Britain's naming convention goes back several centuries. In 1707, the Kingdom of Great Britain (commonly known as 'Britain'), resulted from a political union of England (including Wales) and Scotland. Nearly 100 years later, in 1801 the United Kingdom (UK) was formed by a union of Great Britain with Northern Ireland and other semi-autonomous islands such as the Isle of Man.
Britain provides a wide range of places to stay from youth hostels, camp-sites, self catering, bed & breakfast and guest houses to 5 star hotels. Read more....
British high street banks include: Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland, HSBC, Lloyds and Santander. Cash machines (or ATMs) are widely available in the high street, outside banks, post offices shops, supermarkets, pubs and motorway service stations. Credit and debit cards are accepted by most major retailers and restaurants.
The local currency is the Great British Pound (GBP) also known as pound sterling £. There are 100 pence in the £1. Coins come in 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p units, plus a £1 and £2 coin. Bank notes come in £5, £10, £20 and £50.
Travellers cheques can be exchanged at most banks and post offices. However, while they are secure and provide peace of mind, they are not the cheapest way of exchanging currency because of the commission and handling charges involved.
The cost of living varies from one part of the Britain to another. Generally items are more expensive in London and other major tourist destinations. The following list shows the average prices in the high street:
Mobile phones can be used in most areas of Britain, however, expect the signal to be difficult to find in more remote areas such as the Scottish Highlands and parts of Cornwall. Check with your mobile phone provider to see if you can use your phone from abroad and how much it will cost. Most suppliers will have to enable your phone first or you can use a dedicated or roaming SIM. Public phone boxes can be found in most towns, some take coins, others accept credit cards or you can buy a phone card from newsagents and convenience stores.
You can access the web at most large libraries, Internet cafes and some types of accommodation such as YHA, motels and hotels (where provided). Remember to bring your phone charger, adaptor and record important numbers such as your country's embassy and insurance company.
Emergency services such as Police, Fire or Medical can be contacted by calling 999 but this number must only be used in a true emergency, such as danger to life or if a crime is in progress. For all other non-emergency queries and less serious incidents, such as community safety and anti-social behaviour call 101.
We drive on the left in Britain. If you plan on driving a car, motorbike or other road vehicle in the UK you will need an approved driving licence to do so. You may also need to obtain an international driving licence before arrival, depending on your country of origin, for details visit the DirectGov site: Driving in GB on a foreign licence.
You will also need to familiarise yourself with the rules and regulations in our Highway code. An on-line version of the British Highway Code is also available from the DirectGov site: Official Highway Code
There are many good places to eat in Britain, ranging from Michelin star restaurants, cafes, pubs and fast food outlets to traditional English tea shops. If you want to experience some traditional British food then we would recommend eating at a pub/restaurant that serves the local cuisine. For a list of traditional British recipes click here.
BBC TV and Radio stations are great to watch and listen to as they do not have commercial breaks. We have five terrestrial channels BB1, BBC2, ITV, C4 and C5. Below I have listed some useful programmes that you can watch on iplayer, which is a great way of learning the language and a bit about our current culture:
Many hotels and guest houses have satellite or cable TV, which providing a wider choice of programmes, including foreign news channels that will allow overseas visitors to stay in touch with things at home.
The British love to travel either in the UK or abroad. Click here for a list of popular destinations.
For more information on Britain and the UK visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.