to room staff.
Some restaurant bills include a service charge; where a service charge is not included it is customary to leave a tip of 10-15% of the bill. Some restaurants now include a suggested tip in the bill total.
75p - £1 per suitcase.
10-15% of the fare.
Getting to London London has good transport links to all major UK cities and is served by Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton, Stansted and London City airports. By Air: If you are travelling to London from Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted Airports, you can find detailed information about transport links and airport facilities from the BAA website . Information about London City Airport is on a separate website.
By Rail: The National Rail website allows you to plan your journey and will keep you up to date on service alterations. This site will also enable you to check prices and purchase your train tickets online.
By Road: The RAC website will show you the most direct route to London from any UK and some European destinations. This site contains up to date traffic news.
Greenwich, in London, is where you will find the Prime Meridian - the line that divides the Earth into East and West and from which the world's time is set. Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) is the term used for the current time on this line, and clocks and watches all the world over are set in relation to this.
Britain and Ireland in theory follow GMT, but in the summer months everything is confused by what is called Daylight-saving time. From late March to late October, Britain and Ireland are actually one hour ahead of GMT.
What time is it in England now?
When do the clocks change?
Public Conveniences - toilets:
In the UK public conveniences are referred to by a number of names. The most common names heard in the street are 'toilet; and 'ladies and gents'. We don't use the word bathroom for toilet. The word bathroom to us means a room with a bath. Nor do we use the word restroom. If you do ask for a restroom people will just look confused.
Public conveniences can be found in most rail stations and larger bus terminals. You can also find them in town centres, department stores, shopping arcades, supermarkets, and at all major tourist attractions. Most towns will have a map in the central area with public conveniences marked on them.
Public toilets should be provided in all pubs, restaurants and cafes so make use of these facilities if you are stopping for a bite to eat. But please note - it is considered bad manners to use a pub or restaurants' facilities if you are not a customer.
The vast majority of public toilets are free, although in major tourist areas such as London you will probably have to pay about 20 pence.