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Syger's avatar

I'm going to England in a few weeks, any international traveling tips?

Asked by Syger (1384 points ) June 24th, 2010

More specifically around the Bristol area to visit my girlfriend, it will be my first time leaving the country so I’m a bit paranoid about customs and going through security and all that with my tech, and just customs in general. I’m not all that sure how exchanging currency goes but I heard something about it being more of a hassle, but a better exchange rate at a bank- any info on that?

I’ve googled ‘international flying tips’ and scoured the first few pages reading as much as I could before it all turned into ads, and I’m still a bit nervous/curious about the whole process. Are there any neat places I should be sure to visit over there? My girlfriend just moved there about two months ago so she hasn’t seen everything yet, which is awesome because I’d hate for her to feel the need to be my tour-guide (I’m going there with the intent to see her, the location is all just icing). I’ll be there for about a month.

She also expressed interest in taking me clubbing (something neither of us have done), but I’m not sure how that would work with IDs and such since I’d only have my passport and US ID, and I would prefer not to take my passport out of fear of losing it.

Oh; one more thing- I’m not too worried about the culture change but are there any no-no’s that aren’t too obvious?

General international travel advice is greatly appreciated too, even if you feel you’re just regurgitating stuff that’d be found from quick Google searches, hearing it in someone else’s wording can always do wonders for comprehension.
also any sweet romantic spots for two youngins (18/20) to visit would be A+ ;)

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11 Answers

Jeruba's avatar

Carry your passport with you unless you have a secure place to leave it; it’s valuable. (You won’t be leaving it in a hotel room will you?) You can purchase a passport-size leather or vinyl case that hangs on a cord around your neck, beneath your shirt. But do make several photocopies of it, one to leave at home with your parents and a couple to leave in your suitcase, just in case something does happen to your passport.

Yes, change your currency at a bank. You’ll pay a much higher rate for the service at the airport. If you need a little cash in hand for use on arrival, you can request it from your own bank here at home before you go; it’ll probably take a few days.

reverie's avatar

Hey there, it sounds like you have a lovely trip planned! :)

Don’t be afraid of customs, you’ll be absolutely fine. It is set up to be intimidating, or at least feel very serious (for obvious reasons – airports are one of the very few places in the UK where our police are armed). Aside from the obvious things (i.e., being jocular about terrorism/bombs etc.), you won’t have any trouble if you just follow the instructions and make sure you aren’t carrying anything unsuitable. In all honesty, I actually think the UK’s airports are far less intimidating than those in many countries in Europe. It depends on the size (bigger ones tend to seem a lot more formal with regards to security), but I really wouldn’t worry about it.

I live just over an hour away from Bristol in the South West, and it’s a really lovely part of the country. Unfortunately I don’t know Bristol terribly well (having only really passed through it on my way to other places), but I gather there’s lots of stuff in that area that’s worth visiting – I’m sure a local could help out more! I haven’t been, but I gather Bath is a lovely town worth exploring too. I’m not sure whether you’ll have access to a car, but if the weather is fine and you’ll be here for a month in summer, I’d really recommend exploring into Devon (where I live) and Cornwall. They are really beautiful places, and although certain parts can get very toursity during the summer months, it’s not hard to avoid the crowds! I don’t know if you’re a fan of the outdoors, but I would recommend exploring both inland (e.g., Exmoor, Dartmoor etc), as well as coastal places – the south Devon coastline is very beautiful and has lots of sleepy old estuary towns (Dartmouth is lovely) and places that have a load of beautiful Regency buildings that have a sort of faded beauty, whereas the north coast of Devon and Cornwall tends to be much more dramatic, I suppose because it’s beaten by the Atlantic! I honestly think that you could go almost anywhere in this area and not go wrong – I’ve not lived here long but I absolutely love it, so beautiful.

With regards to culture changes and customs, I can’t really think of any obvious ones that would crop up for you (I’m assuming you are somewhere in North America!). I think you’ll find people very friendly and welcoming, the South West is a really great part of the country. With many businesses and people in this part of the UK reliant on tourism as part of their livelihoods, people are very welcoming and happy to see people from other countries. I personally love meeting Americans and Canadians, and people from all over the world – it’s so interesting to meet people from other cultures, and folks will love your accent!

