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Need to know – Great Britain

Albert Memorial
Image courtesy: Doug McKinlay

In this extract from Lonely Planet India’s Great Britain travel guide, we look at some of the very basic information you need while planning a trip to Great Britain.

Quick facts

Languages: English – plus Welsh (Wales), Gaelic (Scotland)

Time: 5½ hours behind IST

Currency: British Pound (£)

Mobile phones: Roaming charges are hefty, so consider buying a local SIM card when you arrive, or a Matrix card from India.

Internet access: Internet cafes in most towns and access at public libraries; free to £5 (Rs 432) per hour.

Driving: Drive on the left. Steering wheels are on the right side. An Indian driving licence is valid in Britain for up to 12 months.

When to go

The weather in Britain can be very changeable, particularly in summer. Keep the following pointers in mind.

June–August: High season; weather is at its best. Usually warm (can get hot), and mostly dry. Accommodation rates at their highest, especially for August school holidays.

December–February: Low season; often cold and wet; snow in mountain areas, especially in the north. Opening hours are reduced October to Easter; some places shut down. Big-city sights (especially London) operate all year.

March–May & September–November: Mid-season; crowds reduce. Prices drop. Sunny spells with sudden showers from March to May. September and October may be warm.

What to pack

• Comfortable shoes vital for enjoying your visits to museums, castles and historic cities.

• Rain jacket and waterproof shoes for those days when it will inevitably rain.

• Small day-pack for carrying that rain jacket when the sun will just as inevitably shine.

• Warm clothing pack clothes that you can layer so you can adjust according to the weather.

• Money belt petty theft is not uncommon in crowded, touristy areas.

• Prescription medicines. Make sure you carry enough for the duration of your stay.

Getting around

Air: Various carriers shuttle between major cities; but apart from the longest flights it’s often quicker to take the train.

Bus: Long-distance buses link towns and cities; local services in the countryside can be patchy.

Train: Fast and comfortable; book well ahead and travel off-peak hours for the best deals.

Car: Gives you freedom and helps reach out-of-the-way places.