With regards to the ID situation for clubs and bars, I can understand why you aren’t keen on taking your passport with you. Some places will accept photocopies of passports, but obviously these are prone to being forged by keen underage kids and so it’s not a foolproof solution! I’m not sure what your US ID is like, but basically, most places will accept a form of ID so long as it contains a photograph of you, your name, and your date of birth. For many people in the UK this is their photocard driving license, but unless somewhere has particularly objectionable bouncers, they should accept forms of ID from other countries too! If you look under 25 you can expect to be ID-ed, particularly if you’re going out on a Friday or Saturday. I’ve only just started not getting ID-ed so much (I’m 24), but still find myself being asked to show proof of age when I’m buying a bottle of wine along with a load of other (sensible and boring) groceries at the supermarket! Don’t be embarrassed about it, it happens all the time.

Regarding currency change, a number of stores in the UK never charge commission, so when I want to exchange money, I usually head to one of those (usually I go to Marks and Spencer (a well-known department store in the UK), or the Post Office). I don’t know what exchange rates are like, but I like not paying an extra commission fee!

Phew, that turned out longer than I had planned, but I hope you find some of this helpful, and I hope you have a great time on your trip! :)

Syger's avatar

Thank you both! I wish I could give you more than just one Great Answer. :P

janbb's avatar

Bristol is a terrifc area; I lived there for two years. You can get to Wales, the Cotswolds or the Somerset hills easily – all lovely country areas. Make sure you get to Bath (can do it on the train in 20 minutes), the villages in the Cotswolds, the Forest of Dean on the borders, and Wells and Glastonbury in Somerset. Bristol is a great walking city with big hills, hidden stairways and lovely little corners even though most of it was bombed out and rebuilt after WW2. Take in a play at the Bristol Old Vic, a concert at Colston Hall, eat Indian food, check out the Arnolfini Gallery at the bottom of Park St. If you get to the Forest of Dean, go to Tintern Abbey – site of Wordsworth’s famous poem. In Wells, see the cathedral and walk around the market square; in Bath there is a ton to do including the Abbey and the Pump Room. Near Tetbury in the Cotswolds there is one of the best arboreta in the world – Westonbirt. And country pubs are great for a pie and a pint or a ploughman’s lunch. If you are in one in Soemrset, have scrumpy wjhich is local hard cider that will knock your socks off. As you can see, I loved that area!

tadpole's avatar

@Syger ”“I wish I could give you more than just one Great Answer.””

i helped you out for all 3 excellent answers…

i would second/third the trip to Bath….don’t forget the Roman baths, hence the name, that date back to the Roman occupation 2,000 years ago…

Stonehenge in Wiltshire, near Salisbury…one of the wonders of the world, you’ll kick yourself if you don’t go and have a look…

Bristol is a pretty good base if you want to explore the sites of the UK…if you feel like going beyond the localities, try Hadrian’s Wall, Edinburgh, the Highlands, the Lake District, Yorkshire esp the city of York, London of course…

don’t forget Wales…Cardiff is just across the bridge from Bristol…Offa’s Dyke and all the castles…you could also take a trip across the waters for a weekend in Dublin….

whilst you’re here, try to: eat fish and chips; have a pint of Guinness; go to a cricket or soccer match; try the London Eye; try a double-decker bus…......for starters…......

there’s a lot to try….hope you have a nice time…

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Some travel tips:
* I know you’ve already booked your flight, but for future visits, I book it to leave late afternoon and arrive mid-morning. That way, it helps alleviate a bit of the jet lag. I’ve also taken a Tylenol PM to help with the sleep.

* If you have a connecting flight, make sure there is ample time between the flights. Every trip across the pond has included delays, but luggage has always arrived with me. And there is plenty to do at the airport: last-minute gift shopping, massage services, currency exchange, and restaurants/food courts. (Heads up:t international flights feed you about every 30 minutes.)

* If you don’t have someone living with you/watching over where you live, and your mail isn’t in a secure place, it can be held at the post office. Just go to USPS.com, and you can make the arrangements to have it either delivered or pick it up yourself when you get back.

Food – When in Rome, Do What the Romans Do:
Sample as much of the English foods as possible. In general, it isn’t the healthiest, but for the most part, it’s all tasty.

Some recommendations:
-English cheese. WARNING: I adore cheese and can barely eat US cheese after sampling what they serve up.
-Fish and chips. As mentioned above, a must-have. They are very bland, but the vinegar helps. A side dish of mushy peas is “interesting”.
– Steak and kidney pie, Shepherd’s pie, Cottage pie. Very similar and all tasty.
-A proper English breakfast. Note: the black pudding gets passed on to my S/O.
-Condiments. HP sauce, Coleman’s mustard, lemon curd, marmite (You will love it or loathe it.)
-Indian meal. There are a lot of Indians in England, and the food is fantastic.
-Beverages: Guinness beer (as mentioned above), ginger beer (a spicy version of ginger ale), and tea.

Cultural tips:
*Yes, both countries speak English, but trust me, there are A LOT of differences. The accents differ in the UK just as much, if not more, than they do in the US. Fortunately, everyone I’ve met has been understanding if I ask them to repeat or define a word.

* Every time my British bloke says that he needs to put on a jumper, I still giggle. Here’s a web site that covers some of the basic differences in meanings.
http://www.woodlands-junior.kent.sch.uk/customs/questions/americanbritish.html

* If you don’t already, spend some time on the BBC web site each day.

* Above all, please keep in mind that you are a guest in a different country and are, in essence, an ambassador of the US.

tadpole's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer lots great stuff..

yes yes yes the fried breakfast..the big one with the lot…but don’t touch the black pudding, you don’t know where it’s been, you don’t know what it’s got in it…this is a throwback to the old days…

ginger beer is great…if you’ve heard of enid blyton you will have heard of this…

british cuisine used to be shocking…but in the last 30 years things have turned around…we cannot pretend that the cuisine from our many immigrants has had something to do with this (think chicken tikka masala)....

there are lots of accents….down south we are posh….

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@tadpole LOL, yes, I am basing comments on experiences in Lancashire…much different from the south, from what I hear. Black pudding is a euphemism for what it really is: blood sausage. Never heard of Enid Blyton until 2 years ago.

Wikipedia has been a savior for delving into the vast history and YouTube for the culture.

tadpole's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer yes we have a lot of history which is something to be proud of…and a strong sense of culture too…

my nan from wales talks about black pudding…my grandfather and his generation were mad on it, and lots besides..times change! i tried it, it was ok but once you know it’s just all the leftovers it doesn’t taste the same…

enid blyton the children’s staple author….how many times did my sister read all those?

i forgot to add about the bbc above…one of our most proud exports, known around the world….just say the bbc and they nod their heads and put the guns down…and well known for a reason too…

julietamd's avatar

i read everything… all the answers are really useful…

chinchin31's avatar

Bristol is beautiful city. It is very quiet. not like London. You will like it. I also think it s very safe. There is not as much to do as in London but it will be nice and relaxing.
Exercise the same precautions as you would anywhere else and you will be fine!!
Well i think British people tend to be quite reserved and polite compared to americans.

Don’t take it personal . I think some Americans interpret it as them not wanting to be friendly. I think they just like to take their time to get to know you. They are not really into the Hey how you all doing etc phrases that Americans use. On the other hand you could come across the occasional rude person. Like anywhere else in the world.

Also don’t make any assumptions please about them . Sometimes Americans have preconceived notions about what British people are like based on what they see in movies and the television. Keep those opinions to yourself. You might offend someone. Just go with the flow and make your own observations as you go along. HA !

Also I think customs /immigration is definitely not as rigorous in Britain as in America. Whenever I fly to America I often feel like i am guilty until proven innocent at the borders lol!.

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